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Only Compete Against Yourself

Date - 15 July 2016/ Category - Personal Lessons
Personal lessons

When I first started going to the gym I found it really hard to compete with all the bigger guys that went. There always seemed to be someone with better muscles, or someone that could lift a heavier weight.

So I did what any textbook tells you to do, I tried harder and I beat them! All you need is effort.

Actually no, that’s the exact opposite of what I did; I just stopped competing; effort is great but you need to realise the times that you can’t win and pick your battles.

That doesn’t mean that I stopped going or stopped trying to get better; it just meant that I stopped paying attention to how everyone else was doing.

In business it’s a bad idea not to pay attention to what your competition are doing, but you have to remember here I wasn’t actually competing with these people.

You see while in business it’s healthy to have competition, when it comes to investing in yourself the opposite is true.

We all have that friend that’s got the car you want or the house you dream of. If you kept looking at the nice things they can buy then you will get pretty depressed very quickly.

The truth is you’re not going to invent the next facebook. You’re not going to be the richest person you know and you’re definitely not the prettiest either.

When you start a business you’ll probably be the poorest person you employ too. Profit takes time but employees expect to be paid whether it comes quickly or not.

There’s over 6 billion people on this planet, and although you might be in the top 1%, it’s very hard to be number one.

Right now you’re thinking I’m a bit pessimistic, so let me explain how I came to this conclusion.

Once, many moons ago I was nominated for an award, best breakout entrepreneur or something along those lines.

For the record it was madness that I was nominated for this award and I didn’t deserve to win it. When I watched the videos introducing everyone I realised how PR driven awards are, the guy who won had a Hollywood style intro video and for me they were left scratching around thinking “who is this guy”.

They must have found an article on me and thought this guy will do for last place!

Anyhow I didn’t let the sheer madness of being nominated deter me from going. I was happy to be nominated for anything.

During the event there were a series of speeches, one by a gentleman called Nick Wheeler who runs a very successful company called CT Shirts.

His speech was probably the best thing I’ve ever seen and that’s saying something; I’ve been to a Jimmy Nail concert.

Nick basically slated his own abilities, told everyone how awful his first few businesses were and how failure had taught him to survive. It was a refreshingly honest point of view.

Today he, and separately his wife are both very successful entrepreneurs (his wife founded the white company) and yet when asked the question what it’s like to be successful he said the most remarkable thing.

I know I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist was this.

“People ask me all the time what it’s like to be successful and my reply is that it’s all relative. At the time when I started out, Michael Dell founded his computer company and now he’s a billionaire. In comparison he’s a huge success and I did rather poorly”.

Now we all know he didn’t do poorly at all, but that’s the point, no matter how successful he is, in comparison to someone else he’s not successful at all.

Success then is all relative, and your perspective of that success can have a big effect on your state of mind. Compared to me Nick is a triumph, but compared to Michael he’s a spec of dust.
So what lesson does this teach us? Well here’s what it taught me. When I went back to the gym I started to think a little differently about my goals.

Rather than think “I want to bench 100kg like that guy”, I’d think “I want to bench 5 more kg”.

When I benched that extra 5kg I celebrated it and then set myself another target.

I started competing against myself, and ever so slowly I moved towards that 100kg goal. I broke my goal down into bite size chunks and competed against myself. As long as I knew I had tried my best, no matter whether I succeeded or not then I could sleep easy.

Now the above might not be revolutionary, but it does one very important thing. It keeps you mentally happy and your mind is your greatest asset.

If you were to walk into the gym, or work and set yourself a goal to be like someone else (ignoring the fact that as you improve so could they) then there’s a chance you will never succeed.

But when you compete only against yourself then you will always win as long as you keep going. You can’t after all have an “edge” over yourself. You have the same parents, the same bank balance, the same messed up family.

By competing only against yourself you will go home happier and succeed faster.

In life you will always meet someone richer, someone who had an easier start, someone who doesn’t need to work or someone better looking, but until you forget about them and concentrate on your own situation you will never be happy when you go home.

I have a theory in life that revolves around cards. When you’re born you’re dealt a series of cards and it’s your job to deal with those cards as best you can.

You can wish for someone else’s cards or be jealous that they have a better hand but it won’t change a thing. All you can do is play the cards you have as best you can and if you have then you can be proud.

If not, well then there’s work to do.

Do you know how hard it is to see your friend work 9-5, have no stress, contribute very little to the business they work for and yet have money, drive nice cars. You can’t let this defeat you but it will if you don’t concentrate on your own cards.

They chose their path and you’re building yours.

Chapter Summary:
• Concentrate on improving yourself
• Break big goals into small steps
• Stop worrying about other people’s cards

Read our next blog post “Play your cards right”.