Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Every kid doesn’t get a ribbon. Capitalism, sports, and the cool kids club produce actual winners and losers. Healthy competition molds our character and helps us become better.

But now, a recent conversation with a friend is making me think of another winning perspective. I’m not sure if I completely agree–yet–but it’s a mindset I’m working toward; a concept with which I’m grappling; and an idea that’s really pushing my thinking.

Can there be two winners?

Can there be more than one winner?

This is the second blog in a series on Winning Perspective. In my first post, The Winning Perspective, I marveled at how one can see a diamond really shine while looking at it from one angle. But what’s mind-blowing is when you turn that diamond ever so slightly, you can see it shine, again. Turn again, shine again. Same diamond, different perspective.

Social media are valuable for connecting, learning, and growing with many phenomenal leaders. I’m grateful for the access and the learning opportunities, for sure. However, I’m skeptical when I see the ugly monster that is comparison creeping in to rob us of our joy.

Teddy Roosevelt said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Truer words were never spoken.

Perhaps we compare ourselves to others more frequently today because we’re so well-connected, like no other time in history. Or, perhaps it was just human nature all along. I think it’s a combination of the two. I’m seeing comparison changing the behaviors of kids and adults alike.

And for everyone who claims that the comparison cloud has never hovered over them, I’ve got oceanfront property in Arizona.

  • When you see your neighbor’s vacation pictures on Facebook, you tell your spouse: “Why doesn’t our family get to go on four, extravagant, paid vacations to the tropics every year? Why don’t we have a lake house? Why doesn’t my employer pay for my trips?”
  • When you see your friends posting so much success on Instagram, you wonder: “Why can’t I speak at conferences, author books, be on podcasts, work for a big company, get paid for my passions, have that title, or win that award?”
  • When you see someone mass-proliferating stories, the little kid inside of you screams: “I have to keep up! Others are living life and I’m not!”
  • When you see that someone has 50k followers on Twitter, you try to make yourself believe that followers don’t really matter, it’s not about the number of likes, retweets, or video views, and it’s definitely not about you, your brand, your ideas, or growing you as a person or a professional. You certainly wouldn’t think: “Wow! He’s famous! How can I be more like her? What are they doing that I’m missing?” Nah, no one thinks like that. That would never happen–especially because we’re all adults, here, and if we’re educators as well, we naturally exude pure motives with a heart for servanthood. Authenticity over superficiality–always. 

Shifting Your Mindset

In one of my favorite posts of all time, Ben Gilpin shares a simple truth about navigating this world of comparison: It’s Not About Me.

“My belief is this (and this led to my turnaround), if you are focused on your own stature, happiness, prestige or benefits you are likely to experience unfulfilled expectations. You will be disappointed. You will feel unsupported. You will feel unappreciated. However, if you focus on serving and helping others you will constantly be aiming to support and help make the people around you better. This will create more joy and purpose in your life. Shifting to a mindset of serving will make every setback an opportunity.”

In one of my favorite movements of all time, Phil Echols encourages others to #becomebetter. He never stated that you had be the best, but rather the best version of yourself. Through nearly 300 @BecomeBetterTV #BecomeBetterDaily vlogs, Phil motivates:

“Remember, each day is a new opportunity to #becomebetter.”

In my professional learning network, I’m grateful to be surrounded by the best. Off the top of my head, I can name at least three friends who have literally written the books on feedback, relationships, technology, STEM, innovation, and leadership, for example.

Who am I, then, to comment on such a topic? They’ve done the research. They’ve invested the hard work. They have more experience. They know-it-all.

But what if each of those topics was a diamond with multiple, shining sides, perspectives, and angles?

What if each of our unique backgrounds told a different story? What if our individual life experiences guided different learning processes? What if our passions put a different shine on the same, solid rock?

Three Lies and a Truth

  • It’s not a competition.

We’re always competing. Even in our everyday communications, we’re competing for one’s time, energy, and attention. Scarcity reminds us that we don’t have unlimited capacity.

  • Comparison steals your joy, talent, opportunity, and all that is uniquely you

Like many temptations, comparison wins–if you let it. With some awareness, being open to feedback, advice, and change, and practicing self-discipline, you don’t have to live there. You can transform your situation by shifting your mindset.

  • You don’t have the ability to shine.

Due to their own insecurities, others may put you in a box or tear you down to prevent you from moving forward or heading in a new direction. You could please them and play by their rules to fit in their club, but then your ship would be stuck–safe in harbor.

  • When you think that you can’t possibly comment on a topic because others have already mastered it; you can’t do this or that because others told you that you couldn’t; or that you think you’re not good enough…

Turn the diamond ever so slightly. Shine on…

(Special thanks to Mike Parker West for sharing Steve Jobs: On Apple’s Return to Success)

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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