Wednesday, November 4, 2009

#9 You vs. Me

July 30th 2009

You vs. Me

Comparison is a very interesting thing when you break it down. Looking at my business, I, inevitably judge my successes and my failures by comparing them to everyone else. To our competition, to other similar businesses in my industry, to my old company, to other companies in completely different industries, the list goes on. Comparison is everywhere. How do we decide who is the best? By comparing them to everyone else and then seeing who comes out on top. The trouble with comparison is that there is only 1 space at the top. So where does that leave everyone else?

As long as there is life on earth, there will always be competition for the top spot. It permeates every single species. The weak are eventually weeded out by the strong. Survival of the fittest is a phrase not only used in the scientific community, but also in the business world. Who is the best? Who is the biggest? Who makes the most money? Who has the most power? The interesting thing about competition and comparison is that it exists in every single microcosm of each division of any business. Who is the top producer on the sales team? Which member of the finance team produces the most accurate figures? Which Director has the best vision? Who is the best implementer? But most importantly, who are these people the best of? Usually it’s either the company or the division. But whether it is a team of 3 or a corporation of 50,000 you will find there will be top dogs in each and every office. It is my belief that competition is not only healthy for any organisation, but vital. Reading articles about how schools are getting rid of the Valedictorian as they don’t want to make other students, who are not as bright feel bad, make me sick. We are not all created equal, nor is life fair. By eradicating competition in the school system, we are crippling kids to the reality of the work world. I have found that the world revolves around competition, in whatever capacity that may be.

But there is also a dangerous side to comparison. Comparison allows people who are not doing very well do become incredibly comfortable. While they are far from the top, they take comfort in the fact that they are still quite away from the bottom. People, who are at the bottom, rarely compare themselves to those at the top as they are so far away they take more comfort in comparing to those underachievers around them. Comparison can invoke a false sense of security and give individuals a belief that they are better than they are. But, comparing ourselves to those around us is natural. In these times we like to believe that if we work hard enough, are savvy enough, and bright enough we can rise to the top of whatever we choose. Now, we all know that this is not really the case, but all the same, we want to feel as though we all have a fighting chance. So how successful are we really? What is the base line? Who really is the best and in whose eyes?

Competition and comparison end up being very personal. There seems to be no real bottom line as to who really is the best and compared to whom. What I have taken away from this business is that hiding behind false comparisons just delays the inevitable. It ends up being less about comparing myself to others and more about comparing myself to what I know I can achieve. Anyone who is the best is someone who consistently pushes their personal best. They strive to be the best version of themselves. But sometimes, it just feels good to be the top dog.

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