I’m back after a brief hibernation. I feel fresh and my ideas needed a canvas… desperately. Recently I was browsing through my ex-classmates and colleagues profiles on LinkedIn. I was amazed at seeing their profiles, especially the part where they had updated their designations. While some run their own businesses (Investment banking, technology, food, garments etc.), some were gainfully employed as Senior Managers, Country Managers, Program Managers, Tech Leads… people who made valuable and critical decisions in their respective offices/organizations. Yet some others pursued their own professional lines of employment e.g. Singer, Doctor, Lawyer etc.
I would be a sin to lie – hence I’d like to come clean – I was somewhat disappointed too. This feeling springs purely from comparison – when I compare their achievements to mine. Not that I have failed utterly – just that I haven’t gained a lot either. Or that’s the way I feel. I’m sure most of us felt the same, at least in comparison to our peers. Every one of us, at least once, has felt – “he/she has makes so much – and look at me”. We all feel marginalized some time or the other, in comparison. We all feel insecure. I do. Most of us DO NOT SAY it – but we FEEL IT all the same. Wait!!! I’m not complaining or blaming anyone. Truth be told, it’s only human to feel that way. We’ve done that since our caveman/hunter-gatherer days. It’s evolution. But not all aspects of evolution are considered proper/acceptable/polite these days. So is this feeling of inadequacy/insecurity – when we compare.
So I decided to step aside and take a good look at the picture from another perspective. That of the achiever’s. That’s when I started thinking about comparing not just the results – but also the efforts. That’s because those results were not obtained without efforts. How much – that’s debatable. Some got it easy, some got it the hard way, and yet some others are still running for it. Small successes can be relegated to luck/fluke, but not the major ones. You may be lucky every once in a while – but never ALWAYS LUCKY. That clearly confirms – no gains without pains. That’s the one part we always tend to ignore.
We ogle at the beautiful cars they drive, the beefy bikes (and chicks) they ride, the palatial mansions they dwell. What we fail to gather is that they have put years of toil to get where they have reached now. Even now, they are constantly toiling to keep up the standards lest they should slip as much as a rung in the ladder of success. Also, it was not easy for them either. They have faced and fought their demons to emerge triumphantly. What do you know, they may still be fighting them every day. Do we care… apparently not.
We also conveniently overlook their personal sorrows that they had to overcome. I know one such classmate who was busy preparing for his B-school exams (in the US) when his father breathed his last (in India). He rushed back home to India for the last rites and had to give up and an entire year of hard work. He was set back not only by 1 academic year but also the thousands of dollars he had (painstakingly) paid for tuition fees. He had to from selling hot dogs to waiting tables and also moonlighting as a cabbie to put things back in perspective. He did all of if (as time permitted) and went on to establish his own Investment Banking firm in the US. Not that he never did a white-collar 9-to-5 job though. I am not at the liberty to drop names – hence the anonymous update. What others saw (or rather – see) is his affluent status – his party habits, his hot girlfriends, his dapper, bespoke suits, his mansion, his amazing set of wheels – but nobody saw what he gave to get here/there.
There was yet another classmate who I envied since he was born to a rich father (my father was not so rich, evidently), a member of a well-educated family. He got cool gizmos to school (meaning: show-off) – stuff that his rich dad could afford to buy him – and mine could not. I always wanted to steal some of his cool gizmos out of sheer jealousy. I assumed he would fall in line with the family profession (they were all doctors) – make millions and continue in his rich dad’s rich footsteps. But the reality was far from what I imagined. It was borderline scary. He did get the money he asked for – but that was only to keep up with the Joneses – not because his father really wanted him to have that money. Also, he barely had an OPINION in that household. The patriarch of a father that he had decided what’s good for him – from studies to gifts, bikes, clothes … even WIFE. What others saw was only his riches – not his persistent fight to establish an IDENTITY in his own house.
Let me share yet another example. This is about an ex-colleague. He was the archetypal advisor – the kind that is most-sought-after in BPOs and KPOs alike. I wanted to be him, at some point in time. He keeps sharing his globe-trotting exploits from time to time. He also shares how he MADE money ethically and how he SAVED it too. The way he speaks – he could pass for a spiritual healer. We all see his resplendent side – however only a few know of his badly battered and bruised psyche. He had a messy break-up, a messier separation from one his past employers and friends that left him in a quandary in his weakest moments. We all notice the stamps on his passport, the airline tags on his bag, the small mementos he picked up whilst abroad – but only a few noticed that it was ‘the rise of the phoenix’.
All these examples put me to ease. I’ve grown up since and do not COMPARE myself to others. I refused to look only at their achievements without critically considering the journey that got them there. I refused to ape them – I don’t know if I’m ready for the turmoils that befell them. I strongly believe – no two people can be compared – even monozygotic (read: identical) twins. Let’s enumerate a few reasons why not to compare:
- We tend to compare using the wrong parameters: Home, salary, physique and other EXTERNAL factors never made good benchmarks. Also, a person’s net worth does not necessarily equate to his self-worth. UNFAIR
- We always compare someone’s achievements to our failures (surprised? Think twice – it’s true). UNFAIR again.
- Life is not a BELL CURVE (BPO/KPO employees can relate to this to the T). There are no set universal parameters to grade your success/achievements/failures. You are only as successful/miserable as you consider yourself to be.
- We don’t have all the time in the world to waste comparing ourselves to others – we could use that time productively to GROW from one strength to another, one achievement to another.
- Comparisons only beget Misery. A negative trait – highly avoidable. It can ONLY make you feel sorry for yourself. I have never come across any person living/dead that was PROUD of himself after comparing himself to others.
- ‘Comparison’ is selective – ever seen a person comparing himself to people of the same social/financial/emotional stature? I have NEVER. Again UNFAIR.
- Comparison almost always lets someone else (the one who you compare yourself with) influence your thoughts and actions. WRONG attitude.
Finally – let’s just stop his self-deprecating habit and work towards achieving OUR goals. There are better things to do in life than wasting it on someone who probably doesn’t even know we exist. I’m going – LIFE awaits me!!!