When you are an aspiring entrepreneur or someone with a target, it is very normal for you to have idols, read numerous success stories of people in your field and sometimes even compare your success to that of others who may be way ahead of you.
I admit that I go through that. I aspire to become an international novelist and I idolise the likes of the American writer F Scott Fitzgerald and the Irish novelist Cecilia Ahern. As I was working on my first novella, I remember talking to my friend about it, stating my fears of not being able to become like Fitzgerald. At that time, I was fixated on Fitzgerald’s work to the point I feared that I would never be close enough to being as good as him.
My friend snapped me out of my literary bubble by saying that no matter what I do I will never be like Fitzgerald. It was not because I was not good enough, but because we are completely different people and it would be unfair to my capabilities and myself if I compared them to those of others.
Her statement replayed in my mind for a couple of days. She was right. I was too immersed focusing on being someone like Fitzgerald, and dedicating a lot of time reading about successful writers and their journeys, which did nothing but waste my time, instead of focusing on enhancing my abilities and polishing my literary work.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with reading the success stories of your idols. In fact, it could serve as motivation for you to follow your dreams. But when fixating on others’ successes impedes yours, you know that you need to change the way you view matters.
Here are a few ways that have helped me stop comparing myself to others and pushed me closer towards my goals:
Stop looking at others. The first and most important step is to nip the problem in the bud. With access to information online, we might feel so tempted to find out more about our idols that it takes away our energy, time and sometimes money. Remember that you only have so many hours during the day. Honour your goals and capabilities instead. Unsubscribe to email newsletters if they are wasting your time, and stop focusing on things that do not bring you closer to your goals.
Do not compare yourself to others. We have been doing that ever since a young age, such as when we compared our video gaming skill to that of others. They might be better, but perhaps that is because they have been doing it longer. It does not mean they aremore talented, but rather that they are further along towards mastery, according to the Canadian writer Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule of success, which states that people who spend 10,000 hours focused on a specific skill would master it.
It is unfair to compare ourselves to others, because we only know their exterior and what they project to the world. We do not have real insights to their thoughts and the struggles that they have been through. Every one, no matter how successful they are, goes through periods of ups and downs. Stop thinking that you are any different, and know that with dedication and hard work you could even end up being better than them.
This brings us to a key point about the importance of not only comparing yourself to other people, but comparing your success with theirs. I was somehow disrespectful to myself when I compared my life to Fitzgerald’s. I continuously compared my nascent route of becoming a novelist to Fitzgerald at his later stage when he became internationally renowned. It is unfair to myself because of the different points that we are in. His work is ahead of my game, but if I dedicated enough time and effort I could be in that league as well.
Last but not least, find out why you were comparing yourself in the first place. Are you afraid that if you did not have a certain ingredient, then that would cost you your business? Or are you comparing yourself to others because you are afraid they might be taking away your customers? Just keep in mind that the world has an abundance of wealth, revenue, customers and growth for everyone to enjoy, and if everyone thought that way there will be no competition or and variety of products.
While reading about others’ success could motivate you, focusing too much on it could bring you down. Dedicate that time to expand your business, and enhance your capabilities to reach your goals faster.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer based in Abu Dhabi. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai
Follow The National's Business section on Twitter