The last week has been a challenging one for me.
I struggled with my identity.
I lost track of some core ideas.
You are always exactly where you are supposed to be.
And, Float more, steer less.
There are a few things that triggered the stumble. But it comes down to comparing myself to others.
ACK!!! The dreaded trap of “Comparison!?!?”
It is a crazy notion, actually: To judge your current situation NOT by how you feel, but in comparison to something external.
Am I happy? I’m not sure… my neighbor’s lawn is greener, but my car is better. My girlfriend is hot, but most the guys at the office have HiDef TV’s.
Ridiculous, of course…but it is easy to slip into thought patterns like that. Hell, most advertisements train us to think that way.
My issue this last week was comparing my life path to fellow internet visionaries.
Oh my! Look at that glowing article about them! Wow! What an awesome idea they have developed!! What an impressive company they have built! Look at those pageviews!!!
I think I feel a little shame for not pushing harder to create a real company. I had a few business ideas…and I didn’t follow through.
Being in another Startup seemed too hard and scary.
Over time I’ve seen companies develop ideas similar to the ones I had. So I become an enthusiastic user.
Hello, my screen name is HumblePie71.
In times of sanity, I recognize that I am applying irrational judgment on these things.
(Alas, the sane times can be rare.)
Much of my recent feelings were sparked by the upcoming SXSW conference.
I’ve been going to the tech gathering for 10 years. In the early days, I spoke on panels and even hosted the web awards. Along the way, many colleagues & friends have written books, started empires, and created wonderful things that have become a part of modern culture.
And here I am without even a mention on Wikipedia.
Ouch! There’s Pride stinging ya again!
Pride is one of the vicious beasts unleashed when you fall into a state of Comparison.
But when I am still with myself, I know that ALL of this pride and doubt is in total opposition to everything my spiritual practice has entailed the last few years.
First of all, making a comparison has the inherent falsehood that I know what is “best.”
How could I possibly know that being the CEO of Google is “better” than being a lifeguard at the beach?
To believe that such a comparison is even possible is to believe in an external measuring stick. Obviously that is crazy.
The only true measuring stick is happiness.
Unfortunately, I got so focused on my missed opportunities, that I forgot that I was happy.
I got pulled into an old story of mine. The “white picket fence” story where “happiness” is measured by prestige, pride, and accomplishments.
But I know better.
I know that my true happiness comes from following my heart and coming from love.
I am lucky that that path has also provided me with a decent living and had it’s share of prestige and accomplishments.
But it would be a huge mistake to start focusing on those things as proof of my joy.
It would be totally counterproductive to draw value from my life by counting accomplishments.
This is something I still struggle with…even during my best times.
And during weeks like this, as the SXSW wunderkinds start printing up stickers of their latest mind-blowing ideas, it takes extra work for me to stay balanced.
There are a few mental “tricks” I’ve been using to help myself get back to sanity.
1) Asking myself if I am happy.
Nothing makes me see the insanity quicker than this question.
It is a special kind of crazy to lose the joy of a moment because you compare it to another option. It’s like having a wonderful meal and becoming focused on the 6 course dinner I’m missing out on.
Am I not filling my belly? Am I not enjoying the taste? Do I even know that I would LIKE the 6 course meal? Or that it would be good for me?
This is the “Baywatch Trap.” All over the world, people who were content for years suddenly had access to American television. In an instant, they realized what they were missing and fell into the comparison trap. (Sadly, one of the by products of this particular trap is the International Stardom of David Hasslehoff. But that is a different essay, altogether.)
2) Focus on the good things about the choices I *did* make.
When I look back on the last couple years, I really couldn’t be happier about how I spent my energies. Tons of family time & more effort towards spiritual growth than ever before. I realize that this is still a comparison mentality, but it at least helps snap me back into measuring what is important.
The reality is I did not make as much professional and creative progress as I used to. But it is not the miles covered…it is the direction headed.
3) Looking at lives I admire.
Wealth and power are not even things I value. When I start to want them, it is usually when external voices start creeping in.
It has been an amazing blessing to listen to Jacob Glass lecture each week. In addition to sharing amazing wisdom, he also shares his personal path. I am inspired by his choices towards personal truth and away from societal pressures. He is not a traditional financial success, but his wealth of integrity is massive. So even though his bank account may be modest, his needs are always taken care. He does not advertise. He does not promote. He simply walks his walk. And the truth is loud enough, that people hear and support him. His lack of ambition has been an inspiration to me.
The important thing for me to remember is that this path is one of many many small steps. And trips and stumbles should be expected.
Truth be told, I am actually encouraged by how quickly I was able to regain my footing this time.
And as I pack my bags for SXSW, I am happy, humble, excited, and sane.