Everywhere I look, it seems, I have successful friends. They are everywhere. And a few weeks ago, I spent a week with six of them.
One friend is the CEO of a company that just crossed $15 million in ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue). Another, along with his wife, just wrapped up hosting a conference, released a new book, and was on the Today Show.
Another friend has 65,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, yet another has 1.3 million fans on Facebook, and to complete the trifecta, one has a wife who runs a blog that pulls in tens of millions of page views a month.
In short, I am mice among men… Or am I?
It’s easy to compare ourselves to others because I think we often look for reasons to knock ourselves down and live in a world of imposter syndrome.
Though I am a work in progress, I am beginning to understand that the voices of doubt that I hear are only coming from myself—and not being spoken by others. I am telling myself a story that isn’t true.
But what is true, is…
I am a partner in a company that scaled to 8 figures. We also sold a line of business that I founded. I also created a brand whose Facebook page has more than 200,000 fans. And I am part of an agency that has booked six figures worth of projects since the first of the year.
These are hard truths—ones that help define who I am, and also help demonstrate what I have accomplished.
Comparison is (Not) the Thief of Joy
“If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” — Confucius
Likewise, if you are the most successful person in the room—or on your mastermind vacation—you are in the wrong room, or on the wrong mastermind vacation. Of course, there will always be someone who is the most whatever, but I think you know where I am going with this.
I am an avid runner, and one thing I know about myself is this: I run faster when I’m in a pack of runners who are faster than me. My competitive instincts kick in, and I don’t want to be left behind.
Sure, I could hang in a slower pack. And while I could find myself out in front, there’s a good possibility that my pace could be significantly slower than if I were pulling up the rear in a pack of horses.
In the creative world, there is far more to gain than there is to lose when surrounding ourselves with brilliant people. If anything, we learn by osmosis and have the opportunity to sharpen our skills.
Comparison is not the thief of joy, it is the catalyst for opportunity.
In a world filled with competition, negativity, and ego-driven motives, I have chosen to surround myself with friends who support and encourage me—and ones that understand my anxieties and idiosyncrasies.
They shine a light on me and help me realize how much I have to offer. They help reveal things that, deep down, I know are true—true of myself, and also might be true of you. Here are three of them:
1. Creativity takes courage.
I think any time you put yourself out there—on the Internet or to anyone else who will listen—it takes courage. When we do, we set ourselves up for judgment and we open the door for folks to have an opinion about us.
That sounds pretty scary.
But, it can also be rewarding—especially when we prepare ourselves for the worst case scenario, and end up with the best case scenario.
Nashville-based designer Ruthie Lindsey says “All of us are longing for connection and authenticity, and what we believe will repel people does the exact opposite.”
2. Perfection is unattainable.
Here’s a quote that I think of often: “Perfection is the disguise of insecurity.”
While I try to convince myself this isn’t true, deep down I know that it is.
As creatives, I think we are our own worst critics. It’s easy to hold ourselves up to standards that are, in my opinion, unrealistic. Unfortunately, those standards are significantly higher than the ones that others—or our peers—hold us up against. In fact, those standards might not even exist at all.
Creativity and art are nonquantifiable. Therefore, there’s no concrete way to pass judgment on whether something is perfect or not, which means—as far as I’m concerned—perfection is unattainable. So why bother trying to achieve it?
3. You can. End of story.
A few years ago, I attended a conference called Storyline. One of the speakers was a guy named Jeremy Cowart, who I had never heard of before.
Jeremy is an award-winning photographer, artist, and entrepreneur whose mission in life is to “explore the intersection of creativity and empathy.”
His message was called “I’m Possible,” and it left me speechless. I’ve written about it before, and it’s filled with life-changing messages.
Jeremy spent 25 minutes walking us through his story—from failing classes in school at an early age to being named the “Most Influential Photographer on the Internet” by Huffington Post, Forbes, and Yahoo.
This gist of his message: You can. End of story.
It’s also the gist of my message, and words I want to leave you with.
You can. I can. We can.
End of story.