Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Ryan Battles  •   Entrepreneurship

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Job titles, income, social following, successful businesses, free time, attitude about life, physical fitness, excellence at a hobby…

These are things that I see other people excelling at over myself on a daily basis, and if I’m not careful, comparing myself to them on one of these metrics can potentially strip me of contentment with who I am, and what I am good at.

Theodore Roosevelt, a president known for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, is quoted as saying:

Comparison is the thief of joy.

When I first heard that quote it took a while to sink in. Over the following days I started thinking about it throughout my day, whenever I’d see how my wife keeps her cool better than I do, whenever I see someone more physically fit than I am, whenever I read an amazing blog post by someone who makes it seem so easy to be a great writer. It is easy for me to compare myself to them, and it just makes me feel less adequate if I dwell on it for long.

On the flip side, I’ve had people give me compliments from time to time throughout my life. They tell me things like how easy I am to talk to, how good of a father I am, or how good I am at figuring out solutions to certain programming challenges. I’ve even heard people say, “I want to be better at that.”

Now, this isn’t to toot my own horn, I am sure that if you think about it you have your own list of qualities you envy in others, and also a list of qualities people envy in you. The point is, we all have a unique makeup of skills, faults, blessings and infirmities that make us who we are.

Comparing ourselves to others simply removes focus from what we should be excited about within ourselves.

This has been a struggle for me personally lately when it comes to being an entrepreneur. I am writing a book, blogging once a week, building a software product, maintaining a few existing software products, and exploring new opportunities. In surrounding myself with blogs, podcasts, and books of those who have found success in entrepreneurship, it is very easy to feel like I don’t have what it takes. I see that they have more followers, bigger email lists, more blog comments, and those that share their income (which a surprising number of them do), they make WAAAY more money than I do at this point.

I have determined to not let this get me down. Instead, I’m going to keep chugging along. Reminding myself that comparison in those areas will only discourage me from moving forward. I remind myself that:

  • Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because, his editor said, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired as an evening news reporter because she couldn’t keep her emotions from her stories.
  • Elvis Presley was told by the concert hall manager at the Grand Ole Opry that he was better off returning to Memphis and driving trucks.
  • Henry Ford went broke five times with his early businesses which all failed.
  • Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four, and couldn’t read until he was seven.

There are many more anecdotes like these above, just Google “famous people who were rejected” whenever comparison starts to rob you of your joy.

We’re all human, we all start from somewhere. Typically, it is perseverance and the ability to get back up that sets some of us apart in certain areas.

Babe Ruth once said:

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.

It is precisely this attitude that I hope to keep as I continue on as an entrepreneur.