The Comparison Trap

When we surrender to the accumulation culture and relent to the constant juxtaposition of ourselves and those around us we relinquish our most elemental form of agency. The agency to shape the experiences of our life.

Our experience is what we agree to attend to.

She gets paid more than I do.

He has a more prestigious job than I.

Her career advancement has been faster than mine.

He’s smarter, funnier, and looks better in a suit.

Everything comes so easy to her.

She’s in better shape than me.

How does she have so many more Instagram followers than I do?

His pictures always get so many more likes than mine.

We live in a culture in which we compare ourselves along every imaginable axis of privilege and every dimension of identity – intelligence, beauty, athleticism, charisma…

Our insatiable desire to compare is the product of an accumulation culture. A culture in which the doctrine of everyday life is based on the acquisition or gradual gathering of things.

The accumulation of goods.

The accumulation of leisure.

The accumulation of accolades.

The accumulation of wealth.

The accumulation of education.

The problem with our incessant drive to accumulate is that it comes at the expense of our own being. It inevitably leads to the deprivation of self because there is always more.

There is, and always will be, someone with more money.

Someone smarter.

Someone better looking.

Someone more charismatic.

When we surrender to the accumulation culture and relent to the constant juxtaposition of ourselves and those around us we relinquish our most elemental form of agency. The agency to shape the experiences of our life.

The moment you focus on others you vacate your soul.

You vacate the power to make incremental daily progress towards the life you want to lead.

The only way to resist and make progress towards changing the culture is to realize only those items which we choose to notice shape our mind. Selective interest and attention prevent us from falling into the comparison trap.

We each must develop an inner barometer for our own values.

We must resist pageviews, clicks, likes, follows, and all of the other quantification metrics that our culture has invented.

When we have the courage to intentionally tend to the things that we find important we have the power to shift our posture from merely identifying what is lacking to envisioning ways to create and shape the world we want to live in.

A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms.

Time: We’ve Got it All Wrong

Why are we forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing?

Time.

It’s the asset that we all eagerly wish we had more of.

More time to read.
More time to spend with friends.
More time to follow our dreams.
More time with loved ones.
More time to create art.
More time to see the world.
More time to go to the gym.
More time to make a difference.
More time to become the person we want to be.

However, time is fixed. We can’t make any more of it. It’s our most precious and least renewable resource.

However, truth is, there is, in fact, enough time. Life is long enough. There is enough time to accomplish the things that we desire to do most.

The real problem with time? We waste most of it.

We waste it watching TV.
We waste it spending time with negative people that we don’t care to be around.
We waste it in meetings.
We waste it doing things we aren’t passionate it about.
We waste it consuming things that we don’t need.
We waste it searching the internet for “life hacks”.
We waste it on facebook.
We waste it complaining.
We waste it by not capturing our brilliant ideas.
We waste it by holding grudges.
We waste it by making excuses.
We waste it talking, instead of listening.
We waste it talking about people, instead of about ideas.
We waste it waiting for things to happen.

We severely underestimate how much time we spend doing these things.

It is not that life is short, but that we make it that way.

Life is long, if you know how to use it.

The Lek Paradox & The Myth of Better

We too, as the female peacock have been socialized to always strive for better. Yet, we run ever faster toward the finish line of “better” to get there and realize that it is merely the start of the next race.

Peacocks have an incredibly unique and intriguing mate selection process. This process of seduction is known as “Lekking”, after the Swedish word, “Lek”, which is the word for play.

During breeding, males gather in Leks, where they cluster together and mark out their territories. Once their territory is marked, the males wait for the females to arrive.

The female peacock is incredibly selective. She spends several days contemplating the goods on offer, with the ultimate goal being to select the best male.

At the core of it, she intends to acquire the best genes for her offspring and as asserted, and since confirmed, by Charles Darwin, the female makes this decision based on the length and ornateness of the tail of the male peacock (they are not actually tails but elongated rump feathers that cover the tail).

Once she has found her match, the male mounts atop the female. Minutes later his job is done.

At the lek, one or a few males achieve most of the matings. A single male may perform half of all mating’s at one lek.

Interestingly, female peacocks display a great degree of choosiness, yet choice matters the least within the species – otherwise known as the Lek Paradox.

The Lek Paradox arises because, if all of the females choose to mate with the same few males – those with the ‘best’ genes, then there will be much less genetic variety in the population in the next generation, and over a number of generations we might expect this to lead to no variety, making it impossible to sustain any choice.

Therefore, for the females, there is no reason to be as choosy, as the males they are choosing among were all fathered by the same few males in the previous generation.

Why does this process continue? Why do female peacocks continue to be choosy in selecting to mate with the few males with the most ornate and longest tails?

It is because the cost of doing otherwise, or mating with a short tail male, are perceived to be too high. Any female who bucks the trend, and chooses a short-tail male, will have a short-tailed son, condemning him to celibacy, given the selection criteria of the rest of the females.

In turn, each female is on a treadmill. They dare not jump off, as it potentially jeopardizes the fate of their offspring. They are constantly running (by being so selective), yet staying in the same place (having no variety to select from).

So, what does this have to be with human beings?

We too, as the female peacock have been socialized to always strive for better.

A better job.
A better salary.
A better title.
A better house.
A better car.
A better school.

Yet, we run ever faster toward the finish line of “better” to get there and realize that it is merely the start of the next race.

The solution is to realize that “better” is, in fact, a myth. You don’t have to run in the race. You can dare to jump off of the treadmill, recognizing that it is, in fact, not a race at all. You can change the narrative.

Instead, it’s about doing things that you care about.
Things that make an impact.
The house you can afford.
The car that merely gets you from point A to point B.
The school that is in your best interest – the one that facilitates the environment in which you will best be set up for success.

While this narrative, as the Myth of Better, doesn’t have a finish line and is just as grueling, it’s sure to be a much more fulfilling journey.

The choice is yours.

Don’t end up like the female peacock.

The Human Dichotomy: My Three Simple Assumptions

The human dichotomy: are people basically “good” or “bad”?

You’re answer to this question sits at the core of how you lead, manage, and connect with the world.

For me, the answer is a resounding “good”. I believe there are three things to be true of all human beings:

  1. Everyone wants to do a good job
  2. Everyone wants to feel like their opinion matters, or to be heard
  3. Everyone has the capacity to grow, or learn new things

Of course there are circumstances beyond our control that can impact an individual’s ability to fundamentally posses one or all of the criteria I have laid out. However, beyond these extenuating circumstances, I believe these three things to be true of all people.

An individual’s capacity, or strength of desire to attain any of the three criteria will oscillate over time. As such, we must meet people “where they currently are” and seek to provide the resources and conditions that will help them succeed. Clare W. Graves, a professor of psychology and originator of a theory of adult human development, said it best,

Damn it all, a person has a right to be. A person has a right to be what he/she is. He/she shouldn’t have to change to get your work done. Be flexible enough to manage him/her the way he/she needs to be managed for him/her to perform the work, not you.

What are your fundamental assumptions about people? Are the aligned with how you aspire to lead, manage, and connect with the world?

Please. Fake it, Until You Make it.

There is no reason to be ashamed of imitating the people you admire.

You don’t have to be an “original”.

The objective is to take the pieces of those you respect and ingrain them into the person that you ultimately want to become. The process allows you to pick and choose what qualities or what type of character you aspire to attain.

The end result is in fact originality.

It’s a waste of the talent of others not to harness the qualities and skills that we admire. The qualities and skills that make the world a better place. The qualities and skills that we would miss if they didn’t exist.

Stop trying so hard to be original. Instead, just be human.