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.

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?