“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs.
When I met with a friend recently, she looked sad and tired. I asked her if everything was okay, and she directly replied: “no, I’m a failure”. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. Just a few weeks back she was happy and going on with her life. What had changed? I asked and this is what she replied:
“I applied to 30+ companies and still haven’t heard back. Everyone at school seems to have it all figured out, and I am just here wandering around. Everyone is so successful, they intern all-year-long, and really look happy. I don’t know Aliou, it’s really hard.”
This really saddened me, and I felt the need to write about it. Behind whom? Who is everyone? Who looks happy? Why would you care? Those are a few questions that came to mind. Unfortunately, this is not too unusual. It was not the first time I heard something similar to this. People consistently feel pressured to rush things because they believe they are “behind others”. I am writing this to share my perspective on this and, eventually, help someone along the way.
Competition is for losers.
I would like to briefly bring economics into this to make my point. Economics 101 teaches us that perfect competition is the ideal state in a free market. In brief, perfect competition only happens in a market where sellers offer the same homogeneous and undifferentiated products. Because of this, a zero-sum game is created and no one makes a profit in the long term. In this market, consumers are happy because goods and services are cheaply priced, but this is detrimental to companies. It is therefore arguable that perfect competition is the ideal state from a business perspective.
I would like to make a comparison between what is taught in eco 101 and what I witness in society. Society trains us to consistently compare ourselves from grades and ranking systems in schools, to job titles in “real life”. People are consistently involved in an unconscious competition. If unaware of this, it can consume you – slowly and surely.
As we have seen, competition only happens in a market where products are the same. My intention is not to compare humans to goods and services, but by praising competition, society has already done so. However, competition cannot work for us humans because we are all different and unique. Everyone has their own unique journey and needs to fully enjoy it. Life is not a race – it is more of a continuous solo marathon where you are constantly trying to become better than who you were.
Competition is a zero-sum game, and by taking part in it we are hurting ourselves in the long run. If the consumer wins in the business world, the rest of society wins when you compare yourself to someone else in the real world. By comparing yourself to someone else, you are adhering to the path that society created for you. You are “living with the results of other people’s thinking” as Steve Jobs would say. You are believing that life is a race and that you are competing with your peers. This has never been further from the truth.
Kevin Hart had an interesting point on that. He mentioned that life is like a traffic jam. Some cars will move faster than others. You may switch lanes and eventually see the other lanes moving. All you have to do is stay in your lane, and move at your own pace. Your speed does not matter, it is all about moving forward and being better than who you were.
On this note, I would like to end this by saying: You are you – and that is your greatest asset. Stop doubting yourself and comparing your life to someone else’s. None of those people around you are better than you and neither are you better than them. We all have insecurities. We all have fears. The point is not to compare where we are in life with where someone else is. The point is to be better than who you were yesterday. You are your only competition.
“Wanted to tell you, ‘Accept yourself’. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone except yourself.” – Drake