One of my favorite podcasts is Entrepreneur on Fire (EOFire), run by fellow native New Englander John Lee Dumas. He is far from alone in pointing out that it is not a good idea to compare ourselves to others the way we so often do – “compare and despair” is his go-to phrase on that – but he has added a good take for us to remember, and it’s simple: the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself a day/week/month/year earlier.
It’s a simple concept, and it goes along with something athletic coaches often talk about that can sometimes be dismissed as “coachspeak.”
We often think of people who have changed something about themselves as having transformed, as if they did something magical that happened all at once. It can certainly seem that way if you think over a long period of time, like the shy kid you went to school with who is now a charismatic business leader, or the person who struggled with basic C programming early in their career becoming the CTO of a company. But those snap shots hide a reality: in between them was almost certainly a gradual change, something that happened little by little.
Nothing happens all at once. When we change ourselves, we do so a little at a time, even if we do something that can have a significant effect as one of the steps. Whether it’s making a wholesale change or just a big improvement, it happens a little at a time. You don’t go from a novice to an expert in a minute. A Hall of Fame athlete got better one practice, one workout, one game at a time, and that took more than one day.
It’s in that vein that I think about how so much of what we do calls on us to be on a quest of continuous improvement. It goes right back to what JLD talks about – we should compare ourselves to ourselves at an earlier time, and be satisfied if we got better since then and unsatisfied if not.
Related to that, we need to always understand that at no point have we ever figured out all that we need to know on something. We can always get better. I think of this from attending a LinkedIn seminar on Wednesday, one where I feel like I gained something. I think I know LinkedIn well, although I am far from the expert on it that someone like John Nemo is. I have felt good about my profile and overall activity on it. But even here, I had a few notes that I think will help me out, and I’ve already implemented a couple of them.
I intend to carry this same mindset with me into other areas. We might call some things refreshers if we already have knowledge about them, but they tend to be just what we need, especially if we get a new idea or approach to the subject.
We owe it to ourselves to think of this life as one where continuous improvement is the idea. Get better every day, and at some point, the result can look like a transformation that might appear magical. When it’s all said and done, though, it’s known that it was not really a transformation or magical, but rather, a story of many small improvements.