Everything is context.
My best drive on the 18th at last week’s site of the Canadian Open, Glen Abbey, would be profoundly disappointing for Dustin Johnson. My “A” game at Tennis would beat nearly no one, but I could still enjoy it. My grandson beats me regularly at chess. My older son would beat me every time, except we never play. I beat him the last time we played and I cannot risk giving up that marker.
If someone wants to risk losing all their capital in a stock, I will not be disappointed if they outperform a more careful portfolio. Same thing with tax rates.
Most people will not bend their life far out of shape to save taxes. Life insurance gains are tax free, but in my experience, no one will die to make their tax plan work. We make mistakes when we compare outcomes without context.
A problem many young people have is they compare poorly and push themselves to achieve goals that are not important in their time frame. If by 40, someone has a career developed, a little savings, not a lot of personal debt and an ability to live within their projected income, they are likely to be successful. Comparing to an acquaintance who has already accumulated a portfolio of rental properties and a successful business may be dissatisfying until more variables are included. Suppose the acquaintance is working on a third marriage and is alienated from his children. Suppose health has deteriorated. Suppose some of what has been done can lead to legal problems. Now what? Still think you are not doing well enough?
Retired basketball player Luc Longley once had dinner in a restaurant with teammate Michael Jordan. His observation the next day, “I wouldn’t trade places with him, even on payday.” Comparison is tricky at the best of times.
As my friend Brian MacKenzie says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Take that to heart.
The way you get the thought into your minds is the simple observation that you know a great deal about yourself and near nothing about anyone else. As the result you tend to compare your everyday performance with someone else’s career highlight reel. Worse one attribute at a time. Their best to your ordinary is not objective.
It is proper to notice the achievements of others, not with a view to comparison but rather as instruction. Maybe successful people read more. Maybe successful people have more energy because they are in better physical condition. Maybe successful people stop doing losing things sooner. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
Context helps you see meaning. If you see behaviours that tend to succeed you might be able to configure them for your personal context. Comparison is the guide to better outcomes within your own context. It fails miserably if you compare those outcomes without noticing the context in which they are obtained.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-7772