This is my article that first appeared on Brazen Life. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, they offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!
Having information at your fingertips isn’t always a good thing. It takes just seconds to go online and compare your business, your life and your dream to someone else’s.
Thirty years ago, you might not have even known if someone in your city had already started work on an idea similar to yours. Now, a Google search can instantly lead you to the dozens or even hundreds of other people who are doing exactly what you want to do — and seem to be doing it better than you think you could.
This comparison trap is dangerous to your success as an entrepreneur.
A few decades ago, the only person who could hold you back from starting your dream business was you. Actually, that statement still holds true today. But things have gotten a bit more complicated.
Now we’re driven to constantly keep tabs on our competitors, some of whom seem more talented, more established and seem to have all day to work on their business while you’re still at your day job.
Googling aside, social media is also part of the mix. On Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, it looks like everyone’s “winning” (whether they are or not). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if you’re easily sucked into a comparison trap.
Some of this is unavoidable. We can’t change the fact that our daily lives are intertwined with Internet news feeds and Twitter streams. But there’s a better way to go forward with your business and your dreams despite all the noise, comparison and competition around you.
How do you stop that nagging, insecure feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing when your competitors seem to be business rockstars and you’re still stuck in your 9-to-5, trying to make it happen on the side?
Follow these five tips to escape the comparison trap, overcome those irritating doubts that you’re not good enough and progress full-force towards the life and business of your dreams:
1. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle
If you’re just starting your business or working on a new entrepreneurial endeavor, don’t compare yourself to those who are already established in a similar business.
Think about it like this: Say you plant a seedling tree in your backyard, then wait three years before you decide to plant another seedling tree right beside it. Chances are you would never compare them and wonder why the second tree isn’t as tall as the first. You would instinctively understand it’s merely because the second tree is younger and will grow in its own due time.
If your business is younger than someone else’s, don’t compare apples and oranges. Take a moment to embrace your beginning. (Click here to Tweet this thought.)
You have to start somewhere. It’s the fact that you started in the first place that will set you apart from the crowd.
2. Know there’s plenty of “good enough” to go around
Some people insist there aren’t enough good ideas or good businesses to go around. In other words, if someone has a successful business similar to yours, you could be tempted to believe they’re taking something away your success.
This is what I like to call the “scarcity mindset.” And fortunately, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
If this were the case, we’d only know of one photographer, one musician, one actor, one author, one business coach and one podcaster in this entire country. The reality is that there are plenty of opportunities for everyone. No one can take your success from you. You need to create it yourself.
3. Focus on celebrating your own wins, not being discouraged by someone else’s
Many times, we compare our failures to someone else’s successes. If you’re struggling to start or grow your business, it’s all too easy to compare your struggles and failures with someone else’s successes and peak moments.
This is especially the case with social media. Always remember that someone’s picture-perfect Instagram feed or egocentric Twitter bio isn’t a truthful representation of reality. They merely show what someone wants their life to be, not what their life actually is (big difference).
It isn’t always easy, but to escape the comparison trap, log off Facebook and focus all your attention on your own successes. Celebrate the positive steps you’ve taken and the triumphs you’ve had along the way, no matter how small they may seem.
4. Follow the path your competitors have paved for you
There’s no need to be envious of your competitors when you realize they’ve paved the way for you to do what you want to do (and be successful at it).
Instead of comparing yourself to them, study them. Learn all you can from the way they do things and the failures they’ve had along the way.
As an entrepreneur, you want to always approach problems and projects with a beginner’s mind. One way to do this is to constantly find ways to learn from your competitors. What do you like about what they’re doing? How do they reach their customers? What feedback are they getting? What could you do better in your business? What could you do differently?
Learning as much as you can from other people in similar businesses as you will give you that edge you need to be highly successful in the long run.
5. Stop making excuses and start already!
If you take nothing else away from this, remember there’s one key to escaping the comparison trap: having the drive to get started. Even if you’re feeling trepidation about following your dream or opening your new business, start anyway.
Feeling that some people out there are better than you will probably never go away. Embrace it. Allow it to be the fuel that drives you to do the very best you possibly can.
In the end, it’s not worth getting caught in the comparison trap. It will only slow you down and add another excuse to the long list of why you can’t share your gifts, talents and great ideas with the world. Don’t let fear stop you from being great and doing great things.