The news broke the internet. At least in India.
Srinivas Gowda, a Kambala jockey, had broken Usain Bolt’s 100m record by 0.03 seconds.
Popular personalities like Anand Mahindra and Shashi Tharoor tweeted the story. Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju alerted the Sports Authority of India’s Bengaluru unit and instructed them to test out Gowda’s physique and talents.
Everyone went into a frenzy. Except Srinivas Gowda himself.
The Trap of Comparison
Gowda was quick to explain why comparing him with Bolt was like comparing apples with tomatoes. (They’re both fruits, but we don’t add a tomato in a fruit salad.)
For one, the Olympics are held on hard grounds where individuals compete against each other whereas the Kambala is held on muddy paddy fields where “teams” (men and buffaloes) compete against each other.
Gowda also shed light on their running styles: he ran bare feet using his heels while Bolt wore spiked shoes and used his toes to move forward.
Srinivas Gowda was more aware and perceptive than the people pedestalizing him.
But most of us are not so “lucky” to avoid the the comparison trap.
“I’ll Never Be as Good as Them!”
Every day, most of us compare ourselves with others in salaries, designations, organizations, possessions, Instagram followers, and everything else we can think of.
Each time we engage in comparison, we reinforce how others’ lives are better than ours. This habit fills us with envy and other negative emotions. We suffer from self-doubt and berate ourselves because we think, “I’ll never be as good as them.”
When we engage in the toxic habit of comparison, here’s what really happens.
We get stuck… to outcomes. We compare others’ highlight reels with our behind-the-scenes while ignoring their effort and trade-offs. Why?
It boils down to one thing – our individual definition of success. Many of us don’t know what success means. And, as Ryan Holiday wrote in Ego is the Enemy, for anyone who doesn’t know the answer to the question, “How much is enough?”, the default answer is always “More.”
There’s always someone fitter than us, smarter than us, more attractive than us, wealthier than us, better than us. When people keep competing with someone who seems to have more, they always fixate on what they don’t have and ignore what they have.
There is an endless supply of people to whom you could compare yourself and your accomplishments, but, inevitably, you’ll always end up on the losing side of the comparison. That’s because there will always be someone who has done something that you wished you could also accomplish – Lisa Quast
Such people end up being cheap copies of others rather than being authentic versions of themselves. They jump from one shiny object to another, never discovering what makes them unique and happy.
The harder they try to win, they more they lose. And their life becomes a saga of disappointment and misery.
How to Become Your Authentic Self?
Follow two simple steps.
First, enjoy the process. Second, compete with the only person worth competing with – who you were yesterday.
Srinivas Gowda embodies both principles beautifully.
His focus on the process for all these years is why he could draw differences between Bolt and himself quicker than the “educated” crowd. And by asking people to not compare him with Bolt and not letting the spotlight go to his head, Gowda showed that the only person whose record he wants to break is himself.
The process lets you do something for the joy of it rather than desire of the outcome. You strive to reach the destination, but you enjoy the journey as well. Even if you don’t reach the originally planned destination, you still end up someplace beautiful.
When you enjoy the process, you get enough information to track your progress and adjust your actions accordingly. That’s when you automatically end up competing only with yourself, and the outcome takes care of itself.
Each time you make progress, you move forward. Even progress as tiny as 1 percent daily is a whopping 3,778% progress at the end of a year!
A 37X improvement in your skills, health, or money, and of course, happiness and satisfaction… by simply sticking to the process. Isn’t it amazing?
Write Your Own Story
You’re here to live your own life, not to live someone else’s version of life.
Anyone that wins the rat race is still a rat. What would you rather be? The best rat or the best version of your human self?
The real competition? The real challenge? The real enemy? It’s inside you. And overcoming it is the best feeling in the world!
Constantly competing with others makes you bitter. Competing with yourself makes you better.
What would you rather be?