…you can be the next one.
That’s the TL;DR of this article, so if you’re in a hurry, feel free to drop off the call. But, if you have a few minutes, I encourage you to continue reading.
“When the world becomes a massive mess with nobody at the helm, it’s time for artists to make their mark.” — Joni MItchell
I’ll be the first to admit that emulation plays a significant role in my creative process. Quite frankly, it plays a role larger in my life as a whole than I care to admit. I know this problem exists, and I’m actively working towards an abstinent comparison lifestyle.
You see, comparison syndrome is a thing, and it’s something that I struggle with every day. It’s also something that drives me to succeed and is at the core of everything I create.
In a brilliant short essay penned by Seth Godin, I find comfort. Comfort in knowing there is someone taller than me, faster than me, and cuter than me. And I think to myself, “So what?”
“We don’t have to look very far to find someone who is better paid, more respected and getting more than his fair share of credit.
So what? What is the comparison for?
Is your job to be the most at a thing? Perhaps if you play baseball, the goal is to have the highest on-base percentage. But it’s probably more likely that you should focus on the entire team winning the game.”
My son plays baseball, and I do the same thing with him. I compare him and his statistics to every kid on his team, and to every kid on any team that I know. Because I think it matters, and I think it makes me feel better.
Did I mention that he hit .484 this fall as his team went 15-0 en route to two separate championships? (Yes, I am fully aware that none of this really matters, and no—it doesn’t really make me feel better.)
But I digress.
Comparison syndrome is crippling, though. It prevents me from starting projects. It prevents me from finishing projects. At the end of the day, when someone is hitting doubles, and I am striking out (figuratively speaking, that is) why do I even want to step into the batter’s box?
Because I know underneath the frustration exists this truth: What goes up, must come down. And conversely, what goes down, must come up.
For every slump a batter goes through, they go through a hot streak. Just look at Anthony Rendon, 3rd baseman for the Washington Nationals.
Last Spring Rendon had one of the worst starts to a season that any batter has ever had—he was 3 for 26, which is borderline anemic. For those keeping score at home, that’s a .133 average after the first nine games of the season—well below the dreaded Mendoza Line.
And then it happened. Rendon did what he got paid $5.8 million in 2017 to do: hit. During a stretch, he produced Herculean numbers. He hit 5 of his 7 total home runs, 7 of his 21 total runs, and 15 of his 28 total RBI in just two games. That’s insane.
We all go through droughts. But we also all go through fruitful seasons where the harvest is plenty. As creatives, we need to understand one essential part of our journey is to put on our blinders and ignore some of the noise that we hear throughout our day.
In his essay, Seth continues:
“Just because a thing can be noticed, or compared, or fretted over doesn’t mean it’s important, or even relevant. Better, I think, to decide what’s important, what needs to change, what’s worth accomplishing. And then ignore all comparisons that don’t relate.”
One of the most profound and impactful things I have ever heard was from a message given by Louie Giglio—Pastor of Passion City Church and Founder of the Passion movement.
During his message, Louie says:
“We are fearfully and wonderfully made, you and I. We are a miracle. You’re a miracle sitting in the building tonight. If I could remind just you for a moment. You are somebody incredibly special.”
I choose to embrace my uniqueness. I choose to believe that I am one-of-a-kind and that nobody can create art the way I can create it. As Louie says, I am somebody incredibly special. And so are you.
I am capable. You are capable. Together, we are capable. Because the world needs my art. The world needs your art. The world needs our art.
Seth finishes up with this:
“The most important comparison, in fact, is comparing your work to what you’re capable of. Sure, compare. But compare the things that matter to the journey you’re on. The rest is noise.”
So let’s stop comparing and start creating, shall we?
You (and I) are not Seth Godin, but… we can be the next one.
. . .