About a year ago I wrote about keeping your eyes on your own paper. Surprisingly, this post is my most popular entry here of all time– a metric which teaches me an important lesson: I’m not the only one that struggles with measuring their value against the accomplishments and perceived perspectives of others.
When we’re surrounded by people who we imagine to be more successful than we are– in family or work or travel or just life in general–we typically do one of two things: we compare or we compete.
If you aren’t exactly sure which camp you fall into, pay attention to how it feels when you’re having a bad day and scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, or read a blog written by someone who does what you want to do, or better yet, check yourself into a weekend conference of 3,000 inspirational people intent on changing the world. Do you judge yourself based on what someone else has done, or do you concoct a plan to one up your virtual neighbors?
This weekend I conducted this very experiment. For the third year in a row I attended my dear friend and colleague Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in Portland. If you can conceptualize what would happen if you could mix steroids with world changing inspiration and inject it into 3,000 people you’d get the crowd at this conference.
I love this crowd and the energy and the mission of this summit, but a strange thing happens to me every year on the Monday after WDS. I wake up with an inspiration hangover. I don’t want to rise and shine and start dominating the world. I want to crawl back into my bed and cover my head.
I am a comparer.
I peruse the #WDS2014 twitter feed and am confronted with a stream of hundreds of people walking away from these amazing days floating on clouds and dreaming of unicorns and new business ideas. And I feel like I suck.
In my head I know I don’t suck. I love inspiration and travel and creating new things and changing the world. I’m well established in my world and work. I have an amazing hammock business. I’ve been to more countries than most of the people I know combined and people actually pay me money to teach them to travel. I just finished writing a book manuscript. I currently get to call some of the most amazing humanitarian organizations that I’ve dreamed of working with my clients. And I’m training for an amazing race to raise $10,000 for clean water in South Sudan.
Damn, my world is pretty amazing. Yet, there is something strange about too much inspiration that whispers in my psyche “you are not doing enough.”
In true “comparer” fashion when I’m confronted with the successes and ideas of 2,999 other people, all I can see are my own inadequacies. And of course, I also convince myself that I’m the only person in the world who can turn inspiration into black holes instead of unicorns and fairies. I want to hide. I want to give up.
Lucky for me, this weekend I had some great conversations with some other truly outstanding people who seem to suffer from this same acute inspirational illness. Bookwriters, business owners, parents, travelers and trainers. Dozens of successful people I dearly admire who deal with feelings of failure and fraud behind their smiling and wildly dancing facades.
It helped me to know that there are other people out there who may not get out of bed today to change the world. And just in case you are one of them, I thought maybe you should know that you aren’t the only one with your head covered in pillows.
As I continue practicing not to compare, I keep these words scribbled on the chalkboard in my kitchen “What can you give the world today?”
I wish that every day I was able to wake up and give the world something inspirational. But the truth is that most days the best I have to give is my ordinary. This feels uninspired until we finally learn that true extraordinary comes from an ongoing commitment to show up and do the regular work. To give the world our best each day no matter how little or uninspiring it feels. A book starts with a single sentence. Businesses are built on a lot of ordinary emails. And families are built one dinner at a time.
This morning as I stumbled to the kitchen with a full blown inspiration hangover this question on my chalkboard confronted me as it does every day. I thought for a moment as I poured hot water, ‘getting out of bed may be all I have to give today’. And as I put the tea bag in my cup I realized that the tea leaves seemed to sending me a messages from the universe again. The tag spoke these simple words:
“Be who you wanna be. Not who they choose to see.”
It’s some pretty good advice. Be remarkably you today no matter what it is or how much that you’ve got to give.
Today may look like a nap and a cup of tea. Tomorrow you may have rainbows and mountain tops.
Today is enough. You are enough. Stop comparing and competing.
Just Do You.