Browsing Category Persistence

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

There is a phenomenon called Relative Deprivation that shows that we define our lives as successful or not successful, happy or unhappy, based on the lives of people around us.

I first encountered the concept in Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath (see chapter three).

Though it’s a simple concept, the way it works out can be quite surprising.

One of Gladwell’s applications of this idea has to do with the overall happiness of a country when compared to others. At face value, the countries whose citizens report to be the happiest should be the best places to live. Everyone’s happy. But there’s a dark side to having a high happiness rates: suicide rates in these countries are significantly higher than countries whose citizens report to be less happy or unhappy.

As you think about it, it makes sense: if you compare yourself to those around you and judge yourself, your life, your success, and your happiness based on the people around you, then what happens when they’re all happy and you’re not? In happy countries, there’s less space to be unhappy.

Conversely, countries that are less happy have much lower suicide rates. If you’re less happy and everyone around you is in a similar place, you perceive your experience as normal. It’s ok to be unhappy.

It is important to consider who you include in your circle of comparison.

That circle is not typically a conscious choice, but we can manipulate it if we like. Who are the people that you spend time keeping up with and “following”? How do they make you feel?

Those to whom you compare yourself determine your trajectory…

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When “Never Give Up” is Bad Advice

Let’s be honest. There are times when you just need to quit.

That might be surprising coming from me because I love telling you to never give up. It’s a phrase that finds its way into many of my articles. And I love that.

Persistence is one of the most important attributes to finding and doing work worth doing. I won’t allow you to give up, put your head down, and surrender to your life and your work simply as it comes. My mission is to shake you awake to what really matters and to inspire to dig deeper, create riskier, speak up, show up, and never stop.

All of that is hard work. All of that takes dedication and vision.

This is all fine and well until I had the chance to interview Chris Guillebeau about his book The Happiness of Pursuit a few weeks ago. We had a great conversation, but something he said really stuck out to me.

I mentioned that Quests usually entail a fair amount of difficulty. How do you know when enough is enough and you should quit?

He replied, “I’m not a fan of saying “never give up,” because there are lots of times when you should give up.”

After which I had a moment of panic. I tell people never to give up all the time! I agree with Chris here, but what if I’m not clear enough about what to give up on and what not to?

So let’s explore the question of what you should and should not consider quitting when it comes to work worth doing…

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Cancer, Amputation, and How to Keep Going When Difficulties Arise

The last two weeks have been hard. Hard is an understatement, actually. They’ve been grueling. I’ve felt beyond capacity and pretty empty.

They have been the hardest weeks of the past few years of my life.

A few months ago, my ever-present seven year old red heeler mix companion and side-kick, Lina, started limping.

We rescued Lina from a shelter 6 years ago. I wasn’t sure that I was ready for a dog, but Stacia knew this was the one. She couldn’t have been more right.

Lina has been with us through thick and thin. She’s road tripped across most of the US multiple times, moved houses three times, and always helps us remember to stay in the moment, to get outside, and (of course) to play more.

The limp wouldn’t go away, so we took her to the vet. That appointment turned into a series of appointments and eventually a biopsy. That biopsy came back with worse news than we could have expected— cancer. And further lab work proved it to be a highly aggressive cancer— hemangiosarcoma.

A week and a half ago, we had our first meeting with an animal oncologist. One thing lead to another and we found ourselves faced with hard and expensive choices: radiation, amputation, and/or chemo.

The vet encouraged us to amputate her leg — where the mass had grown in order to slow the spread. The good news was that the cancer currently had only gathered in her leg. The bad news was that this kind of cancer will haunt her for the rest of her life.

There was no good decision and yet we had to make a choice.

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Make the Future

I never knew blood and sweat could be so rewarding.

Some years ago I directed a work-study program at a summer camp in Northern California. My team of high school guys and I would do maintenance and labor around the campus during the day and study and explore themes of identity and formation in the evening.

Of the many jobs we did, there was one that we got to do once a week— after the lawns had been cut and the trash collected. We got to clear blackberry bushes.

The property had lots of wild blackberries. Though they were tasty, they also had big thorns and spread fast and far. Our job was to clear a section of land so that it could be used for something else.

It was hard and sweaty work in the dry California heat. The thorns would inevitably leave us cut and scraped up by the end of the day.

Even though it was hard we all loved it for one simple reason…

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Giving Up: The One Thing I Won’t Let You Do

I will tell you that your work is bigger than your job.

I will tell you not to compare yourself to others.

I will tell you that what you have to create is your own and no one elses.

I will tell you to find kindness for where you have been— even if it’s not where you wished to go.

I will ask you to find places of impact and meaning.

I will ask you to tell your stories. I will challenge you to think about your work and your desire.

I will tell you that you have something great to create.

I will ask you to find the right people to support you along the way.

I will try to help you choose what to do next.

I will show you what’s been helpful for me to read.

I will help you pay attention to the stories you tell yourself and the words that you use.

I will ask you to make your art and to share it with the world.

I will do my best to help you stretch beyond your comfort zone.

I will help you let go of places that need to be let go of.

I will help you make plans and deal with fear and anxiety.

I will do my best to inspire you to dream big dreams and to courageously pursue them.

But there’s one thing that I cannot and will not do…

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