It’s clear that humans like creating contests — and picking winners. There’s a huge number of competitions ranging from small local prizes to large international Grands Prix, judging what makes for success and failure, good and bad, winners and also rans. A lot of comparing goes on to decide who is “better” and who is “worse.”
People can go batshit crazy comparing themselves to other people. Is the winner really better than you? Do they have superior bloodlines? Did they go to an Ivy League college? Do they have deep skills you don’t? Why do people like hanging around them more than you? Is it their shoes? Do they have rich and powerful friends? Do they go skiing with famous people? Pure insanity!
The only competition you should care about is the internal competition with yourself. Look at what you were doing five years ago and see if you’ve made any progress. If you do an honest analysis and have made no progress towards better work in the last five years – great! This realization means your progress can start today.
Take it from some accomplished artists: you never know what might set you on a new course. Artists from Picasso to Gerhard Richter have radically changed their styles seeking a better way to express themselves. This kind of evolution is also available to you right now — free of charge — if you only give yourself permission to change what you’re doing and go “off recipe.”
Experimenting with a new style or process means going off the map into the unknown, and possibly taking a turn down a mysterious dark highway and ending up with one last $10 chip in a Northern California casino. But most people (reliable airline pilots excluded) are supposed to crash occasionally.
Here’s how Mr. David Bowie (the musician, not the spider), framed it:
“…if you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
Are your feet touching the bottom? Wade out farther. Now isn’t that better?
Note: if you’d like more recognition for your efforts, we recommend purchasing a trophy for yourself. The bigger, the better. When anyone asks how you got it, you can tell them “I’m a winner at life.” Who can argue with that?