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Comparison is the root of discouragement and frustration. Achieving our desired level of success seems so far away when it appears that everyone else is doing so much better.
Only if you look at what everyone else is doing.
Self-reflection is important as your brand grows, and simply moving the focus back to your own work is key to your future success.
In today’s episode, we talk about how to look at how far you’ve come so you can build up momentum to continue looking forward.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Look back and rest in seeing where you’ve come from and where you are now.
- Don’t compare yourself to other people—compare yourself to yourself.
- You don’t see the 90% of people who are doing far less than you are.
- You’re showing up and if anybody cares, that is accomplishment.
- Use the heroes in your life as examples to push yourself forward.
- Everyone notices someone doing more than them because that person is showing up.
- Your silence is robbing people of the value you have to bring to their life.
- Celebrity is being known—being a hero is about helping others.
- Look back at where you started and remember the excitement you had at the beginning.
- 03:01 Cory: It’s cool to look back and see this brand that Kyle and I have built together with this podcast, Invisible Details. It’s surreal. We’re just getting started. 30 episodes in is nothing. It’s good to take a moment every once in a while and see where you’ve come from. Look back and rest in seeing where you’ve come from and where you are now.
- 03:35 Kyle: It’s encouraging to do that, because if you’re constantly looking forward and thinking about what’s in the future, what you’re going to do next, and how something is going to go, there’s no satisfaction in seeing what you’ve built and where you’ve come. It’s important to look to the future, have goals, and strive to be in a different place, but there’s discouragement if you’re always thinking that things need to be better and different and growing without realizing that you should be proud of where you are. Even if you’re listening to this episode and you just listened to episode 30 about naming, and you just named your brand, that’s something. You’ve gotten somewhere, built something, gotten over a hurdle, and you’ve done more than most people do.
The Danger of Comparison
- 04:34 Cory: Comparison is terrible. Comparison is the root of discouragement and frustration. In November, I started going to the gym. I had never gone to the gym before. I tried to work out on my own or go running, and I realized toward the end of last year that I wasn’t taking care of my health. I sit in front of a computer for 80% of my day, and that’s not doing my heart or my body any favors. I don’t want to have a heart attack when I’m 45. I don’t want to inherit those genetics and let that rule my life because of what I choose to do.
- 05:16 I signed up for a gym membership, I hired a personal trainer, and I started putting the work in. If I go to the gym and I look at all of these other men and women, both of whom are so much more intensely buff than I am, I could say, “I suck. I don’t look like that. I haven’t reached that yet.” If all I ever do is look at them, it’s going to be so discouraging because I’m not there yet.
Don’t compare yourself to other people—compare yourself to yourself.
- 05:56 I really believe in the power of comparing to yourself, because it gives you direction for where you want to go. I can look at those people and say, “Maybe there are some things there that I want in my life. Maybe I want to be able to bench press a certain weight that these people can, so I’m going to take that and use it as an encouragement toward where I want to be.” I also need to look back. When I first joined the gym, I couldn’t do two push-ups. I don’t have anything to prove. If I can do three now, that’s an improvement. If I could do ten at the beginning and I can only do eight now, that’s me comparing to myself.
- 06:38 That’s me saying, “I need to keep working at what I’m trying to build, but at least I showed up.” How many people don’t show up? I’m not just talking about the gym, but in general. It’s so easy to talk, and it’s really hard to actually walk it, show up, and make something.
- 07:03 Kyle: That’s the tough part. You see what you’re doing and what you’re working towards, and you see people who are way ahead of you. They’re doing things you want to be doing and they’re in a place you want to be in, and you’re striving to be like them. You want to be at that level. You may not want to be like that brand specifically, but you want to have that kind of accomplishment and be at that point. It’s great to look at that, to want something and to have something to strive for. The problem is that we compare ourselves and think that we have to be at this level, to get to this point.
- 07:47 We’re not there yet, so we’re not really that successful and things aren’t going that well. Instead, look back. It’s interesting, because we notice these people because they’re the ones who are being prolific. They’re the ones who are showing up. They’re there all the time, and people recognize them or their brand. People notice that because they’re showing up. They’re constantly delivering on what they promise.
You don’t see the 90% of people who are doing far less than you are, who aren’t even trying.
- 08:34 There may be people looking at you who are saying, “I would like to be at that point. That’s really cool.” You don’t think about that, because you’re so focused on what’s ahead. You’re not giving yourself credit for being where you’re at and for anyone caring about what you’re doing whatsoever. If you have five followers on Twitter, there are five people that care about what you’re doing and where you’re going. Someone else isn’t even on Twitter and isn’t trying. They need to be, if they’re working towards what they want. You’re there, you’re showing up, and you’re trying, and if anybody cares, that is accomplishment.
Comparison vs. Inspiration
- 09:26 Cory: Some people are saying in the chat, “Comparison can be encouraging sometimes,” and I agree. You can look at where people are at and say, “They pushed hard, and I know I can push hard. I’m going to use them as an example for myself.” There’s a difference between using someone as an example and comparing yourself to their progress. Let’s say that I want to have the number one podcast on iTunes, and I look at whoever is the number one podcast on iTunes. I look at them, and I can either say, “I’m not doing as well as those guys. I haven’t worked as hard…” It’s like that Eeyore Syndrome.
- 10:19 You know Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh, the children’s stories? Like him, I can say, “It’s so frustrating that they’re doing really well and I’m not.” If I use them as an example, I can say, “They hustled. They worked hard. They busted their butts to get to where they are, and I know I can do that, too.” We’re all just humans. We have different talents, skills, and abilities, but I can do that. If I work hard enough, I can do that. There is a difference between comparison and using someone as an example. I believe really strongly that, in most cultures today, we rely so much on celebrities and less on heroes.
- 11:12 Hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago, the idea of hero was everywhere. That’s where all the myths and legends come from. Look at Hercules. I can’t be a demigod, but he was a hero, and people said, “This is someone who inspires me to do greater things.” A celebrity, on the other hand, leads us to say, “This person has earned something that I probably will never be able to get.” It’s someone who has status. There’s a big difference between a hero and a celebrity.
Use the heroes in your life as examples to push yourself forward.
- 11:45 Be proud of what you’ve made. Be proud of yourself for showing up, because that’s more than a lot of other people will ever do. Or, are you going to sit there and compare yourself to people who are successful?
- 12:08 Kyle: This episode is definitely for the people who are hustling, trying to get things done, and build a brand. I would say I’m in this category. We want to make things happen and get to a certain point, and it’s very rare that I stop and think about what has happened and where I’m at. It’s not that I take that for granted, but I want to keep moving forward. I flourish in progression, because that’s what fuels me and keeps me motivated. Looking back is a huge motivation as well. When you do that, you think, “Wow, things have come so far.”
- 13:04 Yesterday, ironically, someone emailed me, and at the end of their email, they said, “I remember when you weren’t doing a whole lot. It’s really good to see how far you’ve come.” I didn’t realize it, but there was someone following me and seeing what I was doing before I was doing a whole lot. I asked him, “How long have you been following along and what have you noticed?” He said, “I remember when you weren’t sharing blog posts and you shared work every now and then, but now I see a lot of work from you, and you have blog posts, you’ve been featured on other blogs, you’ve done workshops, you’ve gone to conferences…” They went through all these things, and I hadn’t realized how many big things had happened in such a short amount of time. It was very humbling and motivating to think that so much has happened, even though I feel like things aren’t even off the ground yet.
It Starts With Showing Up
- 14:15 Cory: Aaron says in the chat, “I’d encourage everyone to get into the habit of celebrating three wins at the end of every day, regardless of how small they are.” Everyone notices someone doing more than them because that person is showing up. They don’t notice the 90% of people not doing anything, because those voices don’t exist. Kyle, this person who emailed you noticed because you showed up. They’ve been impacted by you because you showed up. If you hadn’t, you would have robbed that person of the value you’ve brought to their life.
Your silence is robbing people of the value you have to bring to their life, so step up.
- 15:10 Say, “I’m going to start a newsletter, and I want people to get value from this because I want to encourage them in this way.” My buddy Austin has a motion design newsletter on Mondays, I think, and it’s all towards delivering value to people who are interested in motion design. If he didn’t show up that way, people may have found inspiration in other places. He wants to show up in people’s lives and deliver value to them, and he had value to give. If he decided, at one point, not to do this, he wouldn’t be allowing those people to experience the joy, value, and possible life-change that he can bring to their life.
- 16:04 Everyone has something that they can offer. The difference between those who are loud and those who are silent is simply who shows up. Look back at that. Daniela asked, “I could once do a lot more than I can do now. How can I stop myself from looking backwards in order to be proud of what I’m doing now? Comparing myself to what I used to be feels more dangerous than comparing myself to others.” Truthfully, if you had never shown up, if you were at zero, you went to eight, and now you’re at five, guess what? Five is more than zero. You have moved forward from a place of stagnation.
- 16:55 That is something you should be proud of, and it also gives you drive to say, “I want to take it up to a six, a ten, a 5,648 billion. Let’s do this.” You’re doing more than a lot of people in the world will ever do. Some people go to a trade show and sell a piece of pie, and that’s more than others will ever do. Go sell your pie! Show up! Write your newsletter! Make your blog! Start a business! Lose some money, make some money! Some people will sit on their couch saying, “But maybe I’ll fail.” You showed up, and you should be proud of that.
Celebrities vs. Heroes
- 17:39 Kyle: Cory mentioned the difference between heroes and celebrities, and I love that. One of the big problems with the shift toward everyone wanting to be a celebrity is that, when you hear that term and you see celebrities, you assume that everyone likes them. It’s like a popularity thing. I’ve realized, though, that it’s not about everyone liking you—it’s about the right people liking you. That’s the important thing. Look back at heroes or conquerers, like Alexander the Great. He slaughtered civilizations, and to a lot of people, he’s seen as a great hero. Do you think the people he conquered saw him that way?
- 18:44 There were two sides of the fence. There were people that hated him and people that admired him as a hero. That’s where you want to be. You want to be at the point where you’re not just sharing this neutral content and floating along, trying to please everybody. People aren’t going to get behind you until you give them a reason to get behind you or your brand. Since we started talking about this, I’ve gone back and looked at my old social media posts and stuff like that. It was super generic and boring. Suddenly, when I started addressing these topics that could potentially be controversial, that people could really disagree with, it felt so much more alive. I see a progression of me being worried that people won’t care to me being more concerned with the right people caring than everybody caring.
Celebrity is being known—being a hero is about helping others.
- 20:21 Cory: The focus is different. When you’re a celebrity, everybody knows about you. Great. If you’re a hero, you want to help others. You want to make others’ lives better. If you’re a celebrity, you are doing all this stuff so you can be a household name and you can make all this money. Sometimes, unfortunately, we force celebrity on other people. That’s the difference. I want people to be heroes, not celebrities. Make a difference. Look at your life and say, “I’m proud of what I’ve built.”
- 21:07 Kyle: It seems like we’re talking a lot about individuals here, but as we talk about a lot on Invisible Details, a brand is a personality (Related: e004 Understanding Brand as Personality and Why It Matters). We mix those two a lot, because a brand is something living and growing. It’s almost like a person itself. There’s personification that happens, and I think that’s important to mention here. Even if you’re a brand with ten employees, you can still be on the celebrity or the hero side. All of these things apply to that brand, and it’s what shapes and molds the personality of the brand.
Benefits of Looking Back
- 21:56 Cory: Look at what you’ve done. There’s something in there that will help drive you toward what you can build. There are a lot of ways you can improve. Maybe you can change an aspect of your brand that you’re not proud of. Great—make the change. Move forward. There’s room for adjustment. At seanwes, we’re growing and changing a little bit of our business model. We’re moving forward. When seanwes first started, it was Sean McCabe. He was the brand. It was all him. Then he started hiring, and now there are eight of us full time as part of the company. We are seanwes. Sean could look back and say, “When I first started, it wasn’t as good as it is now,” but he started from nothing and moved the business to where it is now.
- 23:11 We’re moving forward to create something even more amazing. In two years, it’s going to be even more amazing. In ten years, we’re going to rule a country or something. It’s important to look back and say, “It wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, but that’s because I was still moving forward,” and that’s okay. As long as you’re working towards something, you’re going to move forward to some degree. Something may change. I worked really hard at my apparel business, and it didn’t go anywhere. It flopped away, but that’s fine. I’m proud of what I built. I learned a lot from that. The business didn’t go anywhere and I didn’t make my money back, but the people who bought the shirts and the ones I interacted with all had a positive experience with it, and that’s something I’m really proud of. All of the feedback I got was positive, even though it seemed to be a “failure.”
- 24:18 Kyle: The title of this show is Being Proud of What You’ve Built, and there’s an alternate side to that as well. Maybe you’re too proud of what you’ve built. Maybe you’re taking for granted where you’re at. Looking back and seeing where things started may help you be humbled by what you’ve built. It’s easy to get caught up. The numbers don’t matter, but let’s be real—we all notice the numbers. It shouldn’t be predominant, but we notice them. On social media, if you’re used to getting 400 likes on something and you get 300, you could be discouraged by that. Look back, and realize that that’s far more than you ever expected to have.
Look back at where you started, and remember the excitement you had at the beginning.
- 25:29 It all scales from the beginning. It’s easy to either get caught up in getting too proud, thinking that you’re bigger than you are, or thinking that you haven’t gotten very far. These are the two different ways someone could look at their brand and their efforts.