Perhaps you’re reading this first thing in the morning, on the train to work or during your lunch break. Maybe you’ve just finished up a long slog at the day job, or are doing a last interwebz check-in before bed.
Whatever the case, I know how busy you are, so I’m going to keep this simple: Being a self-made entrepreneur is hard.
See? Told you that was easy.
In fact, that statement is redundant, since entrepreneurs are by definition self-made. This is great in a lot of ways: You control your time, your effort, your product, your relationships and your standards. You get to pick your workspace and your supplies, your vendors and your subscriptions. If you want to take a bath at noon, you totes can.
All of which is great.
Here’s what’s not so great: Every last ounce of decision-making, willpower and work is on you.
The Extra-Terrible Comparison Trap.
We all suffer from the comparison trap to a certain extent. Every time you fire up Instagram or open your blog roll (do people have those anymore?), you see people whose lives look more glamorous or more successful than yours. Poor self-esteem: achieved.
When you’re an entrepreneur, though, this is doubly dispiriting, because you see people doing exactly what you want to do … except they’ve got an audience, are making money and don’t seem to suffer the crippling existential doubt you experience the moment you turn off the lights at night.
This is a classic mistake. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t suffer from it for years. And while it’s quite unpleasant, that’s not even the real problem.
No, the real problem is that when you subject yourself to this kind of thinking, it’s only a short leap from “They’ve got it all together and I don’t” to “They’ve got it all together and I never will.” Which is another short leap from calling it a day, going to happy hour and crying into your empanadas?
Not a good way to get work done.
The good news? There is an antidote. But first, let’s discuss why this perception is so insidious.
The Faulty Belief That’s Making You Crazy.
At the root of this unhealthy practice – comparing yourself to others and coming up short – is an erroneous belief that you and This Amazing Person are both at the same stage in life and business.
When you see someone else’s carefully tailored vision of themselves, you don’t see the years of toil, the arguments with loved ones, the heartbreak, the failure or the fact that they had a bowl of Fruit Loops for dinner last night … without milk.
This is not an original idea, but it’s impressive how often we manage to forget it. In so doing, we let ourselves believe that their success came easy. When we struggle and strive for that success and don’t see it right away, then again, we’re tempted to give up.
We wait for success to validate our work instead of doing the work and waiting for the success that, if we keep showing up, is inevitable.
I’ll say that again: If you show up every day, your success will arrive.
But not if you keep handicapping yourself with ridiculous standards and comparisons. The fix?
Retrain Your Brain.
I’m a writer, and I used to tell myself: I want to make multiple six figures. I want to pen a bestselling novel. I want to travel the world.
Today, I tell myself: I want to show up for client work every day. I want to be an author in the evenings. I want to become location-independent.
Guess what? I now write almost 10,000 words daily, for myself and clients. I’ve self-published one novel (and it even got great reviews!), and am writing the sequel. I live in Belize.
Yes, Belize. You read that right.
I started putting work before success, and the urge to compare myself to others dried up almost overnight. Since then, I’ve seen huge gains in my biz. I’m a successful entrepreneur and don’t have to rely on others for my business success.
It sounds pat, I know, but it really was as simple as flip-flopping my expectations about work and success. I believe, if you were to take this step tomorrow, you would experience the same miraculous-seeming results as I have.
Either way, you’ll never know until you try.