I had conversations with a couple of people yesterday, about being successful in their careers. One recurring point was that they were measuring their success based on how they performed compared with their peers.
There are many flaws with this point of view.
Firstly, everyone is different. There is no way to do a direct apples to apples comparison. As long as that remains true, trying to make any sort of comparison is an exercise in futility. There is no metric nor benchmark that can be used.
This should be the most obvious flaw to everyone. It took me a while to realise this as well but once I realised it, it became obvious. I have had difficulty measuring myself against my peers as it isn’t even obvious who my peers were.
Secondly, everyone has flaws. While another person may be better than us in one way, they may be worse than us in another way. We do not know anyone well enough to know everything about them. If anything, we should be comparing ourselves against an ideal.
I learned this at a young age, when I realised that for everything that I could do well, I knew of others who did it way better. But nobody is perfect in this world. For every flaw that I had, there were others who had them worse too.
Thirdly, we can’t peer into the future. Anything can happen at any time. Some may start off really well but stumble later in life. Some may do the opposite. It is very unusual to find someone who has the stamina to sustain their success throughout their lives.
This was something that others have taught me. You can’t really tell whether someone is a success or not, while they’re alive. You actually need to wait till their story is completely written to figure that one out – on balance.
Fourthly, everyone measures success differently. Some people measure it in terms of money, some in terms of power and influence, some in terms of happiness, others have other ways of measuring it.
Personally, all I care about is happiness. In my opinion, there is no point in being miserably rich, nor fearfully powerful. At the end of the day, what is important is that we are happy, with ourselves and what we have done with our lives.
Finally, what’s the point?
The important point is: just know where we want to be and what we’d like to ideally achieve, and to pit ourselves against our future self. As long as we keep moving in the right direction and achieve things along the way, we know that we’re on track to success.
Stop peer pressuring ourselves.
PS: Coming from Cambridge, this is a particularly dangerous trap to fall into.