Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else Is Today.

Becoming a Better Sales Rep — Post #40

Introduction.

I always like to talk about personal development topics before the weekend. I think it’s important to sit with topics like this for some time. Rather than taking immediate action, these things require one to think about them for a little while because you need to understand them in your very own way.

So, this being said, let’s talk about how we compare ourselves to others. In the highly competitive sales world where everybody is consistently evaluated and compared, most of us never really learn how to go about comparing ourselves in a systematic and helpful way because measures and approaches are oftentimes forced on us and we just tend to accept them.

However, in this blog post, I want to talk about a more healthy approach to comparing yourself and setting yourself up for continuous growth.

Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

A Short Anecdote from My Life.

During my undergrad, I wanted to be a management consultant. And, I wanted it really badly. But having double-majored in chemistry and business, I didn’t really have the time to do internships while in college or to do a semester abroad. But all the people I knew who landed consulting internships had both on their resumé: relevant internships and exchange semesters.

So, I felt like a failure. Like, I wasn’t even good enough to get an internship in my dream job. And, if I can’t even get an internship, how will I get a job? And, if I can’t get a job, what’s the point of all of this?

Then, one day, I got the chance to talk to a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. He was a graduate from my school and he himself had completed the same double major that I was doing at the time. And, while we were talking, I told him about my concerns and he just said:

“Don’t compare yourself to people who have chosen massively different paths or are just further down the road.”

And, all of a sudden things started making sense. I was comparing myself to people who were doing only one major in business and, of course, they had the time to do internships. But, I was spending my time earning practical experience in Chemistry. And, some other people I was comparing myself to were simply two years older than me and had more time and opportunities to squeeze in an internship or semester abroad.

Now, just six years later, I graduated with a degree in both chemistry and business, led three student organizations, wrote my bachelor’s thesis abroad, took a gap year to do three internships in consulting (where I discovered that it’s not for me), started my own company in Canada (which I successfully failed), graduated with a degree from Harvard, earned three years of full-time work experience, and am currently starting my second company which seems to go very well.

Teddy from 2015 would have never seen this coming. And, I’m sure it’s the same for you. Heck, I don’t even see myself being successful five years from now.

But, I know six-years-ago Teddy would be very proud of today Teddy

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Why You Shouldn’t Compare Yourself to Others.

First, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have idols. I’m also not saying that it’s bad to strive to learn from others. It’s more about the general mindset and the “how” you deal with looking at these people.

So, let’s take a look at why you shouldn’t compare yourself to others too much:

  1. You’re Not Them: And this is good. Imagine a world where everybody would be the same. Everything would be boring and predictable. And, not being them has a way bigger implication on your professional development. Most likely, you won’t have made the same experiences as other individuals and you will have differences in your personality. So, you can always only compare outcomes. But the important thing is not where people are (outcomes) but how they got there (processes). With different circumstances in everybody’s lives, it just simply doesn’t make sense to compare oneself to others. No matter who you compare yourself to, if it’s a wholistic comparison you’ll always be comparing apples to pears.
  2. You’ll Neglect Your Own Strengths: By trying to be like someone else, you’ll neglect all the amazing things that make you who you are. Sure, Jeff Bezos was successful due to his sharp business sense, but Mark Zuckerberg was only successful because of his dedication to being at the top. If I tried to be like any of them, I’d fail. But also, if Zuckerberg tried to rely on his sharp business sense, Facebook would have never happened. We can only achieve great things if we’re true to ourselves and leverage what we’ve got to offer.
  3. It’ll Never Be Enough: And usually, even if you get to where you want to be, you’ll discover that there’s still something missing. And you’ll compensate for it by following old patterns and chasing to be like some other person.
  4. You Have Limited Information: How much do you actually know about the people you’re chasing after? Well, it’s first limited by what they or people who know them share. And, then it’s limited by your own understanding. Sure, Elon Musk might be a successful entrepreneur that seems confident and hard-working on top but we’ve known for years that he’s carrying insecurity baggage from his time at PayPal and recent interviews have shown that he doesn’t even work that much. He spends a lot of time with his family. (Which is wonderful, I think.)
  5. Your Focus Is Biased: First, we usually compare our weaknesses with their strengths and have a bias towards feeling worthless. And, second, we tend to interpret things in a way that makes sense to us or is useful to us. However, this doesn’t need to be true. We draw wrong conclusions like: “Oh, that person worked at McKinsey. This was the reason why they’ve landed their next great job,” or “oh, this person went to Harvard and then got into YCombinator.” And, if you haven’t worked at McKinsey or haven’t gone to Harvard, you assume that you’re don’t fulfill the requirements for the next career steps. But that’s not true. That’s just your bias. I have a Harvard degree and I didn’t get into YCombiantor although I applied twice. And, I haven’t worked at McKinsey but I have a wonderful job.
Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

A More Valuable Approach to Comparing Yourself.

So, if you shouldn’t compare yourself to others too much, who should you compare yourself to then? Well, yourself. Compare yourself from the past to yourself now and figure out where you want yourself to be in the future.

What’s important for this is that you:

  1. Know What You Want: This can change. It’s not set it in stone. But before you can really start comparing yourself to yourself and use this as guidance for your professional development, you need to know what you want. And, this is very different than saying, “I want to be like Elon Musk.” It requires you to have conversations with yourself and reflect on what you want without comparing yourself to others.
  2. Accept Who You Are: Accept all your strengths and weaknesses. Try to leverage the former and overcome the latter, but don’t try to change your true nature. Something that seems like a flaw from your current perspective, might be a real asset if you accept it. Some things are just trade-offs. Don’t change who you are at the core.
  3. Set Clear Goals Where You Want to Be: Once you know what you want, take a look at your resumé and set overarching goals. Then, break them down into achievable chunks. Again, the big goal can change with time and it most likely will. But the important thing is that you work towards the smaller chunks because this is where true development will happen and where your resumé will start building up, piece by piece.
  4. Keep Record About Your Development: Check in with yourself. Track KPIs. Ask friends to help you with this. Do whatever will help you keep yourself accountable. But always make sure to write things down and be honest about your progress. Only when you do this, you’ll be able to steer yourself in the right direction and intervene if necessary.
  5. Revisit Your Goals: Once you’ll have achieved your goals, revisit #1 and start over.

If you follow this approach and integrate it into your life, you’ll be set up for great personal development. And, you’ll feel much better about yourself. There’s nothing more amazing (other than chocolate) than accepting who you are and growing that person to their fullest potential. (:

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Additional Strategies to Compare Yourself Effectively.

So, and because I know that it’s hard to actually know how to compare yourself, here are a few tips on how I approach this topic:

  1. Make Targeted Comparisons: Rather than comparing yourself to someone else as a whole, take a look at yourself and figure out what you want to improve on. And once you know what that is, gather knowledge and strategies from books, from other people, or from wherever you like to source your information. Heck, yes, compare yourself to others here but only in that one skill or one little achievement that is important to you.
  2. Try to Improve on a Few Things Only: Don’t overburden yourself. Bill Gates didn’t frow Microsoft into a market leader in a day or two. And, I see it with my negotiation coachees all the time: focusing on one or two particular concepts helps them really improve in their negotiation skills. If they tried to eliminate all their mistakes at once, they’d drown in cognitive overload.
  3. Only Use Comparisons As Guidance, Not As the Truth: A comparison is never perfect. Plus, something that sounds amazing at first, might be complete non-sense once you had some time to think about it. So, don’t compare yourself in the sense that you think you’ll find the truth. Do it in a fashion that’ll help you to be better in some way.
  4. Reality-Check Your Comparisons: Ask your friends, mentors, colleagues if the comparisons you’re making make sense. It’s almost always valuable to have an additional opinion on things that are so close to us that it’s hard to detach oneself from them.
  5. Focus on What’s Doable: Don’t try to do everything you desire to do. Make sure that your comparisons are realistic and that you can execute on them. Otherwise, you’ll set yourself up for failure. Maybe, you’ll just need to do some other things first before you can get to where you really wanna be.
Photo by Giammarco on Unsplash

A Philosophical Excursion.

I don’t think that sales professionals need to include this philosophy in their approach to life. But, I think one can enrich their worldview with a valuable perspective when looking at a concept by Friedrich Nietzsche: Amor fati.

Translated into English it means something like “love your fate.”

Nietzsche himself lived a sad life and never experienced many successes in his personal life. On top of this, his work never got any recognition while he was alive. Interestingly, this helped him come up with one of the most powerful philosophical approaches that there are to life: we simply need to love everything that happens in our lives. This is the only way to be satisfied in life.

If you’re not good at writing sales messages, love it. If you can’t do structured outreach, love it. If you can’t close this deal, love it. There is no point in comparing oneself to others who achieved or got what you wanted.

This philosophy isn’t telling us that we should give up. It’s quite the opposite. There’s a deeper and more beautiful meaning to it. We should always try but we should accept who we are and we should love that person with all our successes and failures. We should embrace the times of deep sorrow and failure as much as we embrace our happy moments of joy.

And, yes, I’m a little philosophy nerd. Highly recommend thinking just for the purpose of thinking from time to time.

And If You Want Help With Comparing Your Profile to Your Leads’ Profiles to Write Personalized Messages, Give Resonaid a Try.

Resonaid is a tool that writes personalized messages for your sales outreach. It identifies unique and personal hooks that you can use to send out messages that are customized for every single lead. It literally takes all the work away from doing outreach. So, rather than spending 5 hours reaching out, it’ll only take you some 30 minutes.

Make sure to give it a try, if you haven’t already!

Access Resonaid via the Chrome Web Store.

Resonaid is a tool that helps sales professionals with writing personalized messages for their sales outreach.

We recently released the first version of our product as a Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store.

As we just went live this summer, you can currently test Resonaid for free and get large discounts by being an early user.

About the Author.

Teddy Lange is a co-founder at Resonaid and is responsible for business development and customer experience. Before joining Resonaid, he’s been a Sales Rep and Junior Sales Manager, and co-founded various companies. He’s currently finishing his graduate degree in Public Policy with a focus on communication at Harvard University. Feel free to reach out to him at teddy@resonaid.co.

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