I have been told that in the Basque language, the literal translation of the phrase "to compare oneself" comes out to “little murder." The idea behind this is that by comparing ourselves to others we are performing the greatest disservice to ourselves. Comparing ourselves in either an upward or downward direction creates nearly the same level of disservice. By looking at how we're better than someone else, it can encourage arrogance -- or at least a reluctance to improve. After all, if we are already "better," why should we work hard to get to that next level?
On the other hand, if we compare ourselves to someone who is better, it’s easy to get discouraged thinking we could never get to be "that good." Say somebody who's starting out in standup comedy compares himself to Jerry Seinfeld. That would be a pretty discouraging comparison.
Ultimately, how good somebody else is, is totally irrelevant to us. The only thing that's really important for us is to find out how to get to the next level. Pavarotti is considered by many to have been one of the best -- if not the best -- tenors of the 20th century. He started his professional career as a singer in 1961. He passed away in September 2007, and up until that time he always had a voice coach. He always looked at the next step -- how to get from whatever level he was on to the next level. As a result, he kept growing and improving as a performer.
Pavarotti is a perfect example of what is possible for each of us. All we need to do is to look at that next step -- and get from whatever level we are on to the next higher level. One of the great things about public speaking and presenting is that we can practice and improve with every single conversation we are in. We can practice the arts of listening, of being present, and caring about our audience on a daily basis. Doing so will radically help increase our skill level as a public speaker or presenter, regardless of what level we are presently at.
Thanks for listening!
I think there is value in comparison, but you have to make it useful to make it valuable. Rather than comparing to see if you are as good as, worse than or better than someone else, identify people you admire and compare what they do to what you do in order to identify the actual differences. Then you can find next steps to take what you do to your next level! That's what I've been doing for close to 30 years, and i attribute much, maybe most, of my growth to useful comparisons I made to my mentors and role models.
posted by Dr. K: June 1, 2009 at 9:59 AM Delete:
posted by Datta: June 1, 2009 at 10:34 AM Delete:
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