Never compare your inside to someone else’s outside. —Hugh McCleod
Last week I listed some quotes from favorite authors, movies, snatches of conversations, etc. The one that you fine folks latched onto more than any other was this old Theodore Roosevelt line, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Joy. Such a little word, but it’s kinda the whole thing, isn’t it?
Sometimes the harder you work to find it, the less it shows itself. I feel like a big part of our misery is constantly comparing ourselves to everyone else or, no matter what happens, comparing any progress we make to some incredibly high place, never taking a moment to realize how far up the mountain we have already come.
No matter what you do, you can search Instagram, Facebook, etc., and find someone else who looks like they are doing it better, making more money, having more fun. No matter what you have, you can see someone else with more than you (as if money and stuff are gonna solve all our problems, anyway).
Very few of us put our failures online. We show the glossy version of each day (I’m guilty of this as well). Unless you have a very strong sense of self (which many young people drowning in these images may or may not have yet) it’s hard to be truly happy for everyone else vs. comparing your life to others and counting up your own perceived failures.
We forget how much choice we have in how we use our own phones. We have the basic tools for a thousand industries in our pockets everywhere we go. What used to be a clunky device hardwired in your car for making a handful of phone calls is now a portable recording/photo/movie studio. You have every map in the world recited to you so you never have to know where you are, more books than you could ever read, more records than you could ever hear, more films and TV shows than you could ever watch. Almost anything you want to learn, you can find (masterclass? a new language?), yet many of us spend the better part of our time on this device watching the manicured, filtered, and edited best versions of other peoples’ lives.
I’m not a technophobe. Some of our apps connect us with friends and family in absolutely beautiful, seamless, and groundbreaking ways—my old lady and I watch the nieces and nephews grow up back in Montana, and any touring musician knows how Facetime can literally save your relationships back home. It’s all what we make it. But I’m afraid that so many memories being made digitally and not in the “real world” can hollow us out. It keeps in constant consumer mode and stop us from asking bigger questions. You can get an answer on almost any question you ask your phone except the most important ones: Do the people I care about know I love them? What can I do that will make my life and the lives of others just a little better today? Can I give more? What can I do to get better at what I love? What more can I Become? What am I truly afraid of and how can I conquer or diminish those fears? Let’s have a go at these questions and not compare ourselves to everyone else every waking second.
“Wow, look at this photo. Is she really that happy? Did he really get to go to X and X? Is that new car an X??”
If our lives are built on some variation of this equation, ONCE I JUST GET X, I’ll BE HAPPY, there is pain ahead. Until we get right with ourselves, no amount of watching others or gathering up likes is gonna make us feel any better.
I’m the first to blame. I so seldom take stock in what I have already versus everything I want. I confuse validation with actually being in the moment. I think that somehow more likes, songs or tickets sold, a Grammy etc. will fix every problem. Yes, it would fix some problems, but there comes a point where money only fixes so much. No amount of money or likes can help you avoid self-doubt, sickness or the fact that on our last day on Earth, it’s over for each one of us. I want to enjoy the ride, write better and better songs, speak truth to power, not just have my face in a screen for half my life.
I want more meaning and less distraction. I want to be sold to and advertised to LESS. I want more TIME face-to-face with people I care about, not more pithy conversations with strangers through emojis.
Let me give you two examples of people who put in the work and never cut corners or put fame above the mission. Both are getting where they deserve to be and I have a feeling neither worry about where they are “supposed to be”; they worry about the moment and doing their best work in that moment.
(1) Check out the brilliant John Hope Bryant. When I met him, he had a few thousand likes on Facebook and had just finished his first book. He now has half a million likes, three brilliant books, and his name is known all around circles of social justice/income inequality. He is a warrior for telling truth and lifting up communities.
(2) Ashley Mcbryde. I used to play the Blue Bar here in Nashville for a handful of people every Wednesday night. One of the regulars at the “Freakshow” was Ashley. When I first heard about her from my friend Ryan Reid, she had less than 10,000 likes on Facebook. Cut to 18 months later, she is up for a Grammy, opening up ARENAS, and just made former President Obama’s 2018 playlist. Oh, what a few months can do when you are being yourself. She is not using filters on her photos, and she is not trying to be anything she wasn’t already—a magnificent songwriter and performer.
I say we forget a million likes or a million bucks filling the hole in our hearts. That stuff will come naturally if we are doing things right. If you are being honest and working at your craft—not talking about the work but DOING IT, learning, growing—if you have confidence and vision and surround yourself with your tribe, there is absolutely no telling where you might be in a year or two.
The fact that we have an acronym for FEAR OF MISSING OUT is insane. It’s an indication of how long we have had it so good. Most of the world isn’t worried about missing out on the right club or car or avocado toast. They are missing out on clean water or not having to walk half the day for it. The fact that there are kids getting plastic surgery to look like their fake-skin bunny-eared avatars is insanity.
Let’s slow down every once in a while, be where we are, and appreciate what we have. Our minds are still in survival mode, always scanning the terrain for danger and trying to stay alive even when there are no threats to us. Anyone with the time to read these rants probably hasn’t had to wonder where his or her next meal is coming from, so let’s not worry so much about what we are missing, but maybe worry about what others are missing and how we can share and make things better for them, too. Then we might get some of that joy back, which I believe is really what we are looking for when comparing ourselves to everyone and everything else in the first place.
Hit me up @goodingmusic at all sites, and I’ll be here next Wednesday with more tomfoolery.
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