We all fall in different places on the scale of competitiveness. Some are completely passive when it comes to keeping up with those around them. Others will knock their brains out trying to one-up anyone over things ranging from the obvious (career and monetary success) to the asinine (taking eight minutes to order a drink at Starbucks to show us black coffee loving rubes how it’s done).
I’m not saying competition doesn’t serve a purpose. Try having a Super Bowl where no one wins. Or a marketplace where there is only one brand of anything available. Sometimes we need competition in the world to keep things exciting and in balance.
But what about in your own life?
There has to be at least one person on your path that you must strive to outdo on a regular basis, right?
The co-worker who has everyone mesmerized by his Ivy League education while you’re still plugging away at your undergraduate degree.
Your sibling who founded a Fortune 500 company and bought your parents a condo in Palm Beach.
The frenemy who prances into the gym baring her six pack abs…while munching happily on a donut.
So, who exactly is your biggest competition? The one that you should be trying to best at every turn?
Look in the mirror.
But self-competition is not a license to turn your rivalrous tendencies inward and beat yourself to a pulp with them. It’s simply an opportunity to let go of caring so much about what everyone else is doing, and figure out what really matters to you (not Donut Abs or Mr. Harvard).
Author Jeff Goins offers a brilliant piece of advice when it comes to self-evaluation: “Listen to your ache.” This doesn’t mean to berate yourself because you aren’t as far along as someone else. Rather, it involves noticing whether you feel an inner pang when you see that person succeeding at something that you know in your soul that you, too, can achieve.
The physical and/or emotional signals may be mild or monumental. But they shouldn’t be ignored.
My good friend Jennifer Blanchard is a bestselling author of over eight books (fiction and non-fiction), and counting. I am hugely proud of her, and have always been inspired by both her talent and her tenacity.
But I remember one day earlier this year when I opened my email to see the announcement for the release of her latest eBook. I felt the warm, familiar “good for her” feeling rise in my heart. But right along with my sincere kudos, I felt something else.
A sinking in my stomach, and a voice that whispered, “Ugh. Why aren’t you doing that, too?”
My “authorship ache” was calling to me loud and clear.
In the past I would’ve ignored it. Trotted out my litany of excuses ranging from lack of time to a plethora of paranoia over the oh-so-scary world of self-publishing.
All of my rationale was complete bullsh*t. And because I knew that deep down, the cost of ignoring my ache was very high.
Anxiety. Panic. Stress. Sadness.
But this time, I’d had enough.
I started writing down every single idea I could think of for eBook topics. Some were horrible, others pretty damn good. I had no idea where I was going with any of them, but the point was – for once – I was going to go somewhere.
Not long after that, my aforementioned crazy-prolific friend invited me to attend her online “Write and Publish Your eBook in 10 Days” workshop.
And before I could talk myself out of it, I thanked her profusely and said, “Count me in!”
I’d love to tell you I was completely Zen from that moment on. Never once wondering how I was going to complete the book, or if it would suck beyond all measure.
That was absolutely not the case. Self-doubt was my constant companion until the day I hit the “publish” button.
But so was an odd sense of peace.
Because even if I never sold one copy, it would’ve been worth it to finally go through the process I’d been dreading for years. To be rid of that that nagging feeling that I was dodging a piece of my destiny.
So, now it’s your turn.
If you have an ache, here’s the bad news.
It will never, ever, ever (did I say ever?) go away.
You listen to it, and give it the attention you’d lavish on a child (or cherished pet) that was desperate for your love.
The pain will not merely dissolve. It will morph into something that every one of us craves, whether we admit it or not:
A feeling of accomplishment.
That moment of “I f—ing did it” that can never be taken from you.
So, stop telling yourself, “The world doesn’t need my (book/film/poem/banana pancake recipe).” It’s not about whether the entire planet needs it. It’s the fact that SOMEONE on this spinning blue orb does.
How dare you hold it back from them?
Heeding the call of your ache is one instance where it’s not a numbers game. Impact is what matters.
All it takes is one person (or a handful of people) to connect with what you do, and the repercussions can be beautifully staggering. Your fingerprints will be forever on this generation, and on those beyond it.
But only if you keep your focus solely on your biggest competition.
Run your own race. It’s the only one you were ever meant to win.
Awesome post Mary! I’m working on my second blog post and while the technology has slowed me down from making my website public right now, knowing that the ache will be dissolved in a few weeks fuels my desire to hit the publish button. It will happen. Thank you for the inspiration!
SO happy for you, Chrissy! I can so totally relate to the “wonders of modern technology” being challenging and somewhat intimidating. But the great thing is you’re powering through it, and yes…your blog WILL happen! 🙂 I can’t wait to subscribe to your site when it goes live!
Hi Mary–great post. I completely agree. I have several author “crushes”–those authors who are a further ahead in the game than I am and it’s so easy to point to where they are without remembering that they were once where I am! I felt that ache too, and finally decided to do something about tit. So this year I am publishing my first book and its so exciting! Good on you for getting your book out into the world–I’ve read it and really enjoyed it. And I have no doubt that it won’t be your last!
Hey, Zara! Thanks so much for the kind comments about this post, and my book. 🙂 So glad you enjoyed them both! And thank God you listened to your ache, because I read your book “Airwoman: Book 1” and it is absolutely fantastic. So proud of you for putting your work out in the world…can’t wait for Book 2 (and 3…and 4…)! 🙂
Sometimes I become overwhelmed by my writing project. Other times I get to the place where I tell myself that just finally finishing my story is the reward even if it goes no further. Writing for me and just one other person is a new approach. Thank you for the motivation!
Hi Amie! So glad I could motivate you to keep on writing. 🙂 Believe me, I hear you on the subject of feeling overwhelmed by your creative project. I tend to look waaaay too much at the big picture instead of just doing the best I can for myself, and whoever is meant to connect with my work (whether it’s 2 people or 200,000). If you stay true to the words that want to come out of you, I know you’ll reach more people than you’d ever dream possible. 🙂
Another great blog Mary. I look forward to your blend of sage wisdom with a dash of snark. : )
Awwww…thanks, Kel! Your support means so much. Very glad you find there to be wisdom along with my snark! 🙂 xo!
When I finished my screenplay back in 2001 there was definitely a feeling of – wow it’s finished, it’s there, no one can say you didn’t do that. Back then of course we couldn’t self-publish and I have wondered recently whether I should publish it – but do people ‘publish’ screen plays?? Just a thought….
Hi Elaine! Congrats on finishing your screenplay! It’s definitely an accomplishment no one can take away from you. 🙂 In my opinion, you can self publish anything…including screenplays. I have several books of scripts from favorite films of mine, so I say go for it!