If you lose money you lose much, If you lose friends you lose more, If you lose faith you lose all. – Eleanor Roosevelt
What does that mean?
To me, this quote is about priorities, perspective, and what really matters. People lose money all the time. Have you talked to anyone about their 401K or retirement plans lately? Yes, you have lost a lot when you lose money, but it’s not the most important thing you have to lose.
It’s bad enough when a friend moves away. But losing a friend, either to death or due to some stupidity on your part, that hurts more (at least it does for me). Losing faith, whether it be in a higher power, or worse yet, in yourself, that is the worst loss of all. Without faith, the world is a cold and brutal place, and I truly have pity on those who walk that path.
Why is perspective important?
Perspective can be a tricky thing. You can be “just getting by” at any level of income, if you out-go is the same as your in-come. People like to complain about the people richer than they are, but they often fail to place anything in perspective.
They draw their scale of 1 to 10 with the richest people on the planet at 10 and themselves at 1. However, proper use of perspective shows that their scale actually goes to somewhere around -40, to account for the people who have absolutely nothing.
On a proper scale of 1 to 10, with the poorest of the poor at 1 and the richest of the rich at 10, most of these whiny people would find themselves well above 7, and many in the 9+ range. That is the power of perspective, to help you better understand your place in life. I’ve known a lot of people who fit this pattern, how about you?
Where can I apply this in my life?
I try to avoid using relative scales when possible, and only compete against myself. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 would be me in a vegetative state, and 10 is my best possible self. Comparing myself to others can be constructive in some instances, but isn’t where I usually put the bulk of my efforts.
If you do compare myself against others, what scale is appropriate? If we’re talking money, should we compare against people in our neighborhood (where the range is likely to be rather small), against those in our profession (who may live in areas with higher costs of living), or against the whole wide world?
But more importantly, I ask myself “What will this comparison accomplish?” If all you are doing is looking for a reason to feel bad, or to whine and moan, then comparisons of this nature are the perfect tool.
And that is the other reason I try to only compare myself to myself. Even in competitions, I’m rarely concerned about where I place against others. My focus is just trying to improve compared to my last score (or time or whatever is being used to measure performance).
The compared-to-myself perspective is a much more useful measure, in my opinion. Yes, you can have a rivalry with others where you go head-to-head, but in most cases, I hope it’s for bragging rights or who is buying the first round. There will always be people who will take ‘friendly’ competitions far too seriously, but aren’t they the people to whom you would say “Hey, get some perspective!”, right?
Grab some paper and write down all the ways you compare yourself to others. Do you compare physical traits (height, weight, skin, etc)? Income? Toy collections (cars, jet-skis, motorcycles, baseball trading cards, etc)? Houses (square feet, home theater, rec room, garage workshop, etc)? Write down anything and everything you can think of.
Now take a moment and consider where you actually are in your life. Run through each of the items on your list and consider where you are and where your rival(s) are on a scale from 1=nothing to 10=everything. How does your home theater compare to your friends? How does it compare to the home theater setup of a homeless family or to those of Donald Trump?
If you’re anything like me, you will quickly find that in most cases, the differences between you and your rival(s) are usually so small that, on a properly scaled graph, they would be indistinguishable. If there is anything that is distinguishable on this scale, I hope you’re using the other person as a goal to try to get to that point, not a way of beating yourself (or the other person) up.
I have friends from High School who are everywhere from desolate and living paycheck to paycheck, to being a Vice President of multi million dollar media company. And that’s just the group of kids I hung out with. I don’t compare myself to the VP any more than I compare myself to any of the others.
Comparisons without perspective leads to insanity. Why people continue to beat themselves (or others) up for not doing something as well as someone else is beyond me. We are all different, with different strengths, abilities and ambitions. Compare people is like comparing an apple to an orange. What is the point? Until you can answer that question, any outside comparison is futile. Get some perspective. 8)