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“Comparison Is the Thief of Joy” – Roosevelt
Clearly, Roosevelt did not grow up with Asian parents. If he had he would know comparison IS joy. A day without comparison in my Asian household is a day without sunshine.
In our household, NOT being compared to a cousin, a friend, a classmate was like not eating, thinking, or breathing.
“Look at your cousin Yi Wei,” my Mom would say. “She’s the perfect daughter. She never talks back to her mom.”
“You should be more like your aunt Xi. She has a really high nose bridge. Not flat like yours.”
“Our friend’s son has $3 million worth of houses and you only have $1 million and no house. So sad.”
You will never see my mom happier than when she’s berating me on how I failed in all aspects of my life, compared to my peers.
My head is too big. My arms are too fat. My legs are elephant trunks. My life is sadly devoid of houses.
I grew up comparing myself to everyone else. My brain is just one GIANT measuring-stick.
I’ll be honest. This mental measuring-stick did NOT serve me well at FinCon. Because everywhere I went, it seemed like I was constantly being bombarded with my shortcomings.
But as I started to spiral into a vortex of a self-loathing, I saw one of my heros, one of those big bloggers whose stats I would drool over, doing the exact same thing as me. They’d be sitting at a bar lamenting over how they didn’t measure up to an even BIGGER blog, and that’s when the truth dawned on me.
The people I was comparing myself to were also comparing themselves to someone else.
The 100K a month affiliates want to make 1 million. The million dollar affiliates want to make a billion dollars, and so on, so forth.
If you focus on comparing yourself to other people, you will NEVER match up. No matter how well you do.
Because there will ALWAYS be someone farther along on the journey than you.
They could’ve started WAY before you did and gotten here only because they’ve had YEARS of a head start. But of course, your ridiculous measuring-stick brain conveniently chose to ignore that.
Don’t compare your beginning with someone’s middle or end.
Instead of comparing yourself to other people, look back at your own journey and see how far you’ve come.
And remember, even though there are hordes of people in front of you, there are also hordes behind you. They would switch places with you in an instant.
And this is especially true for your FIRE journey. Many readers have e-mailed us saying they feel defeated when they compare themselves to other people who are farther along in the journey.
But here’s the thing:
Becoming Financially Independent isn’t a race. It’s not about the end goal. It’s not about the FI number.
Your FIRE journey is about growth and progress. It’s about celebrating all the wins along the way.
So don’t chase the FI number. Chase the thrill of watching your F-U pile grow. Because we all know you don’t need a million dollars to feel the power of F-U money. Just like how JLCollins negotiated a 6-week European trip when he had just $5000 saved.
So celebrate the milestones. For every $1000 you save, look back and see how you are now $1000 richer than you were a week, a month ago, or a year ago. Do that, over and over. Cherish these wins.
Don’t get discouraged. If you see other people farther along in the journey and want to throw up your hands and quit, just remember, if you don’t do it, the time will pass anyway.
Take my ex-colleague, Luke for example. Luke makes a good salary—around $75,000 a year. He also works on a contract so he has the option to take 3-6 months off every 6 months and go on these “mini-retirements.” But since we are at the end of our FIRE journey, he feels like he can never catch up. So even though he could be saving 50% of his salary and getting richer by $28K per year, enough for a 6-month sabbatical every 6 months, he decides to blow it all on a car, name-brand clothing, and eating out everyday, while at the same time working insane hours and complaining how he can never afford to take any time off.
Don’t be like Luke. Don’t miss out on your wins just because you’re comparing your middle with someone else’s end and seeing it fall short. You could be inadvertently missing out on all your gains.
So the next time you get caught up with turning your brain into a measuring-stick, do this:
DON’T COMPARE YOUR BEGINNING WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S MIDDLE OR END.
It makes no sense to look at someone at the end of their FIRE journey feel bad that you’re not there already.
Would you tell a child to give up on life, just because they’re not at your level of intelligence and maturity? No? Then why would your FIRE journey be any different?
Other people are where they are because they had a head start. Don’t compare your beginning to their end.
LOOK BACK AT HOW FAR YOU’VE COME. CELEBRATE YOUR WINS!
Instead of constantly looking forward and chasing the FI number, look back and marvel at how far you’ve come.
You’re richer than you were a week, a month, or a year ago. And that’s worth celebrating!
Realize there is always someone else farther behind than you. They would trade places with you in an instant.
IF YOU DON’T DO IT, THE TIME WILL PASS ANYWAY
If you give up, time won’t slow down. The time will pass anyway, regardless of whether you pursue FI or not.
So in 10 years, would you rather look back and see how much richer you are, or be exactly where you are now and be the shmuck that your nearly retired co-worker dumps all their work onto?
BECOMING FI ISN’T ABOUT THE END GOAL. IT’S ABOUT THE THRILL OF WATCHING YOUR F-U PILE GROW.
As JLCollins taught us. You don’t need a million dollars to feel rich. F-U money is power. Just $5000 was enough to help JLCollins achieve his European travel dreams.
What do you think? Is your brain a measuring stick? Do you get caught up comparing yourself to others on the FIRE journey?