Run your own race

Run your own race

I’m in the process of changing jobs (again) and it’s gotten me thinking about how much time we spend trying to run someone else’s race. You see, at the same time a friend started a new job at Google and so the comparisons begin. It’s not that one opportunity is better than the other — they’re both awesome. It’s just how a lot of us respond. What’s interesting is that as I was thinking of this, I came across 3 pieces of content that furthered my thoughts. First, in a recent post, Chris Guillebeau posted this Steve Jobs video where Steve says

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people who are no smarter than you.

Not long after, Gary Vaynerchuk tweets:

When you work 3 days a week, vacation all Of August and retire at 40 you aren’t going to win the $ game- life game maybe but not $ #Euro

Finally, there was Chris Brogan’s powerful post You’re Not As Busy As You Think on hiding behind the idea of being busy.

It’s all around

What these pieces of content show is that we’ve been trained to adapt what others have called “life” to guide our actions and wants. To avoid making our own decisions, why hide behind stuff like “being busy.” We look at others’ races and wish we had what they have or even dismiss what they have altogether. So everywhere you look there are people trying to run other people’s races. We look at where others are in their career: where they’re working, what job they’re doing; do they have a family; do they own property? And the more time we spend trying to figure out what race to run, the less time we have to complete our own.

Some signs that you’re trying to run someone else’s race include (feeling each of these is normal from time to time, it’s when it becomes chronic that it’s a problem):

  • The Sunday blues
  • Sleepless nights
  • Feelings of envy
  • Jealousy
  • Stress
  • General unhappiness
  • Complaining about school/work/salary/kids/mortgage
  • Anger
  • Constant questioning of choice

It’s OK to run your race

If you’re in the “life game” it’s OK to not try to run the money race. But if that’s what you want, you can’t get distracted by those running the money race. It’s OK to get inspired by others, but it’s quite another to want to shift gears “just because what they’re doing seems better than what you’re doing”.

Maybe it’s about the Spirit

I’m finishing up Christopher S. Penn’s Marketing White Belt as a Marketing refresher course. At some point, he talks about the Marketing Spirit. When you’re in marketing or sales it’s hard to maintain a strong spirit in the face of adversity. It’s hard being shut down so there are 3 things you need to help take the sting away:

  • Your community. Friends, family, social networks, etc that you can vent to and blow off steam with.
  • Your mission. Do you have something worth believing in? Something that will push you to achieve your goals
  • You. Believing in yourself is probably the hardest one. Maybe physical challenges like mountain climbing encourage you to believe in yourself.

He finishes by saying:

Find your spirit, and no challenge will keep you from achieving your goals.

And maybe that’s what we need to learn to run our own race.

Are you running your race?

As we approach the end of 2011, most of us will take the time to work on objectives and goals for the following year. It’s a great time to figure out what your race actually is. Working on your goals and objectives will help guide you when you start doubting.

The way I like to get started is start with the end and work backwards. Try to the answer the question “what state of being would make you happy?” It doesn’t have to be a big answer. It can be as simple as “I like my job and life in general, I just would like to work less hours.”

Once you have that you can figure out how to achieve it.

Next time you feel compelled to question all your choices and look outwards for answer, hopefully the path you’ve chosen will help remind you of your race.

(Photo credit: Team Traveller)

  • Excellent post, Fabrice. This is a question that follows you throughout your life.
    Sometimes it’s easy to say that you shouldn’t compare yourself with others, but the reality is that that is exactly how others rate you. 
    So it becomes a very internal questions. What are the rules of the race that you’re willing to abide by or do you choose not to race at all?

    • You’re right Ray. It’s never easy to execute and ever so easy to fall in the trap. I think however everyone is in a race of some sorts…

  • Very interesting post Fabrice. Once I decided (or recognized) that I was responsible for my happiness, my whole life changed. I have been trying to run my race for many years now. My race is simply to be happy as often as possible so I have to continuously ask myself exactly the typ of question you refer to, what state of mind would make me happy. It is a very refreshing post to read and much appreciated. That makes your beautiful smile even brighter to my eyes!

    • Nice to see you’ve been working on figuring out what race you’re running! Thanks for the comment!

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