Don’t chase after mastery or competition - they are false success because you’ll never win at those. Mastery causes you to focus on the few parts that are not perfect. Focus on the few who are better than you. Set demanding goals for yourself, independent of anyone else.
- Two false forms of success. And these are imitations of success, really, are mastery and competition. I learned about this from a great little book called The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey. He uses tennis as an example, but he explains that the same principle applies to everything else in life too. So if we look at mastery first, the point is that if you aim to completely master something, you'll never succeed, and you'll just end up unhappy and unsatisfied, because you couldn't master it.
It feels good to make progress towards improving something, but just don't expect to make it perfect, because you never will. You'll just end up focusing on what you don't have, what you haven't succeeded at, which will not be satisfying. Now, I know there's the argument that if you aim for perfection, it'll make you at least get nearly there, it'll make you do a great job, and that's true, but why not have an achievable goal, one that's demanding, but achievable, where you have a chance of accomplishing it and getting a feeling of success.
And then, do your best to achieve it. But with the understanding that if you don't achieve it, you'll still have done really well. The second false success is competition, to beat all the other people. Again, it's asking a lot to beat everyone else. There will always be someone better, unless you choose to compete with people who aren't very good, and what's the point of that? I heard John McEnroe being interviewed, and he said that when he was World Number 7, he found that he lost nearly every tournament.
It's hard to beat everyone if you're number seven. So, he felt like a loser every time. Now of course, that inspired him to get even better, and to reach World Number One, and what an awesome player he was. But most of us, in fact all of us except just one, by definition, can't reach number one in our field. So, trying to compete with everyone, or with people who are better than us, is always going to be disappointing at least half of the time, and probably much more than half.
But also, it's the wrong measure. Rather than having a bigger house than your friends, why not focus on what kind of house you'd ideally like. Rather than selling more copies of your book, why not focus on writing something great. It's not about beating other people, it's about doing something that you think is good. And if someone else has sold more copies or has a bigger house, that's fine, good luck to them. There will always be someone doing a bit better. But everything has pros and cons. And if you're happy with what you've achieved, that's fine.
But just to be clear, I'm not saying be satisfied with being mediocre, no no, you absolutely should have a demanding goal that will feel great when you get there, a goal that will make the world a better place and will help other people, and will make you feel a sense of achievement. You absolutely should not be lazy and complacent, and say, well it's good enough. At least I'm better than the worst ones, which is comparison again. You should aim to stretch yourself to the maximum, and to achieve the most that you're capable of, just not to beat other people.
So, whatever your measure of success is going to be, it mustn't involve comparing yourself with others, and it mustn't involve trying to achieve 100% perfection and mastery. Who are you competing with, and can you let it go? What are you trying to master, and can you let that go too?