Did you get an email from Linked-in congratulating you on your role in their success?

Well like many of us, I was able to avoid the temptation of reposting it as suggested. Not only was I sceptical of Linked-ins motives, but I was wary of the methodology- and my own motives.

Yet after seeing a few posts about it, and personal comments, I couldn’t resist posting the question I pose above. Now I wish I hadn’t. The smugness I felt when some told me they hadn’t, turned to irritation when told some were in a higher band than me. Unless I’ve been had, apparently there is a top 1%. Being in the top 5% is no longer something to feel good about.

Oh – the relative power of comparison. Knowing there’s a person under a train on the Northern Line makes me feel happy now that I’m happy, and even happier that I’m on the Piccadilly line. Knowing that a bottle of Glenfiddich is £34 in Co-op makes me feel good that I paid only £26 in Londis.

A poet warned us a long time against comparing ourselves to others – “for you will become vain and bitter”. And Professor Cialdini warns us about the threat of relative comparisons to our judgment. Like when I was suckered into buying those £18 socks – seemed reasonable alongside a £400 suit. Put two hands into a cold and hot bowl of water at the same time, then transfer both into a tepid bowl. It will all become clear.

So if comparison is inherently flawed as a strategy, why do we use it? Is it because perception is so relative, we have little else to use. After all, Yasmin (9) refused to accept that The Shard was the highest building in Europe last week. She could see clearly, from her vista on Parliament Hill, that the BT Tower was taller.

Marcum and Smith write in Egonomics, “envy is a strong motivator, but a weak navigator”. The result of goals set via comparison is ones that are either unrealistic or complacent- or just prone to not getting done. My advice is comparing yourself to others won’t help your position; the only sound comparison is to yourself. That means – set your goals according to what you achieved, set your business targets with reference to you own performance, and gives your kids a break wherever they come in their test scores.

If we are using energy in comparison, it is energy lost that could be used doing things that matter – making a difference, or producing results. You will trip up yourself, your business and your kids, if you waste your energy on the trivia and trite of comparison.

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