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  • James McPartland

The Comparison Game

“It’s easy to look at the lives of others and focus on how far we have to go and what we don’t have, yet a much better practice to recognize how far we’ve come and what we have to be grateful for.”

- James McPartland


Businessman punching through a wall

Okay, let's talk about the comparison game.


I was subject to the game this week. What I mean by that is most of us, because of the stress and strain of life, seek distraction. It’s sort of a way we recharge or refuel. Often that distraction is around social media, taking long looks at where others are at in the great game of life.


And that’s where the comparison game gets played.


We see the best version of others on social media contrasted with maybe, at the moment, not necessarily the best version of ourselves.


So I was out on a bike ride this week, and on that bike ride, I was thinking through some challenges going on in our business and in our lives and pondering all the things we're trying to work through to bring our best to the folks that we work with. And as I took a break near the ocean, working through those thoughts, scrolling through my phone, responding to some messages, this man approached me as I was sitting near some picnic tables just near the beachfront.


“Hello”, he said.


And I suddenly became aware of his appearance. He was someone who probably didn't have much going on in his life. He was quite disheveled. His clothes looked like he perhaps had been wearing them day in and day out for a long time. He was carrying sacks of food and bottles of water, and he asked if I minded if he sat down.


“No”, I said. Yet inside, I felt a bit inconvenienced.


Over a few minutes of time, I came to break the pattern of thinking about me and thought about him instead. I realized that this was a genuine man looking to start a conversation who didn't really have much going on in his life. He was a man who probably didn't have a lot of money in his pockets-- had some food and bottled water (that apparently were a gift to him),

and yet he was offering what he had, to me.


He said, “Hey man, are you hungry? I'd like to share my food with you. Do you need a bottle of water?”


And he was genuine!


I went from being sort of annoyed, thinking “Who's this guy talking to me?” and being busy thinking about myself, to thinking “Woah! Man, what is wrong with me?


I'm out on a bike ride on a beautiful morning in Southern California. I probably spent more money on this bicycle than I should have. And he was a man that seemingly had very little,

but through his generosity, was offering something to me!


And I thought, “Wow. Am I getting caught up in the wrong kind of comparison game, looking at what others have or what they’re doing that maybe I should be doing?”


Probably.


Do I know better? Absolutely.


Do I have to be reminded? Yes.


Maybe this man showed up to remind me that day, and boy… he did.


It helped me remember, life is precious. It happens moment by moment and that everybody is important who comes through your life, and everybody's a teacher who comes through in your life. And this man came to teach and remind me…


Dude, you don't have much to be bothered by, much to complain about, much to stress about.

He didn't use those words, but that was the reflection as I jumped back on my bike and rode off. It made me think how often I look at something I’m aspiring to get to and fail to recognize how much life has blessed me and how far I've come and to recognize that now is the only time I really have.


So this man gave me a great gift. And as a result, the comparison game was played in a positive way. Instead of comparing what someone else had that I didn’t, I realized this was a man with very, very little, offering everything he had at that moment, to a man who had everything he needed and much more.


I thought to myself, “There’s a powerful lesson in that.”


So I offer that to you. Maybe what we are trying to get to in life and business is not so much about the destination as it is about evaluating the place we are currently at-- the place we leave from-- here and now. And that we live into it one day, one moment at a time, as opposed to trying to become it.


And maybe for good reason, we should stop from time to time and recognize how fortunate we really are. I believe many of us have almost everything we've ever said we wanted. And maybe challenges are good-- I mean, the phrase is “growing pains” for a reason, right?


So what I offer you today in terms of playing the comparison game is that if you’re going to play it, do it in reverse. Let’s recognize how far we’ve come and what we have to be grateful for instead of focusing on how far we have to go and what we are discontent about.


People arrive in our life to teach us things and that moment that day in the middle of my bike ride was quite special for me. I felt inclined to share it with you.


So if you're going to play the comparison game, think about how far you've come before you think about how far you want to go. Not as a place you want to get to, but a place you leave from. You might see that you have more than you thought you had, and there's a lot to be grateful for.