Have you ever felt inferior?
Do you consider yourself superior?
What basis do you compare yourself to others?
There is a healthy way and an unhealthy way.
What are you Worth?
How do you determine your worth?
Are you worth more than the person next to you on the bus? Are you better (superior) or inferior (worse) than them?
I propose you are both equal. You’re both humans and worthy of love.
But what about people that have fancy houses or are jerks towards others and arrogant about the knowledge they do have?
Still equally worthy of love.
It is never useful for you to compare yourself based on your skills/attributes/popularity for a sense of worth.
I am not a better person because I know SQL and can build predictive models. Nor am I less worthy of a person than someone like Andrew Ng who is at the top of the machine learning field.
It is NOT beneficial for me to compare myself on terms of what type of person I am. Andrew’s skill in machine learning doesn’t make me more or less of a person.
But what IS beneficial is to compare yourself on attributes or skills you want to acquire: For me, Andrew Ng has an intuitive way of explaining machine learning that I lack. I admire Brendon Burchard’s sheer level of energy he brings to a room. Comparing in this way allows you to explore things you want to become, lack or even have achieved in life.
Awareness in Who You Want to Be
Awareness is always the first step.
Let’s consider examples from my work life: I went through these ideas in stages.
First, it was, “I’m an analyst!” I was just happy to be an analyst (after working in call centers for 4 years). I only worked with one other analyst and he did very little work, so my experience of where I fit on the scale of analysts was pretty limited. Everyone at work thought I was really good at my job and really nice.
Ed trivia! I liked to bring all the people taking calls cookies every Monday since I knew Mondays were the worst days.
And I was very happy with this for several years.
I analyzed call volume.
I continued to expand my skill in excel Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and Microsoft Access Databases and essentially automated my job over time.
My boss gave me positive feedback once saying, “It’s like sci-fii technology!” when I showed him how quickly my new hacky excel macros processed the data compared to the old manual process that took 2 days. I started to feel superior — like I was the best analyst out there!
And, then, I got a job at a company called Hastings Entertainment. New company and new analyst standards. What I thought I knew was mostly wrong.
Microsoft Access wasn’t really a “real” database and excel VBA wasn’t really used all that much. It was all about email systems and SQL (structured query language). I realized I had a very limited scope as an analyst. One of my greatest fears was that since I was a call center person, someone would “prove” I didn’t deserve to be an analyst.
I was SO nervous when I first started. My wife got me the job: she mentioned the things I did at my previous job in the hearing of the HR director and the HR Director asked for my resume. I didn’t know SQL and didn’t know if they would teach it to me, so I tried to learn it from this russian website: http://www.sql-ex.com/ before they even hired me! I’m a nerd like that.
I really felt inferior: it was like started from scratch all over again. I didn’t know any of the systems or key skills, so I just started learning everything from scratch again. But I also didn’t know the growth mindset — I was just growing my experience to match a wider breadth of analytics. If current Ed could talk to past Ed he’d just say focus on one skill at a time and celebrate as you grow each one. This way you recognize you’re getting closer to the admired goal.
This happened again a bit later: I enrolled in a course in the programming language R. This REALLY exposed me to other analysts across the world.
I failed the class, too.
This convinced me where I really sat on the scale of analysts across the world. I realized I was a goldfish playing in a big ocean. It was the first time I exposed myself in a significant way to what analysts across the world were doing.
So, how do we deal with this? I can guarantee everyone reading this has felt inferior at one point or another. I’m sure most of you have also felt superior, too.
I realized after going through these things that the only way comparisons can help is helping you know where you are on the growth scale. In most cases, you really shouldn’t care. I use these 2 questions to guide my thinking:
- Does this person do something I admire or would like to do in my life?
- Do they have something I lack or what like to improve in myself?
If the answer is yes to either question, write it down! Reflect on what about that person you like and instead of feeling frustrated or sad, think about how your future self could incorporate what you like about that person. Or if the person is getting on your nerves, reflect on how you can avoid that trait in your future self. Get it on the roadmap!
Awareness is incredibly valuable.
If I did not have awareness, I would likely still be a call center analyst today instead of a data scientist and wouldn’t nearly be as knowledgeable or good at my job. And you wouldn’t be reading those hopefully having an epiphany about your life 🙂
- Think about someone who made you feel inferior lately? Write down what about them made you feel that way.
- Write a paragraph about one small way you could grow yourself to be closer to the thing you wrote down.
- Do it!