broken but not crushed

Helping each other live successfully and abundantly in the face of brokenness.

Location: Columbus, Central Ohio, United States

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just No Comparison!

Dear Fellow travelers,

I understand there are commonly accepted standards that serve us as benchmarks and criterion for achievement in certain fields. I’m sure I wouldn’t want even the most professional blacksmith doing heart surgery on my family members, nor would I accept the very best preacher in the country mixing my drugs at the pharmacy. Standards are useful and give us a point of reference for certain tasks.

As a Master Cabinetmaker there were certain practices that were simply requirements of my profession. For example, within my specialty as a designer and builder of specialty, custom casework, I was required to know dovetails. What is the difference between a French and an English dovetail? What angle is best for a hand cut dovetail that will be seen? How do you set up the machinery to make production machine cut dovetails? How, where, and why do you use them in a particular piece of furniture? Dovetails are a minimal, acceptable, elementary requirement for being a cabinetmaker specializing in casework. A person simply should not be called a cabinetmaker if he or she does not know dovetails.

All of life has standards that we are required to meet if we are going to be a productive part of society. Without them life would be chaos.

But when it comes to success and failure – both of which are required elements of a productive life, I can think of nothing more unproductive than comparing myself to someone else. Oh, sure, the temptation is there because so much of our society is trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses. I even heard one the other day that said “Forget about keeping up with the Joneses, just drag them down to your own pitiful level.”

We are walking a fine line today. While there are normal standards by which we must judge our finished product, whether we are successful or not is not dependant upon that comparison. One could look at an Olympic soccer player and say that he or she had reached a high level of expertise in that sport. That person could go professional and make a considerable amount of money playing soccer. But in reality, that person might not be as successful as they might have been because - what we don’t know - is that they have settled for playing well enough to get a paycheck and no more.

But if we compared that professional who is just riding the gravy train of his natural skills to a 24 year old soccer player in the Special Olympics who is giving it all they have, we might easily say that the professional, though playing at a much higher level of expertise, is far less successful than his considerably less skilled counterpart. That fellow running at about 1/10 the speed and kicking at only 5% of the velocity might be the most successful person playing the game today.

And the reason is plain to see: success is not judged by comparison to others, but in a face-to-face comparison with ourselves. Stewart B. Johnson puts it this way, “Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves – to break our own records – to outstrip our yesterday by our today.”

Dear fellow traveler, when you are broken there is often a tendency inside us to make unfair comparisons with other people. Let me tell you that you need not compare yourself with anyone but YOU! You know if you are trying your best. You know if the effort you are making is worthy of respect and admiration. Only you can say how hard you are trying, how much you are sacrificing, how far you are prepared to go to make it through. Only you can count the cost of your own struggle, and can understand the energy required to go that one more step, do that one more thing, or reach just one more inch.

Hang in there, friends, and don’t allow negative thinking or unrealistic expectations steal your joy and wreak havoc on your attitude. Go for it with all you’ve got and try to break your own records, and outstrip your yesterday by your today.

See you tomorrow,


Blogger Sam said...

Great stuff Dad! This topic is one everyone needs to hear whether they are broken or not. Just striving for a goal, and instead of judging yourself by your own results and rather someone else's, makes the goal so much less attainable. And it makes it not as rewarding if we actually reach it. Someone else's goal is just that, someone else's. Good topic.


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