Naval Ravikant once said, “A sick person wants only one thing.” I’m sick. I want only one thing – to stop comparing my blog to other people’s blogs. Seeing other people’s blogs is now a way to inspire and depress me. It’s great to see other writers sticking it out on their own, making money while they sleep. But it’s depressing when I perceive their success as evidence that I’ll never do the same.
So I wrote this to cure my sickness. If you’re catching yourself comparing more than creating, I hope this helps.
I wish I could position myself as someone who doesn’t struggle with this. “I can’t. I’m no guru.” I often paralyze myself by looking at all the blogs with as many as thousands of readers and as revenue. But by doing this I’ve learned that too much comparison leads to a temptation to copy. “They’re doing it that way. So, I must do it that way. Though I know nothing about SaaS marketing, I should start a SaaS marketing blog.” A project should be as interesting today as it is tomorrow. If I were to start blogging about SaaS marketing, I wouldn’t look forward to working on it the next day.
Ambitious coders and writers in the world of the “new rich” dream of building the asset that earns money while they sleep. When a side-project succeeds in becoming that money earning asset, we see it as the ticket to our dreams. “That worked for them. Which means that I should do the same.” But it’s likely that the work that went into their successful project is not the kind of work that you want to do. You see their results. You don’t see the type of work that led to their results. So you cannot truly copy somebody else’s results. You could copy the image of the results. You could build a landing page that promotes a new email service. But if you’re not interested in programming everyday, then you’ll lose interest in the project.
Naval Ravikant followed up his statement about sick people by saying, “Happy people want ten thousand things.” A happy person wants their projects to succeed. But they also want their success to benefit other people. They want other people to reap the rewards of the hours of work that went into this piece of coding or writing. This list goes on for another 9,996 reasons for why the happy person stays productive.
Comparing yourself to others is not an effective way to move forward. A better way to move forward is to start working – even if you don’t know what to work on. This is a kind of work that I call faux-work: the work of figuring out what kind of work suits you. Faux-work is the foundation of the work that you’ll do for the rest of your life. When you start faux-working, even if you’re just spewing word vomit into Evernote, you’ll become conscious of what interests you. What interests you becomes your work. Your real work. The work that you can’t wait to get back to. This isn’t to say that we don’t need accountants. There are people who would love to do your accounting. And there are people who would love to read your blog about metaphysics.