The Destructive Habit of Comparing Ourselves to Others

They had just pulled Neil on stage…

“At 21 just years old, Neil has already made $100,000 in income. If this 21-year-old kid can do it, why can’t you?” the presenter suggested.

It was just a few months earlier when Neil and I had met as a result of being in the same direct sales business.

We were selling real estate education while learning to invest in real estate at the same time.

The actual figures were this…

In his first ten months in business, Neil had pocketed $102,000 from selling the education, and $55,000 on his first fix and flip.

He was killing it.

My 23rd birthday had just passed, and I continued to struggle in the business not making a single dime.

This guy is a full year younger than me, is earning six figures, and doing real estate deals.

Everyone in the business was talking about Neil and the success he was having. He had set the bar high for us young bucks and I felt like a failure not matching his level of success.

I could remember the frustration I felt. Craving success so badly. My competitive side was taking over, and I wanted to outperform Neil and be that guy they talked about on stage.

Neil and I both rented office space in the same building where we got to know each other over the years.

Eventually, I started to make decent money, but I was always had my eye on his results.

But, I still put my jealousy aside, and we became great friends.

When my Mom was sick in the hospital, I remember very clearly that he was there to comfort me. What I didn’t know that was getting to know Neil would turn into one of the most valuable life lessons ever handed to me.

You see while I was constantly stuck comparing myself to his results, I completely chose to overlook everything that made Neil the man he is today.

Here’s the backstory…

Neil grew up working from a young age. After the last bell would ring in middle school, he’d head over to his parents donut shop where he’d help with around the store.

Cleaning tables. Cash register. Anything they asked of him.

This was the normal life for him and his sister. That business eventually sold, and his family moved to Chicago.

Being the entrepreneurs they were, his parents soon opened up another business. Watching his parents do what they do, he developed this tenacity. This incredible work ethic.

But it was at 17 years old when Neil’s whole world changed.

After a long battle with an illness, his father has passed away, leaving his family and business behind.

This is not something a 17-year-old is taught to deal with, nor could any of his friends understand the pain he was going through.

On that day, Neil knew he had to take responsibility and become the man of the house.

Since his Mom and Dad ran the business together, he stepped in to help his mom out.

What most people don’t know is that back in 1993, his mom was in a bad high-speed car accident. The brakes failed in her car, and she lost control and hit a railroad post.

As a result, her spinal cord was severely damaged, and a young 8-year-old Neil witnessed his mom having a metal plate installed in her back.

From what Neil tells me, she had never fully recovered from the accident. With her health being an ongoing up and down battle or her, he did not want her to have the full burden of running the business.

He knew if he didn’t help or make enough money, his mom wouldn’t have income and they would have to close down the businesses.

Eventually, the business was sold, and with a sick mom he looked for other avenues to help provide for his family.

At this time, his friends went away to college. But, he chose a local school close to home and family.

His sacrifices continued in college. While his friends were out partying, Neil was putting in 40-60 hours per week in a cell phone accessory startup in the mall.

The business eventually went under, but that failure of that business also provided a valuable lesson for him.

Neil hustled has hard as he could to graduate college and ended up receiving his Bachelors in a remarkable two years and two months and maintained a very high GPA.

He held one job upon graduating but quickly learned corporate was not for him.

Soon after this is when I met Neil for the first time. He started his real estate business several months before I entered the business.

So while people were raving about him on stage, what I (and most everyone else) didn’t know at first was that his mom’s health was starting to decline.

You see, his mother had diabetes that was out of control and had lost sign in one eye. Her kidneys began to fail and in 2007 began dialysis, the same year we both got into the real estate business. She was added to the transplant list and ended up receiving a pancreas and kidney in January of 2010.

They had experienced a miraculous restoration of his mom’s health for about a year after that until one fateful day. Neil was in a meeting, and it was unimportant, so he decided to head home to be with his mom. Upon entering the house, he found her laying on the floor in pain as she fell on the stairs.

She went to the hospital, and they said there was no major damage. After a few weeks, they got a second opinion and discovered she had multiple fractures in her bones. She was left unable to walk and spent the next 18 months in the hospital.

Sadly, she never made it home.

Neil’s mom passed in may of 2012 due to complications of her sickness and overall health.

When I asked Neil what his biggest motivating factor were in creating success in his business, he told me that it was “To make sure my mom didn’t have to go back to work and that she’s well taken care of. That I could have enough money that she can travel with me and I can get her a private drive when she needs since she can’t drive.”

When I told Neil that I was really sad that my Mom was sick in the hospital, he was there for me for support. He understood.

When I learned about Neil’s journey in life, it all began to make sense.

All the hustle. All the responsibility. All the loss.

When he was working in the donut shop, I was out trading basketball cards or playing street hockey with friends.

I didn’t have the entrepreneurial experience in my family, and I didn’t have to deal with the loss of my parents.

I realized I had my own journey.

The results Neil was creating were the results from his journey.

I was comparing the beginning of my journey to the middle of his.

By comparing ourselves to others, we rob ourselves of our joy and happiness. The gratitude for what we have and for our journey.

This was Neil’s time to shine. He deserved the recognition he was getting. There was meaning to his work. Something I had lost sight of.

It’s especially hard not to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others in a world where we see the best of peoples lives on display in social media.

Usually what I see is people not comparing themselves to the person. They compare themselves to results. The byproduct of who they are in the world.

As we look at what everyone else is doing, we miss the present moment of our journey.

The solution to this is to put our heads down and get to work on the things that inspire us. When we are fulfilled and in love with our life, there is no room or desire to compare.

Also realizing that the people that came before us paved the path. Neil proved to me that what I was doing was even remotely possible.

The healthiest competition is the one with ourselves to be a better version of ourselves each day.

When you think you know someone’s story, you likely don’t have a clue.

Someone could have all the money in the world, but what if they sacrificed their money and relationships to get there? Never assume you are one of the same.

As for Neil, we remain good friends until this day. I called him to tell him I was going to write this article about him.

It’s not at all surprising that he is doing very well for himself today and runs a thriving real estate investment firm in Chicago.

But, I’ll tell you this…

If his business was stripped from his grip today, no one could ever take his journey from him.

Letting go of comparison was difficult for me. I’m not perfect, and it sneaks into my headspace every once in a while when I see what my amazing friends are accomplishing and use them as a measuring stick against my success.

Any time I even remotely compare results with others; I think about Neil. I choose instead to be happy for what they are creating and know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

“To love is to stop comparing.” – Bernard Grasset

And if you know someone who gets stuck in the battle of comparisons that I went through, share with them my story so they can learn from my experience. 🙂