No Comparison


When I was in my mid-forties, I spent about three years learning to write music on my computer. I’d always wanted to compose, especially what is usually called “classical music,” but I didn’t have the chops to play on the piano what I heard in my head. Fortunately, my laptop could play everything I told it to, and soon I was cranking out sonatas, and minuets, and even little orchestral pieces as fast as my spare time would allow me.

I was fairly shy about sharing this stuff with anyone other than my immediate family, though I did eventually post them on a ghost town of YouTube page where strangers, without any help from me, occasionally wandered by and had a listen.

One day, however, I was at a gathering of my wife’s family, and my son mentioned the music. Folks were surprised to learn I’d been composing in secret so I summoned my YouTube page and played a sample. One of the guys in attendance, who was about my age, shook his head when he heard the music.

“Man, you know how to do all this stuff,” he said glumly. “I don’t know how to do anything like that.”

I assured him that he knew how to do plenty, and that I had a lot more free time than he did, and that I’d been wanting to do this all my life, and that no one really listened to it anyway. Didn’t matter. He’d turned this tiny success of mine into his failure.

Has any good ever come when one person compared himself to another? The answer has to be, “No!” and yet we keep doing it and doing it and doing it. I suppose we all learn not to compare in the same way: through repeated suffering. The trick, by the way, is to notice that you’re comparing. It’s easy to do it without knowing you’re doing it, to just follow some old useless habit until you feel like a failure and you can’t remember why. Must just be how you are.

Unless you’re paying attention, and notice that you’re looking at someone and trying to decide if you’re better or worse. If you’re honest, you’ll realize you could answer either, that you can do this and they can do that, and you’re good at that thing and they’re good at this other thing. If you’re honest, you’ll see there’s no real answer at all, and that you couldn’t be anything other than you if you wanted.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.