Roberto Goizueta, the former Chairman of Coca-Cola, asked a question of his senior managers:
“What is our market share?”
“45%,” came the confident reply.
“How many ounces of liquid does a human being need to drink a day?” Goizueta asked.
“64 ounces a day,” someone offered.
“On average, how many ounces of all our products does a person drink per day?” Goizueta asked.
“2 ounces,” said one of the executives.
“What’s our market share?” came his final question.
While I don’t think we should allow Coca-Cola to convince us to replace water in our diet with their products, I do think Goizueta’s question was visionary! He saw that his leaders were operating under a limiting belief – that we only have to be better than our biggest competitor (in Coca-Cola’s case, it was PepsiCo). He gave the executives a larger playing field. In effect, he said, Pepsi is irrelevant. Stop measuring our success by how we compare to our competition. Start measuring our success by how we compare to our potential.
What a paradigm shift! The problem with comparing yourself with others is that you only have to stay one step ahead to feel good about yourself. If the one to whom you are comparing yourself starts to slide, you can slide, too, and still feel good about where you are in relation to your competition. (See graphic below.)
You might say, “At least we’re not as bad as them!” Or, “Yes, we’re slipping, but so is everyone else.” That may numb the pain, but the truth is, you’ve lost your edge. The sooner you admit it, the sooner you can get back into the game.
On a personal level, comparing yourself to your friends, coworkers or neighbors can become an excuse for not living according to God’s standard and calling on your life. While you’ve got your eyes fixed on everyone around you, you will almost invariably start to drift away from where God wants you to be. Where they are is irrelevant to your walk with the Lord.
It’s true that if you focus on those that are ahead of you in the areas you want to grow, it can motivate you to higher levels of performance, but be careful even about these types of comparisons. They are dangerous for a few reasons:
- If your competition slips or lets up for any reason, you might be tempted to, as well.
- If a change takes them out of your life, you might lose your motivation for growth.
- If they get too far ahead of you, you might get discouraged and give up.
- And even if they motivate you to higher levels, ask yourself if you are really doing it for the right reasons. Is it to look good to others, to feel like you are better than others, to “win”….or is it to live by a high standard or to please God?
Keeping up with the Joneses is a losing battle and only serves to distract you from the fulfillment of your greatness. Let the Smiths or the Petersons take on the Joneses. Compete with yourself until you reach your full potential.