In a former life I enjoyed playing various martial arts, Ju Jitsu, karate and Tai Jitsu. I would watch movies with Chuck Norris, Steven Seigal and Bruce Lee with excitement tinged, as they flew through the air and dispatched bad guys with their bare hands. The problem was, I was often left with a feeling of despondency and envy because they were just so fantastic, how could I ever come close to these amazing exponents of the fighting arts? I felt like I would never be Bruce Lee so what’s the point?
I was reminded of this recently when I was coaching someone who said he was plagued by his comparing mind, a constant jealousy of others in his business life. People who seemed to have been promoted earlier than him, people with more responsibility than him, people who seemed to have it sorted or had job he thought he ought to have or wished he had.
Like me watching the masters of unarmed combat in my youth, he felt envious, sometimes to the point of demotivation rather than inspiration. After watching a film I would say to my self, “Why bother, I’ll never be Bruce Lee?” This client recognized this feeling and said he had, on occaisions, gone home to his wife with the feeling that he was a failure and had achieved nothing. For a man with a PhD, a senior role in a multinational company and a happy healthy family, this is clearly not true. Nevertheless, that’s how he feels.
There is an often misued quote by Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend most time with”. I say misused because some motivation coaches and life hackers say you should get rid of friends who you feel do not aspire to the things you aspire to and may be dragging you down. I feel it is much more complex than this and ditching friends is not what this post is about. However, there is a helpful application of this idea. Hanging around with Bruce Lee (all be whilst he was in a movie) did inspire me at times to practice more and get better.
In the same way, my coaching client thought differently when I suggested the people he meets, who appear to have or be what he is not, could be really useful sources of information, mentoring and motivation. Perhaps his envy was a force for good towards his own personal and professional growth?
When I want to learn something new, I listen to podcasts, read books, get instruction from more experienced people and in the process I get better in my chosen skill or behaviour. In effect I spend time with people who are better than me. This can apply to new jobs, career progressions and professional qualifications or hobbies and pastimes. So next time you see someone with something you wish you could do or achieve, walk towards them and learn from them, absorb some of their enthusiam and discipline and see it as learning motivation – don’t say it’s a comparison, they are better than you, you’ll never amount to anything so what’s the point? Surround yourself with these people and then one day, perhaps, you’ll become Bruce lee.