Success is not a zero-sum game
Coming from a competitive, cutthroat high school, comparisons were second nature. He just got this internship. She got into x school. They won that. There were many times where I felt resentful when someone else achieved something, and many times where I resolved to make myself better than them. If they could do it, I should be able to do it even better.
I’m still grappling with this feeling of personal uncertainty coming to Cal. With extremely accomplished peers that are all a part of the GMP cohort, it is a constant challenge to avoid comparing myself with people or being jealous of their accomplishments. But life is about improvement, and these are ways I’ve been coping.
1. Being okay with a lack of control
When I see other people’s achievements, I rarely see the blood, sweat, and tears behind the successes. Especially on social media and job sites, it seems that everyone else’s lives are put together, and that to keep up you must be perfect as well. However, this is not the case. Instead, I believe that I should be comfortable with a lack of complete control in our lives — by accepting that things may go wrong, that pressure of perfection is lifted.
2. Recognizing greed
According to Dr. Rick Hansen, the one thing preventing us from happiness and fulfillment is greed. I want more and more, but I get diminishing returns on satisfaction for my efforts. I see the next person getting x amount of money or y amount of likes, and I aspire to be them, thinking that when I reach that checkpoint will give me the golden key into endless happiness. Obviously, that isn’t true (I still have yet to come to terms with this). By recognizing this, I can become more grateful and fulfilled, happy with who I am right now and less jealous of the people who are doing what makes them happy.
3. Success is not a zero-sum game
In the end, there’s space for everyone to be successful in their own way. When I compared myself to others, I realized that I have always judged my accomplishments based on what other people expected. By chasing that pipe dream, there was no space for me to explore my own interests and passions. People have different ways of achieving their goals — it’s up to us not to follow another person’s.
There’s a culture, especially in this era, where something is lost if somebody else succeeds. Yet, I’m beginning to learn that somebody else’s achievements do not equate to your own failure. By supporting others in their endeavors, you even elevate your own self-esteem and confidence, as well as improve your own skills.
I’m still a freshman in the big, scary world that is UC Berkeley, and I’m still trying to practice what I preach. It’s a learning process for me to come to terms with my feelings and I already have grown with the help of other Haasies. In the next four years, however, I hope to learn to be a better colleague, friend, and peer at Haas.
Credits to Matt D’Avella for points 1-2 and Ankush Swarnakar for point 3.