Written by – Kusalwin Kularatne
There are kids my age finding solutions to Parkinson’s, launching million-dollar businesses, and writing papers that surprise the world’s foremost experts on topics that I haven’t even heard of.
Interestingly enough, I ran into a girl (younger than me), who had been doing all three of those. She had been working on finding a solution to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, and succeeded by using a proprietary algorithm to do this. Winning awards all over the country, she had basically found her life passion and was thriving in it.
Add to that, she was also featured in numerous publications, and had virtually infinite backing from community leaders, entrepreneurs, and ecosystem builders in the entire area.
Meanwhile, I had none of those.
So that often leaves me thinking, what do you do when someone is better at everything than you are?
I’m sure there have been times when you’ve felt the same as well…
It could be a sibling who excels at everything you do, but is also successful at everything you’re not. Maybe it’s your co-worker, who’s loved by all the bosses and always their go-to when it comes to high-profile projects. Or, it might be someone you run into at a cocktail party. They’re the same age as you, and have accomplished so much that it’s no point trying to one-up them.
If you haven’t run into someone like this (i.e. you’ve been the over-achieving alpha-dog for all your life), then you will.
And when you do, you can follow through with one of three natural responses…
- You can react in jealousy, telling yourself, “Oh, I could do that! How is that a big deal?”
- You can become competitive, “Oh yeah? Here’s what I’ve done. See how you stack up now!”
- Or, you can give up, “Oh man, there’s no way I could do that. Why should I even keep trying?”
In the past, every time I’d see another teenager making big moves and seeing great success, I’d react in one of those responses. Sometimes, I’d even react with all three, starting with jealousy, becoming competitive, and finally giving up.
But that’s stupid…
There’s no point in wasting your time and your energy harboring negative thoughts. I didn’t realize this until I had someone else react toward me in the ways above.
It was at a VC/angel networking event that I had hacked myself into. Tickets were priced at $100 a pop (which, in the Midwest, is pretty pricey), and I was NOT in the mood to drop a Benjamin. So, I just cold-emailed the organizers the night before, pulling the “high school kid trying to hustle” card and asked for a free ticket. Eight hours later, I get a response asking for my name and what company I’d like to be shown on the name-tag.
At the event, a college junior who was volunteering approached me and asked how I had gotten the ticket. After telling him the story, he was clearly impressed.
“So where do you go to school?” he asked.
“Blue Valley North,” I replied.
“Wait, you’re in high school?”
“Yeah man, I’m a junior there. It’s all good, most people think I’m in college,” I cockily winked.
Dismayed, his face clearly had a look of defeat.
“And I thought I was ahead of the curve here,” he said. Shortly after, I saw him leave the event.
For a moment, I felt kind of proud. I’d beaten someone who was four years older than me.
It wasn’t until several months later that I realized how immature and unprofessional I was. Being proud of where you are and patting yourself on the back for your progress (occasionally) is all right. But trying to “flex” on other people solely for the purpose of making them feel bad just makes you a bully…and I was one of them.
Look, we’re not the only ones trying to make it big in this town, city, state, country, and world. There are 7 billion people out there, and competing with all of them is not the way to go.
- You’ll never be successful if you live in jealousy. Comparing yourself to others will seriously damage your self-esteem at best, or at worst, drive you to seeing no value in life, and taking your own.
- There’s no point trying to bring someone else down from their success. That just destroys your reputation and makes you a horrible human being.
- If you’ve given up just by fear, then you’ll never get anywhere. If you want to hustle and get far in life, standing up to, and facing challenges head on are paramount. If you’re already running away at the mere sight of a barrier, then you better turn back and fight or give up altogether.
So, what do you do?
You get your act together and realize that,
- You can NEVER be the best at EVERYTHING, particularly the things that you shouldn’t be wasting your time with (i.e. your weaknesses). There are some things in life that we can’t control. I’m not 6’4, and I certainly don’t have 20/20 vision.
- You should FOCUS on YOUR strengths – the things that set you apart from the crowd, which should be the ones that you’re passionate about. Despite not being tall and having clear vision, I can give speeches that blow people away, and charmspeak my way into and out of anything.
- Instead of giving up, you should now have an even STRONGER drive to hustle HARDER. Sure, that girl might be miles ahead of me right now, but there’s nothing that says I can’t get there as well.
But most importantly,
You should be asking yourself,
“How can I help THIS person become EVEN MORE successful?”
What value can I offer this girl in her quest to end Parkinson’s? I can do a story on her and publish it on my site. I can refer her to my contacts who are looking to invest in new technology. I could donate some of my own money to her program.
The answers are pretty much endless – you just have to get creative and be genuine about helping other people out.
Because at the end of the day…
If we’re not helping each other up, then we’re only bringing everyone down.
Written by – Kusalwin Kularatne