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SPI 480: The Entrepreneurial Game That No One Ever Wins

If you’re an entrepreneur, at some point you’re inevitably going to compare yourself to the other entrepreneurs out there. Maybe you wish you had success like theirs, maybe you’re envious because their success seemed to happen overnight. But some comparisons are healthy, like if you’re trying to pull inspiration from someone or compare yourself now to where you were in the past. How can we approach those thoughts in a healthy way?

I’ve been there, and over time I’ve developed a few mindset shifts and thought experiments that have helped me a lot. Let’s chat!

You’ll Learn

SPI 480: The Entrepreneurial Game That No One Ever Wins

Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host – he grew a beard for the first time in his life and has no idea how to manage it – Pat Flynn!

Pat Flynn:
This week, we spoke with one of my great friends, John Lee Dumas. He and I have had a really, really long history together, and I’m never going to not say that I was his first podcast interview, because he’s interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs, of course. So, I was the first one. I gave him a shot and he’s done awesome, and I’m quite proud of him. And it was a great conversation in our podcast episode because he’s got a new book coming out, The Common Path to Uncommon Success, and he lays it out for us, a roadmap of how to be successful. And in that conversation, we talked about the definition of success and some of the key highlights to get there. And that’s all really important, I highly recommend you check that out, but I want to go into something deeper today with you related to success, because there is one thing that we all do that could either drive us toward that successful path or completely crush us, and it’s the idea of comparison.

When you play the comparison game, you’re playing a very dangerous game. And I share this with my kids all the time because they’re at the age now – and I remember when I was in school, I mean, especially in middle school, that’s when I started caring, that’s when I started caring about what I wore and how others perceived me and how cool I was. And I wasn’t cool, but I tried to be. I remember growing my bangs out and trying to be a break dancer. That was… okay. Anyway, that’s when I started to care. And I remember, back in the day, always comparing myself to other people, comparing myself to the cool kids, comparing myself to the not cool kids. And there’s nothing great that can come out of that. Nothing. And that’s what I tell my kids, “You either are going to feel bad because you don’t have or you’re not at where somebody else is, or you’re just kind of touting your own horn playing “I’m better than you” to somebody else. Or you’re exactly the same, in which case, okay, you’ve just wasted time.” There is no good that can come out of comparison.

Now, it’s still important to look at what other people are doing and get motivated by that, to pull inspiration. But there’s a fine line, there is a fine line between inspiration and that competitive nature that many of us have, especially entrepreneurs, that has us go, “Ooh, why not me?” Or, “How come they get it and I don’t? How come, even though they started after me, they’re doing better than me?” Or, “Ha, look at them. They’re trying so hard, but at least I’m more successful.” Again, there’s nothing great that can come out of that kind of comparison game. The comparison game that needs to happen is the one that happens between you and your self yesterday and yourself last week, and yourself last month, because that’s improvement for yourself. But it’s hard, because we’re human and we compare to others.

We have other people help provide us baselines and foundations that we can build off of, and again, it’s a very, very blurred line between inspiration, motivation, and, “Ooh, look at them versus me.” So how do we delineate that? How do we begin to start understanding how we pull inspiration and motivation from somebody else and not get into that mode where we start either putting ourselves down or putting other people down? And I think it really has to do with, actually, I know it has to do with your goals versus their goals, your path versus their path, your history versus their history. And I know I just said, “Let’s not compare,” but we have to play the comparison game in this way so that we don’t compare, meaning when we start comparing our situation now to somebody else’s situation now, we are putting two things on the same scale that don’t deserve to be on the same scale.

There are two different histories, two different experiences to different people, personalities that have led us to where we are today. And so, although a person may have started a business after you and is doing two, three, ten, a hundred times more business than you, there are so many different variables, so many different circumstances at play that allow for that to happen. And it’s to no fault of yours. The failure comes in not noticing that and not realizing that. And in many cases, we can’t ever fully understand or uncover the true story unless they share it.

You might’ve heard the idea of the overnight success took 10 years kind of situation, where there are 10 years worth of work, or just years in general, before that inflection point where finally things start to happen. And that’s, of course, what gets picked up in the media. That’s what gets shared. That’s what gets loved and talked about. But what doesn’t get spoken about are the nights grinding at home. What doesn’t get spoken about is how this person took a chance and met people at a conference that led to another person who then allowed them to be on their platform that then skyrocketed their business, and because they stepped out of their comfort zone that one time, that allowed for all these relationships to happen and their business to boom. We don’t see that, we don’t know that, and in many cases, those people don’t even know it. Sometimes they do, because it’s very calculated. But in other cases, no.

So what do we do? What is the strategy? Well, here’s what I do. You’re welcome to use this strategy if you’d like, or you can find one of your own. But I think it’s really important, because I’m not going to say avoid comparing because you will, you just will, but it’s what you do when you start to notice that.

So number one, it’s beginning to start to be conscious about the idea of going, “Oh, look at that person. Why not me?” Or, “Oh, look at them versus me,” all that kind of stuff. When I start feeling that way – and you notice it, you know when you’re in that mode. Number one, just being conscious about it is key. Number one. Number two, I always ask myself this question: what benefit is there in making this comparison? And what’s really interesting about that question, what’s the benefit of making this comparison, I now switch to not, “Oh, I don’t even want to think about them anymore,” I start thinking about, “Well, what about what they’ve done can help me? How can I pull inspiration?” Not, “How am I going to start knocking this person down or knocking myself down?” I actually start looking for the lessons. I actually start consciously searching for the things that are going to be of benefit to me from this comparison.

That also forces the mind to not think about, “Well, why them not me?” but, “What can I learn from them?” Or, “What might I be able to do to serve them so that” – this is the other case, if you find that maybe you are outperforming them, not, “hey, look at how much better I’m doing,” but “how can I help that person rise up?” And so it’s interesting because John and I, we are definitely, in a sense, on paper, competitors. We both have podcasts where we interview entrepreneurs. We both have podcasting courses. We both have masterminds. We both are within the same world and serve essentially overlap audiences. But we also understand – and I don’t know how John thinks about this, I wish I had a chance to ask him, we’ll have to bring them on the show again, but I know how I feel. Number one, I feel like we live in this world of abundance where there is more room for all of us.

And it brings me back to when I told John that I was coming out with a podcasting course, this was after I was an affiliate for his, Podcaster’s Paradise, and he said, “Pat, I’m so happy that you finally now have a course to serve your audience with.” He didn’t feel ashamed. He didn’t feel worried. He didn’t start defending or saying, “Hey, why are you doing that? You were an affiliate and now you’re just trying to undercut me or whatever.” No, he saw that I could bring something different and together we could benefit the podcasting space. And we’ve actually swapped trade secrets together. We’ve obviously supported each other. I’m supporting him with his new book launch. Again, The Common Path To Uncommon Success, check it out. Amazon, or, if you’d like to check it out. Anyway, that’s the kind of mindset that you need to have, because it’s going to eat you up inside when you see somebody else who’s in the same space as you “taking your market share”.

It’s interesting how it’s called market share when we don’t actually feel like we’re sharing it with each other. It’s honestly something that, yes, I know in many cases it does actually take market share in the sense of the word. But, again, abundance. There are people who will want to learn just from you. There are people who are only going to want to listen to your podcast. There are people who will listen to both and appreciate you both. And we know that you exist, because we’ve met you in person and we couldn’t be more thankful, John and I. John is an amazing person. He is somebody who is definitely a character, but he hustles and he gets work done, and he’s definitely inspired me.

Now, let’s talk about, in addition to comparing yourself to others and how to pull inspiration from that, again, what is the benefit of this comparison? What can I or might I learn from this other person? Beyond that, it’s that comparison of you versus you.

I like to think about going back into the DeLorean and going back to my past to tell myself certain things that I wish I knew back then. That’s a very common question on a podcast if I’m a guest. People often know I’m a huge Back to the Future fan. “Pat, if you had access to the DeLorean right now and you can go back 20 years to when you were 18 years old,” because I’m 38 right now, quick math, “what would you tell yourself?” And I always say the same things. Number one, try to meet and befriend and serve as many people as possible, because you never know exactly who that person might become and how they might be able to serve you later in life. Number two, don’t worry about what other people think about you. Because that ate me up. That ate me up all throughout high school and in the first year of college. After that, I finally started to get comfortable. And number three, start your email list. “Start your email list sooner, Pat, please. And your podcasts and all that stuff.”

Anyway, if you want to start an email list soon, is what I would recommend. I’m an advisor and an affiliate for that company. But thinking about you versus you, you need to think about going into the future and thinking about if you were to continue on the path that you’re on right now, and you take that third person view of yourself, how would you feel? How would you react to where you think things might be headed? If you were to continue on the same path, if you were to continue to do the same habits, if you were to continue to say no to those things that you know to say yes to, and to say yes to those things that you know to say no to, how would you feel looking at yourself then? [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for ConvertKit.]

It’s almost like when Marty and Jennifer traveled to the future, 2015, with flying cars and all that stuff, and they see versions of themselves and they’re not quite happy with how they turned out. I would imagine that in many cases that would be us. And I play this game with myself all the time. Yeah, myself included. And so when I think about this experiment, this thought experiment, and I think about the behaviors that I’m doing, the habits that I’m forming, I think about myself in the future if I were to not change certain things. And I don’t just think about me looking at me. I also, and I’ve shared this before in the past, I haven’t shared this in a while, so this might be new for you, but I have two kids. My son is 11. My daughter is 8. I think about them 20 years from now, 20 years from now, my son is 31 and my daughter’s 28, and they each have their own families and careers. And they are good friends, so they meet up at a cafe without us. My wife, April and I are just chilling in Hawaii: I own a coffee farm and my wife is breeding dogs. This is just, again, we like thought experiments. And we’re in Hawaii, by the way, because that’s where the coffee belt is. Anyway. And the kids are there in this cafe and they’re chatting.

They’re chatting about their childhood, as we all do when we reflect on our past, when we introspect. They’re chatting about us, me and April, and what are they saying? Are they saying good things? Are they saying bad things? Are they proud of us? Are they worried about us? Are they talking about how things should have gone instead? And without even knowing the answers or exactly what scenarios they’re talking about, but just those questions alone helped me think about the actions that I’m taking today. So whether you have kids or not, it doesn’t matter. Important people in your life are going to be inspired by you in one way or another or not. And that’s something that drives me big time, because my kids are the most important things to me in this world and thinking about how they take these experiences as children with them into adulthood, with relation to how April and I parent, is definitely something that inspires me to make sure I make the right decisions, to be the example that I want them to talk about in a positive manner down the road.

I invite you to think about those thought experiments too. Thank you for going deep with me today in talking about not just comparisons between ourselves and others, our “competition”. You can be complimentary to others that on paper perhaps are your competition. And I love that thought, because now we can each combine our superpowers and together we are Captain Planet. You know what I’m saying? Eighties kids out there, you know what I mean. Captain Planet. “Heart.” This comparison of you and you.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you for following me on Friday. Every Friday you get me and just me, and we talk about typically a topic that relates to the previous episode, the interview with a special guest that has come out on Wednesday. So there’s a few of these Follow-up Fridays that have come about, and I invite you to check out the rest of them, because I feel like it’s just you and me chatting, and I love that, especially as I’m recording this while still in the pandemic. We’re seemingly closing in on the end of that, which I’m very grateful for. But it gets lonely. But these conversations, even though you’re not with me in person here, you kind of are, you actually are. So thank you so much for listening. Just know that I appreciate you. I know you’re there and I love you.

Thank you. Cheers, take care, thank you so much, and I look forward to serving you in the next episodes next week. Thanks for joining me on Smart Passive Income, and as always, Team Flynn for the win. Peace.

Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound design and editing by Paul Grigoras. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess, our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We’ll catch you in the next session.

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