Pete and Jen discuss misconceptions and what happens when we compare ourselves to others (recorded in front of a live audience in NYC).
Pete and Jen discuss misconceptions and what happens when we compare ourselves to others (recorded in front of a live audience in NYC).
Jen: Hey Peter.
Peter: Hey Jen.
Jen: We're recording this live in New York City on 38th street.
Peter: We are. Thank you for having me. It's great to be in the same room.
Jen: It's weird.
Peter: It's really weird and very different for me than my usual environment when we record these.
Jen: Yeah, before we get the episode underway, why don't you tell people what environment do you usually record it?
Peter: Okay. So usually it's 6:00 AM my time and I am in a co-working space, and I'm in what's called a phone box, and it is a room that is literally the size of a phone box, and if I turn the light on, the extraction fan comes on, which makes a lot of noise when we record a podcast. So I stand in the pitch black - total darkness, total silence, and I'm the only one in this building for like two hours. So this is the polar opposite.
Jen: And I record in the light of day sitting at my comfortable desk and laughing at you. So we're recording this live in NYC, in front of, as you can hear, a live studio audience. And I want to give a quick shout-out because, you might not even know this, but this idea for the live podcast was actually born by someone in our audience: a fellow podcaster, Elliot Maddix, who has his own podcast called Equity One - for those of you who are actors, you get that joke - and he invited me to be a guest on his podcast - I can't even remember when it was, over a year ago - and it was so much fun to do it in front of people live. He did his first live episode sitting right where we are right now, and it was such a joy that we decided to do it ourselves. So here we are.
Peter: Thank you. That's such a cool concept.
Jen: Thanks Elliott.
Peter: For the idea.
Jen: So I do think I might have something to kick us off.
Peter: This is the longest intro we've ever done.
Jen: It is.
Peter: But let's do it.
Jen: The other ones are short, and you can, you know, apply the metaphor of the title to that. So I've shared this with you and for some of you who were in last night's class, you have heard this, but I really think it is worth spreading to the world at large, which is: I really listened to Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath chat on the Ted Stage, and I think I have figured out a way to apply it to real life.
Peter: Let's hear it. I'm very vaguely… very vaguely? I'm vaguely familiar with said Ted talk. So I would like to hear you explain it to me first, if that's okay. This is The Long and The Short Of It.
Jen: Okay. That part went well. So some of you know, if you listened to our Morning Routines episode, that I have this morning routine where I will take my podcast app, and whatever happens to be at the top, I listen to that in the morning, and then I spend my time on the subway trying to connect the dots between what I just listened to and what I'm going to be doing that day. And then I turn on my voice recorder app, and I talk to myself from 40th and Broadway until my keys get in the door here, trying to unpack what I've just sometimes figured out or definitely haven't figured out. And yesterday that Ted Radio Hour was at the top of my feed, and they were replaying an old episode where they interviewed Malcolm Gladwell about his David and Goliath Ted Talk. Last night I also started a new class here at the studio that I've never done before called "Shift," which is all about shifting your mindset. So that's what was on my mind, was the idea of how you actually shift your mindset. So I'm listening to the David and Goliath talk, and the theme of it is "misconceptions" - when you believe one thing to be true, and then you get information, new information that completely transforms the way you see something, and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, this is so perfect." So I encourage everyone to go listen to the Ted Talk, but I'll do like a very quick "this is what you need to know in order to understand what I'm about to say." So the mythology of David and Goliath is that Goliath is this omnipotent giant warrior creature, and he's got all of this armor, and all these riches, and all this army and strength and mass, and David is this meek weakling underdog who by some miracle is able to fell the giant with a single stone. And we look at that story and think about how amazing it is that an underdog would be able to defeat a giant. So what Gladwell does is he essentially debunks the story by talking about all the research that he did about the late sixth and early fifth century BC warrior styles and contemporary science and what we know about different conditions, and essentially what he comes to is that David did not take the giant down with a tiny little stone. The weapon of choice was a sling - not a slingshot - but a sling in which you place a stone and whirl it around at the rate of seven revolutions per second, and then when said stone is released, it packs the velocity of a bullet coming out of a contemporary gun. So it's not that he was like "toss, little pebble," and the giant went down, because he shot the giant in the face with the equivalent of a bullet. And Goliath, yes, might've been wearing quite a lot of armor, but based on his research, Gladwell says he must have actually had giantism, so he would have been very lumbering and slow and had compromised vision. He saw two of David instead of one, so he couldn't have protected himself against this warrior with the stone in the sling. But this is where I'm making the connection: so I'm thinking about how in our own lives we see other people as these giants, or organizations or corporations as these giants that are all-powerful, and they possess everything that we wish we had. They have the armies of people backing them up, they have the riches to buy the armor, they have the status and the size and the strength to do whatever they want to do. And here I am, underdog with just a sling and a stone, and how could I possibly take on this thing? Now, I'm not suggesting that we need to actually kill the things that are imposing to us -
Peter: Careful, Jen.
Jen: - but what I am suggesting is that we spend way too much time trying to obtain what we see that someone else has that we think makes them valuable, rather than focusing on how to learn how to throw the stone. So you always ask me the question, "what is the hard part? What is the hard part for you right now?" And it would be easy if I felt myself, as David, to say, "Well, the hard part is I don't have any armor," or, "the hard part is I don't have an army," or, "I'm not tall enough," literally. But the truth is, the hard part is I'm not a very good shot yet. So I have the sling and I have the stone, and so instead of spreading myself thin and trying to acquire all these other things that I wouldn't know how to use anyway, I already possess the stone, so I'm going to spend my effort, my energy, my passion, my love on figuring out how to spin this stone seven times per second. And so when I look around at the clients that I work with, and I'm excited for you to tap this into your clients as well, it's really easy to call out what other people have - that's the easy part. But the hard part is acknowledging what you already have, and how you can better use it.
Peter: Yeah, it makes me think of this idea of comparisons, I think, as well. So the hard part, like you mentioned, is a point of almost empowerment and Radical Ownership, which is a fantastic book by a guy called Jocko Willink. If you haven't read it or you don't know about it, you should Google it. He's ex-special forces, I think. And I mean, the title of the book kind of suggests the thesis of the book, "radical ownership," owning your stuff and be empowered by that. And so hearing you tell that story and hearing you talk about the hard part being owning your own things and the easy part being comparing yourself to others, it reminds me of this idea that I heard, I think it was in another podcast, but basically we play comparison games, like, constantly. And comparison games are baked into things like social media, because you compare the supermodel's life, and you scroll down and there's your life, and then you scroll again and there's your best friend's life, and everyone is projecting this different life. And so you're constantly, we are constantly in states of comparison of us versus someone else, us versus someone else. And so we tell ourselves stories that are limiting, we tell ourselves stories that "I could never do that, I could never slay the giant, I could never start a podcast, I could never create a blog, because I'm comparing myself to all the other people who have done it. I'm comparing myself to the height of the giant or the strength of the giant." And the other thing I would say on this is we usually compare ourselves to the, like, an unfair comparison. We can compare ourselves to the best. So if I was to say, "Let's start a podcast, Jen," which is exactly what I said, funny that. So one thing we could have done, which we did a little bit, is said, "Well, we need to compare ourselves to Gimlet Media," which is a podcasting company who have teams of teams of teams of people who produce podcasts, and we could have said after our first recording, "Well, it doesn't sound as good as Gimlet. They have special effects, they have far better voices, they present it and cut it and have ads, and they do it in a way that's far superior to us. We will never be able to do that, so we should just stop, because we're comparing ourselves to Gimlet." But what we don't realize is the full story - or we did eventually - which is: they have teams of people. This is literally what that company does, is they produce podcasts for a living. So it's a completely unfair comparison to compare someone who's just starting for the first time to someone who's doing something for a living and years and years and years and years of practice. And we do that all the time - you think about people who want to create videos or who want to write a blog, you compare yourself to Seth Godin who's written fifteen thousand blog posts and you go, "Oh, I can't write as well as Seth, so I just won't bother." It's like, well, yeah, you can't write as good as Seth because you haven't been doing it for fifteen years like he has. Or, you can't do videos as good as Chase Jarvis because he's been doing it for ten years. Of course you can't do videos as good as that. So these ways of comparison, I think, are actually ways of hiding. Like you said, the hard part is owning what you have. How do you feel about that?
Jen: I feel good about it. So Simon Sinek has a new book coming out next year called The Infinite Game, and you can, I believe, preorder it on Amazon right now, and if you go to Youtube and type in "Simon Sinek Infinite Game," you'll see him giving some talks around the content. And one of the pillars of The Infinite Game is having a worthy rival.
Jen: And so when you mentioned Gimlet, that was the first thing that came to my mind. So -
Peter: What do you mean by worthy rival?
Jen: I'm gonna unpack that.
Peter: Thank you.
Jen: So, there are two ways to look at comparing yourself: one is this mantra we have in the studio here, which is, "compare leads to despair," and that is when you are comparing your progress to other people, or other companies that are in your life or around your life, and doing exactly what you said, deciding to stop, deciding to give up, deciding that you're never going to be good enough, so what's the point? But the way Simon frames this is that worthy rival, not an enemy, not an adversary, but a worthy rival is someone who inspires you to work harder, someone who inspires you to do better. I look at people who are also trying to make change within - let's just take the artists that I work with as an example - trying to make change within the theater industry. I look at someone like Lin Manuel Miranda and I think, "Oh my God, how did he figure out that you could rebuild Puerto Rico by writing a musical?" Like it doesn't make any sense that that would lead to that. Maybe I can take inspiration from that and open myself up to the possibility that I don't even know what I'm building yet. I have no idea what its capacity to change is." And so this idea that when we compare ourselves in order to be adversarial, we lose, we lose. But when we look around and do what you call "good finding" -
Peter: Yes I do.
Jen: - we should talk about that too. When we look around and practice good finding, we go, "Oh my gosh, look how good that person is at what they do. That is so inspiring to me. What can I learn from the way they're doing it and apply that to what I have?"
Peter: Yeah, I like that, it's a far more empowered position. It's a reframe, I think of, like, if you would have said to me "rival," "worthy rival," not in this context, I would have thought, "competitor." And when I think of "competitor," I think not necessarily someone I'm going to try and emulate, or not necessarily someone I want to learn from, which is interesting, because the way you framed it is a lot better, it's a lot more empowering. It's like, "Oh wow, look at this person doing this amazing thing. How might I do that, or plus one that, or learn from that in order to make myself better?" which I think is a far more generous posture to take. So that's - I like that frame.
Jen: Have we released the episodes where I talk about my obsession with Derek Jeter?
Peter: No, we have not.
Jen: I love him.
Peter: He's a baseballer, for everyone listening in Australia.
Jen: I don't really even watch baseball that much anymore, but when I did, you think about Jeter going up against a really great pitcher, and just by the nature of the relationship, pitchers and batters are rivals.
Jen: And so let's say you're going up against the guy with the hundred mile an hour fastball -
Peter: - hundred and sixty kilometers.
Jen: Thank you.
Peter: I think.
Jen: And you are someone who identifies as the equivalent of major league in your own life, and you know you're going to be up against a pitcher with a - how many kilometers?
Peter: I think it's a hundred and sixty, but we're getting a fact check.
Jen: Okay, thank you, thank you Tony for that. One sixty, so a hundred and sixty kilometer per hour fastball, and you just go, "Well, that guy is better than me, so guess I won't even swing. Guess I won't even swing." Well, that's going to let down a lot of people, including me. Or you go, "Okay, I am facing a worthy rival today. Let me get with my coach, and let's study the tape. Let's take a look at what makes this person so good. Now I can't actually possess what that pitcher possesses, so I'm not going to throw a ball back at him. What I'm going to do is pick up my bat, because that's the thing that I'm so good at, and I'm going to examine what makes his pitch so good, so that I can make my swing so good."
Peter: I was thinking back to David and Goliath -
Peter: - and the equivalent of "studying the tape," in that sense, is perhaps that David, as Malcolm Gladwell suggested, he knew something about Goliath, in that he has, did you call it?
Peter: Gigantism. And so as a result, he knew potentially what his weakness might be, and where the armor might not necessarily cover, which was the face, and he knew that what he had was a sling, and that if he could create velocity that was such that it would hit him in the face at such a speed, at a certain speed, that it might knock him down, it might end him, it might kill him. Rather than the frame that you suggested or that most of us accept at the start, which is, "I just picked up a rock and tossed it at him, but he was too strong." So there's something in that, like, that preparation, like you said, that acknowledgement of a worthy rival, that acknowledgement of what they're good at, and then acknowledging what you're good at. And again, back to radical ownership - understanding how you might tackle that giant, how you might swing that baseball bat in a way that compliments your strengths regardless of the strengths of the giant.
Jen: And that is The Long and The Short Of It.