The Surprising Benefit of Comparing Yourself to Others

Posted 07.20.2015

Every so often you hear a story that’s the exception that proves the rule. In this case, the rule is don’t compare yourself to others; just do your best and play your own game. The exception is the story that David Duval shared this past weekend at the British Open.

Even if you follow golf, you may not know or remember David Duval. He used to be the number one player in the world back in 1999. In the latest world rankings, he was 1,268. You don’t make the cut very often as a pro when you’re ranked 1,268. As reported in the New York Times, earlier this year, Duval began leaving his playing career behind and signed up as an analyst for the Golf Channel.

When he got up in the broadcast booth, he started comparing himself to the other players and his perspective shifted. As Duval told the Times:

When you’re playing well, you forget immediately about the bad shots, but when you’re not playing well and you’re struggling, you feel like everybody else is hitting it beautiful and perfect all time.

Sitting up there when you’re announcing and recapping the tournaments, you realize, ‘Man, these guys hit some really ugly shots.’ Seeing that, it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, everybody screws up and does bad things,’ and so it removes a little bit of the pressure of ‘I have to go out and play perfectly.’

Duval started working on his game again with a different mindset. This past weekend, he made the cut at the British Open and stunned himself and the golf world when he shot a five under par 67 in the third round of the tournament. The tournament is still going on as I write this. Duval is finished and currently tied for 50th. He’s not going to win the British Open but that’s not really the point. The point is the perspective shift Duval got from comparing himself to the other players got him back in the game.

What if we all had a chance to get up in the broadcast booth and see life as it really is? It would look a lot different from up there. We’d see that everybody flubs shots now and then. We’d see that flubbing a shot isn’t as big a deal as what we do after we flub the shot. We’d see that the best players aren’t the perfect ones (there are none) but the ones who let go of mistakes and focus on making the next shot a good one.

That sounds like a much more fun and productive approach to life and work.