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My friend Ron slapped me in the face today. Well, figuratively. I was throwing a pity party, and he decided to crash it. What is funny is that he was the reason for the party in the first place.

I suppose it started last night. I caught up with an old high school friend whom I hadn’t talked to in at least two years. The conversation lasted a solid three hours, and it was a wonderful talk, but as you can imagine, my mind was cobwebby the next day at work.

Now, being tired at work is rough anytime, but it’s even more difficult when it is a new job. And I don’t mean new as in I started last week new, although that is the case, but this is a new type of job for me. I am currently in business-to-business sales, and besides telling customers about Barnes & Noble’s membership program when I used to work there, I have no formal sales experience. For the past two and a half weeks I have had to learn more than my coworkers’ names and knowing where the bathroom is. I have had to learn about the sales industry, the terminology, the techniques, etc. I understand that I am not going to be the best at this job right away—my best or the best, but I’ll get to that in a few minutes. I will take a few hits while I learn the ropes. And up until today I thought I had been taking the hits fairly well. But today I started to feel very crappy.

I mentioned my friend Ron. He and another coworker named Rusty and I all started on the same day two and a half weeks ago. They both have sales experience, 18 years for Ron and eight years for Rusty. So my personal goal was to not only get a sale before my company’s goal for new employees, but I also wanted to get a sale before either Ron or Rusty. It did not happen. They have each gotten a sale, and I have not. This fact coupled with my late-night conversation from the night before began to wear me down internally. Apparently it was obvious.

Ron came by my cubicle today, and we had only a three-minute talk. But it meant the world to me. In not exactly these words he said, “Adam, you have what it takes. You have the skills for this job, but you don’t have the experience. The company has given you a certain amount of time to catch on. Use it. And I have 18 years of experience in sales. Don’t compare yourself to me. You aren’t going to come in here and be the best. Make it a mantra as you fall asleep at night, ‘Someday I will be the best.’ But until then, don’t make it worse for yourself.”

I felt as if an ice-cold stream had grown inside my chest and, acting as a salve, began to heal a gaping hole. A hole that to me said I wasn’t good enough for this job, not quite up to par. I realized that Ron was right. I was good enough. Unfortunately, I had become my greatest barrier to improvement. I had fallen prey to the compareanoia game.

You see, I believe that our very existence hinges on balance. Every one of us makes decisions on a daily basis based on this fact. How do I balance work versus play? If we are smart, we sometimes decide that ice cream before dinner is a good idea; we realize that spending time with people is necessary, but sometimes we need time alone. I believe that these decisions are a battle, and you can win the battles or lose them. OK, it may not be so cut and dry as that, but it is important to find balance in all aspects of our lives. And my discussion with Ron forced me to realize that I was sorely losing in one of the most important areas—the balance between being my best and being the best—the compareanoia game.

My frustration stemmed from the fact that I was not giving my all with what skills I had. I was looking at everyone around me, looking at their skills, and trying to compete at their level. Instead of showing happiness and excitement for the progress I was making, I was frustrated that I hadn’t done as well as him or her. Instead of being the best that we can be, we try to be the best that somebody else can be.

We do this to ourselves in an incredible number of ways. And it doesn’t do anyone a bit of good. We spend time and energy looking at the best around us while shirking our responsibility to be our best. Honestly, if your roommate makes $20,000 more than you do, don’t waste time beating yourself up, thinking that he is better than you. Take responsibility for yourself; make the most of what you have, and then take the steps necessary to increase your earning potential. If your “spiritual” friend has more Bible verses memorized than you, instead of feeling less spiritual or trying to beat them out, take responsibility for yourself, and take the time to know one more verse tomorrow than you did today. Looking at others’ strengths while downplaying your own will destroy you. And others take notice.

You had better believe that my coworkers and my boss noticed when my mood darkened. A couple of days after my talk with Ron, when my funk had cleared up, a coworker mentioned that I looked better than I had the other day. He went on to say that it wasn’t a matter of something that I had done or said, but it was just a vibe that I was giving off. When I finally got over wasting time trying to be the best, and worked at being my best, I felt better. I started improving my skills instead of stagnating them.

My friend Ron reminded me that Jesus shows Himself everyday. My Lord knew that I needed those words of encouragement, and that I needed them right then, and my friend Ron was there to give them. Ron also called me out on my compareanoia game. He forced me to stare it right in the face and choose either to keep playing it and lose or to kill it. Thank you, Ron, on both accounts.

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