I have a bad habit. Ok, I have a ton of bad habits, but the worst one I have is comparing myself to others. It can work in my favor when it makes me push myself a little harder and rise to the occasion of people I admire. It works against me when it turns to fear that I’ll never catch up. The two places where this is most evident in my life is running and social media.
I have always been a slow runner. A 10-minute mile to me is like a 6-minute mile to the rest of the world. I have bad knees and shin splints. Within a few minutes of running, even when I’m in good shape, I am beet-red and pouring sweat. And I’m still pretty proud of myself every time I run. When I’m running in a place like the reservoir, with runner after runner whizzing past me I chant my mantra, “Not better than me, just different.” It’s easy for me to set realistic running goals for myself, to know my limits and accept them, to know when I need to push and when I need to rest, and not let others intimidate me because who knows what kind of experience/good genes they may have working in their favor that I simply will never have. If only that translated to social media.
I love social media. I’m never the first one to test a new social media platform – sometimes I feel like I’m the last – but once I’m in I’m all in. I dragged many of my friends kicking and screaming from Friendster to Myspace to Facebook and now to Twitter. I’ve brought my workplace to Facebook and Twitter, spoke on a panel earlier this year about non-profits use of social media, and after a few drinks I’ve been known to lecture rock stars ad nauseum about how to use Twitter as a marketing tool. I feel confident in my abilities to advise on the use of social media in marketing. Until I check my Twitter stream and all of the incredibly knowledgeable people I follow seem to be blowing it out of the water and suddenly I feel like I’ve been lapped.
For every social media or marketing conference I attend there are easily six more I could or should be attending. For everything I learn, folks like Chris Brogan and Beth Kanter already knew it ages ago. After a while I start to think, “Crap. I’ll never catch up.” The irony of this is that the number one piece of advice I give when it comes to using social media for anything is that you’re not expected to know everything right out of the gate, especially because there’s no way to know everything there is to know about social media. It’s evolving so quickly that finishing all there is to learn about it is like reaching the end of the internet. Not going to happen in your lifetime, kid.
The important thing I need to remember (and you should remember if this post sounds familiar) is that for every person who knows more than I do, there are people who know less. I don’t need to be a guru or ninja or even an expert in order to have something valuable to offer. The more willing I am to acknowledge what my skills and abilities are, the more easily I can improve them because I’ll be more open to learning. And after that you can eat my dust.