Thursday 12 May 2022


One of the things that comes up time and again in my coaching work is the business of comparisons. Very frequently, people compare themselves unfavourably with some luminary in their field.  And that makes them feel inadequate and even, potentially, hopeless.

As I see hope as very important, I like to counter this.  I also place great value on humour (qv).

And, because it is always someone stellar with whom they draw the comparison, it s fairly easy to tease them about it. So I talk a little about my being an adult learner of the piano, and yet, for all my practice, not being as good as Rachmaninov.  I then go on to my attempts to play tennis, and lament that I am still nowhere near Federer's standard.

By this stage, they are beginning to get the point; however, never one to be subtle when hobnailed boots are available, I then deliver the coup de grace: "My one consolation is that I am a better pianist than Federer, and a better tennis player than Rachmaninov!"

And that moves the conversation on, normally with some laughter, to a consideration of the value and limitations of such comparisons.

Personally, I like Jordan Peterson's take on this. I know we're not meant to approve of anything he says, but actually I find him a stimulating character, who is often insightful when discussing his professional practice; it is when he strays into other areas beyond his professional competence that I think he is more... what's the word?...  Nonetheless, I think that he is wise on this; for his take is that the best comparison to make is with ourselves, yesterday.  That is, am I better at (whatever it s I am working on) than I was yesterday, or last week, or last year.  That is a useful comparator: for if we are making progress, it is good to acknowledge that; and if we are not, it is worth addressing. 

But I must end now, as I'm off to give Roger his piano lesson, before meeting Sergei for a quick game of tennis.

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