Last month, one of my good friends got offered a new job. The company was high profile, offering more money, and it was everything he could have imagined.
“Congratulations!” is what I said. “Son of a bitch!” is what I was thinking.
It’s not that I didn’t think he deserved it. He was smart, talented, and had worked really hard. He was also charismatic, well liked, and good at his job. This new position was perfect for him, and I was genuinely happy he got it. Oh, and I was super jealous.
This jealousy didn’t even make sense at first. We worked in completely different fields, and his new position wasn’t anything I could ever do or even want to do. His goals were different than mine, I had no interest in the company that offered him this new job, and overall, I genuinely was excited for him. So why did I spend the rest of the day eating Chick-fil-A nuggets and grumbling about how I deserved my dream job, too?
Before you judge me too harshly (and quickly deem me a “hater”), know that I’ve been on the receiving end, as well. Like many others, I chronicle achievements and life wins on social media, and the amount of support I get from relative strangers is always overwhelming. When my last article was posted, “25 Sitting on 25 Mill: Why Rap Culture Is Ruining Our Generation’s Perception of Money,” the response I got was heartwarming. I got texts from people I’m not even that close with congratulating me, retweets from people I’ve never met, and acquaintances from college reaching out to ask what else I’ve written.
The response I got from my friends was…lukewarm, to say the least. Besides a few select friends who are always eager to see what I’ve written, most close friends couldn’t muster more than a “…that was nice.” Aren’t your friends supposed to be your biggest fans? Sure. But at the same time, your friends are also your biggest competitors.
Since elementary school, you and your friends have probably gone to the same schools and after-school programs. Most of you probably grew up in the same area, had similar interests, and were given the same opportunities. Besides a few variances and exceptions, everyone was on the same playing field.
Then, college happened. If your group of friends were fortunate enough to be able to afford it, you all separated, and were now judged by new people for your individual abilities and characteristics. Your dedication and hard work determined your grades, which possibly determined your internship, which, in the end, might of determined your job. Now your job provides your income, which allows you to finance your apartment or house, your car, your phone bill, etc. You are in charge of your own life and how far you make it, and suddenly, comparing yourself to the people around you (usually your friends) is how you measure your success.
Because we are a generation that needs a term for everything (I’m thinking about “twerking” and “YOLO”), there’s a word for this, too: yardsticking. It’s a real thing, and it’s how most of Generation-Y decides if we’re truly “doing enough.”
The reason you can congratulate someone you don’t know that well is because it’s easy to write them off as someone who has “nothing to do with you.” This person isn’t in your social circle, so you don’t feel like you’re in competition. You know that you and this person you don’t know can both succeed. When it comes to one of your friends, it’s easier to suddenly develop the feeling that only one of you can “make it,” even though that’s not true.
I do believe, however, that as long as you remember that the success of your friends does NOT correlate your failures, yardsticking isn’t a dangerous habit. As a matter of fact, I think it can lead to higher levels of productivity and more motivation to succeed. You might be slightly jealous at your friend’s new job, or your bestie’s new pair of heels, or hell, even her engagement, as long as it doesn’t cause you to sabotage others or think negative thoughts. I believe coveting what others accomplish can be a great way to lead to self-improvement.
Until I land my dream job, I will continue to use my friend’s awesome new career opportunity as inspiration, just as how I use my friend Sarah’s super awesome abs to remind me that I don’t need to eat that second piece of cake. Also, how I remember my friend Kevin’s heavy bank account to force me to save a third of my paycheck. As the great philosopher Kendrick Lamar recently said, “What is competition? I’m tryna raise the bar high.”