Feeling behind in your life? You’re not the only one


How do you feel when you scroll down your FaceBook feed and you see ex-classmates posting pictures of their vacations in Boracay or the Maldives?

Then you scroll again and there’s the guy who tech start-up just got tens of millions of venture capital and is posting a picture of his new Lamborghini.
Another swipe down and it’s the old next door neighbor who’s now an investment banker that lives on Sixth Avenue.

I admit, I see stuff like this and  I get overwhelmed with this shit-tastic feeling that I’m not where I’m supposed to be. That I should be further ahead by now. What the heck are you doing with your life Aksel? Everyone is so much better off than you!

I’m not the only one feeling the need to compete with the people around me. The pressure to project an image of effortless wealth can drive people to do crazy things.

The Real Housewives

Teresa Giudice, 43, pleaded guilty in March 2014 to financial fraud. She was hiding income from the IRS to help fund her rich and famous lifestyle. The name probably doesn’t ring a bell to you but she was on the Bravo channel program, the Real Housewives of New Jersey, which I obviously don’t watch ahem.

The primary mandate of the show is: consumption, consumption, consumption. The Housewives compete to show the world who has the most bling’ed out and dazzling lifestyle.

Do you know how much they got paid? The first season paid each housewife $10,000. There’s no way $10,000 could support the lifestyles they were expected to portray. So they had to come up with money from their own pockets. Essentially paying to be on the show.

Over the franchise’s 8 year lifespan, 12 Real Housewives have filed for bankruptcy, several are still battling substance abuse, one husband committed suicide and another has been indicted for fraud and identity theft. Human drama at it’s best.

How to deal with people being ahead of you

I’ve pretty much seen people raced ahead of me my whole life. I went to a polytechnic, and you know that’s not the most direct route we can take to university. And it was even longer for me because I had to work to save up money for university.

There are 3 things I’ve internalized to deal with this:

Know that it’s part of our make-up

It’s in our nature to compare ourselves to others to see where we stand. Especially here in Singapore where the drive to compete is hammered into us from young. By the time we’re 10, we’re all praying all our classmates get streamed to the stupid class so it’s too full for us. And a lot of this drive sticks with us until we’re adults. It’s part of our evolution make-up, it’s called social comparison theory, read more about it here.

This comparison never stops even when we’ve made it. Do you know most millionaires don’t consider themselves rich? Why? We don’t compare ourselves to the hobo sleeping on the bench and think about how fortunate we are. No! We only compare ourselves to people above us, not below. And there’s always an unlimited ceiling of people we can find.

Enjoy those detours

I learn to enjoy theses little detours that life has brought me. It’s like when you decide to take a scenic route instead of the most direct route. Suddenly, you discover that little hole in the wall restaurant that makes the best waffles you’ve ever tasted. You never would have found it if you stuck to the expressway. The point being that detours aren’t always bad and getting there sooner isn’t always better.

I have to trust that I made the best possible choices that I could have possibly made and right now, this is where I want to be. Because, guess what? I made those choices. I have to trust that every experience taught me something valuable. Something that will help me going forward.

Focus on your own game

I’ve spend a lot of time over these past few months speaking to people who are more successful than me in various areas. People who have started and sold multiple companies, build social enterprises they believed in, run multi million dollar firms and they always say the same thing. Find something you love and become the best at it.

I realize these sounds like a lot of rar, rar, let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya type stuff but it’s true. All the techniques in the world will not matter if you don’t back it up with something that drives you. People who are immensely successful love what they are doing, it’s not a “job” for them.

PS: If you want to know more about successful people who are the masters of their own destiny:

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