My father was a salesman. After college he sold calculators door to door in a three-piece, powder-blue suit. He sold a lot of them, more than anyone else, so he was recruited to sell computers. (Not what I’m typing on. These were the size of ATM machines with a fraction of the functionality.)
It was Connecticut in the late seventies and he was working a sale with two doctors starting up a sandwich fast food chain called Subway. Their business wasn’t far enough along to merit investment in something as indulgent as a computer, but the doctors were impressed by my father’s approach. They liked him, the way most people did, so they offered him a position to run franchise sales with an equity stake. He turned them down because, in his words, “Every town has a deli.”
Were we banned from eating at the seemingly endless Subways that lined the streets of every state we lived in growing up? No. My father had a good laugh when we passed those catchy green and yellow signs. “There will always be people with more than you,” he constantly told my sister and me, “and there will always be people with less.” His advice was to compete only with yourself, with the reality of your reality.
As such, I don’t have a propensity toward jealousy. We all constantly taking note, but I’m not apt to compare to a point of discontent or resentment. (A side: I have loads of character flaws– I’m harsh and impatient and incapable of graciously forking over the last word– jealousy just isn’t one of them.) Seeing writers with bigger advances or more support fills me with hope. It’s out there. It’s possible.
Each life has its battles. Each life has its beauty. I once read a theory that if everyone were to dump their burdens into a massive pile to be divvied up evenly among us, most would prefer their initial load. Our struggles shape who we become. Your life is yours, for better or worse, in sickness and health.
So, to the writers out there frowning over Publisher’s Marketplace deal alerts, I offer up my father’s advice: compete only with yourself. That way, as long as you’re trying, you’ll also be winning.
What’s one step better than your current situation? Start there.
[NOTE: We’ve been dissecting envy/jealousy definitions this week. Both words have different meanings in different contexts. In this post, I relied on the Merriam-Webster simple definition of jealousy: an unhappy or angry feeling of wanting to have what someone else has.]
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