Would you rather:
A) Make $50,000 while knowing all your friends and acquaintances earned $25,000
B) Make $100,000 while knowing all your friends and acquaintances earned $200,000
I don’t really know if it’s surprising or not, but presented with this question, the majority went for Option A. And this choice wasn’t made because these people applied their knowledge of purchasing power or inflation really well (I digress). Instead, this showed that most people just wanted to be ahead of their peers.
This mentality can be really useful since without it, our ancestors would probably not be able to out-compete predators to survive and then out-compete fellow humans to find a mating partner. You get what I mean? =)
But then, as you can see from the choices many made in the experiment above, this mentality does lead to irrational behaviour sometimes. And it’s not just the average Tom, Dick and Harry that’s afflicted by it. Isaac Newton & Thomas Edison are highly regarded as great scientific men (always knew that from many of my Primary School Chinese text ) but to get a complete picture of their characters and the perils of competition, it might be useful to read up on Robert Hooke and Nikola Tesla respectively.
Great men come with great flaws, eh? So it’s not surprising that I am also susceptible to the urge to compare and compete. =p
And at the risk of embarrassing ourselves (Some observation in the Mrs too), I shall acknowledge that it’s sometimes senseless, especially in these areas below:
I realised that ever since I started this blog, I have been much more active in the stock market. There are good reasons for this. Firstly, some shares have tumbled slightly compared to early 2013 and then we were also done with the two money bombs, our wedding and renovation. So we had some excess cashflow and wanted to put it into good use.
However, I am secretly wondering if I was trying to “catch up” with other local financial bloggers during this period of time. B with his current portfolio of close to a quarter of a million comes to mind. Since we are of a similar age, there is a good chance I might have subconsciously used his portfolio as a benchmark. If this is true, I am thankful that I haven’t gone overboard.
P.S. Don’t worry, B. I am definitely not hoping that your portfolio will crash just to get “ahead”. Afterall, we do share some common holdings. =p
I picked up swimming not long ago, after learning from a series of Youtubes. Mrs 15HWW can swim decently and I used her as my benchmark then. I was slower than her initially, but even then, I always wanted to know how far I was behind her to monitor my progress. I would always make sure we start out a lap at about the same time and then I always find myself quickening my pace when I was running out of distance to catch up in a lap. As a result, I was always gasping in the end as my strokes and breathing became messed up. Not the best way to learn, I guess.
I have surpassed her since then and I have looked to other “targets”. Whenever a good female swimmer is in the pool, I will inadvertently be pacing myself against them. Afterall, a guy’s supposed to be faster, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In the end, instead of enjoying the session, I could be fatigued and “angry” with myself at the end of the session. Isn’t that absurd? Mrs 15HWW simply can’t stand this competitive streak of mine in the pool too.
Wedding and Renovations
Sometimes after a house warming at a friend’s place, Mrs 15HWW would just remark at how beautiful our house is just before we turn in for the night. We would start talking about our brick walls and the dining table all over again and sometimes she would “lament” at how not-value-for-money others’ renovations are. Oops.
And after being to two weddings during the past two weeks, she has started comparing their weddings to ours. Be it the venue, quality of the food, the ambience or the chandeliers in the ballroom. A tinge of envy most of the time.
By acknowledging our urge to compare and compete, it should help us to detect it and then to subsequently curb it. All the best if you’re also trying to stop obsessing over how others are doing relative to you!