There are people better than you and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You probably don’t want to hear that, but it’s a fact of life. No matter what you do, there will always be someone better at it than you. Does that sound defeatist to you? It shouldn’t.
On the contrary, if you accept this fact, you can accomplish a lot more for one simple reason. You can lose yourself in the task for the love of it.
If you don’t have to compare yourself to others, you can let go of the constraints it puts on you. Sure, you won’t be the best, but you’ll have fun and you’ll improve.
“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” — Sensei Ogui
While this quote is often attributed to “Zen Shin”, the real author is Koshin Ogui — also called Ogui Sensei. It comes from a book he wrote, called Zen Shin Talks.
I would push this quote even further, though. The flower indeed doesn’t think of competing with the ones next to it. But does that mean it doesn’t notice it?
No, it is well aware of its environment. The flower knows that if it blooms towards the right, the tree next to it will block the way. And so it blooms towards the left. Or it knows the sun reaches it better if it bends towards the right so it does.
Accepting you don’t have to compete doesn’t mean ignoring your environment. It means looking around and doing the best thing for yourself. It means adapting to what’s available. It means finding your own way.
Did I learn 6 languages to achieve a record or to be better than someone? No, I did it because it was fun for me. Did I use my surroundings to the best of my ability? That, I did. For sure. I would never have reached the levels I have without learning from my environment.
Who used what book to learn? What technique could I try? Where can I practice? How can I improve my vocabulary? Learning from the data contributed to my success in learning languages.
Of course, competing can help to push yourself to achieve more. But it is easy to lose track of your progress as you start doing so. Keep on doing your thing. Know your environment and the tools available. And finally, remember that you’ll never be the best at this one thing but will still be quite awesome!
After all, you might not be the best at that one thing, but your skills and experiences are a mix that only you possess. Because there’s one aspect in which nobody will ever surpass you. Nobody will ever be a better You than you.
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Mathias Barra is a French polyglot living in Japan, who has learned 6 languages and dabbled in many others. Being a curious child full of wonders is how he keeps on learning and can’t stop sharing every tiny idea or discovery.