Slopes and not intercepts
My best piece of advice
I think I have hit upon the best piece of advice for myself.
Compare yourself against your past self, rarely with others.
Many years ago I remember watching a video from Ali Abdaal where he mentioned that the book Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon changed his life. I thought, "ok, that's crazy; how can a book change your life?" and didn't think much of it, but the kernel of the idea made it to the back of my mind. Anyway, one thing led to another, and I started writing online more frequently in 2021. I have mostly been nervous about showing my work to others and ironically, I wrote about the importance of writing online and how others are too busy to judge.
The reason I have been hesitant to share my writing is because I often cringe reading what I wrote a year back. But when I reflected on this, I realized that this is good: my standards have improved in the interim. I could be much better if I compare myself against many good writers out there. But my goal is not to be the best writer, so comparing myself to others is futile.
Slopes and Intercepts
When I was doing my undergrad, we had someone who was always struggling. He had studied everything in his native language before the undergrad which made it significantly difficult for him to read what was essentially a walk in the park for the rest of us. There was no way for him to succeed. But really, this "success" I am talking about is his ranking against others. The guy came from a lower-income family. The playing ground was not level.
I often think about this friend. It must have been terrible. The only thing visible to us was his current capabilities at that time, but we didn't see the rate at which he was improving. He was growing faster than a few others who were smarter than him.
We were looking just at the intercepts, and not at the slopes. The tests measured his intercept, not the slope. A lot of us had much better intercepts, but he had a better slope.
Often I find myself in similar situations as him, where I compare myself against others who have had the right help when they were younger. That comparison is honestly futile.
All that matters is that I work on the slope; I should always compare myself against my previous self, not others.
Of course there are exceptions. If you are at the top of the game, perhaps the fear of others beating you can propel you forward. Or you compare yourselves against others in order to figure out areas of improvement and how to improve your slope.
Back to my friend, I think this friend of mine got battered and bruised and eventually gave up. It would have been wonderful if he was instead equipped by the school (or even the rest of us) to succeed, just based on his slope. Unfortunately, the world is set up in a way to mostly look at the intercepts. When hiring, for example, the Resume mostly shows the intercept. You could try to deduce the slope, but it may not come through and many interviewers don't do this.
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Once you adopt this mindset (which is hard; I still haven't mastered it), you will stop caring about what others think about you. This mindset will free you up to try things that could be seen as being stupid from the point of view of others. You will only care about your own growth and do not rest on your laurels (intercepts).
You could, in fact, take it a take step further and start listening to what others say: in the sense that you could use feedback from others to improve what you do.
Again, compare yourself against your past self, rarely with others. Remember that it's about the slope, not the intercept.