This is a quote often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. During this time in lockdown, I have had a lot of time to mull it over.
I've come to the conclusion lately that the only comparisons that we should be making is with ourselves. This has been the key to my quest for self improvement.
The more I compare myself to others, the more I risk hurting my motivation to ever get started. Let's take running. I've never run much before in my life. I thought I might try getting into it with Strava now that I have all this time. The easiest thing to do is to check out the segments, see what other people have managed to do, try and outcompete these olympic athletes with superhuman times inevitably to be disappointed, and not keep at it.
Comparing yourself with others is a one-way road to misery and insecurity.
The key to self improvement is consistency. Nobody ever gets good at something overnight, not repeatably. But keeping at something while being humble is a great way to get better at just about anything. I have no dreams of competing with Usain Bolt. I just want to live healthier.
And the key to consistency is motivating ourselves enough to keep at something. In those two things lie the secret to improvement - self-comparison. I am running my own race, against me from the past. With a week's worth of practice I am better at this than me from a week ago. Even though it happens gradually, I can measure this improvement, and the data does not lie.
So I started. I couldn't run a hundred metres without getting out of breath. That's okay, I noted that down. A few days later, my pace was faster. Within a month, I was running a whole 5k without stopping once. Within two months, I was doing a 10k every day, with a 15k sprinkled in for good measure.
I'm better than the me I was yesterday, and that is enough.
There is no grand leaderboard of winners at life at the end of the day, the key to happiness I've discovered has been to be happy with what I've got, and to be happy with what I've won through commitment to a cause.