Artificial Barriers – Comparisons Gone Wrong

I have written previously about limiting beliefs and why so many of us need to overcome these limiting beliefs if we are ever going to achieve our true potential in life. Artificial barriers are the result of limiting beliefs, a false restriction that deters us from ever pursuing our dreams.

I argue that a major cause of artificial barriers is that we too often compare ourselves to others in a way that is incredibly damaging to our own progress.

Comparing Yourself To Others Is a Good Way To Fall Behind

When you compare yourself to the exceptional elite, you feel inadequate and defeated before you even begin your journey.

When you compare yourself to people worse off than you, you end up complacent and lazy.

Let me use my yoga class for example (or any workout class in general). If you have ever taken a workout class with an instructor in the front of the class, you know how intimidating it can be to be in the front row of the class due to fear of being judged. Typically, it is much easier to hide in the back of the class as no one will be able to see our flaws in technique or how unfit we are.

The problem is that when you are in the back of the class, you see the best performing individuals and the laziest individuals all at once. On one hand you accept that you can’t do a tripod headstand like the people in the front row, but on the other, you also see certain people not even trying to attempt the advanced move. This leaves us satisfied with our current situation being somewhere in the middle of the pact.

This example of comparing our own fitness level to others in class is just a single occurrence of comparison through out our lives, but proves a point. Taking this concept one step further – when it comes to our own financial situation, it is easy to compare yourself to the elite and feel defeated. After all, Mark Zuckerberg was 20 years old when he founded Facebook and is currently the 4th richest person in the U.S. at the age of 33. Looking at our own age and our life time accomplishments can make us feel extremely inadequate when we compare ourselves to the elite or exceptional individuals in the world.

Asymmetrically, comparing yourself to others that are further behind in life is equally damaging to our psyche. Once you begin comparing yourself to the “average” person based on some statistical measure you are only shooting yourself in the foot in terms of achieving your full potential. Take the comparison many people use for determining their market value; Glassdoor salaries.

BA Salary NYC Glassdoor.PNG

If I was to compare and limit myself based on my GlassDoor statistical measures, I would be making significantly less money than I am now. My current role as a Business Analyst is valued at $78,000 (annually)… If I were to base my own salary on this data, I would be making significantly less.

No matter how you cut it, you should really restrain from comparing yourself to others – no matter how hard this is.

Compare Yourself To Your True Potential

Only I know how much work I can get done in a day, how many hours I spent watching T.V. this week, and what dreams I have in life.

In the same sense, only you know how much work you did today, how much time you spent being unproductive, and what dreams you have in life.

Don’t waste your time or energy comparing yourself to others because we are all different and have very different goals in life. Instead of comparing yourself to others based on how fit they are, how many likes they get on their profile picture updates, or how much money they make – compare yourself to yourself.

You should be focused on being the best version of you everyday, every week, every month of every year. Today, did you do things that were overall productive and inline with your future goals? or did you binge watch the latest show on Netflix?

Only you know the answers to the above.

The focus should be on incremental self-improvement over time. Making more money than last year, saving/investing more money than we did the previous month, and being generally better off than the previous year.

I always try to compare my current situation to myself in the past. I am not upset or sad about the fact that I have only 729 followers today, October 22nd 2017, even though other bloggers have 1,000,000+ subscribers and followers.

I am far more excited about the fact that I have been able to even get a single follower since I started at a big fat ZERO in March.


Kobayashi Doubles The World Record

My favorite example of an ‘artificial barrier’ is the artificial barrier mentioned by Takeru Kobayashi in “Think Like A Freak” by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt (the authors of “Freakonomics”). In 2001, Kobayashi destroyed the Nathan Hot Dog eating competition record of 25 hot dogs in 12 minutes by %100 – eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes!

Kobayashi won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition for 7 years in a row from 2001-2008 by incrementally improving his own skills, technique, and strategies.

One of the key factors to Kobayashi winning by such a large margin can be summed up by Kobayashi himself:

thinklikeafreak kobayashi quote.PNG

Instead of comparing himself to the other competitors at Coney Island, Kobayashi compared his own performance to… you guessed it, his true potential.

He was able to take a step back and fully understand a problem not because he was trying to compare himself to the previous world record holder and marginally improve upon the existing strategies.

Instead, Kobayashi was able to innovate and apply a whole new set of techniques, training methods, and strategic thinking to competitive eating that has reshaped the entire sport.

Who knew that eating could be so complicated.

So, what can we learn from the legendary eating machine, Takeru Kobayashi?

Instead of repetitively doing the same task that everyone else is doing, take a different approach. Do not compare yourself to others as this will create artificial barriers in your life.

Compare yourself to yourself.

Take small steps in your day to day life so that you are able to say: “Yes, I am doing better today than I did yesterday.”

Make this week, month, or year better than the last.




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  1. I have been surrounded by people like this my whole life. While it is constant battle to fight against people like this, it is well worth it. Most individuals succumb to this line of thinking, but those that can break free from it will find success. There are so many moments in my life were I was told I would fail. For me, when some tells me I am making a bad decision, that usually means I am on the right track.

    Best of luck and more power too you!

    1. Being surrounded by doubter can be so limiting. I definitely feel your pain there as I have had doubters in my life as well.

      Try surrounding yourself with believers that lift you up instead of bring you down. I find when I surround myself with believers, I end up feeling alot better about myself and my goals.

      Why doubt when we can all lift each other up together?

      Thanks for the comment!!


    1. Comparing yourself to yourself is the key to moving forward in life.

      Too often people just make a blanket excuse (kids, mortgage, poor upbringing, etc…) and give up on progress all together

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