I got back from Southern California this week, and my oldest continuous friend shared some advice about, technically, how to make it in Hollywood... but it's also applicable to everything.
Keep your eyes on your own paper.
Isn't that nice? Isn't it refreshing and both totally simple and richly metaphoric? Don't compare, don't cheat, don't even see how far your neighbor is on the test. Just keep your eyes on your own paper and you'll do fine.
It reminds me of another great one from my mom. You know what the reward for living a spiritual life is?
Living a spiritual life.
I've been thinking this week a lot about how our insides, and our deepest personal experiences, can look an awful lot like a cliched outside. One person might go to college or finish a master's degree because it's expected, because they're scared of leaving academic life, and another might do it as a shocking new decision, with a specific goal for a specific job. And they might end up working next to each other in an office, looking quite the same from the outside, but what we can't see is how satisfied and driven one is, and how stifled and scared is the other. So I think they - and we - and I - am best off keeping our eyes on our own paper.