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Comparisons

My best guess is that we are all guilty of the unfortunate habit of comparing ourselves to others on a variety of subjects. One example is this: Your house is bigger than mine. It must be worth more dollars. You have a larger portfolio than I do.

We can extend or shorten the comparisons as we see fit. Take the previous calculation to the end and you have made better financial decisions than I have. Stop at the first step and it’s much healthier. It deletes so much analysis paralysis and avoids unnecessary (and usually incorrect) conclusions.

This type of comparison process pervades much that we do and all that we are. Johnny gets better grades than Susie, so he must be smarter. Betty’s hair is longer than Barbara’s, so she must have a mother who spends more time with her. Myron’s nose is wider than Pedro’s. We do this all the time.

You might want to posit that many of the comparisons that we do are necessary or useful. When we weigh more than we did last year and the doctor flags it as a danger sign, we need to lose pounds. The same is potentially true for blood pressure, triglycerides and other numbers.

But what if we carry it to extremes? I’ll bet she makes more money than he does. Don’t you wonder why he has more kids than the couple down the block? How does he keep his lawn so manicured? He probably doesn’t work so he can devote his time to the yard.

While we are all guilty of some degree of harmless comparisons, many of those in which we indulge are toxic. For example, if I’ve spent the last hour, day, week or month comparing my assets to my neighbor’s, isn’t it likely that such calculation will impact my interaction with that neighbor? In the event that we never interact, it’s still a profound waste of time.

Two significant conclusions are the byproducts of this reflection. One is that we rarely have sufficient data to conduct realistic analysis. What if the house was inherited or a gift or purchased at an unusual discount?

More importantly, what difference do most of these comparisons make? Is my life enhanced in any way by reaching conclusions, most likely false, about someone else? Absolutely not. Life is unchanged, the world will continue revolving and the sun will rise and set. Seems to me that we can use this energy on much more productive endeavors. Shalom.

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