The Fear of Second Place

The Fear of Second Place

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Creator at Fly to FI
Cody is a personal finance junkie who constantly tracks his net worth with Personal Capital.

He also runs a Side Hustle Course that teaches others how to make $$$ outside of their day job through freelancing and blogging.
Hit me up!

I debated writing this post for a long time because I didn’t want to come off as an over-competitive freak. However, I decided that it was better to be transparent rather than to only highlight the positives qualities about myself. I HATE losing. I get jealous and motivated when I see someone doing something better than I am.

This mentality has certainly helped me get to where I am today, but it has also caused me to over-criticize my work and strive for absolute perfection. However, my recent discoveries might indicate that I’ve been using the wrong metrics to judge myself. What if I’ve been wrong this entire time?

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Deep in the Rabbit Hole

If you’ve been reading my blog from start to finish, you’ve probably realized that I jump into new ventures head first. I actually enjoy tackling multiple projects. Yes, sometimes I fail, but these failures have sculpted me into the man I am today. Analysis paralysis is definitely not my problem, it’s my fear of imperfection and inferiority.

My fear of second place works like this:

When I first start out, I’m okay with being “worse” than the leaders in the industry … because I’m just a newbie, right?

But, when I start to get really deep in a certain rabbit hole, that’s when my fear of second place kicks in. I start to look to the leaders in that space and wonder “What the hell am I doing wrong? Why am I not producing at the same quality as these people?”. This, in turn, causes me to double my efforts in order to try to “catch up” to the dominant players.

Sure, the quality of my work increases exponentially and I pick up new skills along the way, but this is certainly not the mindset I’d like to approach self-improvement from. But why do I even consider myself ‘second place’? What if I’ve been looking at the wrong metrics this whole time?

Metrics Mean Everything

Clearly this fear of second place is not healthy and I’ve been constantly striving to change my mindset. One of the thoughts that has recently populated my mind is “What if I’m using the wrong metrics to compare myself?”.

In every field, there is typically a ‘standard’ metric that indicates success and performance. In blogging, it’s page views and revenue. Product sales are the dominant metric in the retail business. In weightlifting, you’re judged based on your ‘maxes’. Your GPA and grades showcase how ‘smart’ you are. But why must you yield to only these certain metrics? The truth is, you don’t!

I used those examples because those are the fields in which I have struggled with the fear of second place the most. But, after internalizing my personal goals, I realized that I had been using the wrong metrics the whole time.

Fly to FI

In the blogosphere, the dominant metrics for performance are unarguably revenue and page views. But who says it has to be that way? Did Zeus come down from Mt. Olympus and make a royal decree in 5,000 B.C.? Hell no!

After my first few months in the blogging world, I became jealous of the successful blogs. I would spend hours curating content and editing the site in a frantic attempt to catch up. But why? Did I really need to match their page views and blog revenues? Was that really going to make me happy?

It wasn’t until recently that I realized I needed to change my metrics. I didn’t actually care that much about page views or blog revenue. I cared about helping people! Receiving an email from an eager 15 year old or helping an aspiring entrepreneur launch his or her business was much more fulfilling than achieving arbitrary page view or revenue milestones.

I’ll admit, it’s still a work in process, but this shift in mindset has been instrumental in correcting my unhealthy fear of second place.

You’re Not Doing as Bad as You Think!

Metrics mean everything. If you think you’re underperforming in your niche, identify which metrics you are using and determine whether or not they align with your goals and values.

Maybe you didn’t earn the best grades in college, but if your goal was to become an expert in computer programming, and you did, then that’s what matters! Maybe you don’t lift as much as Jay Cutler, but your goal might be to maintain a lean, healthy physique, not become a weightlifting monster. It’s all about how you measure your achievements.

As cliché as it sounds, everybody is great at something. We each have our individual talents and we are all winners in some regards. You don’t have to compare yourself with or compete with the so-called leaders in the industry just to be happy. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. But hey, that’s what life is all about … learning from your mistakes.

I’m slowly starting to come around and realize that maybe second place isn’t so bad. As long as I’m accomplishing (or striving for) my goals and dreams, then I’m winning every single time. Are you struggling with the fear of second place? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Note: I am not a financial advisor or fiduciary. All the information presented in this article reflects my opinion. I am not liable for any financial losses incurred related to this content. My content is always written with the readers’ best interests in mind. I believe that my content is helpful and well-researched, but it is not professional financial advice. For more information, read our Privacy Policy.

10 thoughts on “The Fear of Second Place”

  1. In comparison to others out there, I’m always a failure. I can never seem to do more, earn more, or be more. So, a little while ago I stopped comparing myself to others completely. I only compare myself to myself. And I realized I’m now always winning. I’m always growing, doing more, earning more, and becoming more than the past versions of myself. Doing this has settled my fear of second place… Now i’m always coming first. Make sense?

    Your website is KICKING ASS compared to a few months ago. That’s all you need to know. And you are definitely helping people. Keep up the good work man.

    • Hey Joel, I can definitely relate (obviously, since I wrote the article). It’s so much better striving for improvement against yourself, instead of relying on others to set the benchmarks. I’m always becoming a better version of myself. If early 2018 Cody saw me now, he’d definitely be impressed and surprised!

      Thanks for the compliments, Joel. Trying to make my site and content better every single day.


  2. Love this, a little bit of self reflection never hurt anyone. Second place in this space is just fine if these endeavors allow you to escape the 9-5 and also earn you a strong enough income to still be happy, and more than cover all your needs.

    As long as you keep getting better, and improving, you will achieve everything you ever wanted. Cheers!

    • Hey TJ, thanks for reading! It’s certainly still a work in progress, but this shift in mindset has definitely brought down my stress levels and allowed me to give more attention to things that are important to me.

      I’m always striving to become a better version of myself every single day. Appreciate the kind words of encouragement!

  3. There’s a business insider article from Jim Wang that notes: “it’s you vs. you, not you vs. anyone else” when it comes to meeting your goals. Compare yourself to a year ago or even 5-10 and that’s how you should be measuring success. Usually you can see some sort of progress or assess what you need to do to improve. Most other people’s version of success took luck and sacrifices and may not be highlighted well in their success stories, so don’t be discouraged by where you are in the process. Everyone gets there in due time if they are motivated to do the work.

    • I love that quote and I’m definitely a fan of Jim Wang. I agree, there’s no point looking at someone’s achievements from an objective point of view. You never know if someone got to where they are because of blind luck or inheritance. It’s a lot easier to gauge your progress when you use your old self as a benchmark. Thanks again for reading and for all the insight!

  4. Your comment about jealousy over other’s success really hit home for me. That’s where my burnout stemmed from when I took some time off of blog writing a little while ago. I have since worked hard on coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be the next MMM or (insert highly successful whatever here), but that I can still give it my all and work with passion .
    I feel like so much of this article is describing me, it’s a little scary.

    • Yeah it’s certainly something that I still struggle with, although I’m constantly trying to get better. There’s no point trying to emulate other icons in the industry because like you said… there’s only one MMM. The best thing we can do is try to become the best versions of ourselves and constantly set the bar higher. I’m really glad you pushed past those feelings of jealously and hopelessness though and started up on the blog again! I believe in you man.

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