Momentum Podcast: 246
Don't Buy The Veneer
by Alex Charfen
Last week, I had massive, overwhelming anxiety. Here's why, I was sick. I was actually sick from before the 1st of July, until about Saturday or Sunday, so over seven days.
In the entrepreneurial world today there are tons of entrepreneurs who have created an image of success. They’re putting their best day out there and selling you on themselves and the image of how they live and how incredible everything is.
Everyone you see online is struggling with something, not one of them actually has the perfect life or perfect business because that doesn’t exist. Billionaires don't become so by comparing themselves to others around them. Create a mantra for yourself, when you see someone’s success say “that’s inspirational but I’m going to compare myself to myself”.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfen, and this is the Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trail blazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future. Instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution, and we always will be.
Don't buy the veneer. This is the subject that is important to every entrepreneur I work with and to you. It's something that you should understand and be aware of, especially in the entrepreneurial world today. Here's what I'm talking about. In the entrepreneurial world today, there are tons of entrepreneurs who have created an image of success. I'm not saying they don't have actual success, but there are a lot of entrepreneurs who've created an image of success. They're putting their best day out there. We all know what I'm talking about. They're selling you on themselves. They're selling you on the image of how they live and what things go on in their lives and how incredible everything is and how much fun everything is. We all know exactly what I'm talking about.
These tools that we have available to us today, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn for those of you have figured it out because I can't, it still confuses me, but all of those tools are out there so that we can put ourselves out there. They allow us to put ourselves out there. They allow us to share. They allow us to create this public image, but the challenge for you, and really for all of us, is that if we're not careful, we can start comparing that public image that people have to where we are today. This can be devastating. The challenge is that if you look at this scenario, what often happens is we are comparing one of our worst days to one of these image best days. We're following somebody online, and they're day's going great, our day's going horrible, and we start seeing this massive comparison.
The veneer is what kills us, because here's the fact about every content provider and speaker and expert and everyone else you see online. Every single one of them is struggling with something just like you are. Not one of them has the perfect life or the perfect business or the perfect wife or the perfect family, because that shit doesn't exist. The reality is they are working through something just like you are. They have challenges. They have issues. They work in a dynamic market just like we do. They have competition just like you do. They have health issues. They have health challenges. They have personal issues and personal challenges. The reality is that most content providers aren't taking all of those things and putting them out as content. What they're doing is they're taking their best day and sharing it with you.
The challenge is that what we will do as entrepreneurs is we won't just accept that best day, we'll idealize it even further and think, "Man, that person has no challenges. That person has no issues. I want to be like that individual who has everything and doesn't seem to have a care in the world. I want to be just like that person, where everything is going right for them. I want to be just like that person, where everything goes in the right direction." The reality is it's just not real.
I can tell you this from personal experience. Years ago, we worked in real estate. Cadey and I worked with some of the top agents in the country. In fact, if you looked at the top 200 agents in the country, over half of them were in our memberships. We didn't just talk about working with the top agents in the country. You look at the Wall Street Journal, top agents in the country, and we had a lot of the people who were in that list. Here's what I can tell you from talking to most of them.
Very few actually had profitable businesses that were really going well. In fact, a lot of them were struggling because they built businesses so big they were having trouble with the infrastructure. A lot of them weren't even making that much money. It was crazy how often I would talk to a real estate agent that was in the top 100 but was making about the same as what a third or fourth year agent with a small team would make because they had grown an infrastructure that they couldn't actually manage and they couldn't afford.
I can't tell you how often in real estate I'd be at a seminar and somebody in the audience would say, "I just want a business like insert the name of someone I had talked to and knew intimately that their business wasn't doing that well." It was because that person was number one or that person was on the right list or that person had the right image or the right impression. The fact is that person didn't even really have a successful business.
In business today, we get caught up and chase the veneer of what people around us have. It creates completely and totally unfair comparisons for us. In the online world, this has become like a joke. Today it's hard to know who's done anything and who's credible in any way. You have people who are in their early 20s who are posting $500,000 cars online and saying that they run massive consultancies. You have people who literally are going and renting cars to create an image online to make themselves look more important. You have people who are renting houses and going and taking pictures of them and making themselves look more important.
Recently, there was a social media star exposed because she was actually going to other people's houses and taking pictures of them and making herself look important. In fact, there's a new social media term for this. If you haven't heard it, it's called flexing. There is actually an entire genre of social media videos where somebody gets on a video and tells you how much more they make than you do, and they flex their wealth and their cars and their stuff. How unbelievably and totally ridiculous.
Here's what happens to us as entrepreneurs. When we compare ourselves against somebody else's veneer, first, we're comparing ourselves against a fantasy land because it's made up. It's not the reality of what that person's life really is like. It's just what you get to see. You can't believe that you're actually seeing what goes on in that person's life, so you have to know first you're comparing yourself to a created image of that individual. If you want to lose all momentum in your life, if you want to feel like you're going nowhere, if you want to sit in a room, staring at the wall, feeling like you haven't done that much, then put yourself in a situation where you're comparing yourself, your accomplishments, your physical reality, to the fantasy world that somebody else is putting online.
It sounds silly, but let's be honest. You've done, I've done it, and every entrepreneur in the world has done it these days. We've all looked at somebody online, with the cars and the house and the money and the family and the things that we want, and said, "Man, look. They make it look so easy." Of course they do. That's the whole job of putting out content is making it look easy, making it look inviting, making it look appealing so that you'll move in their direction. The fact is when we compare ourselves to somebody else's successes, when we compare ourselves to somebody else's image, when we compare ourselves to somebody else's veneer, we damage ourselves.
Here's a better way to go about this. If you're willing to make this change in your life, this single shift in mindset, this single shift in focus may help you more than anything else that you're doing right now. So often, and this is serious, so often we get caught up in this comparison of comparing ourselves to the people around us. This happens to some of the most successful entrepreneurs I know.
In fact, one of the entrepreneurs I'm coaching right now has this very odd relationship with another entrepreneur that I know, and they are constantly competing and comparing and sometimes could even step into the world of making decisions in order to beat the other person, but not to really grow the business. How crazy is that? When we get into a place where we're making decisions to try and keep up with somebody else's success, with somebody else's image, with somebody else's outcome, we know without a doubt that we are not making the decisions based on what is best for us because we're using the lens of, "How do we keep up with that other person?"
If you want to shift your business and your life permanently and indelibly right now, here's the way to do it. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Compare yourself to yourself, and then measure the progress you've had. Take metrics and measurements in your business. How much are you doing right now? How much are you growing right now? How many people are you helping right now? How much money are you making? Look at those metrics and grow them over time. Looking at other people and what they're doing and trying to replicate things or trying to live up to their image or trying to show up as big as they do doesn't make any sense at all.
I can't tell you how many times in the past year somebody has told me that I should go buy an exotic car. They've said, "Alex, you should buy a Ferrari", which, by the way, I've been thinking about doing, but I've actually held off because I don't want anyone to think I did it for the image. I buy cars that I love to drive because I love to drive. I don't feel like I need an image or a veneer. I don't ever want to hold myself out as an image of someone that you should try and be. In fact, what I want to do is inspire you to become your best self, inspire you to measure yourself against you and make progress, inspire you to set outcomes in your life that are achievable, that you can see from where you're standing, that you can measure towards, and you go out and crush. I want to inspire you to do everything you possibly can for you because that's where success truly comes from. It doesn't come from making unfair comparisons of what's going on in our real life compared to the veneer someone puts on social media.
Success isn't about looking at what we're doing in our life and trying to have all the things or all of the stuff that someone else out there has. Success is about comparing ourselves to ourselves and making progress over time and improving what we're doing and creating greater outcomes, but it is not about trying to live up to an image that somebody else has created. Any of those things will exhaust you. In fact, trying to live up to someone else's image, someone else's success, someone else's stuff, someone else's belongings, someone else's purchases, someone else's lifestyle is going to cause the greatest constraint you ever felt. When you try and live your life based on what somebody else has, unless you got lucky and you chose exactly the person who energetically wanted the same things in their life that you did, you're going to build a life for someone else, not yourself.
This is what happens to people like us when we do this. We adapt and we adapt, because we're highly adaptable. You know you are. You've probably been called a chameleon or you can fit into any room. We're adaptable. We adapt and we change, and we adapt and we change, and we adapt and we change, and we adapt and we change, and we adapt and change so many times that we get to a place where we look back at where we started and we can't figure out how we possibly got to where we are today.
I don't want that to happen to you because that's when people like us wake up one day and change everything. The people around us say things like, "I just don't know what happened to him. He imploded. He changed everything. He was doing so well, and then everything just fell apart. I don't know what ... None of us expected it to go that way." What happens is if you adapt and change and adapt and change, and you build a life that you don't want for yourself, you build a life trying to keep up with somebody else, you build a life based on somebody else's image, you build a business based on what other people are doing, you build outcomes based on what you've seen, not what you truly want, you will get to the point where you wake up one day and realize you are in a life you don't want.
That is one of the most devastating feelings for entrepreneurs like us. You are an evolutionary hunter, and being secure in the hunt that you're on, being excited about where you're going, being compelled by the outcomes you are headed towards is exactly how we get up every day and we find the motivation and the fortitude and the energy to push our lives forward. When we construct a scenario where we're working for what somebody else wanted, it can almost immediately rob us of our momentum and our ability to create any type of progress at all.
I want you to take this to heart and think about this and create a shield for yourself that says ... When you see someone else's success, when you see someone else's veneer, when you see somebody else's Instagram Stories, create a shield, create a mantra for yourself that says, "That is inspiration, but I'm going to compare myself to myself." When you can decouple the comparison of yourself to other people, and you compare yourself to yourself, you adopt the habit of every wildly successful person in history, because billionaires did not become so by comparing themselves to those around them. In fact, most billionaires didn't have other billionaires around them. They had to compare themselves to themselves, and they drove to the greatest destination they possibly could, and I know you can too.
Drop the habit of comparing yourself to everyone around you. Accept their inspiration. Let it into your life, but protect yourself from comparison. Then go out and figure out how to create the best life for you. Find the metrics and measurements to show you you're moving forward. Create the progress and momentum you want, and you will find that it will just continue and grow and you won't hit that point where you feel like you have to tear everything down again. When you compare yourself to yourself, you grow a genuine business around who you are, and it never has to go away.
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