Chasen Bettinger

Why do we love to throw away money?

Comparison is the thief of joy. Easy to interpret, even easier to say aloud. Focusing on another deprives yourself of focusing on yourself. Why does this matter and why is it the default instinct of us to look outwards instead of inside?

Acknowledging the preservation of your energy and the captured real estate of your mindshare has to be two of the most valuable lessons one can integrate into their mental model. Energy is rudimentary in theory, it’s what breeds activity and focus. Deprive yourself of energy through not resting or exerting the energy and you can feel yourself wade into a euphoria of delusion and blur, making no better choices than the last time you were severely intoxicated. It’s fascinating to know that when you start the day, you have the most energy that you will ever have on that given day. Remember that 5-hour period, because I know you did not get the recommended 8 hours, in which you did nothing just a moment ago? You were gaining units of energy every instant of that time. Waking up from rest is equivalent to being a fully-charged battery. Like the battery, the drainage begins immediately at the start of use. I don’t think many will argue that maximising the use of that battery is important. Squander that and you end up with nothing to show for it. Be conscientious with the use and you’ll be rewarded. Throughout the day, elements of life lurk in the shadows of your attention and feast when they’re not getting the attention they want. Your senses, operating at a blistering pace, consuming, interpreting, understanding, focusing, moving, closing, opening, closing again. All of this activity is silently, recklessly harvesting your energy.

Comparing yourself to others in effect causes you to focus on another, sapping yourself of energy that you could otherwise have spent on yourself. This isn’t a situation of a random act of kindness, you’re not providing another with an unexpected token positioned to bring delight. You’re self-sabotaging yourself. You wouldn’t mindlessly burn $20 bills. Don’t let your energy evaporate without your explicit consent.

I’m a victim of comparing myself to others. It’s stymied my growth as a human. Constantly worried about how those within my proximity and on the internet are thinking, judging, whispering, critiquing my every move. How I pour milk into my coffee. My word choices on a twitter comment. A stack overflow answer where I was a bit too harsh. There are a million voices, and they’re all screaming at me, and I’m obviously paying attention.

I’ve begun abandoning giving the voices an ear and I have far more energy to do things as a result. I felt this reverberate throughout me as I was running one morning. There are runners passing me and folks of different stages of life taking a morning stroll, a couple walking their dog. In a previous episode, I’d shame myself for being passed upon, focusing on how the sloth inside of me has won its battle in the fight of my own lethargy. I’d pride myself on passing any soul, for I have built the habit which others cannot and my body is superior and therefore faster in this moment. What in the hell was I doing? Everyone is running their own race. Even with the complete context of how a person arrived next to me, passing or being passed, there is zero point in attempting to understand that person’s position for comparative purposes. I can feel the preservation of my energy.

It’s trivial to look outwards and think about what is wrong, what I am and they are not, why I was overlooked and they are lucky. I’m choosing to no longer expend energy on that. I don’t like throwing away money.