Jordan Ogren

February 11, 2022

External vs. internal benchmarks. Which matters more?

I judge myself too much. How about you?

I frequently compare myself to others and usually end up disappointed.

If I had a friend who treated me the way I treat myself, I would have ended the friendship a long time ago. There’s no way I would have put up with the criticism and judgment.

So why then do I deal with my inner critic? Why don’t I shut it up?

Well, it isn’t ALL bad. It pushes me to do better when I’m slacking or reach heights I thought were unachievable. 

I’ve begun to control the inner critic by realizing the two avenues for comparison. There are two metrics I can judge myself against:

External and internal benchmarks. 

External benchmarks are the successful startup bros on Twitter or the marketing guru on LinkedIn who gets all the engagement.

Internal benchmarks are the JO from five years ago, one year ago, or a week ago.

Is one more helpful than the other? I think so. I believe external benchmarks can be tricky and usually lead to disappointment.

“External benchmarks are deceiving because accomplishments are advertised while the ugly, hard, and painful parts of life are often hidden from view.” – Morgan Housel.

No one shares on social media their lowest moments. They only share the highlight reel. This makes comparing your entire reel to their highlight reel unfair and unlikely to stack up.

If you’re unaware of this, you feel like you’re missing something. Why can’t I experience the success they have?

But, there are times I’ve found them to be somewhat helpful. For example, I recently felt a little down about where I am professionally. Then I came across a few old friends from high school.

They currently work at the high school we went to. While there is nothing wrong with being a high school teacher (we need and are thankful for them), it’s not either of their passions. This made me realize how further I am, chasing my passion and dream.

I might not be where I want to be, but I am least in the arena—getting after my dream.

In this one instance, an external benchmark helped refocus my efforts on continuing my pursuit.

But usually, comparing to external benchmarks leaves me worse off.

So instead, I focus on internal benchmarks.

“It’s not until you focus on internal benchmarks and see how far you’ve come, relative to where you began – the gap between today and your own cost basis – that you have a good view of where you stand and what you’ve accomplished.” — Morgan Housel.

Rather than focus on others playing different games with different goals, I focus on where I’ve been and where I’ve come to.

This helps me realize my growth and progress and creates excitement and inspiration to continue the evolution. 

What about you? Which do you find yourself comparing to most often?

Do you need to focus more on the internal benchmarks, as I do?

🧠 + ❤️ // JO