Recently I was out walking, listening to a one-on-one recorded session on my iPod between my mentor, Martha Beck, and a client with whom she was coaching on unleashing her creativity.
For those of you who don’t know Martha or her work, she is brilliant. A voracious, keen, and clever mind trapped inside a tiny elf’s body. Her ability to memorize and retain information is truly remarkable, as evidenced by the fact that she can whip a fact or quote out faster than a card dealer in Vegas.
Now I – on the other hand – have a terrible capability for recounting facts, stories, or remembering the precise details of a conversation or a quote. Sadly, I can only remember four jokes – three of which are not appropriate for children or adults. When I try to verbally relay a story to others, it generally goes something like this:
OH-EM-GEE! You remember how I was supposed to go meet my sister at the mall? Well we got there and I had to park over near that thing at the thing and she called me when I was trying to park and was all like ”blah blah blah” and I was all like “whatever I’m trying to park.” and then I had to walk like fifteen miles to the store and then I got in and she was all “whatever” and GAWD she makes me so mad.
Alas, I am exaggerating this only slightly. I am great at remembering the feeling state of a situation and can cobble the facts together if given enough time, but remembering enough of the dramatic details to build and relay a great story, real time and in-person? No. Surely I could have been a great actress if only it didn’t involve memorizing lines and reciting them near verbatim with affect and emotion. If only.
During my walk – listening in on this session between coach and client – I was struck with the most terrible feeling. I will never be able to coach like Martha Beck because I cannot retain and regurgitate awesome and appropriate information at exactly the moment my client needs it. Instead, it is more likely that when a troubled client comes to me, I will awkwardly grope around for the perfect Hafiz poem that is always so readily available to Martha, having it come out something like this:
Girl, have you heard of that poem by that Sufi dude that’s about trouble? No? It’s like “Troubled? I’m not. So get over here.” Except he said is so much better. Anyway, that totally applies to you right now.
[Note: the actual quote is “Troubled? Then stay with me, for I am not.” ~Hafiz, ancient Sufi]
In that moment on the walk, I was comparing myself to Martha Beck and realizing I cannot possibly ever measure up and therefore I should quit right now. It felt terrible – super duper crappy and… after the feeling ran its course, totally pointless.
What a fruitless exercise it is to compare our inside to someone else’s outside. Of course I can’t measure up to Martha Beck. First of all, I’m like a foot taller than she is. Second of all, I am a completely different person altogether. We have different backgrounds, different tastes, different areas of deep practice, different experiences and –more importantly – different strengths. It would be like comparing a French Bulldog to a Whippet. (I am the French Bulldog in this situation. Stocky but adorable and fancy.) Yes, I am fairly certain there are things that I am more proficient at than Martha Beck. And thank goodness for that! Because that means that she and I can serve different people and provide different and complementary services and support to a wider variety of people.
But there are a lot of things that Martha and I have in common. I am on my own unique journey. Just like Martha. I have my own particular things that I need to learn. Just like Martha. I bring my own brilliant gifts to the world. Just like Martha. If I try to do things exactly the same way she does by sharing all the same anecdotes, writing with the same voice, or reading all the same books, I will fail. It is an impossible task. So rather than compare and despair, I say “Compare and Who Cares?” Who cares if I’m not exactly like Martha Beck? It doesn’t trouble me that I am different than Martha.
Besides, if I were troubled, Martha would probably just say to me, “Troubled? Then Get your butt over here and sit down because I ain’t.”
Or something to that effect.