About that hangover.

There’s a thing that some people call the ‘comparison hangover’*. It’s when you spend lots of time looking enviously around at what your competition is doing.

You think you’re being productive – trying to figure out how they created what they have – but really, you’re beating yourself up over why they’re ahead of you. As soon as you snap out of it, you feel like you’re on the wrong end of a whole pitcher of margaritas.

Here’s my take on how to treat a comparison hangover in racing:

Treatment #1: Get out of your (pounding) head.

Instead of feeling bad about the guy next to you having more sponsors, better equipment, a better website, more Twitter followers, and a flawless paint scheme, take a step back.

Ask yourself – are we at the same point in our racing careers?

It’s easy to look at his race car, see nearly the same thing that you’ve built and assume that you should be on the same level.

Yes, most of us are running a chassis that’s the same age as everyone else’s, with most of the same components. But you can’t assume that you know what’s going on under the hood of anyone else’s car anymore than you know what’s going on under the roof of their house.

You can only compare apples to apples – race cars to race cars and drivers to drivers will never match up.

Maybe you’re the same age, but he’s been racing for 10 years longer. Maybe you’ve been racing the same amount of time, but she races three times as often as you. Maybe you have a very full time job and he lives at home and works on his team full time.

Any way you cut it, you can only compare yourself to someone in your exact situation. Since there’s only one of you, I’d argue that you should move on to… 

Treatment #2: Buck up, buttercup.

Yep, that’s right. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Your love of competition, of wanting to be the best, is what got you here. It’s what makes you good, even great. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, use it as fuel.

If you can harness the negative feelings you have about where you are in relation to your competition, it can drive you to improve. It can help you to figure out why that person is performing at a higher level than you are. You’ll Google things you’ve never thought to Google, make phone calls you wouldn’t normally make and try things you’ve never tried before.

If you can turn a comparison hangover into a productive motivation, it’s time to buck up, buttercup.

I’m not immune to business-envy myself. I look around at other business owners and wonder what’s wrong with me – why I haven’t reached their level of success. But then I take a step back and realize that they’ve been doing it longer than I have. Or they are more aggressive at promoting their work than I’m comfortable with. Or they’re willing to offer products and services that I’m not.

But when I stop comparing where they are now, 10 or 15 years down the road, to where I am at 5 years, I realize that I should be pretty proud of what I have done. And when my competition does great things, it shows me that there’s so much room to grow and have the business that I’m striving for.

The best part? As we all grow, our sport gets better and better. That’s especially inspiring to someone who’s been told many times that racing is dying and businesses will never succeed in our sport. It’s all motivation to get improve and innovate. And speaking of innovation…

Treatment #3: Have an actual margarita.

Or whatever makes you happy. The competition of racing is what we love about this sport – let’s get excited about that instead of beating ourselves up when we fall short.

Sometimes that requires some perspective. And sometimes that requires a margarita (or ten). No judgment here, señor.


*I can’t take credit for coining this term, but I’m not sure who did. I’ve seen a number of people use it so if it’s yours, please let me know and I’ll steal it in a much less theft-y, much more publicly-accredited way.

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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.