By Lizzie Stafford
I’ve always experienced some form of jealousy when it comes to my career and that of those around me; I think you have to be pretty confident not to. It’s almost impossible not to compare your achievements (or perceived lack thereof) with those of your peers when social media was basically invented for bragging. For artists, it can be seeing people doing ‘better’ than you, or work that is very similar. For writers, it’s seeing people getting their byline everywhere; and don’t they ever sleep?
Recently I experienced a terrible bout of anxiety when a business very similar to mine opened on the next block. For months before they opened I worried that I would never survive. I oscillated between wanting to be their friend and wanting very much to egg their shop (not even kidding… I didn’t, and the feeling was only fleeting. I’m just being brutally honest here). So it was with open ears and much anticipation that I awaited the response of these three women whose businesses I greatly admire, and whom I was sure had experienced something similar but handled it much better than myself. I was right.
And in case you are waiting for the end of my story; my shop is still going, I am indeed friends with the other business and, as it turned out, we are different and great in our own way. Competition is a very good thing if you know how to use it right.
Stay true to your values and don’t get too caught up in what other people are doing
Daniele Constance, Suitcase Rummage founder and arts practitioner.
When I was asked to write about dealing with competition, I think I felt my blood boil a little! In my work and practice I have had many ideas borrowed, collaborated with, copied, stolen and all of these experiences have had a different impact and brought with it varying emotions.
In general, I think a bit of a competition is good; it's healthy. It keeps you motivated to push your ideas, push your practice further and I think it's really important not to get complacent - particularly if you're starting to do well and seeing some success. Learn from other great ideas, great thinkers, get inspired, and put all of that into your own work.
While I am a big advocate for collaboration and finding ways to work with and support others, it is important to stay true to your values and not get too caught up in what other people are doing. Facebook and social media can be so valuable, but I've also found it to be crippling. I've spent hours trawling through photos, posters for events, blog posts, reviews .... but it's only as useful as you make it. Don't get caught up worrying up about what other people are doing, if their work is better, more successful (whatever the list is). My Dad always used to say to me, "Don't worry about what other people are doing. Focus on yourself." And he makes a good point. You can't control what other people are doing and how successful their businesses will be, but you can control yours.
More recently I have had the experience of others repeatedly using IP and branding that doesn't belong to them, and I think that is really wrong on so many levels. I'm not sure what it's like for other people, but for me it feels like the biggest betrayal. I'm not sure that I deal with it in the best way, but as artists and creative people we're always going to have that happen to some degree. And to some degree, we've all done it, whether we're aware of it or not. It's an excuse on some level for those out there who clearly can't think for themselves (and god I hate it when someone says, 'imitation is the best form of flattery'), but it's also realistic too.
I think my way of coping with it is to write the angry email I want to send, but keep it in my drafts. I come back to it a few hours later and edit it - or write a fresh one that leaves the emotion out. I've also found it useful to seek advice from lawyers and other creative business owners in how they deal with IP and copyright issues (almost everyone has their own story about it).
At the end of it all, it's about finding a balance, a place where you can use the competitive nature of business to move you forward, not backward. That's how I try to think about it, anyway; even when the emotions and stakes are high!
Come up with fresh ideas and stick to your own game.
Jess Barty, owner, Sunday Social
If I’m being honest, I can say that I used to struggle a lot with competition. But one day the penny dropped and I realised that worrying about it wasn’t doing me, or my business, any good.
Nowdays I don’t compare my business to others. Sunday Social has always been about being unique and fashion forward, so I just try to keep coming up with fresh new ideas and stick to my own game. I guess it keeps me on my toes and ensures I do my best!
You better check yourself before you wreck yourself – Ice Cube.
I recently finished reading #GirlBoss by Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso. She has an excellent quote that really stuck with me with regard to competition. “Compete with yourself, not with others. Judge yourself on what is your personal best and you’ll accomplish more than you could ever have imagined.”
It can be really overwhelming flicking through Instagram and seeing all the gorgeous photos in your feed. I started noticing myself getting down about how nice everyone’s photos look. This led me to get into a habit of only going on there when I have something planned to post. Even though that sounds hard, if I have a day or two, or even just the day to consider my post, then when I do jump on there to post, I feel really excited about participating as I’ve done mine for the day.
The same trap can happen with reading blogs. You could read blogs all night long and then not actually write or plan any articles for your own blog. Perhaps if you are feeling affected by the rabbit warren of social media, then have a couple of days or a Monday to Friday week away from it to get back to your own thoughts.
Another quote I like to remind myself with is Ice Cube’s “You better check yo' self before you wreck yo' self.” Even writing this it makes me laugh! If I notice that I’m being more fleety and trying to check my Instagram or Facebook too often, I like to move those apps to the last app panel in my phone so it’s too hard to keep flicking to them to be able to check them on impulse and to see what everyone else is doing.
Lizzie Stafford is a lifestyle and entertainment writer and owns and runs Künstler, a magazine and bookstore in Winn Lane, Brisbane.
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