A few weeks ago, one of my best clients asked me to provide a reference for another writer in my niche.

The way I saw it, I had three options: a) be vague and say something like “I think she would would do okay, but don’t have any feedback on her work,” b) pretend I don’t know her, or c) give her a well-deserved glowing review.

I spent about zero seconds contemplating the issue and went with option #3.  In my reply, I said that she was not only responsible, but also competent, creative, and classy.  In the end, she got the job, and I got to feel good about the fact that I helped her along.  But, did I do the right thing?

Many people would say “no,” or even “hell no.”  After all, more work for her could easily translate into less work for me.  Further, we’re similar in that fact that we’re both money-savvy moms, and sometimes, working with someone just like you can be bad for your career.

But I would do the same thing again.  And again.  And again. 

Why?  Because in an online world, success is not a zero-sum game.

See Your Peers as Motivation, Not Competition

I love working in the online world for a few reasons, with one of the biggest being that there is room for so many people to succeed.  Think about it.  It’s not like we’re all trying to sell vacuums in Topeka, Kansas for heaven’s sake.  For each product or service we sell, there are billions of potential customers out there.

But it’s more than that.  Whenever I see someone else have success, it gets my wheels turning.  It makes me want to do better, accomplish more.  It lights a fire under me, and I hope to light that fire under other people too.  Success is not a zero-sum game; we can all be winners.

I’ve written about the difference between jealousy and envy before and believe the same principles hold true when it comes to our professional lives.  When others succeed, it’s easy to be jealous and wish you had what they have.  But you know what’s better?  Harnessing those feelings and using them as fuel to light your own fire.

In other words, see your peers as motivation, not competition.  Life is much better when we’re all striving to build each other up, not tear each other down.

Success is Not a Zero-Sum Game

Working as a freelancer has its ups and downs.  There may be times when you feel like you have made a terrible mistake and jeopardized your family’s well-being.  But there will also be times when you are so proud of your accomplishments that you can hardly stand it- when you burst with joy and pride at what you have done.  I truly believe that the “highest highs” mean nothing without the “lowest lows” to balance them out.  In other words, to truly enjoy your success, you have to feel real failure.

But that’s not all.  Being truly successful usually means facilitating the success of your peers – giving them good advice, being a mentor, and being honest about their work when anyone asks.  It’s true that, in the online business world, there is room for everyone to succeed.  But in my world, it’s much more fun to succeed together.

So don’t waste time comparing yourself to others.  Don’t stress out about the fact that other people are trying to make money in the same ways you are – even when they appear to be doing well.  Just focus on your own goals – your own story – and strive to accomplish anything and everything you set your sights on.  Once you’re able to do that, nothing can stand in your way.

Do you feel like success is a zero-sum game?  Do you compare yourself to others?

Additional reading: