# A Different Warning Bell - Comparison Is The Name Of The Game!

Discussion in 'Wednesdays with Varalotti' started by varalotti, Nov 28, 2006.

1. ### varalottiIL Hall of Fame

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Invariably all my teaching assignments have ended up as learning assignments for me. And this one was no exception to the rule.

I was asked to give a guest-lecture to the MBA students of a B-School on Competitive Strengths With Reference to Game Theory.

As we were toying with various examples and case studies I wrote this over-simplified example on the board.

I have to decide whether I should choose Option A or Option B. I gave the pay-offs (the relative benefits or disadvantages in choosing an alternative) as below.

Option A: I get Rs.1000; my rival and my competitor gets Rs. 900

Option B: I get Rs. 2000; my rival and my competitor gets Rs. 15,000

You know the answer very well? Right. (You need not tell anyone but be true to your own heart). Now read on.

The entire class voted for Option A. In fact that is the predicted outcome. But what stunned me even more was the line of reasoning. A timid-looking girl stood up and explained her line of reasoning.

“In Option A I get Rs.100 more than the competitor. But in Option B my competitor gets Rs.13, 000 more than me. Naturally Option A is the best. Isn’t it obvious, Sir?”

What was obvious to me was not the reasoning but her blatant weakness of comparing ourselves with others. How would a perfectly normal person with a healthy mind decide? I get Rs.1000 more in Option B than in Option A. What if my rival gets Rs.15,000 or Rs.15 crores? The market is so large to accommodate all sizes of players. So why bother about others’ success?

A psychologist friend says that more than 75% of stress comes from this bad habit of comparing with others.

Tell me honestly, ladies, tell me from the depths of your heart, how many times did you compare yourselves with others today? It may be something as simple as the saree or jewels or something as complex as a husband or a child. It could even be some biological statistics.

Men also compare, and at times do it in a far worse manner. But let’s keep that for some other time. Because it requires more than two, three threads tied together

Now to women. Let us assume that a rich lady attends a magnificent party with her husband. They return home in the wee hours of morning after having had a rocking time. All the society ladies were present in the party. You know what the lady will tell her husband as soon as they are alone in their car?

“Did you see Mrs.Rakesh’s dress? It was awful, not at all elegant. And she says she spent ten grand on that?”
“Mrs. Patwardhan had a great necklace. Kaash, how I wish I had one like that?”
“If I had the slim figure of Mrs. Naik, I would have been the centre of attraction today.”
(Intelligent husbands would just “uh-uh” these statements. Attempting to answer or comment on them would be inviting disaster with both hands)

And you can guess what happens before the party? The lady dials up a few of her friends who are attending the party and asks them, “What are you going to wear today?” Only after listening to four or five responses the woman would choose her dress.

There is a comparison on what type of flooring had been used in the house, the make and the model (and hence the size) of the car their husbands drive, the diameter of their television screens, the clock-speed of their system or the speed of their broadband connection.

Nastier comparisons focus on the figure, complexion and other similar matters.

This habit of comparing with others even extends to matters like the Plus Two marks of their sons and daughters.

I have overheard proud mothers in parties, “My son got only 1100 out of 1200.” (Well to get 1100 is not easy! The poor child would have sacrificed literally two years of his life to get that magic number. He would have ceased living and would have been reduced to a robot going to half a dozen tuitions and having a work schedule which would put a shop-floor worker to shame)

There is no point in condemning the habit of comparison as it is not going to get us anywhere. It is necessary to see the root of this highly stress-inducing nasty habit. I would say it stems from our feelings of inadequacy; it is a manifestation of our inferiority complex.

2. ### varalottiIL Hall of Fame

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Part II

To test the root of this habit, let us just examine whom we are comparing ourselves with.

No lady in our circles will compare herself with Mrs.Kumarmangalam Birla or Mrs. Ambani, nor would she dare to compare herself wit Aishwarya Rai or the writer Arundhathi Roy. The reason is plain – they are far above our station in their respective fields and we don’t have any aspiration to go anyway near them.

But our next door neighbour who recently bought a home theatre or upgraded to a C segment car presents an easily achievable target and hence comparison and envy starts at that point.

As a Greek philosopher once said, “Beggars do not envy rich people; they envy their fellow-beggars.”

Please ladies, don’t think I am standing on a pedestal to preach something. I was once a victim of this disease. God taught me a wonderful lesson through a powerful incident. Those of you who have read my book Vetriyin Vidhaikal would remember the incident involving a tailor.

God gave me another lesson through this beautiful incident.

I was the External Examiner for an autonomous college in the city for the taxation course offered to the PG students. It was a system of double valuation. The internal examiner would have a scoring sheet with 20 columns for 20 questions asked in the examination. The names of the students would appear in the rows.

I, as the external one, would have an identical sheet. We cannot award marks on the answer sheet. I will take the first answer-sheet, let’s say of Student A. After reading her answer for Question 1, I may decide to give him 3 out of the total 5 marks for the question. So I write in the 1<sup>st</sup> row, 1<sup>st</sup> column “3”. For the second question I may decide to give 4. So I write 4 in the 2<sup>nd</sup> column. Likewise I complete awarding marks for all the 20 questions in the first row. I total up the marks and enter the total in the total column.

Then I go to the next student B. I enter his marks in the second row.
The internal examiner also would repeat the same process. After valuing all the 40 papers we found that we had given almost identical marks to the students. If Student A had got 78% from me, he got 77% from the other examiner. Student D got 90% marks from both of us.

The internal examiner (who was my teacher when I studied B.Com there) told me that there was a perfect correlation between the two of us in awarding the marks. Both of us were fair and did not even look at the name of the student while awarding the marks lest we should be biased. That ensured a very fair valuation.

How come two individuals award almost the same marks? Then I studied my scoring sheet and his scoring sheet. While the total marks were the same there were huge differences in the individual marks. For instance Student D who got 90% marks in total from both of us, got only 2 out of 10 for question 17 from me but got 6 of 10 for the same question no.17 from the other examiner.

As I was comparing these individual marks I had a realisation which shook me to the roots of my being.

God is the Greatest and the Fairest Scorer. To make life interesting he gives varying marks to the individual questions, but the overall score is fairly the same.

For example he gives high marks for some women on the physical beauty front but gives low marks on their intellectual capacity front. To some he gives somebody as good as Sriramachandramurthy as the husband, but he offsets the advantage by making somebody like the demoness Shurpanaka the MIL. There are women who have MILs who are even better than their mothers, but have real Ravanas for their husbands.

To some he gives divine parents and to some wonderful children. Some are born
with a golden spoon in their mouths, but are forbidden from using the spoon to eat anything tasty, thanks to their bad health.

So if at all there is a need to compare, please compare the entire life of another person (that is not possible in many cases) Starting from their childhood till their old age – the overall score is always the same. Some score on looks, some on money, some on pleasures, some on achievements, some on health, some on children…. The list goes on. Invariably everyone scores. And no one loses.

As I sign off this Wednesdays thread with this provoking message let me also remind you of a beautiful quotation I read in my college days:

“When the Great Scorer comes to write against your name.
He does not score whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.”

3. ### sudhavnarasimhanSilver IL'ite

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Dear Sridhar,
I was still online that is why i barged in first. But after reading your article, i really felt that you have said it all....and there is nothing for a discussion actually. If women are into the habit of comparison, as long as it does not turn nasty or hurting, i guess it is tolerable. And you have ended beautifully with a wonderful quote, which says it all. So if at all we are into this habit, we have to take care in future , not to do so that's it , na?!
I liked your first eg of option A or option B...that was an interesting way of looking at things. And of course we ladies at IL are more at different maturity levels due to these discussions and we are learning more and more everyday. So i am sure we will all be able to accept life as it is, without comparing with others.......what with Chitra's vedanta topics and your mind-boggling/blowing/growing, arguments. We are bound to grow up soon., just be patient and give us time to assimilate all of this.......he he .... :tongue

4. ### KamlaIL Hall of Fame

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Aim where it stings!

Ha ha Sridhar...So now it is the women you want to take a shot at.... Touching all the sensitive and weak points of a woman's psyche!! But a very good theme and I can foresee another interesting discussion sparking off.
Personally speaking, this is coming my way a bit too late in the day. Today, when I walk into a party, the only thing that is on top of my mind is to have a good time. If I am enjoying one woman's sari, I am also enjoying another lady's handbag. If there is a beauty in sight, I enjoy even the pretty sight!! If there is someone singing a good song, I am all ears and think that is a bliss. If there is very good food, I am worried alright.......have to watch out!!!
But your theme is very apt because this is a forum full of ladies and to want and pine for something someone else has is almost a second nature to us ( to everyone really!). There is no harm in it. But it is good to know how to keep your competitive nature in control and to not to go overboard with envy and this want for 'one- upmanship'. Also, finally like you say, it boils down to... everyone scores. And no one loses.

The following qupte of your's are wonderful words and everyone should always remember them...
“When the Great Scorer comes to write against your name.
He does not score whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.”

L, Kamla

Last edited: Nov 29, 2006
5. ### sihiSenior IL'ite

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Hello Sridhar,
It sure is a very interesting and thought provoking writeup!

Its a normal human tendency to compare ourselves with our peers. I think as long as the comparison is a contructive one and we don't go overboard to achieve them, it is acceptable. Honestly speaking even I compare myself with my friends, colleagues, neighbours and one most important thing I have realised is that we usually tend to compare ourselves with people who are less happier than us and feel that we are better than them, be it in money matters or household affairs or relationships. That for any human being gives a sort of consolation that they are better off than the other person.
As you have already stated, god really balances it all....its like the 4 seasons in one's life. No person in this world can stand up and say that he/she is the most perfect and the most happiest person on this earth. We always want something that we don't have and its true for both man and woman..isn't it?
Regards,
Sihi

6. ### VandhanaSilver IL'ite

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Dear Sridhar,

Made an interesting read. Yes comparing is human nature,be it man or woman. Like SIHI said, as long as the "comparing" does not lead to destruction of ones life , it is okay. Just think about it. Where would a country's GDP or economy be if everyone was happy with what they had??? :-D

Oh well , now let me run off to see what my neighbours bought at the thanksgiving sale...

Loved the quote at the end. It makes so much sense. I am taking a print and hanging it up in my room.

Vandhana

7. ### safaBronze IL'ite

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This is very interesting topic, Sridhar. The situations you described here, from where you have learnt the lesson from the God, remains in mind. God offers every one a chance to learn something but some tries to understand and some not.
Sudha had posted a message related to this subject in forward messages forum, two days back. After viewing it I thought of this subject, as many of the women who don’t understand their value, comparing themselves with others sink deep in despair. A friend of mine usually sighs telling my sister is lucky, she has been a success in her career, got DL, bought new car..etc. But this girl does excellently cooking, sewing, art and craft etc. But she doesn’t try to expand her work by doing it for other people and get an income.
Many are like that.
Like others say, comparing becomes good, when it is with people who get less pleasures of life than us. It makes one remain happy. I think a person’s life would be happy if he has a family who gives him support by understanding him and not longing for the extra facilities of life. Would any one exist like that? Every one likes to live the way his neighbors or relatives live. The one who has less income approaches the shops allowing installments to fill the home with modern electronic gadgets.
Any way, it is human nature not to be satisfied with what they own.Will it change?

8. ### PreethiGold IL'ite

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Comparison for Good is GOOD !

Dear Varalotti,

An interesting topic this week ! Comparison....

I strongly feel, to an extent comparison is very much a natural feeling and process of life....But the comparison should be for your good and not to demoralise yourself and make you feel bad. Let it be a Healthy Comparison not a envious one ! I think we can use comparison as a tool to improve our quality of life and not as a weapon to destroy the peace of our mind.

By Good and Healthy comparison , I have benefitted a lot ....I have at times, compared my introvert nature with my extrovert friends and have learnt from them how to eradicate my introvert nature for good, I have compared my narrow-minded thoughts with some of my broad-minded associates thoughts and learnt from them how to think from a broader perspective for good, I have compared my impatience with tolerant personalities around and learnt how to be more patient and tolerant at various situations for good, and many more.....It all depends on how and what you compare and how you interpret your comparison !

You mentioned an example of school boy scoring, don't you realise varalotti, even for a boy who scores 1100, these days getting a seat in college is becoming too difficult , then imagine the plight of a boy or girl scoring way behind him, If a dull headed boy compares himself with his studious classmate and try to learn from him the strategies and mechanism of easy grasping of the subject , he too can score great marks in exams ! In this case, comparison will surely be a help for this boy, if he is determined to learn something good out of it ! else if he turns envious of his studious classmate and make no effort to improve him whatsoever, am sure he will ruin his studies and himself eventually in the long run.

In this competitive world, comparison is so much integral part of your life , All the Big Giants in the market from various industries wouldn't have owned their top postion now, had they not compared themselves with their competitors and worked hard to outbeat each other in terms of performance and quality! Am sure as a customer yourself, when you want to purchase a product, you would do a comparison of the products price and quality from various stores before buying it, would you compramise your hard-earned money for something which is not worth its cost ? so comparsion starts right from that low level and goes towards higher levels in our life. And as far as a women's comparison with others at party is concerned, I feel its very natural...For a lady to feel that she must look her best and beautiful than the other, is the smallest pleasure she can wish for herself. If she wants to make herself more presentable by comparing herself with her counterparts and dressing up well, let her do so ! how does it going to hurt anyone around ? Ofcourse, the lady must stop with that, not tend to start nagging her husband to buy all that other lady's have. If she goes overboard, the charm in comparsion is lost and it becomes a threat to you !

For those who get depressed comparing what they don't have with what others have, for a change, if they start comparing what they have that others dont have, they will realise the blessings god has given to them and will have that contentment in life.

God's giving and depriving is a blessing and curse meant with a purpose in each of our life, so questioning that will do no good.......Acceptance to whatever is given to us by life is what will give us the final fulfillment, irrespective of whether we are happy or sad by comparing ourselves with others. So, let me conclude here saying that comparison is no Offense...Its a Necessity, which when used up correctly, will better us and not betray us !

Love,
Preethi

Last edited: Nov 29, 2006
9. ### varalottiIL Hall of Fame

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Let me supplement...

Most Gracious ILites,

Before I take up the pleasant job of responding to the wonderful posts let me just post an ancient Tamil Poem which, surprisingly, gives guidlelines on how to compare and how not to.
Here goes the poem and its meaning:

தம்மின் மெலியாரைப் பார்த்துத் தாம் பெற்ற செல்வம்
அம்மா பெரிதென்று அகமகிழ்க; தம்மின்
கற்றாரைப் பார்த்துக் கருத்தொழிக தாம் கற்றதெல்லாம்
எற்றே இவர்க்கு நாம் என்று

When it comes to comparing wealth look down upon those who have less than you and be happy that you have so much;
But when it comes to studies and knowledge, look upto those highly learned people and think with humility , "What am I before this great person."

Contentment in worldly things and an insatiable desire for knowledge are two great qualities that would ensure our happiness till the very end.

regards,
Varalotti

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