(Spoiler alert: I wrote this text for myself to help me learn how to stop comparing myself to others. Indeed, I compare myself to others more than is probably recommended!)

Yesterday, I was spending some time on one of the websites I adored most during my youth: flashflashrevolution.com. It was one of my frequent nostalgia trips, where I like to reminisce about the “good old days”. In particular, the good old days of “rhythm gaming”. FlashFlashRevolution is a clone of Dance Dance Revolution, a game when you must press inputs in time with the music.

At one point during this evening, I was looking for something to do. To be perfectly honest, I was bored. I started wondering how I compared to other players in term of volume of songs submitted to the game. Ah, yes, a quick reminder for those who might not know: my favorite part (by far!) about FFR was creating custom songs for other players to play. Not the music, but the actual steps players would “dance” to. Believe it or not, there is a lot of artistry involved when it comes to making this type of content:

Indeed, all content on FFR is community generated. It truly is amazing how far some members of the community have been able to push “stepcharting” as a creative medium. The difficulty lies in making something that is exciting to play and replay, while accurately representing the chosen song. I produced content actively from 2010 until my “retirement” in 2019 (see this earlier blog post for more context)

For some reason unknown to me, I managed to create most of these songs without comparing myself to others. Sure, I compare myself a little bit to bmah and hi19hi19, two very prolific content creators on the website, for this exact reason: they were prolific and absolutely inescapable for players. Thus, my goal was to, somehow, come close to matching their output. I never had the pretension to say that I was the best creator around (okay, I really enjoyed receiving positive feedback, but deep down I was convinced that I was not as good as the others). Mainly, my goal in this process was simply to find my “artistic voice”, my style, so to speak, and to leave behind a body of work that made other people smile and discover songs that I enjoyed. It was a simple goal for the amount of work and grinding it asked from me.

As of today, there are 2,857 songs in the game (and counting!). This is a huge amount of content, especially considering that it has been curated since the year 2002. I had joined the website in 2008 and, by 2019, had managed to squeeze 42 of my songs in the game which simultaneously seemed like a lot of content and a drop in the ocean. I did come out of retirement once in 2021 purely out of nostalgia to step this crazy song from Shnabubula, making it my 43th publicly released song, but that also seemed like a microdroplet in an expanding ocean.

Actually comparing myself

Long story short, I started being curious about who was the king (or queen!) of content creation on FFR. How did I compare on this ladder? This comparison was done for fun: it’s not like I was going to come out of retirement to push my numbers further.

In order to do this comparison, I did some basic (but efficient!) web scraping on the FFR song list. Yay, web scraping! I ended up making a DataStudio report to better navigate the results: https://datastudio.google.com/reporting/a61ed3e8-b113-46ef-be3e-453128e3aa49

Here are the results as of this writing. I did not expect my placement to be that high!

I still look at these results in disbelief. I can hardly believe that, out of the 272 people who created content on the website over close to 20 years, I sit in 16th place. It kind of required me to rethink all the self-doubts and insecurities I might have felt throughout the years.

Comparing yourself to others is shooting yourself in the foot

The title of this section might lead someone to believe I have mastered the art of “not comparing oneself to others”. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is that, now more than ever, I struggle to keep a cool head and be at peace with who I am and what I accomplished without comparing myself to someone else. For example, when something bad happens to me, my defense mechanism is to compare myself to others by saying something akin to “my situation might be bad, but at least I am not in as deep a trouble as this someone”. The more I think about it, the more it sounds like slightly toxic gratitude. Toxic for myself, I mean: what if I can’t find someone in deeper trouble than me to help me get through the pain? There must exist a way to push through issues without having to rely on others' misery.

That’s one way to look at why comparing yourself is “bad”. However, it’s not a really gratifying way to look at the problem. Personally, when I enter this thought pattern, it only makes me even more bitter (“Now in addition to my problems, I’m a terrible person. Grr.")

I think a more optimistic way to look at this problem is to look back on what I accomplished on flashflashrevolution.com. Had I had access to the graph I pictured above when I started my journey in stepcharting, I would probably have never put so much effort in my work. Surely, my goal would have shifted. Instead of wanting to grind stepcharting files in order to find my own style, I would have strived to place myself on the graph wherever I felt like I belonged. I would have imposed a boundary on myself that would have hindered progress on my real objective. Had I felt bad about myself, I am almost convinced that I would have been comfortable chilling at the bottom of the rankings while feeling bad about myself and my “lack of abilities”.

The truth is, I, you, and everyone else, don’t lack ability. If we want something, we just have to work for it. Rankings, hierarchy, salaries, should not be used to compare yourself to others as you are trying to reach your goal. Having done this exercise, I can confirm that the comparison went in my favor even more than I expected, now that I had reached my personal objective.

Sure, everyone is a little different, so please take this text with a grain of salt. Mainly, I am writing this for myself. With this analysis, I proved myself that I can reach my goals. I just have to put in the effort, and stop taking out all the fun by comparing myself to others.

If I can manage to have fun while grinding, great things can will happen.

Right now, my grinds are:

  • filling this website with interesting content
  • becoming better at Go
  • becoming financially independent
  • becoming better at arranging choir music

Laying it all bare like that, it makes me feel like I can do it. I just have to keep a cool head and remind myself that I have no idea how far I have come while I am still grinding. I am looking forward to when I will be ready to look back on the progress I have made. Delayed gratification, baby!

So, what are your goals? How do you feel about them? Any interesting story to share? If so, feel free to drop me a comment. Until next time! 😃