"I'm way ahead of where other people are at..."
"Most people who graduated my year from my school are only making $xx,xxx but I'm making $xx,xxx + 20%."
"Most people have a ton of bad debt. I've only got a little bit."
"Most people don't do anything really exciting or interesting. But I've got one interesting hobby, so I'm different and better."
Cut that out, eh?
Normal is a terrible benchmark. Study your own potential and desires, and decide what you're willing to give up to get what you wish. Become everything you can be that you wish to be... in your chosen fields and with your top priorities, that could be as much as 100x or 1000x further along than normal.
Benchmarking against normal sets the bar way too low. Benchmark against your own potential, and against your desires. You get less "self-pats-on-the-back," but you'll live a much more thrilling life.
I thought this was a very clear and succinct post, but reading the comments, I can't help but think that a lot of you have forgotten the advice your mother gave you; It's not whether you won or lost, it's whether you tried your hardest.
It doesn't matter whether you've left your cohort in the dust; that's just ego. But did you fucking unlock your full potential or are you peacocking around resting on your laurels? Don't benchmark yourself against ANYTHING other than your own progress and your own vision for YOURSELF.
Advice like this is to make you great, not make you feel great.
He's not covering the whole topic, as I point out in my comment, but he's damn right on the fact that you should primarily benchmark against better than you, if you intend to become better.
The others are there to show you what you could be, what you could do better and how much happier you could be too.
You're free to learn the lessons and get a better life or ignore them to protect your weak ego, a path many take, that leads to mid-life crisis and that type of stuff.
To those who think this is depressing:
Yes, it is -- now. But if you act on it, you will avoid that awful feeling years ago when you realize you could have done what you love more and better in the same amount of time.
You will avoid that situation where you run into someone who has chosen to do the right thing as much as possible and perceive with horror that, by any measurement, you have comparatively wasted your life.
He wrote about that a two years ago.
Great thought, but by setting too extraordinary of a benchmark you may feel like you are constantly under-accomplishing. You need an equilibrium, I guess.
Yeah well, as someone who thinks "if somebody managed it, then I can do it, and possible=easy", I can tell you it can be pretty bad to instinctively benchmark against the best, because you get mostly negative feedback on many things, limiting your motivation.
So in essence, my conclusion is that the best you can do is always benchmark against people who are slightly better, so you know you can get better, but the mountain doesn't look that big.
For better perspective, benchmark against the best and the worst, but that'll require far more wisdom to deal with.
As other people pointed out, one must pick his fights - however that doesn't in any way affect the way you benchmark.
Last but not least, the main part in taking advantage of this kind of advice is to actually learn to live with the conclusions of the benchmark, since that's where most people fail.
That is more than a bit related to the attitude towards failure: When someone tells me I'm wrong and explains to me why, I'm glad I learned something.
Living like that for 26 years (think about all the times you avoided the risk of looking stupid during that time) means I'm almost always right even on topics I have no experience of (been training my deduction too ... while I was at it), and I still prefer risking looking stupid (which I often do) than risking dying stupid.