Look, I get that it sounds a bit (a lot?) delulu that I think of Deepika [Padukone] when I think of my competition. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that rather than overthinking about competition with my peers to goad myself to do better, I prefer to focus on role models. Role models don’t come with the same edge as “competing” with your peers. Light-bulb moment!

I have a vivid memory from my past where I had felt very threatened by another influencer. The kind of focus I gave it had a very negative twist on my life. It made me feel low about myself and my work. I had noticed this influencer at every event, getting fabulous opportunities that other influencers and I were never privy to. (She’s the person I mentioned in Chapter 5, the one who always had access to the best opportunities because she networked like a queen.) Feeling ‘threatened’ was a very demeaning emotion. And, honestly, I didn’t like the way I behaved as a result. In conversations with others and with myself, I would always be picking on her flaws to make myself feel better, like “Oh, she’s bought the followers”, “What has she done to her face” or “Everything about her is gimmicky”.

I bet you do this too. When a peer is doing well, lots of us may tend to tell ourselves a story that connects the dots of their success to a cause other than them and their hard work. Or we tell ourselves a story of how they aren’t successful at all, how the success is a sham, a show, etc. I get that. Sometimes it’s hard to digest the success of a peer. I was like that too. But for God’s sake, let’s all stop doing that. It’s petty, small-minded and just a plain waste of time.

That’s where Deepika comes in – or Priyanka Chopra. Why do you think biographies are such a successful genre of non-fiction? Why do many top CEOs of the world’s best companies love reading biographies? Because by focusing your attention on and studying the best minds of this world or of your industry, you are getting life lessons from the very best. You can study their lives, their strategies, their career trajectories, their weaknesses, their strengths . . . Rather than only or always focusing on your colleagues, focus on your seniors or super-seniors – like the boss’s boss’s boss. That’s the way to be better every day. Observe them, learn from their journeys. Talk and question. There’s so much to absorb.

But coming back to competition with peers and feeling the need to trash-talk the ones who are doing well – one day, a switch flipped in my head, and I thought, rather than spending my time bitching, what can I learn from them? Look, I know this sounds super preachy and goodygoody but the honest truth is this: I can either spend my time being bitchy or I can just, well, move on and learn from my competition. It not only saves my mental sanity but is also a great way to get ahead.

Since my mindset change, the work of my peers has been a great learning curve for me. It can be the same for you. In fact, competition has led me to question my decisions. It’s led me to look at my work and frown and know that I could have done better. It’s made me more determined.

While I don’t keep an eye on what my peers are doing all the time, I do some moderate stalking every so often. When I first started blogging at 19, I didn’t do any ‘competition analysis’. To be honest, there was no one to analyse locally. The only blogger at the time was Amitabh Bachchan who promoted his blog on his Twitter handle and there was no way I could compete with him! But as I moved into creating content more seriously and ‘full time’, I did a deep dive across the board. I began to study and track what my peers were doing across the world.

I analysed a few things like their product, their content offering and also their target audience, their marketing strategies and their overall positioning in the market. This helped me understand what I needed to do in order to differentiate (and better) myself from them so that I could position myself as a better alternative and gain a competitive advantage.

There have been so many times when I was inspired by what others were doing; so many things that I could adapt in my work. The outcome or result would always be lukewarm or terrible. Later, I decided to carve my unique path in content creation – i.e. not blindly copy trends that other content creators and influencers are setting. That’s when the result was always phenomenal. If you’re too busy following a benchmark set by someone else so to speak, you won’t have the time or bandwidth to be the one that stands out.

What I mean is that you don’t always need to “be inspired” by your peers or your competition. I do, however, think it is very interesting to examine other people’s work. Look at what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Observe, track and identify strengths and weaknesses. Are they applying any practices or strategies that you could apply, but you’ve missed out on so far? How can you make the same impact and progress as them?

In my book, this is by far a more constructive and proactive approach to competition.

Competition has acted as motivation for me: to “keep up”, to be better, to continue adapting. The fear that if I don’t continue to adapt I will be left behind has been quite a driving force for me.

On that note, let me add that while it’s important to stay aware of your “competition” and learn from them, it’s equally important to be strategic about who you consider to be your competition. I don’t hand over that ‘competitor’ title freely. Be selective about who you track, who you give your mindspace to.

Babies lift their heads before they start to roll over. Then they learn to sit unaided before they can stand. They surf a room, holding on to furniture before they can walk on their own. You benchmark your baby’s progress based on what they were able to do yesterday. You don’t wonder why they aren’t running marathons when they are still at the crawling stage!

The most important thing is to see if you’re doing better today than yesterday, last week, last month, last quarter, last year . . . What I want to do is compete with myself. Everyone follows a different pace and has a different place. It doesn’t help to constantly benchmark yourself against others. Benchmark against yourself. This is critical.

It is so damn easy to get carried away by what others are doing and thinking “Why am I not here, not doing this thing, not attending that party, not in the photo?” But no one else is you. You are in your own lane. Be consistent and run at your own speed.

Excerpted with permission from She’ll Never Make It: From Doubt to Dominance, Masoom Minawala and Aditi Shah Bhimjyani, Juggernaut Books.