Getting Sharp: The trap of comparison

Theodore Roosevelt is said to have coined the phrase, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve found this to be true. Comparing yourself to others can rob you of your passion for woodworking. It can stifle creativity. When focusing on the accomplishments of others, we tend to disregard our own, and dwelling on how you measure up can be a downward spiral to frustration and self-doubt. Still, it has its uses.

Comparison itself isn’t all bad. It’s one way we humans find our place in the world. With it, we can discover our interests and talents. This self-evaluation can lay the groundwork for improvement and even spark change in our lives. What’s more, looking up to fellow craftspeople can be inspiring, especially while working to make your own mark.

That’s one reason why the staff here appreciates the vast spectrum of talent and style exhibited in Reader Showcase (p. 10). Inspired readers reaching for more sparked the four-legged stool on page 42 as well as the vintage toolbox on page 32. To round out the issue, we feature a two-paneled serving tray with dovetailed handles (p. 28), a soap dish with a unique design (p. 51), and a chip-carved board for stamping pasta (p. 21). If you’ve never taken the plunge into chip carving, check out how to get started on page 24.

Learning to sidestep the comparison pitfall is one skill most woodworkers could stand to hone. Woodworking is a personal thing; a journey to be appreciated. At the end of said journey, though, you should be proud of your work while aspiring to do better next time. Resist the impulse for unnecessary comparison. Instead, try competing with yourself using past projects as benchmarks. Then take pleasure in watching your skills grow and being part of such a rich and diverse craft.

The woodworking world is not some exclusive club, nor is it a competition. Instead it is a community of folks anxious to exchange ideas and celebrate the material we all love. Allowing the work of others to lift you up rather than bring you down will lead to better woodworking overall. Not only for you, but the community at large. A rising tide, if you will. This refocused worldview may well bring more joy into your shop and everywhere else.

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