While I don’t think that comparing ourselves with the world’s best and brightest will make us happier in the short term, I do think it is a truly important personality trait that most outstanding individuals share, as it helps them set their own expectations and envision a future that becomes more likely through self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is a fact that most brilliant individuals in history couldn’t stop comparing themselves with a predecessor that, from their perspectives, was ahead in their lifetimes. What I find amazing is how this pattern keeps repeating itself through history: Einstein admired Lemaître, and he admired Hubble. Edison lived his whole life under the shadow of Da Vinci. Steve Jobs just couldn’t get rid of his obsession with Edwin Land.
Could we say that any of them were brighter than the other? I find it highly difficult to do so without falling to a subjective process.
As I was analyzing this curious common characteristic among great talented people, I couldn’t resist doing my own comparison exercise. I think entrepreneurs are catalysts of a better reality as we take our present frustrations and transform them into, hopefully, great products and services.
Well, here is someone who took that job really seriously: Wayne Huizenga, the founder of three Fortune 500 companies (including AutoNation and Blockbuster), who also boasts six IPOs on his trophy rack.
A son of Dutch parents, Wayne was born to a lower middle class family in the suburbs of Chicago. In 1968, he bought his first garbage disposal truck. This turned out to be the foundation of what would eventually turn into Waste Management Inc., a company that he headed for 15 years. Waste Management Inc. became a Fortune 500 company and the largest waste management business in the Unites States by 1983.
In 1987 Wayne opened one VHS renting store calling it Blockbuster. By 1994, it was the largest movie rental chain in the United States. Eventually, Wayne became involved with automobile dealerships, having bought a couple in 1994. In 1996, those dealerships became AutoNation, today’s largest car retailer in the United States, with US$15 billion in annual revenue.
I don’t really know if dreams did come true for Wayne Huizenga, what I’m sure about is the benefits of having an (albeit rough) idea of who you want to become, who your role models are, and why you are doing the things you are currently doing.