Compare Apples to Oranges

Can you compare? Who would win?

There is an old saying that gets thrown around a lot in my field, business, the real world, everywhere.

“You can’t compare apples to oranges”

It’s both valid and invalid. It’s both common and different.

On one hand people use it as an excuse.

“I can’t be like that.”

On the other hand it may help you with a realization.

“Everybody is slightly different, I need to adjust it to me.”

How you choose to interpret this saying has a lot to do with the meaning. Take for example of interpretation of a glass of wine that is filled half way. Is it half full? Or is it half empty?

There is truth in both these statements, and it lies between finding commonalities and differences. You can choose to do either (though I much prefer finding commonalities).

For example, an apple and an orange are both considered fruit. They both have seeds, with which to reproduce trees, in order to reproduce that type of fruit. They both have an outer skin for protection.

On the other hand, the orange is of the genus citrus and apples of the genus malus. One is often red, the other is orange in colour. One has segmented flesh on the inside, the other a tougher white centre.

All of those statements are true.

This is exactly the mistake many businesses and individuals make. They get caught up in one train of thought or the other, the glass is either half full or half empty all the time, or you only look for the ways an apple is different from an orange.

Business and life strategy though is really about altering your perception to a positive space as frequently as possible. This is why I try to surround myself with glass-half-full-thinkers and people who notice the odd and seemingly strange similarities between aspects of life or in business.

Too often I watch coaching clients (and businesses) compare themselves to others only based on differences, or to those within their industry.

These types of individuals ask questions that seem like, ‘how am I doing relative to another apple?’ This is psychologically speaking a human trait actually, we constantly seek to compare ourselves relative to others, but often only to those of similar age, body type, and gender. We generally tend to ignore those that are dissimilar enough, even if they have something of value to offer.

If my turnover rate is above the industry average, I must be doing something right.

What happens when your turnover rate is the lowest of any industry? I bet you don’t feel so proud about your rate anymore.

If I can lift as much as that guy there, then I’m fine.

What if, that individual, unknown to you suffers from a muscle atrophy disease and is the weakest person in the room?

If my retention rates are better than the average of the industry, I’m on to something. What if you tried to model your retention rates from the highest industry then?

By comparing ourselves (apples) only to apples, we lose sight of bigger pictures. We settle for good enough, rather than seeking out great. I have to laugh listening to entrepreneurs, business exec’s and managers brag about how they stack up to their industry. Particularly in fitness when attrition rates are some of the highest of any industry, I hear others often brag about how well they do relative to other fitness businesses.

If you’re apple industry isn’t the best, why aren’t you aspiring to be an orange?

Darren Beattie

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