After Ireland's facile victory over Italy in the Six Nations at the weekend, English rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson had some good words of advice for young Irish centre Garry Ringrose. Because of the number he wears and the position he plays - as well as coming from the same school as the great man - Ringrose inevitably draws comparisons with Brian O'Driscoll, and the brilliant try he scored at the weekend didn't do anything to halt the comparisons. But Wilkinson, speaking alongside BOD himself on ITV, guarded Ringrose against paying any heed to such analysis:
All of this is one single journey. It's the journey of 'How good can I be?' versus 'What do people think of me?' Once you win that journey by going this way and working on this, nothing else matters and he creates his own story.
It has nothing to do with Brian. You won't beat Brian's story. You'll never be a better version of Brian than Brian was of Brian. You can only be you. It's difficult because people will always want to compare. He stands a chance of having his own future and looking at that, it's going to be pretty amazing.
Great advice for Ringrose, but also great advice for anyone who is chasing goals or aiming for something in life - whether you are an international rugby player, someone looking for a promotion in work or trying to get in shape and improve your lifestyle.
The basic message? Don't compare yourself to others; be content in your own goals and focus on the improvements you are making. In other words, as Wilkinson says, "'How good can I be?' versus 'What do people think of me?'"
A short while ago we featured a story about well-known Irish fitness coach and Youtuber Rob Lipsett, whose advice for anyone with fitness goals (speaking to Brian Cronin of the Ithaca Diaries podcast) was:
People compare themselves to the one genetic outlier who's got 5 million followers on Instagram. You need a bit of common sense. I don't go comparing myself to Steve Jobs! Some people need a slap on the back and (someone to) say, 'Get real'. But then, it is pushed in their face a lot on social media. But you just need to realise that you are literally looking at the 1%, if not less.
Our social media feeds are filled with picture-perfect celebrities with ideal figures; we can barely scroll through Instagram without coming across images of people in far-flung and exotic places, successful and happy. In this environment it can be tempting to get down-hearted, to lose focus of our own goals, targets and qualities and focus too much on others and what they are accomplishing (or rather, what they are seen to be accomplishing).
If you're doing your first 5k, don't compare yourself to your neighbour who came in the top fifty, broke eighteen minutes and has your ears burnt off with tales of some marathon he is about to enter. Focus on what you have achieved to train for that race, how far you have come in your own journey and how much you enjoyed doing the race.
If you've just about passed your degree and are feeling proud of yourself, don't compare yourself to your friend who's just landed a traineeship with a massive firm. Congratulate yourself on overcoming a difficult challenge and look forward to the next one with confidence in what you have just achieved.
That rings as true for Garry Ringrose - on course to become one of the great Irish sportspeople of his generation - as it does for you or I.