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John Marvin

Measure Success Against Yourself, Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

It’s better to compare yourself to who you were yesterday.




RULE #4 IN JORDAN B. PETERSON’s best-selling book 12 Rules For Life, An Antidote To Chaos is “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”

I have just returned from a conference at which there were many lectures on how to be a successful optometrist. I have attended many such lectures and while I have found them interesting, I have questioned their effectiveness.

The most popular are offered by other optometrists. They all seem to be saying, if you operate your practice like I do mine, you will be successful. Now I think there are several problems with this approach.

The first is that you are not them — practices are more likely to be personality-driven than process-driven. They each have their own culture which is largely defined by the personality of the doctor/owner. There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact it is why many successful doctors have devout staff members. You’ll often hear people talk about how they love working for the doctor versus talking about how they enjoy the job or position they hold. Patients are loyal to a doctor, not a practice. When they refer friends and family members, they refer them to a doctor. We recognize that a successful practice is about building relationships. And frankly, some are better at this than others.

The second problem with this approach is that it is more likely than not based on a series of what I call “novelty tactics” versus an understanding of a strategic approach. The truth is that patients are retail consumers and consumers have expectations. We are in a profession that depends heavily on the success of our dispensaries. The expectations that consumers have of our retail business are based on their retail experiences, not on experiences with other optometry practices. As the retail industry responds to a series of significant disruptions in delivery, consumers’ experiences are being shaped by these same disruptions.

It is important to understand these changed expectations and adjust our delivery. If we don’t, someone else will. It doesn’t even need to be another eye doctor or optical. Amazon is fully engaged along with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase in creating a new healthcare delivery system. This past summer they named their new CEO, Dr. Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon. Telemedicine and tele-optometry are here.


The most critical problem with a traditional approach to building success is that it is based on comparing you to someone else. That is why Rule #4 is so important.

Success is not an upward escalator. It is more a meandering path, along which progress is made as you learn from mistakes. It is about the team you build and the relationships you establish. Not in comparing yourself or your practice to someone else who lectures at a conference.

But I will leave you with some great advice from another doctor. “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” — Dr. Seuss.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. You can email him at


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