Keep your eyes on your own paper


I used to cheat as much as I possibly could in school. When I was a Senior in high school (I think — we’re going way back here), my computer-aided-drafting teacher flunked the whole class on our final. The whole class. My teacher was really sick, so he went on leave. That’s when anarchy ensued. There was one really smart kid and EVERYONE copied off of him. It wasn’t pretty.

I found my old calculator the other day. When I slid it out of its plastic case, I saw my microfilm-sized pencil marks on it where I wrote all the answers for the test (got away with that one).

Anyways, I was being super productive on Twitter the other day when I saw a tweet from a friend that got me thinking about something…


Keep your eyes on your own paper. It’s one of the few stupid rules from grade school that actually applies to real life out of the classroom, in a certain sense.

The problem with letting our eyes wander off onto someone else’s is that it can quickly lead to envy, fear, and greed (and a few of the other seven deadlies).

We start wishing we were more like them, or we feel like we’re superior to them. It’s them, them, them — everything is based off of them and their failures, successes, etc. instead of our truth.

Oh, they got a better deal, so that makes ours (which we were perfectly happy with up until now) look pretty shitty.

Oh, their listicle got more recommends than my post that I worked my ass off on — maybe I should start swiping those old Claude Hopkins headlines and ram my authenticity down the garbage disposal with the rest of them.

Oh, I’m working harder than he is, why does he get all the breaks?

Oh, those people have more money than me — either I’ll need to totally sell out or I’ll sit in my one bedroom apartment wishing and praying for the dismantling of their wealth.

Of course, looking around can be fine. Seeing others’ work can help you grow, as long as it serves you — e.g. for inspiration, building off their ideas, etc.

But be mindful. Because once that monkey mind starts running, pretty soon, you’ll wind up lost in the sea of other papers that seem far better — or worse — than yours. Neither one of these papers is any place to live. Your paper. Your answers. This is all there is.

Sometimes it’s best to just keep your eyes on your own damn paper.

*HT to Ashley Ambirge

Previously on Higher Thoughts:

A brief ode to David Foster Wallace (4 min. read)

More bits and bops from Jonas Ellison