The Thrive Questionnaire//

Carrie Murray Explains How to Combat Comparison Syndrome

The entrepreneur urges us to stop comparing, and start lifting each other up instead.

Courtesy of BRA.
Courtesy of BRA.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Entrepreneurship is far from a one-person show, despite the false images of easily achievable business success that we see on social media. Carrie Murray founded BRA to remind business leaders that they’re not alone on their career journeys. BRA, the Business Relationship Alliance, is a network of powerful women devoted to advancing female-owned businesses by providing the community, collaboration, mentorship, and support they need to flourish. When Murray made her own jump to entrepreneur in 2011, she spent her every spare minute researching best business practices, while also parenting as a mom of two young kids. It didn’t take her long to realize that thousands of others were in the same boat, and while they were all searching for a like-minded community, it simply didn’t exist. So Murray created it. Now, years later, Murray says that struggle is, and always will be, a part of the entrepreneurial process. “It should be hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it,” she tells Thrive. 

In her Thrive Questionnaire, Murray reveals her top tips for combating negative thoughts, and shares how to create a network of your very own.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Carrie Murray: I listen. As a woman business owner and a mom, when I wake up, the first thing I do is listen. I listen for the sounds of bare feet running around on our hardwood floors. No sounds means my kids are still sleeping. Then, like a panther in the Amazon, without making a sound, I make my way to the kitchen for a few precious moments by myself to make a cup of coffee. One of these days I’ll invest in some rugs.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

CM: My secret life hack is finding balance through alignment by prioritizing and then doing one thing at a time. Once I discovered that secret, all the “things” that needed my attention started to fall into place, where they belonged. Prior to that, I imagined balancing was to be like one of those log runners — going forward and then backward and then forward and backward again in a never-ending cycle. It took me a while to realize that no matter how hard you try to get that log under your feet, you’ll inevitably fall off. So I replaced my mindset of balance with alignment. Now, instead of trying to balance two opposing forces, I focus my time and energy, on prioritizing my responsibilities as a mother, a CEO, and a wife, and then breaking them apart into smaller, more manageable pieces so I achieve little victories on the way to meeting bigger goals.

TG: What are your top tips for networking? 

CM: I live in Los Angeles. When meeting someone new here, often the first thing you are asked is, “What do you do?” I’m sure that’s the case in many other cities, as well. When I meet someone, no matter where I am, the most important thing for me to remember in networking is to be curious. I genuinely like meeting people and learning about them, so I’ll ask them what excites them, or how they like the event, or what their favorite vacation was and not just jump straight to, “What can this person do for me?” In fact, some of the best networking actually occurs when you are genuinely interested in the other person and learning about them. In my experience, the best collaborations come about from people actually engaging with one another.

TG: How can you stand out when you are trying to get noticed at work or for a new job? 

CM: You want to stand out? My advice is to show up early and be prepared. I don’t mean show up and lock yourself in an office or plant your face in your laptop. I mean do your homework, learn about your team, and show up early and talk with people; don’t stand around looking at your phone — make coffee, bring in some cool teas to share with people, read a newspaper, and create conversations. People that arrive late don’t want to be noticed; they miss out. For me, to be on time means I arrive five minutes early. On time is late. Five minutes late is left behind.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

CM: No, my phone and I do not sleep together; however, I do use my phone as an alarm, and it provides me with some terrific guided meditation routines to help me slow down and turn my brain off at night.

TG: How do you use your phone, and what is your advice for the phone addicted?

CM: I use my phone as a tool for my business (and my life). My phone is essential for my productivity when I am away from my home office. In fact, my phone gives me the freedom to leave the home office more, because I can take calls en route to the gym, or while taking my kids to soccer practice, etc. I can even use my phone to schedule meetings and appointments, because the calendar is easily accessible. The best advice I can give is to remember to turn off all push notifications when you need to focus. Push notifications instill an arbitrary sense of urgency that really doesn’t — and shouldn’t — exist and gives you #FOMO. Breaking up with push notifications allowed me to focus more fully on my business.      

TG: How do you deal with email? 

CM: My recommendation for dealing with a high volume of email is to not only be judicious with what you sign up for, but to go in and unsubscribe from almost everything that is not essential to your life and business. Trust me, you won’t miss it. Those emails are just clogging up your inbox, and they’re slowing down your productivity. In addition to that, be organized; create subfolders, rules, and alerts that help you manage when you see an email. Furthermore, set boundaries. You don’t have to write people back immediately, especially if they need an in-depth response. I have a set time of day for responding to emails that require more than just a, “Yes, let’s meet for Taco Tuesday at 5 p.m.” I use Gmail, and it allows me to mark the high priority emails with a star, which pushes their responses to the top. Anything else, I immediately respond to with less than 140 characters. If it needs a more in-depth response, I respond with, “I’m giving this some thought and will give it my full attention in — insert time.” That makes the sender feel heard and appreciated, and gives you some time to actually think about what you want to say. 

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace. 

CM: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” I first heard this quote in a Box Union class. Coach Kyle kept repeating it, and I realized he was absolutely correct. It meant more than completing those burpees (the worst exercise ever invented); it also translates to my business and personal life. I have never been someone to shy away from real, positive change — the kind of change that makes an impact or alters your trajectory — and that kind of change will challenge you. It should be hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do? 

CM: When I have an overwhelming amount to do, my advice is, “Eat the frog first” from the book by Brian Tracy. The “frog” is that one thing you don’t want to do, but it won’t go away. So I do the hardest, most challenging thing first. I find that I am in my zone of genius between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I can fly through things at a much more efficient and decisive rate than any other time of day. To keep myself on task, I use the Pomodoro Technique, which is named for the old school tomato kitchen timer. It means you take a solid 25 minutes to focus on one task with no breaks or interruptions until it is complete. I also turn off all push notifications on my computer and phone related to social media. No, I don’t want to be distracted by the latest post by “Kittens of Instagram” at 11:22 a.m.  

TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress? 

CM: My advice for my younger self is simple. Don’t get credit cards for any retail store, ever. What caused me the most stress when I was in college (and many years after) was trying to get out of credit card debt. I worked three jobs through college, and later in graduate school. The sole purpose of one job (bartender at Planet Hollywood) was to get me out of debt. I was paying off the kind of credit card that had a 19.8% interest rate. Yeah, the cute yellow wool scarf and matching clothes were long gone, even though I was still paying for it with interest and late fees. I should have just picked up knitting. Now, as a business owner, I look back at that and know I learned a valuable lesson that still helps me today.

TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life? 

CM: My role model is my mom; she always appeared to be so on top of things. The whole world could be crumbling down around her and she always looked as if she had anticipated all of it and was totally prepared, even if inside she was screaming, “What the hell do I do?” I never knew. Why? Because she never asked me. Why would she? I was a child and knew nothing. Do you want to be that parent that raises a child who doesn’t feel stressed (which is crippling for children)? Act like you anticipated everything that happens. The best gift you can give your child is stability and calm. Be the parent who reacts with thoughtful anticipation and knowledge, or who can act better than Meryl Streep even when the Zombie Apocalypse is going down. Instead, say, “Yup, knew this was going to happen all along.”

TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?  

CM: I know when I am depleted when I start eating when I’m not hungry. The downside of working from a home office is easy access to snacks, which usually includes anything salty. It took me a while, but I have finally removed all my bad food choices from the pantry and filled it with more RXbars and Almonds (for the salt fix). Now, when I feel depleted and I reach for that naughty snack, it’s not there and I have more awareness of why I was reaching for it in the first place. This lady needs rest. I also recently discovered the benefits of brewing hot tea; the process of making the tea allows my brain to focus on something other than feeling depleted. That’s my new go-to.

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course-correct? 

CM: Stress brings out my comparison syndrome, judgment, and self-doubt, so the worst place to spend time when I am feeling those emotions is a space that screams, “Look at me and what I’m doing!”  For me, it is very easy to get lost in a comparison mindset. Comparison is the thief of joy. To combat that, there are three things I do to course-correct. 1: Avoid social media. 2: Phone a friend. Or 3: Get myself to an inspiring workout instead! These are all amazingly uplifting alternatives and turn your mind to a more positive place by texting a friend to check in, or calling your husband just to say hi, or taking a Boxing, Plyojam, or Yoga class to shake off that stress and get back to being present and grounded.

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking? 

CM: When I need to reframe negative thinking, I use a crafted power statement to silence the impostor syndrome. My power statement is a promise I make to myself, a measurable goal that includes a priority in my business and life. When I find the negative self-talk creeping in, I pause and ask myself, “Would you say this to your daughter or a friend?” The answer is always no, and I immediately repeat my power statement to myself and honor my priorities. Sometimes I find myself telling the barista at Starbucks my power statement — that’s how strongly I feel about it. What’s great about a power statement is that you put a time stamp on it; it is adaptable and evolving and changing with you. My current power statement is, “I will look at my health as a vehicle that fuels my happiness; the two are not separate but intertwined. I will measure this by making lists of the excuses and negative self-talk I tell myself.” I’ll tell you what: When you write down what you are saying to yourself, you’ll be shocked. 

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others.

CM: I’m a natural connector, so I built a network to facilitate and foster connections between other women. After even the first day, I knew it was effective, and it’s sustainable because I’m so passionate about benefiting other women.

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