Sanity Notes #007: Consider grading yourself on a curve

If you are anything like me, comparing yourself to others can be crippling to ease and motivation. Consider employing a curve.

Matt Munson
3 min readJan 23, 2023

Originally published at To receive future newsletters in your inbox, you can subscribe here.

It isn’t easy to make new friends in adulthood. That made it all the more special recently when I sat with two new friends over coffee, sharing life stories.

While we had initially connected because our daughters were in the same daycare, it became clear that we had a lot more in common than we realized.

We swapped stories of childhood challenges, family backgrounds, and our respective journeys through those challenges to the adult lives we now live.

One of my new friends then gave me a profound gift. She paused and said, “It is amazing the life you and Holden [my wife] have built for yourselves and your kids, given where you have come from.”

There is something powerful about having our stories heard with fresh ears. Others can often see, validate, and appreciate our challenges with a grace we rarely give ourselves.

Her gift of this grace set the tone for this new year for me. It helped me to remember that whatever happens from here forward, I have already come so far. I am already living a life I am proud of, a life that is a hell of an accomplishment, given some of the cards I was dealt early in life.

As a coach, I experience this kind of grace for my clients daily. But it can be hard to give to me.

We founder / CEO types often become so because of challenges we faced early in life.

Many of the clients I work with have overcome tremendous challenges. Many also continue to face adversity in their daily lives.

As a coach, a curious listener, and an empathetic ally, it is easy for me to come with admiration and empathy for clients facing adversity. But it does not have to come only from a coach or therapist.

We can all begin today by giving ourselves more admiration and empathy.

I used to believe that celebrating what I had achieved thus far was a way of settling. I feared it would remove my edge or that it was some admission of failure.

I no longer believe that to be true.

I see too many leaders paralyzed by self-judgment. The weightiness of telling themselves they are not doing enough, irrespective of where they came from or the headwinds they face, is not motivating. It is soul-crushing.

When we grade ourselves on a curve, we set ourselves up for success, not failure. It does not mean changing your aim for where you want to head. It does not mean deconstructing your ambition. But it might mean replacing self-judgment with more powerful fuel sources: love, creativity, excitement, and curiosity.

If you are facing adversity today, take a moment and celebrate your resiliency.

If you have your own life story of overcoming challenging odds to arrive where you are today, take a few moments today to celebrate all that you have already achieved.

Let that celebration ground you for the year ahead.

I appreciate that you are here. If you were forwarded this email and it resonates, you can subscribe here.

Please feel free to reach out to me if I can be helpful to you in any way. Email me or DM me on Twitter. Thoughts on improving this newsletter are also always welcome!

With love from LA,


Originally published at To receive future newsletters in your inbox, you can subscribe here.



Matt Munson

CEO coach @ Angel investor. Startup founder. Committed to helping leaders feel less alone in the journey.