Conventional wisdom says not to compare oneself with others. “A sure road to unhappiness and anxiety,” I hear. If we’re talking about things out of our control—genetics, for instance—then yes.

If we’re talking about self-improvement, however, comparison may be a friend in disguise. Athletes compare their performances to the stars of their various games and find the motivation to improve. Same for great speakers, executives, entrepreneurs, and a cabbie I once met in New York.

To be the best at what you want, compare yourself to whomever you now believe to be the best at that same thing. Then close the gap.