Mark Ballard

Taking measure without measuring up

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There’s a large drawer in the antique wooden desk that’s in our office. For many years it has held various notepads, other miscellaneous office-related materials and two nice metal rulers that are tucked in the very front. I purchased these rulers many years ago and used them relentlessly during my art school days. Throughout the years, they have accurately measured just about anything you could possibly imagine.

From time to time, I still have to enlist their help. The other day was one of those times. Debra and I were trying to decide the size of two end tables we wanted to order for our son and his fiancee. Sometimes it’s necessary to visibly see exactly what size something is in order to make sure it will work in the space allotted.

Rulers come in very handy and are used by some people every day. They were first introduced to us in grade school and we faithfully used them for homework assignments all the way through high school. Now we use them to measure windows for draperies and the length of walls in order to hang artwork — or to make sure furniture will fit.

To chart the growth of our children, we measured their height at least yearly so we could see just how much they had grown. When it comes to our clothes, we use measuring tape to determine the size we need. Even our feet are measured to get the correct fit for our shoes. Without a doubt, measuring is a part of our daily lives.

Measuring is absolutely necessary for the cooking process. Just think about how many measuring tools we need while cooking — a cup of something here and a quart of something there. I wonder how many delicious cakes would never have been baked if not for our trusty measuring cups and spoons.

Measuring isn’t limited to just preparing something to eat or seeing if something will fit. For some reason, we also feel the need to see how we measure up when compared to others. It starts when we are children and continues throughout adulthood. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are secretly envisioning how we stack up where others are concerned. No ruler or measuring cup is required for this type of unhealthy measuring.

It has been said that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But sometimes, while it may appear greener, in reality looks can be very deceiving. Comparing ourselves to others will lead us down a lonely road to self-doubt and a feeling of being unfulfilled.

Everyone is different. Each of us is a special creation placed on earth to shine with the brightest light we can emit. There is plenty of light to go around. Some people’s light will shine brighter, and others may be a little dimmer at times. The only thing we should be concerned about is making sure we are the best we can be.

We need to put our mental rulers back in the drawer and shut it quickly anytime we feel the need to measure ourselves against someone else’s wealth, happiness, job, appearance or talent. These comparisons only feed the monster of jealously within us and are very destructive and debilitating. Jealousy has the power to affect family members, friendships, marriages and the way we feel about ourselves.

We should only measure by looking within ourselves. To continue to be our personal best, we need to make sure we are achieving our goals and learning new lessons each day when faced with life’s challenges. If we are accomplishing what we need to, then what other people are doing doesn’t matter as much.

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard winning athletes say that they focus and train to be their best by competing with themselves. They never look back in a race to see who is gaining on them because turning around wastes energy. They only look straight ahead and stay focused on their personal goals.

So, use your metal and wooden rulers to measure anything you like — but don’t be tempted to use other people to measure yourself. The only result of that kind of measuring is a waste of precious time.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.