The Joy of Competition

I love competition, always have.  When I was about 10 my dad taught me how to play Chess.  He wasn’t big into letting the kid win so I lost, a lot.  I didn’t like losing so I went to my room and played against myself until I got good enough to win.  This drive to improve, to get better, to be the best possible is what competition means to me.

My love of competition has manifested itself as a low level rec league volleyball player, an occasional poker player, and a lover of games.  I love all kinds of games from video games to board games to sports, I enjoy them all.  I love putting the best I have against someone else’s best and seeing who comes out on top.

I do believe that a competitive nature is a benefit in the business world as well.  There are only so many management positions and raises available.  In an ideal world they will go to the people who have worked the hardest, put in the most hours, and studied the hardest.  Here are a couple of real world examples that I’ve seen of how competition can be seen in the workforce.

  • Hiring Practices: One company I worked for used participation in athletics or other types of competition as a criterion for hiring.  They believed that competitive people were more likely to succeed in business.  I haven’t seen studies that proved this theory to be true but our little startup was filled with collegiate, Olympic, and professional athletes.  We were successful and after gaining a significant market share we were purchased by a fortune 500 company.
  • Who Stays, Who Goes: My favorite sports team, the Seattle Seahawks have had a motto of “Always Compete” since they hired Pete Carrol in 2010.  In the last 6 years they have made the playoffs five out of six years, made it to the Superbowl twice and won once.  Each player knows that they have to bring their best every day because if they don’t they will be replaced by someone who has worked harder and studied more.  There have been many examples of highly drafted or highly paid players being cut while undrafted players make the team.

I love the positives of competition but there is another side of the coin.  When someone focuses exclusively on the outcome, on the victory or the loss, they are often accused of being over-competitive or simply an ass.  Unfortunately, this charge is too often true as competitive people can be sore winners, poor losers, and bad teammates.

In my experience, the best way to be competitive and still be a good sport is to focus your competition internally.  Perform an honest self-evaluation to see what you did right and where you made mistakes.  How do you get better?  How do you catch that other person?  Always strive to win but don’t let it consume you.  Seek perfection in the process and the results will come.

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