Constructive Competition

Kids playing tug of war.One of my sons seems to have a strong urge to win at everything. He finds it extremely important.  To better perform my duties as his father I have had to look at my own beliefs about competition and the importance of winning.

Winning Isn't Everything ( Loser Talk )

I've heard this statement so many times and at times I've believed it. Of course, that's just loser talk or so I've heard. So what, if any truth are in each of these statements? If the statement "winning isn't everything" is wrong then winning is everything. On the other hand, some people who say, "winning isn't everything" really mean "winning means nothing." I'm not a big fan of absolutes so by that simple analysis alone I'm already leaning toward winning not being everything and against either extreme.

Destructive Competition

A big part of the reason why people don't like the focus on winning is the way it has been perverted in modern society. Professional sports and business are filled with people whose identities are wrapped up in whether or not they are a winner. Recently #winning became a meme on twitter for this very reason. What happens when these people lose? This is when those people get destructive. Sometimes the destruction goes internal but other times they begin to wreak havoc on those around them. It even goes as far as destroying the very thing you are competing in - most often through cheating.

Think about what steroids have done to professional sports. Sure, some people don't really care but other people think everyone is doing steroids and thus have  less respect for all the athletes. In the world of business we've seen major cheating over the past few years that has people mistrust all businesses and business leaders. Politics, an area that started out as people trying to make a difference for their communities, has had so much lying and and other deceits that politicians try to label themselves as anything but.

Constructive Competition - is it possible?

I seem to have made a case against competition as positive while also making the case that winning is everything. Now, if winning isn't everything, let's see what else is there? The most simple answer is that there is losing. Winning IS NOT everything because there is losing and there is something to be gained from losing. Of course there is only something to be gained from losing if you actually try to win.

If you are playing a sport and you always win, you aren't challenging yourself. You aren't likely to improve. In fact, in the grand scheme of things you are losing. I've written before that failure is the best option. People with the biggest wins have a history filled with losses. Losses they learned from so that they could win, cleanly, in sports, games, business and beyond.

Competition is always with yourself

The fact that sports, business and other things are set up so that you appear to be competing with others is just an illusion. In competition you are always just competing with yourself. If you are always winning because you are playing people who aren't better than you then, by not improving, you have actually lost the real competition with yourself. If, on the other hand, you are losing because you are playing opponents who are better than you but you do your best to try to win you will improve yourself and thus win in the long run.

What does winning look like?

So if you can lose and still win, how do you know if you are actually trying to win? Simple really and winners already have a good idea.

  • Research - You might be losing because you don't understand what game you are playing. We live in a world full of information. Free videos on youtube, wikipedia and blogs with much more specific information than mine. Look into better ways to play the game you are playing, you might be surprised at how quickly you improve.
  • Reflection - Do you record your game? Video, audio and good old remembering your mistakes are great tools for self improvement. Your reflections after you compete can give you very specific information about your own habits and how you can improve.
  • Preparation - Out of shape? Are you running, swimming or hitting the gym? Do you know your opponent? Knowing your opponent is clearly an opportunity to gain the upper hand in competition.
  • Anything else? - Do you see anything else that means you are trying to win? Do you have more specifics about my previous examples.

Thank your opponent

GG, good game, thank you. Your opponent, by trying to win themselves, is helping you to improve. Make sure you appreciate that. You might have to be a badass on the field but once the game is over ( or whenever else you have the chance ) make sure you show your appreciation for how hard they made you work. They might be more of a destructive competitor but that doesn't matter. Their hard work has given you the best opportunity to improve. By the way, your hard work does the same for them whether you realize it or not.

So competition can be constructive if you turn it inward and don't wrap your identity around winning. Appreciate your opponents and yourself. You both work hard in an attempt to win. I'm still doing my best to get this concept through to my son. He's just giving me the best opportunity to improve my skills as a father.

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