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Competition

Toward a Competition of Collaboration

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The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way. – Seth Godin

Competition has problems.

I don’t like to compete. I am definitely an ambitious person, but I am just not competitive. I don’t mind the fact it takes me a long time to reach the finish line of a race. I don’t see a problem with all children getting medals when they participate in elementary school athletics. When I watch the Olympics, I am more interested in the stories of the athletes and appreciating how hard they all had to work to compete at that level than in who wins the events. Bottom line. I don’t think competition is the be all and end all of success. 

Competition encourages judgment of ourselves and others.

I try not to compare myself to others. I try not to beat up on myself. I don’t care if I am popular, especially if it means I have to be mean. I am not afraid to hold a mirror up to myself and question my assumptions and push myself in the direction of improvement. To me there is a difference between judgement of ourselves and others, and reflection and introspection. Competition is born of judgement. Reflection and introspection are the impulse to be the best people we can be. That distinction is important.

Competition is not the only path to motivation.

I am not motivated by competition. I was taught that competition is the only path to success, and perhaps the antidote to failure. I never bought into that idea. My definition of success is bigger than winning, and I think some of my greatest experiences have happened as a result of failure. I am a huge sports fan, and I have witnessed the power of a team to motivate. Motivation in that case does not necessarily come from an individual’s desire to win. Today, I run races not to win, but to feel adrenaline propel me forward toward a healthy mind and body. My motivation comes from a deep love of what I am doing and a desire to be better.

Competition is at odds with creativity.

I am not creative when I am stressed, and competition stresses me out. Competition interrupts my flow. Creativity requires a soft edge, a careful chisel from which to carve angels rather than a sledgehammer to knock the hell out of something. Competition is like a sledgehammer to me. I want to be creative more than I want to compete. I want to be part of a process by which focus and determination look more like inspiration and breath rather than fists and walls. For me, creativity is the foundation of innovation and invention – the “new way” suggested by Godin. I want my edge to be a “new way.” In this rapidly evolving world where today’s cutting edge is tomorrow’s cliche, innovation and invention are critical.

Competition supports the false dichotomy of winners and losers.

I question the value of having losers and winners. Those titles bother me. There appears to be a false dichotomy in which two ends of a spectrum are presented as the only options. You can either be a winner or a loser. That does not make sense. Having experienced the subjectivity of labels, the fluidity of winning and losing, and the value that can be found in each, I need another way. My way would lose the labels. My way would change the landscape of possibility. If someone is a loser one day, they don’t have to be that way the next. They can figure out what to learn from losing and win the next time. Likewise, someone won’t be a winner just because they are born with money, or are good looking, or are the most ruthless and cunning, or are the most physically talented.

Competition asks us to believe we don’t have enough.

At its worst, competition is based on the idea the there is just not enough to go around. Competition perpetuates the notion that we must protect what we have. Build bigger fences. Hoard our resources. Hide away in the depths of our stuff and make sure no one takes anything. Competition does not leave room for cooperation, collaboration, and sharing. In a competitive environment only the fittest survive, so you better prepare to fight. That seems wrong to me. There is an inherent cynicism to competition that looks sideways at all those around us. Competition does not recognize the way in which the world is abundant and people are interdependent.

Competition embraces the future.

Our future will be built on a competition of collaboration. Our world demands a competition of collaboration. A competition of collaboration will involve: sharing resources toward common good, cooperating to develop solutions to pressing issues, and acting upon our interdependence in meaningful ways. In this future, winning looks like: the eradication of famine and disease, the protection of our earth, and the elimination of war. A competition of collaboration will ask a lot of us. It will ask us to be brilliant as we seek answers, kind as we work together, and fearless as we take on big challenges.

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