It may not be The Hunger Games, but in this massive multi-player role-playing game called Life, we’re all competitors.
Let’s face it. There’s always someone who wants exactly the same thing you want. That job the headhunter mentioned to you (and four other people). That hot guy or girl you want to ask for a date. Even that last slice of pepperoni pizza in the box. Someone else got their eye on them too.
For many of us, competing hard is the only way to get what we want in life and work. Talent is always useful, but it’s not enough.
For almost two decades, I’ve worked in one of the world’s most competitive industries and have seen many talented individuals fizzle out. Competing is hard work. My teams have won awards in over a hundred international competitions. They also happen to be some of the most determined and resilient people I know.
Nothing is entitled, everything is to be earned. A new actor has to go to countless auditions before getting his big break. A small-business owner must compete with the big boys one customer at a time. An corporate executive has to edge out dozens of candidates to land her dream job.
What is the best way to compete in this unforgiving game of life?
Life’s like a sport. You just win differently.
Unsurprisingly, the act of competing has its origins in sports. The best athletes take on world-class competition with a finely tuned combination of preparation, discipline, focus, and performing under pressure. It’s like they locked the blueprint of winning in their muscle memory.
While in many ways life is like a sport, there is one key difference: life doesn’t have a singular definition of winning.
It’s not as cut-and-dried as being the first to the finishing line, the one to knock out your opponent, or the team to score more goals.
In sports, there can only be one winner. It’s a zero-sum game: someone wins at the expense of others. In life, there are more ways to win.
To reach the success and fulfillment that we seek, we must first understand the true spirit of competing. Here are nine powerful quotes and their wisdom to dispel the myths of what it means to compete.
Myth: The best competitors have the most talent
Wisdom: The best competitors have the most desire
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” — Mark Twain
“Do your work with your whole heart, and you will succeed — there’s so little competition” — Elbert Hubbard
“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.” — Colin Powell
At the core of one’s competitiveness lies the desire of the individual. It’s not about strategies, techniques, or skills. It comes down to, as top athletes and entrepreneurs would say, a desire to win that refuses to be denied.
Underdogs epitomize this desire. Others may have more talent, but underdogs use motivation, grit, and energy to their advantage.
These steely individuals are waiting patiently for their chance to shock the world. Don’t let their quiet demeanor fool you; they’re confident of their abilities, proud of the work they put in, and they don’t know how to give up. They make the toughest competitors.
Are you giving your all in what you do? How are you motivating yourself? What is the size of the fight in you?
Myth: You have to beat your competition
Wisdom: You are your only competitor
“The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself.” — Washington Allston
“I’m in competition with myself and I’m losing.” — Roger Waters
“I’m not in competition with anybody but myself. My goal is to beat my last performance.” — Celine Dion
If you keep looking over your shoulder, you not going to see where you’re going. When you constantly direct your competitive efforts in response to what your rivals are doing, you lose focus on yourself and your goals.
Be aware of your competition, but beware of the disease of being competitive simply to prove you’re better than others. That’s narcissistic and self-destructive.
Being in competition with yourself is the healthiest competition. Nobody needs to lose for you to win.
Set the bar for yourself. Channel your competitive fire to meet your own standards and expectations. Be the driver on your journey to success.
Who decides your goals? What would you do if your closest competitor doesn’t exist? Are you competing to succeed or just to beat someone?
Myth: The best competitor wins the game
Wisdom: The best competitor wins in life
“Competition is the spice of sports, but if you make spice the whole meal you’ll be sick.” — George Leonard
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” — Lao Tzu
“Do as adversaries do in law — strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.” — William Shakespeare
While winning after competing hard can be deeply satisfying, it’s not everything.
Abbey D’Agostina understood that. In last year’s 5,000 meters Olympics heats, she fell over fellow competitor Nikki Hamblin, who had tripped and landed in a heap.
Instead of doing the competitive (and perfectly acceptable) thing by trying to catch up with the other runners, she stopped and spent precious seconds to help the visibly shaken Hamblin to her feet while urging her on.
She did the human thing.
To all the ambitious, self-driven, super-competitors out there, you’re not robots. When pursuing your dreams and goals, you’d like to think you’re some sort of Terminator cyborg on a mission, but you’re not — you’re human. We all are.
Don’t win the race but lose one for the human race.
Control your competitive nature before it controls you, especially after you have achieved some success.
What would make a better story than winning? Can you be happy for the success of others? What do you want to be remembered for other than your accolades?
Winning in life comes from a place of integrity, respect, and self-acknowledgement. It may not be a trophy or medal that we can place on a mantelpiece, but it is the ultimate prize worth keeping our eyes on.
This article was originally published in The Good Men Project
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Thanks for reading. I’m Victor Ng, an executive coach with a passion for writing. Get my free worksheet “Adversity to Advantage” to help reframe your challenges and refocus on your goals.
Originally published at medium.com