Better Today Than Yesterday (BTTY)
Better Today Than Yesterday
The Courage To Not Compete

The Courage To Not Compete

#53 | The competitive voice and how it's holding us back

I found myself tucked into a small seat on a long flight. Don’t cry for me, I was sitting next to one of my favorite humans on the planet, and we were on a great adventure. That adventure turned out to be more than I could ever have hoped. I’ll share some of it another time. But this may have happened 👇

He slept, and I found myself deep in a new book. The Courage To Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How To Change Your Life And Achieve Real Happiness.

I’m still working through many of the concepts, and I probably need to read it a couple more times before diving deep with you. There is something that keeps rattling around in my brain, and I wanted to share it (light edits for clarity).

When you are conscious of competition and victory and defeat, it is inevitable that feelings of inferiority will arise…Because you are constantly comparing yourself to others and thinking, I beat that person or I lost to that person. The inferiority complex and the superiority complex are extensions of that.

We need to get away from worrying about what other people think. The reality is they do less often than we think. Most importantly, we need to help each other, not compete with each other.

That’s easy to say, hard to do - especially for me. That point is important, don’t think for a minute that I don’t give credence to the thoughts of others. This is particularly true for those closest to me but also applies to strangers. I’m not immune from wanting to be admired or liked.

We need to get comfortable with the fact that we won’t be good at many things. Maybe, we won’t be the best at anything. That’s hard to swallow. The secret: The competition is in the mirror, not out the window.

I was lucky. My grandma told me I was special. I believed her. And, like most things, she was right. I know I’m special. Some of that good, and some of that bad. All of it, me.

Take Your Work Seriously, Not Yourself

We should take our work very seriously. After all, we provide for ourselves and our families. The problem occurs when our ego gets wrapped up in the equation, and a competitive voice sneaks in.

It’s too easy to look around and be judgmental and envious. I do it. I’m not proud of it, but I do. I’m human. A decade ago, I read a book that helped me with this. It was by Coach John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA national basketball championships with UCLA.

Coach Wooden was famous for telling his players not to worry about the scoreboard. He shared his father’s advice:

Focus on running the race rather than winning it…don’t lose sleep worrying about the competition. Let the competition lose sleep worrying about you.

I think that Coach Wooden believed this. That said, he used the word competition 96 times in his book Wooden on Leadership. Even for this incredible man who did so much for so many, I know winning was on his mind. It’s on all of our minds. We’re trying to survive.

Wooden just accepted the natural tendencies to compete but took action to nullify them. He took specific steps to ensure he didn’t get lost in the voices of competition.

For example, he intentionally avoided using the word ‘win’ or talking about ‘beating the competition’ with his players. He felt the joy was the journey of pushing yourself to the outer limits of your ability.

Just Because You Can Win The Game, Doesn’t Mean You Should Play

We live in a society where what we do matters, particularly in this country. Often we allow our titles, our cars, and where we went to school (or didn’t) to define us. That scoreboard doesn’t matter.

Wooden says,

Never allow anyone to define your success.

Wooden is talking about perspective. When we let others define success, we give away our perspective and seek external validation. When we own the definition, we can focus on what matters to us. Don’t give away the one thing you control - your perspective.

For me, losing is when I know I could have done better. Winning is when I do the work that matters and get better. It’s stepping away from the pixels to spend time with one of my humans. It’s going for that run even when it’s cold and I’m too tired. It’s having that hard conversation I’ve been avoiding. Or, as I shared recently, it’s setting boundaries and saying no.

I’ll leave you with this, again, from The Courage To Be Disliked (with light editing for clarity):

…once you are released from the schema of competition, the need to triumph over someone disappears.

You are released from the fear that says, ‘Maybe I will lose.’

You can celebrate other people’s happiness with all your heart.

You become able to contribute actively to other people’s happiness.

The person who always has the will to help another in times of need is someone who may be properly called your friend.

I think step one is being a good friend to yourself. And if you didn’t have a grandma like mine - you are special.

Take care, friends.

Better Today Than Yesterday (BTTY)
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