You would always beat me; not so much because you are a better fighter as because you will not accept defeat.
The Sword of the Spirit
I come from a rather large family, with the three oldest kids, all boys, being born within 26 months of each other.
The competition among my brothers and me was fierce and often bloody as we pushed ourselves to outdo the other guy... be it athletics, academics, acquiring friends, or just to garner our parents attention.
Our self-esteem was often predicated on winning, no matter the contest or the prize.
Our competitions were not unlike that found in nature... the alpha dog leads the pack... and we each wanted to be that dog... there was no room for second place.
It was this competition that ultimately made each of us stronger and smarter... we just simply hated to lose... no matter the situation.
As my brothers and I got a bit older, we soon came to realize that in fighting amongst ourselves was really a losing battle.
In our quest to win or maintain our place on top, we lost our focus. Instead of trying to better ourselves, we were content in making the other person lose.
Once we came to realize this principal, our competition against each other ultimately turned into an environment of cooperation.
As opposed to trying to cause someone we loved and cared about to lose (indirectly causing us to win), we finally discovered we could team up and become an unstoppable force.
We came to recognize that each of the brothers had unique talents and that if we work together to hone those talents into skills, our team could excel.
As individuals, we were scrappy... but we ganged up as a team... we were scary good.
Competition is good as it pushes us to find individual success... but winning as a team requires much more than individual effort... it requires helping others to grow along side of us... pushing each other to give their maximum effort to help make the team better.
The team, more often than not, is better than the sum of its individual parts.
In a capitalistic society, such as the United States, competition is theoretically employed in the markets to make goods and services better while helping to drive down costs...
The best and the brightest compete for coveted slots at the best schools. Later these same people compete for the jobs that will allow them to use their skills and talents.
This competition continues throughout our lives, be it trying to keep up with our neighbors or politicking for that new promotion at work. We buy big houses, drive fast cars, and wear fashionable clothing that attempts to distinguish us as being "successful".
Our children have become our surrogates, as we use them to show off our supposed superior parenting skills... many times at the expense of our kids’ own happiness.
We measure our self-worth and contribution against each other... reliving the glory days of the past or hoping for a better future (incidentally these are basically the Republican and Democratic presidential campaign slogans going into this year’s election).
Often, this endless quest to beat the competition leaves us empty and unfulfilled... so much so, that many of us turn to self-medicating ourselves with a variety of prescription medications, alcohol and now recreational marijuana.
But like my brothers and I discovered some 40 years ago, the new generation of Millennials are finally beginning to understand the concepts behind cooperation and team rather than competition.
Today, the millennial generation has foregone the competitiveness of the boomer generation.
In doing do, they have discovered that they no longer have the desire to acquire possessions as symbols of success.
To most millennials, investing in shared experiences far outweighs that of purchasing more unwanted and unneeded "stuff".
They would rather be a part of a team doing something great than going at it alone.
This aversion to having no significant possessions has allowed them to stay mobile as well as giving them the opportunity to take greater risks... simply because they have less to lose.
This lack of things has also given rise to the great sharing economy instead of a consumer society.
Today, young people no longer feel the need to "own", knowing that they can "rent" whenever the need arises.
Their homes are shared, their transportation is shared, and their office space is shared.
In their workplaces, collaboration has replaced competition.
Companies are now working within this new shared resource environment to reinvent themselves and the way they look at productivity at work.
These companies are now finding themselves renting (or leasing) employees to complete specific tasks and/or projects... rejecting the notion of owning (hiring) in lieu of sharing.
For millennials, this is a good thing as they have acquired a very specific skill set that can be rented to a variety of businesses rather than being tied to one particular company.
For boomers and older workers, this notion is frightening as they are hard pressed to find full-time employment.
Boomers are typically competitors who want to beat their opponents... whereas millennials are only in competition with themselves.
This is the battle between external competition and internal competition.
With external competition, we attempt to beat an opponent... conversely; internal competition only tries to better ourselves against our own past performance.
Competing against ourselves takes discipline and self-determination.
It forces us to exit our comfort zones and to push ourselves to achieve new levels, bench-marking our progress each step of the way.
When we compete with ourselves, we no longer measure our success against others but rather we strive to make each moment, each day, and each year incrementally better than the time before.
In order to truly better ourselves, we need to remove ourselves from the habits that make us comfortable and move into uncharted waters stretching our limits and exploring new horizons.
We can never be satisfied with the status quo as that concept is a moving target... and once we finally get to the place we want to go... that place will change so we need to be prepared to move forward yet again.
Resting on our past successes does nothing to prepare us for the future challenges that lie ahead.
Competition is good... but only when we compete with the one person that really counts...
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