The Problem With Competing

DON’T COMPETE

We live in a very competitive world. We have the idea of competition engrained in us when we are very very young. We are told that we have to try harder and do things better than everyone around us so that we can succeed. In school, we have to be at the top of the class. In sports, we have to be the MVP. Winners are recognized by society and we all desire significance on some level. Indeed, the idea behind winning is that we have performed better than everyone else doing the same activity as us and we should be recognized for being outstanding. I do admit that there is some value in competition. In certain situations it causes people to try harder and push past their previous perceived limits. On another level though, competition is one of the major causes of unhappiness in our culture. The constant stress of outperforming others can lead to some just “shutting down” instead of pressing on harder. Competition also creates constant fear that we may lose our jobs, our businesses, our titles and status to others. This fear can be useful if it leads to massive action and creativity, but I think in most instances this is simply not the case. From what I have observed, the opposite is true.

Competition kills creativity. This may fly in the face of what you’ve been told since childhood, but I stand by the statement. By definition, if you are competing against someone, you are doing the same thing as them, only attempting to do it better. This is the opposite of creativity. This is a form of copying. In the business world this is easily observed. Most companies start out trying to do the exact same thing as their competition, only perhaps make it slightly better or more convenient. Sometimes, businesses are engaging in the exact same activity and a customer would have a difficult time distinguishing between them. By copying what others are doing, the creative process of building something new is shut down. So much focus is given to outperforming the other, innovation takes a back seat. However, when you look at the most respected companies throughout history, most of them are recognized for being the first to do something or drastically improving the way something is done. The fifth company to the marketplace is rarely recognized, but that is what most people do- they start companies that are copies of others, or they get a job in the marketplace without giving much thought to what special skills will set them apart and allow them to do something unique.

Our world is in dire need of innovation. We need brand new technologies and ideas to drive humanity forward, but society teaches us from an early age, especially in our primary schools and universities to compete with each other for the same prizes, as if there was one pie and we all have to fight to get a slice. The truth is that through the creative process, we can all expand the size of the pie, or create a different prize all together. Get a piece of cake instead of pie. The world is not “dog eat dog”. In fact, dogs don’t really eat each other anymore, so I think it’s time to throw at that whole phrase and start working to build something new to benefit mankind. This requires that we use our mind as much as our bodies. Humanity must continue to evolve in its thinking and use the untapped mind-power we were blessed with at birth. Yes, it’s hard to think creatively in a world with constant noise. We have information at our fingertips today, but it’s not necessarily leading to more creativity. Much of it is just more noise. Our brains cannot process all the information it receives while at the same time trying to engage in creative thinking. The noise must be quieted in order for our minds to generate new ideas. Everyone is capable of creativity so long as we are not preoccupied with keeping ahead in the proverbial rat race. Break out of the race and blaze a new path. If you are an athlete, take your focus off the competition and put it on bringing something new and phenomenal to your sport. Develop a system, rituals or technology that allows you to surpass what you were previously capable of.

Happy New Year. May the coming year be a never ending fountain of creativity and energy for you and your family. Spend time thinking about new ideas. Who knows, if you’re trying to build something new, you might just do so!

In Health,
Sean

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