I’m a big believer in competition.
My parents did a lot of great things, but one thing I’ve been thinking about lately was the idea of competition.
It wasn’t like we had a highly competitive home, but my parents let me (and my brother) compete in life.
They let us experience failure. They let us experience winning.
I think mostly they just exposed us to small things that would kind of let us in on what real life would be like in adulthood.
I don’t know what the whole participation trophy thing is or if it even exists with kids today. My childhood was not like that.
In 6th grade little league we wanted to win. We didn’t want a second place trophy. We wanted to win and my A&W sponsored team did come back and win from the consolation bracket when we had to be the undefeated team twice in the finals.
Now, in real life there are winners and losers. But there are different ways of looking at it. There are big wins and little wins. There are early stage wins and late stage wins.
For example, participating can be a win. An early stage win. If you’re terrified of just doing something then participating is a big first step. But the ultimate goal should be the big win. Succeeding. Selling. Or whatever.
You might be stuck in a non-compete mode for various reasons.
Fear. No experience. Introverted tendencies. Whatever. Maybe you’ve suppressed competition. It could be a lot of things.
But if you want to be more competitive. If you want to succeed. That’s a great first step, but here are the other steps to fueling that competitive fire.
Step 1. Forgive Your Feelings
The last link a few sentences ago gets into the psychology of competitiveness.
It’s a natural state for humans to feel competitive.
Consider the history of humans.
We live in pretty easy times right now. Grocery stores. The Internet. There is not much we have to truly work for like our ancestors did.
I was reading about the human tendency to overeat. The reason, it seems, is that our ancestors (and other animals still today) live in a semi state of starvation. They have to compete to eat. If that competitive nature isn’t there they won’t make it.
Sometimes they’re competing against others. But most often they’re just competing against nature, against themselves.
We might not have to compete to survive anymore. But we can embrace our competitive nature as a positive thing and use it to thrive.
Forgive yourself for feeling negative toward competition. You don’t have to “beat” another person. But you can work on beating life.
Step 2. Identify Your Internal Motivation
External motivation can work in the short-term. You’ll often hear professional athletes that are good at finding outside sources of motivation.
Coaches that told them they were no good.
Opponents that disrespected their skills.
A parent that said they shouldn’t follow their dream.
We’ll get into this more in Step 4, but for now it’s important to know that external motivation only works in the short-term.
Your boss may have challenged you. Or maybe he or she told you no. Or maybe a coworker is making you angry and pushing your buttons.
You can use those in the short-term, but for the long-term you need to find what fuels you internally.
What disappoints you about yourself?
What dreams do you have?
Focus there. Find the thing that really makes you feel things. Sad. Angry. Depressed. Love. All of it. When you find that use it as the sole focus for your competitive spirit.
Step 3. Embrace The Climb
The most competitive people don’t just love winning. It’s not even that they hate losing. It’s the fact that they truly love the climb. To them, winning is the byproduct of the hard work. The work others aren’t willing to do.
A dream without a plan is never going to happen.
Everybody wants to write the next great American novel. It’s a nice dream.
Everybody wants to start a business. Ideas are a dime a dozen.
Why don’t more people do things like that?
Because they don’t embrace the climb.
Look at successful people. I’ll guarantee that 99.9% of them had dreams, but they also embraced the climb. They loved the everyday grind.
You have to flip that switch if you want to succeed.
Step 4. Embrace The No’s
You can embrace the no’s that we talked about in Step 2.
If you believe all those no’s you won’t accomplish what you’re capable of accomplishing in life.
No’s can come in a few different forms.
It might be a direct form. Like a boss telling you that you can’t do something.
But it can come in more indirect forms. Like a friend just shaking their head when you tell them about an idea.
But here’s the thing… They’re probably right. Why should they believe that you can do something? Have you proven to them that you can do it?
Embrace their feedback. Use it to fuel your competitive drive.
You can prove them wrong. They probably won’t care if you do, but in the end you can thank them for helping you achieve great things. Or you can just be happy that you figured out a way to fuel your own competition.
Step 5. Embrace Your Failures
Failure is just a stepping stone.
Often our competitiveness gets tested when we fail. The world around us will often push our failures in our faces. It’s a human thing. It’s actually a form of competition. If you can shame others for failure they’ll probably stop trying and it means you can keep winning.
Don’t let failure stop you.
Do you think the bobcat cares if it misses one rabbit? Well, it cares because it might starve, but it’s not ashamed. That bobcat gets to work on catching the next rabbit. It needs to in order to survive.
Think of success as a rabbit that you need to survive. Failure is something that happens. But the more you do something the better you’ll get.
Step 6. Identify Your Enemy
Just about every successful person had an enemy. Someone to help push them. Someone that really hit those competitive buttons.
Businesses have done this really well at times. They’ll take aim at a competitor in the market. They’ll make the focus to beat that competitor. It’s something that everyone in the business can rally around.
I’m from Wisconsin. I love the Green Bay Packers.
I remember when the Chicago Bears hired Lovie Smith and he stated that his goal was to beat the Packers.
You know what? They did start beating the Packers. They made it to a Super Bowl and a Championship game in the meantime as well.
It was a clear message to the team and something they could all focus on and rally around.
You don’t necessarily need a team. You can use a rival or enemy to your advantage and to fuel your competitiveness.
Step 7. Stay In The Moment
Getting too far ahead of yourself is dangerous. So is living in the past.
Getting back to the animal kingdom.
Do you think that bobcat is thinking about the past or the future when its staring down a rabbit in a clearing?
Not even close.
All that bobcat is thinking about is getting that rabbit so it can survive to see the next day.
What can you do today that gets you closer to your goal?
Competitiveness is natural for humans. But it’s kind of been suppressed in recent years. Some people still have it and they’re usually the ones that are in successful positions. They don’t care as much what others think. They focus on themselves and their goals. They embrace their competitive instincts.
Follow the steps above to do the same.