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Is Competition Healthy?

On August 2nd 1955 the US announced that they would be launching a satellite into space. 4 days later the USSR announced the same for themselves and thus the start if the ‘space race’.

in 1957 the USSR successfully launched the first satellite into space — Sputnik 1.

In 1961 the USSR also successfully launched the first human into orbit, shortly followed by the first woman in 1963.

On July 20th 1969 the US landed Apollo 11 on the moon with passengers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren making them the first men in the moon.

The space race was fuelled by competition of a single objective — to be the first. It cost all the countries involved millions of dollars and several lives.

The cynic in me is saying that this was all for national pride and ego but there are lessons to take away from this about the power of envy.


Perhaps it could be argued that this is how progress is made, yet we become focussed on the medal, the money, the glory, it becomes a hollow victory.

It is like displaying the box from a toy, rather than actually playing with the toy.

Our development of communication allows us to share ideas in the advancement of things for the greater good, yet the scarcity mindset that we are all subjected to makes us copyright and patent things. It makes us go on smear campaigns against our competition and worse. All for what? The glory? The Win? Out of fear?

Sport teaches us that competition can be fun, that we can work towards being the best at something in the same game, yet we are all playing for different reasons.

Different goals

When I play golf with friends, there is a common understanding of the rules and competition, but when each is asked of their intention for the round, these range from; breaking 80, to collecting at least one birdie, to not losing one’s cool following a few bad shots.

We are all playing the same game, yet all playing a different game with the self.


Everyone is pursuing something different even if it doesn’t seem that way. Everyone faces a certain amount of struggle and process to achieve their success and while some may appear more talented or lucky than others, they will have other struggles in their life which may or may not have contributed to their success.

Objective success is not as important as the struggle.

How many failures must one have until they discover the ‘easy’ route to success? Is success for you to make beautiful music for others to enjoy, to make a modest living from the music, or to have international fame and recognition?

While recognition can provide the support you need to continue pursuing your dream we should not lose site of why we play.

The False Economy of Competition

Why do we require such fierce contest within society, within ourselves, with the world?

Think about your competition for a moment. Whether in school or business or sport or whatever it may be.

Now ask yourself, who has more experience? Who has the better education? Better grades? Better people skills? Better track record? Better family life / social life? Better skillset? Better work ethic? Sensitivities? Life events that have built resilience? Deaths? Traumas? Natural talent? Genetics? Social connections? A more nurturing environment?

The point here is that no two people are the same, so why would one expect the same outcome as the other?


We often become discouraged by our results because we are too focussed on the material like time invested or methodology and neglect to account for intangible things like grit and luck.

While our system of logic is useful, we too often become fixated on arbitrary metrics pertaining to tasks, and neglect things that shape each person differently moment by moment. The few metrics noted above are patterns that we have labelled as impactful, but only show a miniscule amount of the full picture. Who’s to say that these are the metrics that you wish to be measured by?

Your counterpart has taken a completely different route over the course of a lifetime. They have different DNA, different interactions with people and possess different abilities in a different environment, which yielded different results. Sometimes the results are ‘better’ and sometimes ‘worse’. While training and practice account for much of our perceived success, the grit or chaos factor is more difficult to pin down.

We are often too focussed on the rivalry aspect of competition, fuelled by pride, rather than having respect for our competition, being open to learning from them and working together to break barriers. The 10 second 100-meter sprint barrier remained until Jim Hines broke this in 1968. This was followed by a flurry of runners who had now accessed field of sub-10 second sprints.

Our competition is our teacher.

Learning from defeat is not some new age participation trophy, it means that the harder we try, the greater the lesson. This goes for relationships, work, studies, sport etc. The more of ourselves we sacrifice to something the harder the lesson, and the grittier we become.

Most winners are not focussed on winning. Most losers are focussed on winning.

Intrinsic competitors are focussed on survival through pushing themselves beyond their preconceived limitations. They care about strengthening their weaknesses and building on their existing assets from within. To them, the competition is to test resilience, test theories and test products in the market.

Extrinsic competitors are focussed on asserting themselves above another. They are focussed on defeating something outside of themselves, attacking the weakness of the competition and making winning the goal. To them, competition is to undercut the competition and to fight to destroy the competition rather than learn from them.

The extrinsic are focussed on rivalry and exploitation, whereas the intrinsic competitor is focussed on becoming better.

We love a good vs evil battle, and we love projecting these things onto the competitors, yet both need each other.

Jungle Is Massive.

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