A little competition is never a bad thing. It forces you to get focused, bring your best game and strive to succeed in that moment. The problem is that for most of us, when the moment is over, the value of the moment is lost on us, even if we won. Heck, even if we lost, there is value in the moment, but only if you understand who you were competing against.
Now don’t get me wrong, we all like to win. Once the competition begins, a true competitor must be willing to do whatever it takes to leave the competition battered, bruised, broken and utterly defeated. You have to be willing to go that hard because your competition isn’t just going to roll over and play dead. If they are worthy, they want to leave you battered, bruised, broken and utterly defeated as well. In the end, you’re both going to take your lumps, and someone will be declared the winner, but there is no loser if you understand the value of the battle.
The value of head to head competition is not whether or not you won the battle. It is whether or not you became more likely to win the war. The battle is a measurement tool, nothing more. So, let me warn you right now not to get lost in the accolades of winning the battle. They can be distracting and exciting and, at least temporarily, profitable, but there will always be someone coming who thinks they can knock you off your throne, and if beating the next opponent becomes all that matters to you, eventually somebody will.
The real value of the competition is the in the knowledge you gain about your own competence. It tells you how close you are to playing in the big leagues, competing with the best of the best, and advancing confidently towards your goals as a result. But, understand this, if you have a clear vision of where you want to go in your life, what you want to achieve, and WHY, then you should have been competing with yourself, and only measuring yourself against the elite in your field.
If you want to be the best there ever was at what you do, more power to you, I hope you make it. In fact, I fully support every effort you make to get there, but I want you to be aware of one crucial fact. If your motivation to be the best of the best at whatever you do is simply to be better than who or whatever is the best right now, you may very well find that when you get there, you wasted your time because the results don’t match your expectations.
You need to know why you want to be the best. You need to measure yourself today against yourself yesterday, without concern for where the competition is. You need to be sure you are improving, but, more importantly, you must be sure that your improvement is taking you in a direction that will ultimately place you where you want to be, on your terms.
Model your competition, learn from them, learn what made them successful and what you want to be successful at, but don’t do it just to compete with them. Do it to arrive at your vision of success, which is almost certain to be different from theirs.
Let’s face it, you don’t want to put your ladder up against the competition’s wall, just to find out, when you finally get to the top, it’s the wrong wall. Climb your own wall by competing with yourself to get better every day. Learn from your competitors, become better than your competitors, but don’t compete with your competitors, compete with yourself. If you win that battle, you’ll come out on top, on your terms, and there is no better place to be.