On being competitive

I don’t have a “competitive” personality. Period. I don’t care who’s ahead of me or who I am ahead of, not because I don’t have an ego. I do. Everyone does. I just don’t let it get in the way of my learning and reflection, which is super-important to me.

Even back in the school days when I was playing sports, leading teams, or participating in tournaments (both sporting and non-sporting events), my focus was on absorbing the experience, giving my best, and learning from the mistakes. Of course, this was a challenge because my coaches, peers, and everyone else around me wanted me to take things “seriously.” They wanted me to be “competitive.” I tried but failed big time as I just wasn’t myself. So, I went back to my usual ways, which helped me pull through high school.

I took my experiences over to the workplace when I started my career after high school, and I must say, barring the few instances where my peers have felt threatened (because I was better than them, at least that’s what they thought), I’ve rarely had an issue with anyone. That’s primarily due to my ability to talk things out because I believe in over-communicating ideas than ignorance. I tried to talk to the folks who weren’t comfortable with me, but I failed — it’s hard to convince innately insecure people.

I contend that being competitive and giving your best are two different things. You can do the latter consistently but keeping up with the former almost always leads to burnout or worse, permanent damage.

Yes, we can argue that it’s essential to have a competitive mindset in a competitive or high-stakes environment. But if having a competitive attitude means giving your best, what stops us from doing it during training or practice or non-competitive environment, a.k.a., regular days? Nothing, really.

I believe competitions are overhyped. There’s absolutely no difference between a regular training day when you’re giving your best and performing at a competitive stage. Your responsibilities remain the same just that our perception changes, which adds unnecessary pressure and, ironically, interfere instead of helping us performing better.

Coach extraordinaire, John Danaher, illustrates it the best using the Parable of the Plank, do listen in:

John Danaher — The Parable of the Plank

Remember, the plank remains the same but your perception changes. It’s a great metaphor not just for jiujitsu but for life.

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