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The Confessions of a Competitor

We have all been asked the question at some point or another in our lives, "Why should we hire you?" or "What strengths would you bring to our company?"  And more times than not I hear the word 'competitive' in their answer. Every time I do I want to ask them what exactly they do that makes them competitive? And don't tell me that you tailgate every Sunday for your favorite NFL team because that doesn't count. Being a fanatic doesn't really have anything to do with being competitive. My guess is that 99% of the people who claim to be competitive are lying. They don't understand what a true competitor is all about. But before I explain where I'm going with this, let me tell you how I got here. 

When I was younger my brother experienced the pinnacle of success in his high school sport by winning the state championship. At the end of the day that resulted in thousands of dollars in scholarships to an Ivy League university. So I would say that it was worth every minute of his time. But the funny thing about his success was that he wasn’t the most talented, he wasn’t the hardest worker, and he didn’t have the best coaching. How he ever achieved what he did never made a lot of sense to me, until recently. But let me first further explain why he shouldn’t have accomplished what he did.

#1: He wasn't the most athletic person in the state. Our father placed at states back when he was in high school and our grandfather pitched in the minor leagues but he certainly wasn't the best athlete, wrestler in the state. In the entire state of Pennsylvania, including the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Harrisburg, etc, there is just no way. He couldn't run the fastest, jump the highest, or probably do anything physically better than everyone else in the state. He was very above average athletically, but by no means the best in the state.

#2: He definitely didn't work harder than everyone else in the state. He didn't even practice all year round, he played three different sports! In today’s age that’s almost unheard of for someone who reaches the best in the state. He would participate in the regular high school practices just like everyone else and occasionally do some additional practicing beyond that, but overall his work ethic wasn’t close to some of the others in his class. All of the other competitors in the state practiced and performed all year round, with dynamic coaching. This brings me to my third point.

#3: He didn't have better coaching. He was the first and to this day the only state champion out of our high school. And his coaching just didn’t match up compared it to the likes of his competition. Some of his competitors had Olympic coaches! My brother had our local gym teacher.

Ok so he wasn't more athletic, he didn't work harder, and he didn't have better coaching, how in the world did he do it?! The answer is in one word, competitiveness. And the proof is in the way that he won it. 

He had so many dynamic wins to make it to the finals but nothing topped his finals performance. He took down his opponent with less than 30 seconds left to tie the match. Now granted, this is THE STATE FINALS MATCH, in front of 10,000 people in the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was kind of a big deal, especially to a high school kid who grew up in my house. With less than 30 seconds left he let his opponent up to give him a one point lead. My brother now had less than 30 seconds to either take down his opponent and win a state championship, or fail and look like a complete buffoon for giving away the lead. Well he took him down as time expired to win it. And when I say "as time expired," I mean it. So what led to him making such a crazy decision to give his opponent a one point lead and put the whole championship on the line with 30 seconds left?

His Competitiveness:

I am two and a half years older than my brother. Our father was very competitive and drove us to be the best that we could day in and day out. We absolutely hated it back then but it was probably the best thing for us because we developed a work ethic. I was constantly beating up on my brother growing up and our father was constantly pushing us. We were raised to be competitors. So the only thing that could explain why he let up his opponent with so little time left would be because he just wanted to go for the win. In that moment of time he envisioned his opponent the same way that he used to look at me back when we would get into a fight out on the basketball court, or the tennis court, or football field, or monopoly board, or video game. It was win or nothing. If you lost you would hear about it until the next time you played.  

There was once when he actually lost a match because he couldn’t stop an injury from bleeding that I inflicted just a couple days earlier. (Parents weren’t too happy about that one.) But the competitive nature in our house was unlike most others. I remember the look in my brother’s eyes when he would get angry at me during a game. The same look that I’m sure he gave his opponent with 30 seconds left. It’s a tough one to beat.

That and a million other experiences are how I got to this point. I'm not talking about the weekend tailgating NFL fans out there. I'm talking about the rare individuals who are what I like to call, 'super-competitors'. Those of us that ‘competition’ defines us. 

When I go to sleep at night it's what I think about. When I go to work in the morning it's what I translate everything into; a game. I translate everything in my life into a competition that I can either win or lose. If you have a good day at work today then you won the day and you are 1-0 for the week. Or you can break it down into categories; are you winning at all of the individual categories at your job? Are you ahead of your lost business expectation? Are you beating your sales projections? Did you wire that electrical socket perfectly and efficiently? Did you make a good influence on everyone around you today? Whatever you do and whoever you are around, you can translate everything into a game, or competition, and you do this if you are a 'super-competitor'.

If you do this on a regular basis, a result is that your sub-conscious starts working on 'winning games' for you. So to put that in simple terms, you will start waking up in the mornings with resolutions to your problems. It's almost magical. Your brain will think about your problems without you even realizing it. You become a constant problem solver. Consciously and sub-consciously you are constantly solving problems and finding ways to win. But be careful, because enough of this and your life will slowly evolve to revolve around competition. It's not necessarily a great thing, but you will win at more things more often if you live like this. Even if it’s only because so few others are dedicating as much time and energy as you are at winning these made up ‘games’ in your head. Winning becomes your priority. Let me explain. Here are some of the confessions of a competitor. 

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@ WORK:  you are winning to put it in Charlie Sheen terms.  This is where the 'super-competitors' thrive. From my experience, most of your competition at work is so preoccupied with their family life and other outside factors that they don't have a chance to keep up with you at your job. Its simple math, if you dedicate more time to something than your competition, you are more likely to be successful at it. But success at work is critical. If you don’t succeed at your job and you are dedicating more time to it than everyone else, you are either in the wrong position or you are lacking passion. So there is absolutely pressure to be successful at work. But you have the time available to invest in doing exactly that.

Be passionate with everything you do while investing your time and energy into the right areas and you will win at your job. You will win simply because you have more time and energy to invest than others. So, good luck to those of you with families that are going to try and beat me at my job. You don't stand a chance. But for all the good, there is some bad to this lifestyle.. 

@ RELATIONSHIPS:  ok so we are absolutely terribleeeeeee at these. Or maybe that’s just me. At least it will seem like this until you are at the right age. If you are super competitive, you are always seeking something better. So naturally, if a more attractive woman comes across your path, your natural instinct is going to be to pursue her and try to win her over. It’s the natural competitor’s instinct. It’s not even necessarily about wanting a relationship with that woman; it’s about ‘winning’ her over. And don’t act like you don’t think about the same thing.  It's extremely difficult for ‘super-competitors’ to settle into a relationship because we are always seeking to better ourselves and those around us. You can call it immaturity; I call it being super-competitive. But just like everyone, there is a time to settle, and that time is when you are in your prime.

Realizing when you are in your prime is an inexact science. If you follow this theory, you have to know yourself and when you can expect yourself to be in your personal ‘prime’. Think about it like this, wouldn’t it be most beneficial to you if you found your significant other during the time when you were at your personal absolute best? And then vice versa? Yes. If you do this then you maximize your results for a relationship. You are able to find the best significant other when you are at your best! I believe that you MUST find a significant other that is able to make you a better person, and someone that you have the same impact on.

If your significant other is dragging you down, hindering your own success, then you are in a bad relationship. My bottom line rule is this; if I believe that she can make me a better person, then I am willing to give a relationship a chance. But if you are insecure in yourself it quickly exposes itself, and you won’t ever reach your full potential or help me reach mine, so no opportunity is granted. If you are insecure in yourself then you certainly can't help me make myself a better person. My goal in any relationship is to make my significant other a better person. If they become the best person that they can be, and they help me become the best person that I can be, than at the end of the day we will both win. The relationship, each individual, and all the people and businesses involved in the process. A win, win, win. 

But the ideal relationship is almost impossible to find. Most people are so insecure that if you are a super secure, super competitor, relationships are hard to find and they generally don't last very long. With personal security comes independence, the opposite of dependence. And dependent is what people become when they are insecure and in a relationship. The dependence that is required for any insecure person to be in a relationship leads to an unproductive relationship. An independent relationship with two secure people is a productive relationship that each of you can help each other build upon. Simply put, confidence is attracted to confidence, secure is attracted to secure, and independence is attracted to independence. Isn’t the saying, misery loves company? Don’t live in misery.