This post was written by Tom Ewer, a regular contributor for MyWifeQuitHerJob.com!
Earlier this year I started running again.
It is something that I had got into back in 2009 but it didn’t last the cold English winter. This time around I have managed to keep going and I put that down to two things — setting a target of running a marathon in January, and having my father around to feed my competitive spirit and push me along.
I cannot stress how valuable competition is in all walks of life.
Whether it’s running or business, having someone (or something) to compete against can push you to achieve so much more than you would otherwise be capable of.
The Power of Competitive Spirit
To give you an indication of this in action, I want to take you back to my first time running last summer — which was also my first time running any considerable length for a couple of years.
It would be fair to say that my father and I are pretty competitive. In fact, I think one of the best qualities my dad instilled in me is my competitive spirit. So when we got about a mile away from the end of the run, all it took was his (supposedly innocent) comment of, “Wow — you’re still keeping up with me” to turn a leisurely running reintroduction into a fully-fledged race.
I felt that the old man needed to be taught a lesson, so I slowly started to apply the gas (in spite of my shocking lack of fitness), and edged a yard or so past him. That held for a half mile or so, before I decided to put the competition to bed and push on. I sped up, and before long, was a good 20 yards in front.
There was just one problem — I had misjudged my burst horribly. With still a good 300 or so yards to go, I had nothing left. Those last few steps were pretty tortuous.
When I reached the finish line, I was a wheezing wreck. But I had “won” — and pushed myself far more than I would’ve done had I ran alone (or with someone less competitive).
Why is Competition So Effective for Businesses?
The above story could act as an analogy for any number of business stories — from Microsoft vs. Apple to Walmart vs. Target.
Whether you like it or not, competition sets benchmarks that we cannot help but compete with. It gives us direction and goals. For instance, if Apple hadn’t released the original iPhone back in 2007 with astonishing results, we would not have seen the wealth of competing smartphones.
Look at it this way: if company A produces product B and company C produces a competing product D, company A is going to be compelled to improve the design of their product B. If product D had never been existed, Company A may still have strived to improve their product, but the incentive and drive would not have been nearly as high.
Competition is Good
Having someone to compete against can push you to achieve more than you thought you were capable of.
If you ever find your desire to achieve your goals flagging, you need to find someone to compete against. Someone who can make you do more than you thought you were capable of. Because achieving great things is always so much easier when there is an external influence driving you.
If your competitor is alongside you, you should push hard to best them. If they’re ahead of you, don’t be discouraged — use it as motivation. Today they might finish their run 20 seconds before you — maybe tomorrow you can close that gap to 15 seconds. There’s always another day in which you can compete afresh. I know that’s what my dad was thinking after our run.
And remember — it is arguably better to be slightly behind then way out in front. Ultimately, you want to be the best that you can be. From that perspective, other people’s achievements are irrelevant — your best either will or will not be good enough to beat the rest. Being too far in front will make you lazy. The challenge of competing against someone slightly better than you is the perfect scenario.
So if you have someone or something to compete against, take a moment to appreciate that fact and remind yourself what you are trying to achieve in the context of that competition. And if you have no competitors, now might be the time to try and understand why.
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