The mentality of competition, otherwise known as competitiveness or in some cases sports psychology, allowed me to win the Seattle Half Marathon in 2002. Or maybe it was 2003. And technically it’s called The Amica Insurance Seattle Half Marathon, and technically I didn’t win it. I merely finished. Which was a win for me.
If how we compete in our brain pans wasn’t important, Coach Pete Carroll and Dr. Michael Gervais wouldn’t have founded their online and corporate educational platform Compete to Create to “…develop the team skills and mindset to succeed and innovate.” This platform is for other people, not them, Pete and Mike pretty much have competing down.
I’m not sure this makes sense, “succeed and innovate” sounds kind of vague. How about “kill and destroy?” That sounds a bit more specific.
Anyway, I’m sure it’s legit. It’s “…mindset training used by the world’s top high performing leaders, from Olympians to Fortune 100 executives, to A-list celebrities and…” damn wait a second A-list celebrities too? I’m in! I don’t want to be hanging around with no mentally messed-up, low-performing B-list celebrity, no way. I side with the winning team thank you very much. I’m going over to Compete to Create right now with my reel and list of accolades – none of which are verifiable – to sign up. Or maybe ask for a job teaching, I’m obviously super good at it.
After examining their offerings there’s some cool stuff in there like the foundational course, Finding Your Best, which results (“upon successful completion” – meaning people who don’t finish the course successfully are instantly electroshocked through their keyboards – it’s a virtual course now – which is actually way better than the previous punishment, er, re-education strategy of verbal taunts and shaming by the good doctor and Pete themselves, in a rubber room, with uncomfortable chairs) in the receipt of a nifty and exclusive (unless you know a good graphic designer) “Compete to Create High Performance Mindset Badge to showcase on LinkedIn or share on social networks.”
Speaking of which, there’s all sorts of crazy words in here – here being their website – words I don’t understand but seem important, including “mindfulness,” “high-performance mindset training,” “ignite,” “activate your potential,” “accelerate.” Woah now just hold on a second, accelerate? That sounds dangerous. Maybe this isn’t for me, even though, in all seriousness, I bet the course is very helpful and for $499.00 I’d pay for a look inside Carroll’s and Gervais’ brains.
Back to the point: Competitiveness is an affliction of the human brain that allows folks to supersede any preternatural ability, manage pain and accomplish things they, when not in a competitive state, may consider un-accomplishable.
This obviously applies to sports – which really wasn’t obvious until my 1997 smash hit college thesis Victory In Sports Is Often Attributed to Wanting to Win garnered so many awards, the most prominent of which was my diploma in English Literature, something literally no one has ever asked to see and/or verify – thank goodness because I’m not sure I ever received an actual copy – that the issue of competitiveness was thrown into the media spotlight, including a special airing of 30 for 30 on ESPN that is entirely fictional but I wished it happened.
And it’s weird to think that if I had half a brain I could have just hung out during those college years instead of paying for it and going to class. Maybe doing some sweaty, shirtless carpentry work in the summers for really attractive wealthy women – kind of like that pool guy situation from the music video Tease Me Please Me by The Scorpions – but nothing weird would happen with the lady I swear and anyway I’d just make some cash money while still learning stuff, maybe absorbing lessons from friends actually going to college. Then I’d “graduate” and go get that crappy job at a PR firm, despite not having actually gone to college and it doesn’t matter anyway because the dude isn’t ever going to ask to look at my diploma and geez see how much money I saved by not paying tuition?
Competitiveness is a big deal. The brain part of it is at least. There’s two main kinds of competitiveness and one is good and one is bad so if you have the bad one you should really look into self-improvement courses, several of which I can sell you. Don’t worry about it right now stay focused but email me later if you’re interested the whole thing is done with Dogecoin.
The first kind of competitiveness is a gear shift. It’s a drivetrain in the human brain and soul that inspires action. This action is associated with one focused goal, and any impediments to achieving this goal are recognized yet (here’s the trick) not focused upon like on an average day when idiotic, annoying obstacles arise and we’re all bent out of shape and exasperated and geek-stressed like:
“#%*$amn it why is the coffee maker broken again?” or
“They said the wait for a table is 45 minutes.” or
“My Apple Watch wonnnnnt’t updatttttttte mwahhhhh.”
The latter of which may or may not accurately reflect the mindset of the author a few days ago.
Nay, with the good kind of competitive mindset, or gear, impediments and obstacles are quickly identified, but not perseverated upon, thanks to this weird juice that flows throughout our neuro-systems in this competitive state where our singular focus transforms us into obstacle-overcoming machines.
That’s it. That’s our purpose in that moment. Overcome the obstacle. It could be a broken backboard on a hoop or playing one-on-one against someone six inches taller than us. It could be working on lactic thresholds over months to increase our endurance for a triathlon, or hitting a heavy bag so many times we want to throw up but our trainer is asking for more. No ego, no self-pity, just focus: win*.
*Sometimes we try to shift to this mindset at a bar while shooting into one of those miniature basketball hoops or playing foosball but it doesn’t work because of the beer. Or spicey margaritas. Or whatever.
We all have this good kind of competitiveness. For special folks like Simone Biles, it leads to a higher mental state that provides a tremendous capacity for both fitness and this unfathomable amount of focus that provides for the insane (and life-threatening) stuff gymnasts are wont to do. But for the rest of us it just gets us off our rears to do something without complaining.
The second kind of competitiveness is awful and couldn’t be the more opposite of the good-person kind. This second one is all about ego and status and superiority complexes. There’s no gear shift with this version; it’s a trait, which is why it rears its ugly head in the form of unsolicited and unwanted discussions of salary, vacations, apps (yes, as in a “so cool” iPhone app), various past triumphs (sporting or otherwise, ugh this one is just so lame), great meals, subtle and unsubtle put-downs about something someone else accomplished, vehicles, politics, and (most notably) the perpetrator listening to a story from whomever is in the room then promptly recounting a similar story, albeit a seemingly better version.
Granted, there are actual accomplishments in there that likely came about through a healthy dose of the first kind of competitiveness – which is laudable. Unfortunately, the second kind of competitiveness holds sway, and subsequently the accomplishment part falls on deaf ears.
So this is a call to take an inventory of what kind of competitive mindset you have. Is it the one that allows you to focus and do cool stuff, even if you’re defeated? Or is it the one that involves stepping on other people’s toes all the time, which you explain by just thinking you’re obligated, by your very nature, to compete, and most importantly win, always?
The truth of the matter is once we peel it all back it may take a while but everybody loves a loser because we can see ourselves in them. Winners, on the other hand, well winners who always have to win are hard to like. It’s helpful to throw a good dose of empathy at them though.
See you in class.