To Compete or Not To Compete

When you stick like with like then they will naturally be compared and compete.

Stick kids of all the same age in a class – they will be measured, compared and compete against each other. Stick kids in a mixed age class – like Montessori does – and they can’t compete.  They actually end up helping each other out.  Siblings often can’t compete on the same terms – age differences mean that they will often never be at the same level.  Sure there is rivalry, but not really competition like is witnessed at schools.

Stick adults in a similar working environment with similar career progressions – they will be measured, compared and compete against each other.

So what’s the problem with competition?

Is it a bad thing?

Does it really push and encourage us to do better?

Do we become a better society because of competition?

I know, as an adult, I would utterly detest being compared and ranked against everyone else my age.  If I went seeking this information to see how well (or not) I’m doing compared to others of a similar age, country, gender then I’d soon be doubting myself at every single opportunity.  I would probably lose focus of who I wanted to become and be tempted into the greatness of someone else’s picture of success.

In the context of business – competition is often seen as good, but the negatives are there too.  Driving costs down. Lack of employee welfare. The pressure and stress to succeed no matter what the cost – to people or the environment. Etc. Etc. Etc. All in the name of success and competition.

The benchmarks that exist – do they really make sense or have any value?

Could some analysis and numbers really determine how well I’m doing? And how happy I am?

Maybe I would classed as happier then average, but if the average is ‘depressed’ then it’s not such a great thing.

My gut tells me competition is (often) a bad thing. We lose sight and focus of the things that are really important. We become distracted by competing on other people’s terms. And we fail to really see what is important to us – as individual human beings.

I see this in my kids as we’ve removed them from the education system – it really doesn’t register with us what other kids their ages are doing.  We look at them as individuals to help them achieve the next step in their life.  We are proud of what they achieve, not because they have achieved some kind of grade or are better than someone else, but because they have worked hard, overcome inner challenges and come out the end stronger.

I also see this in us, as parents.  The more we detach ourselves from the rat race. The more we focus on ourselves and not on what others expect of us, then the more motivated and focused we become to self improve and get to where we want to get to.

We think really hard about the decisions we make.  Is this something that we really want? Or have we been unnecessarily influenced by what others think?

Our terms. Our ideas. Our rules.

One Comment

  1. Tom

    i think the problem is artificial competition which occurs when a niche is crowded. for instance you might have someone who is the best at billiards and another at darts, they are not in direct competition as they have diversified nicehes. but in schools everyone is competing in really small niche choices, so naturally there is a lot of unhealthy cut-throat competition based on scarcity.

    For instance even in something like chess there are all kinds of variants, chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer didn’t even like regular chess towards the end of his life and invented FischerRandom/960 so that there could be more variety and inability to have hte same kind of cut-throat competition that regular chess has where it can rely on memory rather than skill or problem solving ability

    nice blog btw

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