Why Not . . . Stop Competing with Others?

May 23, 2012


“If you get yourself too engrossed in things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect the things over which you do have control.”

–John Wooden

Listening to yet another lecture on TED (my new favorite app), I came across John Wooden’s advice on true success. And toward the beginning of his speech I heard him state the following, “You should never try to be better than someone else.”

Believe it or not, this advice was instilled in John Wooden (the successful and well-respected UCLA basketball coach – 949-1975) growing up from his father growing up on a small farm in Indiana.

What? How can a coach (and a successful coach at that – 10 NCAA Championship) follow such a mantra? And then he explained.

“Never try to be better than someone else, always learn from others, and never cease trying to be the best you can be because that’s under your control. And if you get too engrossed and involved and concerned in regard to things over which you have no control, it will adversity affect the things over which you have control.”

A bit of a paradox most certainly. When you choose to only compete with yourself and not others, you place the responsibility of success on your shoulders, and at the same time allow yourself the opportunity to discover great contentment upon reaching your goals.

Today I’d like to take a look at why we should all strive to only compete with ourselves and leave others out of the game (figuratively speaking) per John Wooden’s advice.

1. Forces You to Take Responsibility

“How you run the race – your planning, preparation, practice, and performance – counts for everything. Winning or losing is a by-product, and aftereffect, of that effort.”

One of the creeds I try to live by (and I’m sure I’ve contradicted myself a time or two) is to not complain unless I have a solution and am willing to implement it. I place complaining and blaming in the same canoe, and if I could, I would shove them out to sea to be lost for eternity. Why? Because neither one is productive. Each one points the figure away from ourselves and towards other people whom we have no control over.

When you decide to compete with yourself, you are not keeping an eye on the competition. Instead, you are taking control of what you can control – yourself, thus putting the odds in your favor that things will get done and for the better.

What you have control over is your work ethic, your stick-to-itiveness, your passion and perseverance.  Take responsibility, put forth the extra hours, the prior planning and get to work. In the end, it will be the journey that will dictate your fate. If you remain focused, prepare yourself adequately, you have the opportunity to see much more promising results, but if you don’t choose to do the legwork, you have only yourself to blame.

2. Eliminates Unnecessary Worry and Stress

“Do those things necessary to bring forth your personal best and don’t lose sleep worrying about the competition.”

Too much time can be spent worrying about what other people have and what other people have accomplished which causes an insecure individual to exhaust themselves trying to keep up. When in reality, each of us should be focused on creating a life that is inherently congruent with our passions and values. If we spend time worrying about others’ actions, we are not spending enough time contemplating how we would like to spend our own lives.

In other words, focus on what your talents are and foster them. By doing this you will be using your finite amount of energy for good rather than wasting it worrying.

3. Realize Your Full Potential

“When you give total effort – everything you have – the score can never make you a loser. And when you do less, it can’t somehow magically turn you into a winner.”

While you may be inspired by others’ success and accomplishments, what you need to focus on is continuing to better yourself. See what is possible, but push for your own personal successes. They will be unique to you and your abilities. And what you will discover, if you keep working and refuse to give up, is that you are more capable than you ever imagined, thus allowing you to reach your true potential.

4. Discover Authentic Fulfillment

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” –John Wooden

Success defined by society often depends on how many people you have risen above, but striving for such an outcome leaves you relying on things you have no control over.  You have no control over how much someone else works.  You have no control over someone else’s God-given talents, so therefore, you will never be able to change those facts. But what you do have control over is what you do. You can choose to only give 50% or you can choose to give it your all. That is what you have control over. And no matter what the outcome is based on what society sees shouldn’t matter. What should matter is knowing you gave it your all – every last ounce. And knowing that induces a very sound night’s sleep.

A few years ago, The New York Times Magazine included John Wooden’s original Pyramid of Success. Wooden’s pyramid was the careful selection and arrangement of the habits that are the fundamentals of his definition of success, which is “peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” In other words, focusing on your abilities and maximizing them without regard to others’ talents or productivity.

After all, there is a lot in life we haven’t control over, but what we do have control of, we should pay attention to and fine tune in order to live up to our full potential, which ultimately will help us each reach contentment.



7 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Stop Competing with Others?

  1. Lovely post Shannon. I have never believed in worrying, there is no point in making yourself sick over something that you have no control over.

  2. Thank you so much, I’ve so enjoyed reading this as I am full of conflict this morning. You’ve been a great help.

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