Competition is for the Weak and Lazy

“The only way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition.” ~ Kim & Mauborgne

“Average ones compete with others. Great ones compete with themselves.”
Vadim Kotelnikov

“There is nothing noble about being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.”
Hindu Proverb 1

“people experience more anxiety and perform worse when they purse performance avoidance goals — when they try to avoid comparing poorly to others, as opposed to just doing their best”
Stereotypes and the Fragility of Academic Competence, Motivation, and Self-Concept
Joshua Aronson and Claude M. Steele

There’s an idea going around that competition makes us stronger. It doesn’t. Competition comes from and produces weakness, stupidity and laziness.

However, I’m not going to come out and say that competition is a bad thing. It’s not. Not for third parties. Competition is almost always good for third parties, because third parties get to (1) be entertained and (2) enjoy the fruits of the competing parties’ labors. For example, when companies compete 2, the consumer gets to see awesome commercials, use better products and and enjoy lower prices. 3

But competition is bad for the people competing. And it’s actually a sign of the emotional weakness and laziness of the people competing. People compete because they could think of nothing better than to put themselves in boxes and measure themselves by standards that they themselves did not create. People compete because they lack the strength of character to judge themselves by their own standards. People compete because they were too lazy 4 to do something as simple as track their own stats and compare themselves to themselves, so instead they just casually look around and try to rank themselves.

Competition is for the stupid and easily duped.
I know that that sounds harsh. It’s kind of supposed to.

You’re never going to truly win by competing in a game you don’t own or control. If you’re not a ruler, a rule maker, you’re a pawn. At best you’ll be used and then thrown away when a newer, shinier pawn comes along because — surprise! — it’s not your game. Do you think most movie stars lead good lives? No, movie financiers lead good lives; most movie stars are pawns. Do you think most professional athletes lead good lives? Again…mostly pawns. Do you think most authors and artists lead good lives? Most of them are so stupid, so misinformed, so distracted, that they’re desperately trying to become pawns.

OK, let’s reel this in before it spreads itself too thin and collapses from the weight of over-generalizations, internal contradictions and non-existent fact-checking. What’s that? All my posts already do that? Yeah, screw you 😛 .

Um…

  • Collect your own stats
  • Compare your stats against your stats
  • Compete only against yourself…and newborn babies

I’m not asking you to re-write society. I’m not even suggesting it. I am suggesting that you rule by being the one in charge of the ruler (as in measuring device; I’m being punny here). That you be the one making the standards. Even if you’re playing someone else’s game (which you inevitably will be in at least some or even most parts of your life), even if you’re playing with other people, play by yourself for yourself.

Do you think Michael Jordan was playing basketball with other people? No. He was there on the court with them; he talked to them; he would use the ball with them, but he was playing alone, against himself. Whose records do you think he was breaking? Only his own 5. Michael Jordan wasn’t really in the NBA, he was more just at the NBA, doing his own thing.

Call it solipsistic competition. It’s more fun. You’ll be happier. And those are just the subjective points. Solipsistic competition is also more objectively accurate. Yeah, I said it. I said it in Tokyo, I said it. The only way you’re ever going to do a meaningful comparison is by doing one against yourself. Any other kind of comparison is just gay. Gay as in entertaining, like musical theater, but ultimately a waste of time, money and energy. Except for the people who sell tickets to musical theater, that is. OK…I’m losing focus and trying to cloak discrimination in humor here. And it’s not working.

Say you’re with a group of people, in…I dunno…a Japanese class. Look at you go, comparing yourself to the others and despairing (or — almost as bad — comparing yourself to the others and thinking you’re awesome: yeah, congratulations on being better at Japanese than other gaijin: here is your Bugger All Award).

You idiot. Stop doing that.

They didn’t start playing Japanese at the same time as you; they weren’t born at the same time as you; they’ve had life experiences completely different from yours. So what the heXX are you doing comparing yourself to them?

It’s like…it’s like freaking taking a roomful of people who’ve been doing completely different things all day, and then comparing how sweaty and smelly they are, and then saying that the person who’s been doing nothing all day is more hygienic because they smell better. It’s a meaningless, arbitrary, unjust, stupid comparison exercise.

If you can’t accurately compare two people who’ve been doing different things all day, how can you compare people who’ve been doing different things for their entire lifetimes? No, how? Tell me. I actually want to know…

Competition is for the weak, stupid and lazy. Competition is for pawns playing 6 on other people’s chessboards.
Read my full, pouty, luscious lips: Gladiators. Were. Slaves. Competing their guts out (sometimes all too literally) for other people’s entertainment. Epic musculature and glistening man-flesh aside, let me be the first to assure you that they were not in a power position.

Competition is not about setting yourself apart. Competition is not about difference. Competition is about sameness. To be competing with others, you have to be the same as them, to be comparable to them.

Don’t be a gladiator. Not even a modern one. Make your own game. Make your own rules. Make your own chessboard. Feel free to borrow rules and tools from existing games, but don’t feel bound to them. Play by yourself, for yourself, against yourself.

You aren’t comparable.
You don’t want to be comparable.
You want to be incomparable.
You are incomparable.
The only person it’s fair or even possible to compare you to is yourself.

Man up. Grow down. Return to your pre-social awareness toddler state 7. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Collect your own stats on yourself and see how you’re doing against other versions of you. That’s the only game in town. Worth playing, anyway. Subjective enjoyment and objective accuracy, all in the same package…you can’t beat that 😉 .

Notes:

  1. Supposedly…like, you seriously never know with these online sources, do you? 😛
  2. When countries compete at war, arms dealers and non-competing third countries win. There’s a sweet Japanese word for this, too: 漁夫の利
  3. Of course, companies can benefit themselves without screwing over consumers, through cooperation — joint ventures and stuff. Then you have cartels, where companies, in the broad sense of the term, cooperate to screw over consumers, but…whatever. Not what we’re talking about anyway.
  4. Not good lazy. Not charming, Mediterranean lazy. Bad lazy.
  5. OK, not “only”, but a heckuva lot of the time. You get the idea. No one in his time was even on the same level, really. He towered over the league; like Palpatine, he was the Senate 😛 .
  6. And well, really…being played 😉
  7. Before publishing, I had a typo here and it read “Toddler stat”, and I was thinking how…Dutch/German that sounds…Toddlerstaat. Or it could even be, like, a sinister Afrikaans word for some sort of pre-1990 government policy of moving toddlers to the…no? Too raw? Sorry…just…having a random offensive moment.

  16 comments for “Competition is for the Weak and Lazy

  1. Hashiriya
    November 24, 2011 at 10:08

    Unfortunately this is the mindset that most college professors have… You either know it then or make an F

    • Ken
      December 13, 2011 at 06:15

      Were you listening at all?  This isn’t about the professor.  No matter what the professor is thinking, if *you* stop thinking of competing with your classmates, *you* will do better at the task at hand.  Even if the task at hand is something completely artificial, like taking a test in college, or throwing a rubber bouncy ball through a metal hoop.
      This would be like Michael saying “that isn’t the mindset that most NBA referees have”.  Yeah, even if it’s true, who cares?  What possible difference does it make?  When you stop thinking about competing, the end result of this is “you get a better score on the test”.  In what world is that not a useful thing?
      Or, I guess you could wait around for these “most” people to come around to your mindset before you do anything.  Good luck with that.

  2. lisbet
    November 24, 2011 at 13:25

    I’m a doctoral student, so I needed to read this post. My life seems to be about competing against others- for funding, for jobs, to write the most excellent research… etc. Or, in the case of people who study Japan, such as me, to be the most fluent.
    I’ve spent too long beating myself up, telling myself that I am bad at learning languages… when really, I’m bad at certain ideas other people have about how I should learn a language.
    I really enjoy your writing and your attitude. Someday when my dissertation becomes a book, I’ll be thanking you in the credits.

  3. Carmen G
    November 24, 2011 at 18:03

    I wish this was written and read around when I was at music school. For some reason only bass players seemed to understand this idea.

  4. Lionee
    November 29, 2011 at 05:55

    Hey just wanted to say thanks for this post.
    Its made me realise something about myself, I remember always thinking it’s best not to compete with others, just because logically there’s always someone better then you so why waste energy.I thought if I didn’t do that then technically I’d be competing with myself but I soooooo wasn’t I was competing with the idea of me(or should I say the ideal me, so there’s no margin for error or improvement, I can’t compete with an ideal I’m slaughtered as soon as I step in the ring). My logic wasn’t objective enough and I hadn’t consider all the factors. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply this now and finally meet and compete with myself. 🙂  

  5. October 12, 2012 at 11:41

    My father is a world-class triathlete, and has been saying “only measure yourself against your workout log” to me since I was in Toddlerstaat.

  6. MarcM
    July 28, 2013 at 22:11

    Your seventh superscripted note was hilarious, but maybe that’s just me. Keep it coming, haha.

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