It was still dark outside as we walked over the hill toward the football field. Just after 6:00 am last Friday on a brisk Texas morning. The plan had been laid out the night before. Sprint the field. Walk the end zone. Line up and go again. 16 straight was the goal. For the record, I hadn’t run a 100 yard sprint in well over a decade.
Sprint No. 1 felt good. Sprint No. 5 did not. My hamstrings started to tighten and my lungs burned. On sprint No. 10, I realized I was going to vomit. I wanted to stop. I glanced at my brother. He was all in. Sprint No. 16. We finished the game.
Mainly exercise. We didn’t consider it a race. That is simply shared understanding that comes from a lifetime of head-to-head competition. I knew he wanted to run me into the ground, and I was determined that wasn’t going to happen. Our sibling rivalry has evolved and today I am proud to call him my best friend. We make sure and make the time to support each other in everything we do. Always have. However, we both welcome the healthy competition. I believe we’re both better because of it.
Growing up was a daily exercise in competition. Our age difference resulted in a big advantage for me. (We still reminisce about my signature 3rd round knockout in boxing to give you some context. Boxing gloves are a terrible Christmas gift for young boys.). I never held back. He never quit. When age was no longer an advantage, I had to reach inside to find the resolve he had developed from years of being the underdog. We learned how to compete together, and I wouldn’t trade those life lessons for anything. They still apply today.
I do believe these are abundant times, and there can be enough for everyone. I make it a habit to try and refer other people work. I believe in connecting, sharing, and having a generous spirit. However, I know that business is a competitive sport. At the end of every RFP there is only one winner. You don’t capture any revenue or a commission check for second place.
I am often hired to help companies compete and win. We’re all competing today. If it isn’t for new business, it’s certainly for time, attention, interest, investment, resources, jobs, promotions, share of market and opportunity. The world of work is a very competitive place.
Last year I was being considered for a speaking engagement at a company’s annual global leadership retreat. The client selected another speaker. When they delivered the news, they were very gracious and talked openly about future opportunities. I inquired about their selection and was floored to find out that their short list included two of the very best leadership speakers in the business and me.
I was so honored to be in such prestigious company, I actually called my brother to share the good news. That short conversation went something like this:
Ryan: Dude. You aren’t going to believe this. I was on the short list for a speaking engagement, and I have to tell you who else the client was considering…
Chad: Great. Who won the business?
His simple question offered some valuable perspective.
That was the first, last and only time I can remember celebrating a lost sale. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned about competition:
- Preparation – You have to put in the work. Confidence counts for a whole lot in competition and that usually emerges from being prepared. Case in point I was wholly unprepared to run 100 yard sprints. Preparation usually includes lots of practice.
- Progress – Competition naturally includes setbacks, adversity and failure. That is skill building if we are learning in the process. I lost that sale and a few more since. I can live with that as long as I am learning, growing and getting better. It is important and fulfilling to be moving forward and making measurable progress. Are you a little bit better today than yesterday?
- Purpose – You will compete hard when meaning and significance are attached to the outcome. That often includes making a positive difference in the lives of others. That could be family, friends, colleagues, customers or complete strangers.
- Pride – Go ahead and take it personally. That simply means you are invested and it really matters. Or, perhaps it could mean you don’t want your brother talking about how he ran you into the ground one Friday morning in Texas.
My favorite advice about competition is simply this: Always Do Your Best. “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”
Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sales people and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.