Competition Gets a Bad Rap.

From Frozen To Freezing, But Free.

Today at the lake Hayley and I were standing with our toes hanging over the edge of a beautiful, turquoise, clear, freezing cold, glacier-fed lake.

The mission was to "go in".

With everyone watching, and with us waffling... I needed a push.

The Challenge

I turned my head over to to her and said, "The person who swims the farthest... the other person buys brunch".  She said, "Down." 

Both of our eyes lit up, and the whole squad cheered. We suddenly had a goal, something to play for, a challenge and a group of people rooting for us. The excitement broke the inertia we were sitting in one second earlier into a million pieces.

A countdown out of our control started 5...4...3...2...1...  and there was no choice left but to launch in.

There was no mental space left to worry about the cold we would immediately feel all over our bodies, or about the punch we had just taken punch to our chests from the cold gripping our muscles once we submerged.

We jockeyed back and forth, both looking at each other and wanting to stop time and time again, wondering if the other had had enough. But we kept pushing it, and before we knew it, we looked up and had nearly swam all the way across the lake.

What?! In that moment of awareness, I also realized that the pain I was in, that was coursing through my body, was more of an encompassing sensation than something bad. I was exhilarated. Alive. Safe. And in a place so far beyond what either of us would have done by ourselves. 

What Just Happened:

Without that one simple challenge to each other. This never would have happened.

I re-realized the benefits of competition in that second. And realized that it gave me two rare things:

  1. Full, unbridled, room to believe in ourselves. If I want to win I have to choose to look for the best in myself, in every nook and cranny.     
  2. A massive, sweeping, ability and license to say no. No to the pain. No to quitting. No to the voices in my head and no to the bullshit stories we are constantly telling ourselves about why we can't or shouldn't bother doing something. 

Using The Double Edged Sword 

In a peaceful, collective society, competition often gets a bad name. And, to be fair, many people in history have taken competition too far without having a bedrock of principles and respect for human dignity at their core.: lying, manipulating, suppressing,   

But if you have a solid foundation of principles, competition is a natural phenomenon that can launch us all into places we would never have gone alone or without it.

It's a game. One that we can play. And one that if we play with integrity, by the rules, (the ones that should be followed anyway), it can motivate us to achieve great things. Both as individuals and as a collective.

There's one major con: by its nature, someone "loses". Even though everyone can grow or gain if it is played well and the loss is mentally framed well. Someone isn't as good as the other person.

The Emptiness In Victory

I realized afterward, as great as that situation was. As much fun as it was. Hayley "lost". Even though what she did was badass as hell. And potentially, relatively, more badass than what I had even done. I wished we had both "won".

So it's left me in the question about this - and I'm wondering what your thoughts are: 

"Can Collaboration Out-Compete Competition"

How do we inspire ourselves and others to push themselves to come along for the ride, to create something new that neither of us thought we were capable of before, and to get an even better effect than competition could bring?

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or in the Facebook group.

Have a glorious Monday.

Gordon Swenson