The Power of Competition

Competition is good and should be encouraged because it keeps people on their toes and makes them work harder for what they want to achieve. Without it, complacency is inevitable, and that’s a recipe for failure.

As fall sets in, sports excitement builds in my world. As long as my beloved Cincinnati Reds remain in the race for the playoffs, I can hold onto the hope of a fantastic finish to the baseball season. The start of the football season allows this quasi-Bengal fan to make believe that some realistic possibility exists of a Super Bowl trophy finally finding its way to our city in the near future. And most important to me, the fall soccer season kicks in, as I’ll spend most weekends during the next 2 months or so traveling to watch my daughter on the pitch with Slippery Rock University.

Something about the competitiveness of sport has always held a grip on me. I’m not as active as I once was, but even in my current golf game or the occasional backyard basketball game, I hate to lose. When I used to play softball several nights a week, a loss could bring me down for days. Although I’ve learned ways to better cope with the struggles of defeat, I’ve certainly carried those emotions through to my support of the teams I cheer for today.

I’ve absorbed a fair amount of criticism for my highly competitive nature through the years. I suppose it hasn’t been limited to sports, or even games in general, for that matter. I tend to be competitive about most things in life, and this approach sometimes can be too extreme. I can see how my attitude may have turned people off at times, but generally, I believe it to be a good thing. It keeps me striving to do my best (or at least better than the next person).

To a certain extent, a competitive attitude is part of human nature and contributes to the survival of the fittest. Typically, that competitive drive, which is stronger in some than others, is fed by a desire to achieve something specific, whether it’s winning a starting position on a team, placing first in a race or game, attaining a promotion or gaining a customer.

A person’s level of competitiveness is directly related to how much is invested. The more time, effort or money that is committed, the harder the individual is willing to work to protect it. From the other side, the more one cares about winning, the more he or she is willing to invest in making it happen.

On the job, the goal to outperform others makes me a better employee. Can I get my work finished faster than the guy next to me? Is my work of higher quality? Do the customers like working with me more than others? Those really are significant questions that everyone should be asking. By challenging ourselves to provide better service, both internally and externally, we produce a better product that results in longevity for ourselves and our company.

When it comes to business, we should be looking closely at how the customer is affected. If competitiveness promotes better business performance and, therefore, happier customers, then it makes sense to encourage it. Employees within an organization might compete against each other to show their value and earn higher wages or positions within the company. They do this by learning and accomplishing more and, therefore, becoming more valuable in helping the company grow. The results should contribute to the company’s overall success in its competition against other companies—the pursuit of faster delivery, higher quality, lower costs and better customer support.

By holding themselves to higher standards, companies force their competitors to do the same in order to win customers and stay in business. This competition is good for American manufacturing because the survivors continue to get better, pushing innovation and ultimately, ensuring future prosperity. When a person or group or company has no direct competitor, they must set goals so that, in a sense, they are competing against themselves, or time, or higher standards. In this way, they can continue to improve, as well.

The bottom line is that competition is good and should be encouraged because it keeps people on their toes and makes them work harder for what they want to achieve. Without it, complacency is inevitable, and that’s a recipe for failure.