“A competitive world offers two possibilities. You can lose. Or, if you want to win, you can change.”
“I don’t meet competition. I crush it.”
Competition is the quickest way to improve self confidence and expand the boundaries of what you believe is possible for yourself.
There are two types of competition, healthy and unhealthy. Healthy competition occurs when two or more individuals or groups vie against each other for territory, resources, a niche, a mate, prestige, recognition, or any other award. Healthy competition pushes and stretches everyone involved, allowing personal and professional growth regardless of winning or losing.
Healthy competition creates a kind of productive tension between the two parties involved. The best example of this tension in recent years was between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The entire world benefited from their rivalry.
Unhealthy competition is when two or more individuals or groups strive to hold each other back from an award. Unhealthy competition is based on fear and hampers the development of everyone involved. Developing as a leader and learning how to develop others is impossible in an unhealthy environment.
Healthy competition is fueled by jealously, while unhealthy competition is fueled by envy. Jealousy involves three parties, the competitor, the rival, and the award. A healthy competitor’s focus is on the award. Conversely, envy involves only two parties, the competitor and the rival. An unhealthy competitor’s focus is on the rival.
Jealously and envy are controlled by separate parts of the brain. Japanese researchers performed MRI scans on 19 students to monitor their brain activity while the students talked about their personal rivals and the awards both they and their rivals valued. The study showed that a small part of the students’ frontal lobe became more active. This part of the brain is the same part that detects physical and mental discomfort.
Then the researchers had the students read a story in which their rivals suffered a series of misfortunes, including food poisoning. The MRI data showed that the mishaps sparked greater activity in the reward part of the brain of some of the students. This part of the brain also lights up when someone receives a promotion or wins a poker hand.
The key to being a successful competitor is to respond positively to the discomfort of rivalry while conditioning your mind to not enjoy your rival’s misfortune. However, even healthy competitors want to crush the opposition. Healthy competitors put their rivals out of business by elevating themselves, rather than by bringing their rivals down. Here are 6 healthy ways to Hulk smash your competition into oblivion.
1. The Laceration Technique
How did Twitter become so popular during the meteoric rise of Facebook? When it began, Twitter was simply a way to tell the people following you, in a sentence or two, what you were doing. But Facebook already had a status bar, right?
The success of Twitter stemmed from the fact that it made posting status updates simpler, easier, and better. Twitter cut off a small piece of Facebook, improved it, repackaged it, and dominated the market with it. The bigger your competition gets, the more moving parts they have. Try chopping off one of these parts and making it your own. Besting a big competitor in even one area is a great way to generate confidence and develop leadership skills.
2. The Seek And Destroy Technique
Low hanging fruit is usually sour. Instead of randomly swatting little problems, seek and destroy the big problems that your competitors are avoiding. One of the most difficult questions that most businesses constantly ask themselves is how to improve their customers’ experience. Figuring out how your clients experience your company, and then improving it, takes real time and effort.
Starbucks revolutionized the cafe industry by radically improving the experience of their customers. The music, the coffee scents, the color of the walls, and the arrangement of furniture are specifically chosen based on consumer testing. Even the parking spots in Starbucks’ parking lots are strategically larger than normal parking spots.
Likewise, improving your own experience can put you ahead of your competition. It’s easy to focus on making money, organizing your desk, answering emails, or buying a new TV or car. Instead, seek and destroy life’s big questions like how to generate confidence and feel fulfilled in the long term.
3. The Blunt Force Trauma Technique
Hard work obliterates obstacles. During one of my first interviews after Graduate school, a sales manager told me how she became the salesperson of the year for her Fortune 500 company. “Brute force”, she explained. “That’s what it took…I simply made more calls, had more meetings, traveled more miles, and tasted more rejection than anyone else thought reasonable”.
Nobody gets ahead without work. Most people believe that if they find the field where they’re naturally gifted, they’ll automatically surpass the competition, but it doesn’t happen. There’s no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice. An extremely large body of scientific evidence shows that the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established that researchers call it the ten-year rule.
You can cheat this rule by outworking the competition. The world-class swimmer, Michael Phelps, used to do 2-3 times the number of swimming workouts that his competitors and teammates were doing in one day. Everyone, including his trainers, told him he was crazy and that his regimen was physically impossible to sustain. They warned Phelps that he was overtraining and going to get injured. Yet Phelps stayed healthy and, during the 2008 summer Olympic games, won a record-breaking 8 gold medals.
4. The Loose Canon Technique
Increasing your risk tolerance will not only blast you ahead of your competitors, it will help you develop leadership skills and improve self confidence. Recently, I went to training seminar for website marketing professionals. One of the presentations was on negotiation and the speaker made the point that when it comes to negotiation, “He who cares least wins.” I’ve heard this quoted before and I agree that it is very true when it comes to things like business positioning and sales. Good negotiators leave you feeling like you need them way more than they need you.
However, what’s really happening is the person “winning” the negotiation has less of his worth tied up in the outcome. He wants something, but he doesn’t need it. His value and enjoyment won’t be affected by an adverse outcome. In the same way, you can throw your rivals off balance by being willing to risk more than they expect. In business, don’t be afraid to come off as a little suicidal. What you are really displaying is a deep confidence in your internal worth. If you get the account, you win. If you don’t get the account, you win. Be passionate about your goals but refuse to let your value rely on anything external.
5. The Divide And Conquer Technique
All of your rivals will fall to the way side if you set your standards high enough and choose to be your own competition. In Iowa City, there is a little print shop that a friend of mine used to go to when she needed T-shirts made for her company. One day, my friend jokingly told the lady who owned the shop, “You better be nice to me or I’ll take my business to the print store down the road”. The lady replied, “That’s fine, I own that shop too”. And it was true, the lady owned at least two other printing stores, both under different names.
Simon Cowell, the music critic famous for his role as a judge on Pop Idol, Britain’s Got Talent, American Idol, and now the X-factor, is his own competition. Cowell has made so many shows successful, and increased his own professional value so much, that businesses use him to compete against each other. Of course, he plays a role in this by owning stock in these companies and positioning himself against…well, himself. Most recently, Cowell was offered millions to stay on American Idol but rejected the offer and left the show to be a judge on the X-factor.
6. The Excision Technique
The quickest way to make even your biggest competitors obsolete is to change your prizes. In other words, alter the awards, or goals, that you are aiming for in life. After the housing market crashed in 2008, millions of people had their houses foreclosed on or were forced to sit back and watch the value of their houses plummet. Many realized that home ownership wasn’t the end-all be-all of success. What does success look like to you? Is it a mortgage, a car, a stable job, and a 401K? What if your prizes were different? This is one of the reasons why many of my articles focus on how to enjoy life and generate influence, rather than on how to increase happiness and garner more power. By chasing different prizes, you can excise yourself from the contests that don’t matter.