Competition – The best self-improvement technique.

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At the end of the movie, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Ricky Bobby is running neck and neck with his opponent in a race. They run to a photo finish. They pushed each other to run faster. When we are in competition, we perform better. We push ourselves to the next level. We want to win.

I run 5K races occasionally. When I am about halfway through the race, I identify someone as far ahead of me as I can see. That person is now my competition. I push myself to catch up to that person and in the last quarter mile I really push myself to beat that person. As I get close I actually hear the song from Talladega Nights in my head and that pushes me to move faster. Do I always beat the person I choose? Hardly! I choose someone pretty far ahead of me so I need to really push myself to gain ground. In the end it is not about winning it is about getting better and competition helps do that.

To continue with the running theme, do you run faster on the treadmill or when a vicious dog is chasing you. The dog can be a powerful motivator. Having a motivator will push you harder and the best motivator (or your biggest demoralizer) is in your head. Using another person as competition gives your mind the milestone it needs to keep you motivated to keep moving.

I have seen the memes: “Look in the mirror, that is your competition”. When I look in the mirror after a 10-hour day at work, do you know what I see? Someone who wants to sit in his chair and watch TV.

You want to know what I see when one of my opponents posts on Facebook that he is working out? A reason to get my lazy ass to the dojo.

We all want to be successful. Being successful makes us feel better. Even when working for charity, competition can make people perform better. Whatever team raises the most money gets recognized or whatever student sells the most candy bars. You may be thinking that you don’t care about awards. Good for you! I don’t like awards either. It is the competition, not the trophy that makes you better.

You are vulnerable when you compete. You might lose. Losing is okay as long as it is a lesson and you don’t get trapped in the Loser’s Limp. The story of the Loser’s Limp is about a football player that needs to tackle his opponent, so the other team does not score and win the game. As our friend believes that he can’t catch his opponent, he slows down and starts limping. His team loses the game but the fans aren’t too upset with our friend. They see he is limping and must be hurt, so losing the game really wasn’t his fault.

Don’t lie to yourself. Work as hard as you can and if you do not make the grade, take responsibility, learn and work to improve. The Loser’s Limp may help your ego, but it does not help you get better. In whatever you want to improve yourself, find someone with whom to compete. The person does not even need to know you are competing with them. Just like the person I choose in 5K races, the competition is a personal milestone. It doesn’t really matter if they know who won. It only matters that you get better.

Open yourself to competition. The picture above is me at my first martial arts competition in over a year and a half. Did I win? No, but I set a new baseline for my training. I know what I have to work on and I will do better next competition and in my martial arts in general. You can do the same. Whether you are selling something, raising money or learning kata, identify someone you believe is better than you as your competition and push yourself to beat them. It will help you improve, win or lose.

Thank You Kick Nmedia for taking the picture.

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