How do you deal with competition?

In life so far, I’ve met the beast many times. In varied arenas.

In business, I’ll take it right down to the wall, if need be. Or, take you right up to the point where I need to retreat.

In my various pursuits related to my love life, I’ve, in the past, shown a tendency towards being tenacious, as well.

So then what? Whoohoo! I won the crazy chick! Now I have to figure out how to offload her.

In friendly competitions (raquetball, etc.), I find I’m inclined to hit it as hard as I can, but I walk from a loss with few regrets. In other areas I’ve, over time, realized that there is a pull-out point wherein the transaction is no longer worth pursuing. That’s merely a refinement of my approach towards competitive situations, leading, I hope, towards more bang for the buck.

I have known people, some successful and some not, who will avoid competition outright.

So how do you deal with competition?

In sports, I’m more interested in sports that involve a “personal best” than “beating the other guy.” I usually don’t care if other people did better than me, as long as I did my best or achieve my goal for that competition.

I’ve never been involved in anything I would consider a competition romantically. Sounds like a bullshit mindgame to me, but what do I know?

Basically, I’m not verty competitive. I don’t measure myself against other people so I don’t care how I do with respect to them.

I’m competitive with myself in that I know how I should generally perform in situations and would like to stay at or preferably above that level but rarely does that desire extend to comaprissons between myself and others.

We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. I’m not bothered when someone excells at something better than I do because I know that there are other areanas in which I’d come out on top.

I don’t mind competitive people except when they try and include you in something you’ve no desire to compete in just to make themselves look better. Then I think they’re assholes and I avoid them like the plague.

I am the most competitive person I know.

I’ve been a national-class athlete for over ten years, and, outside that arena, I attack pretty much everything with the same fervor.

I cannot do anything competitive without trying to win at it. I would rather win ugly than lose pretty. I would rather get blown out than lose a squeaker. I want to outperform my teammates (if such attempts don’t ruin the team nature of whatever we’re doing). I will get into the ring with a guy 50 pounds heavier and not think twice about it.
The way I see it, there are three potential matchings in competition:

  1. My opponent(s) outclass me by far. I will work my ass off to keep it as close as I can for as long as I can. I consider it to have mitigated the loss if I didn’t lose as much this time as I have other times or in comparable circumstances. And, since anything can happen at any time, I don’t stop until the competition is over. I will be insulted if my opponent lets up on me.

  2. We’re relatively evenly matched. No quarter. May the best man win and all that.

  3. If I outclass my opponent(s) by far. I will make sure that they really want to do this. If they do, then we’ll go and I will play to their limits (or beyond, if, like me, they don’t want a pass). If I can help them get something out of it (like points of technique or what have you), I will try to do that either during or after.
    When we play Halo on XBox live, I try to get more kills than my teammates. When we run stadiums, I try to be first. If I’m lifting with friends, I always push a bit harder.
    There are, of course, limits. I won’t choke my girlfriend unconscious battling for the last Oreo (although I will make sure that I win the Oreo and then split it with her- no sense in being mean about it).

But if we’re hanging out, an invitation to (or an acceptance of my invitation to) compete means a knock-down, drag-out. I’m on close enough terms with my friends to know whom to invite to do such things and whom to leave be.

Thanks for the replies.

I think, when I was pondering this originally, I was wondering about those I’ve known who will not compete, or who fold at the first resistance. Those are very frustrating folks to try and work with, or team with. But, while I’d generally predict such a behavioral model as a prescription for failure, I know a few like that who are moderately successful. By that I guess I mean that they don’t live under the freeway.

I really don’t understand that mindset. A, now, late-breaking revelation may be that such behavior is driven by a desire to preserve what they have as opposed to taking on some risk to grow what they have.

As noted, I am competitive. In much the same ways that my respondents, so far, are. In a sporting competition, well, I don’t have much to lose. I’m not a professional athlete, so I don’t have to save anything for the rest of the season. Thus, if I’m still standing, I’ll keep trying. If I lose, I lose and we fought the good fight. Half the time just stayin’ in the struggle brings the win.

Business and romance are the arenas wherein I’ve learned to recognize that, while you must pursue or you’re not in the game at all, there are pull-out points. Points where you recognize that it is just not worth taking it to the wall. If you get to such a point, you retire from that match as the loser.

So, help me out here - I guess this might be the guts of my question - are those who desire not to compete driven mainly by the desire to conserve what they have, do they fear never being able to recapture what they did have should they take a loss or are they, perhaps, unable to deal with a failure and move on? Possibly there are more alternative explanations.

I’ve punched a few holes in the dark (meaning that I’ve crashed a couple of ventures), but I’ve also bagged some successes. My own feeling is that one wouldn’t come without the other.

Eh…, competition’s a funny thing. The guys I work for are far more successful than I, but they’ll screw a deal over testosterone issues when I had long ago recognized that it was either a bail-out or compromise situation.

Perhaps I have things yet to learn.

I’m not sure what you mean by “competitive.” I think you’re confusing it with “risk-taking.” To me, “competitive” is exemplified by Happy Scrappy Hero Pup’s post. The drive to be better than the other guy. To be widely acknowledged as a superior, if not the superior practioner of [whatever].

I don’t consider myself competitive, because I don’t care how the other guy does. He could be better, worse, or equal to me. It’s irrelavant in how I imagine my goals. My goals are for me, they are not phrased in relation to others.

Risk taking is another thing entirely. I love to take risks. I have a perfect example of how risk-taking and competitiveness are not the same thing. Last year I quit my prestigious job with a Fortune 500 company, to work on a horse farm as a barn manager and riding instructor. I gave up my regular income and all the nice things that go with it, like being able to afford going out to eat or to the movies, not to mention sleeping in on saturday. That was a huge risk, financial and emotional. But at the same time it demonstrates a lack of competitiveness. The idea that people would think I was a failure for cleaning up poop for a living didn’t enter into the descision. I didn’t care about being the best at any aspect of my job (there are veterinarians and Olympic coaches for that). That year was about having fun and kicking back. That’s what life’s all about.

I think one of the major things that influenced my attitude was going to an extremely competitive high school. It was a public high school, but you have to take a test to be admitted. Some of the people there were so smart, it quickly became apparent that measuring myself in relation to them was pointless (hint: I was never going to get into MIT with a 200 Verbal SAT because I solved an equation that has been troubling mathematics since the Greek times, unlike one of my classmates). I soon learned to set goals for me, instead of setting them in relation to others. Don’t get me wrong, I worked my ass off to get good grades in good classes. But that was because I wanted to do the best I could do, not because I wanted to be first in my class or “better” than someone else.

My theory is that some people have a gaping hole in their life that they can’t seem to fill. Some people try sex, drugs and/or alchohol. Others fill it with “winning” and “being the best”. You see plenty of examples of those types of people - the jerk who argues with his own team because they didn’t pass him the ball on that last play. The soccer dad who screams like a nut at the coach. Workaholics who put their job ahead of family or any other activities. When competition starts having a negative effect on yourself and those around you, it can be as destructive as any other addiction.

Quite frankly I don’t really understand what drives people those levels of competition. I find people like that difficult to get along with because they either have little else to talk about other than their personal obsession or they just suck to be around because they are so intense and expect everyone else to share their intensity.

I’m not very competitive, and while I don’t agree with everything **msmith537 ** says, I also find excessively competitive people annoying because they are not team players. It’s all about them, they don’t care how others look, they don’t care if others even succeed, as then they become jealous of their success.

Note I am talking about excessively competitive people only. Anyway, you only go around once, I don’t feel like going through trying to one-up everyone else. Just my way of living.

Your theory is off-base and prejudicial. Those of us who are competitive don’t have a “gaping hole” in our lives, we just like to excel.

I find that those who are non-competitive lack a certain drive toward self-improvement and an unwillingness to accept challenge or adversity. I find that they are easily threatened by assertive people and attempt to hide their feelings of impotence behind sweeping condemnations of those who do what they will not.

All the examples of your type of people are assholes, not competitive people.

The “jerk” who argues with his team because they didn’t pass him the ball on the last play is either a jerk because he’s not a true team player, or he’s right: because the last play was designed for him and his talents and it wasn’t properly executed.

The soccer dad isn’t being competitive- he’s not competing.

Workaholics aren’t competing either.

All the people you are describing are mishandling their aggression, but not by being competitive.

I don’t understand what drives people to accept the status quo or avoid improvement. I don’t think they’re necessarily bad people- the world needs ditches dug as well, but I have found that those who decry competitive behavior do so more from envy or inadequcy than they do from rational examination.

What about team sports?

I play (according to me) the most team-oriented sport on the planet (rowing). My drive to excel encompasses my teammates as well as me. I cannot succeed without them, nor can they without me.

I would much rather be the worst player on a winning team than the best player on a losing one. It’s not about me- it’s about working together to win in team sports. And I would much rather be an integral cog than a pack mule. Although I’d much rather play than sit- I’d rather have an opportunity to make my teammates better than to ride pine.

The point of playing sports is, after all, to play.

FYI, I never said there was anything wrong with competitiveness (as long as it doesn’t wander into jerkishness, which I agree has more to do with misplaced agression than competitiveness per se). I said I didn’t care about being considered the best by others.

The competitive are attributing all sorts of negative attributes to the non-competitive that I don’t apreciate. Apparently we’re never work to improve, hate challenge, are risk-adverse, moreover are destined to dig ditches for a living.

I call bullshit. Major bullshit. Apparently you have no concept of a “personal best” or any concept of why someone would work towards that as opposed to “winning.”

I’d rather not win if I didn’t do the best I could do.

I’m extremely competitive in areas that are designed for competition and I seek those areas out. This might be cycling, running, playing chess, playing card games, or playing a board game.

I like to golf.

However, I LOVE to golf match-play against another person for money. I don’t care what I shoot as long as I beat the guy.

For instance, I’m really really pissed off this year because I’m getting spanked in my NASCAR fantasy league by a friend who is a moron.

I do not bring that mindset in my possesions, my salary, my work, my love life or my friendships. I think that people who do are usually losers in arenas of true physical and mental competition where outcomes can be objectively judged.

Hello Again, what are you on about?
The opening salvo in the “culture clash” was fired by a self-identified non-compeititor.

And this is where I have a problem. I am going to do my best to keep this to an examination of my own personal feelings and not judge yours (by using terms like “bullshit,” and I would ask that you do the same).

I understand very well the concept of a personal best. And I know exactly why someone would work toward that. BUT, a personal best is not the end-all and be-all. Accepting one’s personal best as the pinnacle of achievement shortchanges oneself.

If I do my absolute best and lose, then I didn’t do well enough and must try harder next time. “Well, I did what I could, and that’s OK,” is self-defeating.

If I do my absolute best and barely win, then I must try harder next time because my opponent will be training to beat me.

If, by doing my absolute best, I would blow out my competitor and such a defeat would serve no one, then why exert? Conserve energy and resources for the next challenge.

You see this in rowing all the time. If there are heats of six, with two crews advancing to the semifinals, and two crews break away from the pack and are in no danger of being caught, you can watch them lower the stroke rating and ease off the power. What’s the point of winning the heat when it gains you nothing and could serve to hurt you later.
The main problem I have with being negatively labeled as “competitive” is that I am assumed to be shortsighted and/or single-minded and somehow morally inferior. It happens much more often than you would think, and, in the majority of my experiences, it springs from resentment.

And it’s that smae drive toward perfection that requires me to note that the final punctuation mark in my next-to-last paragraph should have been a question mark.

Same. SAME. :smack:

See, you’re missing something here.

There is an element to my competitiveness (and it sounds like Happy’s) that does not involve acknowledgement of ones superiority.

I don’t know if I could make someone who doesn’t experience that understand it, but there are those of us who just like competition for the sake of competition. There are no accolades.

I can play my dad at cribbage and golf all day long. And it’s all about getting worked up, feeling the pressure, enjoying the fight. It has nothing at all to do with being acknowledged.

You can’t imagine a status quo that you’d be satisfied with?

These are very simplified notions of “competition”, no offense.

For starters, you can be excessively competitive and be a great team player. They are not mutually exclusive at all. Larry Bird’s competitiveness is legendary. As is his role as a team player.

To a true competitor, the “team” just becomes the unit of competitiveness, the unit you are trying to achieve victory for. A person who places themselves above their team is self-centered and egotistical. Those are only synonyms with “competitive” to those who aren’t competitive.

Take bike racing, for example. When I’m IN a race, I want to see people collapsing around me, dying in heaps at the bottom of a hill. And I’ll put myself through a lot of pain NOT to be that guy. However, when the race is over, I practically want to hug them. . .I want to say “thanks. Thanks for making me push myself to the limit. Thanks for giving me a reason to go out during the week and train my butt off. Thanks for racing me to the line.”

We have competitive training rides, rides where we try to beat our teammates up hills and on sprints. If I go out with a guy who just wants to “take it easy today”, I get very disappointed. This differs a little from what Happy was saying, but I’d rather go out and lose to a guy who pushed me than lollygag a win (unless there’s some cash on the line).

As for “going through trying to one-up everyone else”. . .that goes back to what I was saying earlier. I don’t think people who do that are “competitive”. I think they’re petty and insecure. They bring competition to non-competitive arenas and feel good about “winning” things that aren’t contests. Petty.

No, I cannot.

Well, here, I’m with you. We train competitively in rowing as well, and in training, the object is to get the most out of yourself as possible. If we’re doing head-pieces against another crew and we strain as hard as we can but never threaten, that’s still a more productive practice than if we walked consistently away from them without having to dig for our reserves. On race day, however, you only have to win by an inch.

The problem with this always-on, amps continually up to eleven competitiveness that happy is talking about is that its just not appropriate in a lot of (sporting) situations, and many competitive people lack the ability to modify their approach IME. If you’re talking about competitive bike racing, or national-level sporting events then obviously its no-holds barred and intensity is the name of the game. But what about the after-work game of five-a-side or softball, where the level of sporting prowess is usually rock-bottom? I’ve played football with work colleagues for years in one form or another, and IME the people who redline it round the pitch, attempting to put in fierce tackles, being “competitive” are usually the ones with the least talent. These people are just a chore to play with. If I want to play competitive football I can and do play (hard) for a serious weekend team, because I have the basic self-awareness to match my own competitive nature to the level of the game at hand.

That being said, I wouldn’t read too much into people’s competitiveness in sport and recreation in general. One of the reasons we do it in the first place is to let off steam. I know plenty of people who fit Trunk’s description of being able to separate their competitive nature in sport from their social and professional characters.

One, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the level of competitveness expressed being appropriate to the venue in which the competitor is expressing it.

Two, I would say that, IYE, you have encountered a great many pricks who try to make their prickery acceptable by lableing themselves “competitive.” And your experience is hardly unique. Plenty of hackers try to mask inadequacy with brute strength and “I’m just being competitive.” Real sportsmen (whether skilled or not) have, as I see it, a duty to put those people in their place.