Compete with Oneself

A couple of weeks ago a few friends and I took part in a mountain bike race. It was a 24 hour race where the goal was for your team to get as many laps as possible – like a relay race. There were four of us, but there were teams with both more and less members, and some crazy riders who did it all on their own. While doing a lap, a parallel to freelancing and working life in general occurred to me.

On the track, there was no way of telling who was who, what lap they were on, or how many teammates they had. It would have been silly to try to continuously get ahead of people – some of them might be on their first lap and full of energy. Similarly, when you passed someone it didn’t really feel like it was you against them – perhaps they were a solo rider with many more laps under their belt. There was just no way of knowing and thus no way of competing against them. All you could do was try to get the best lap possible and improve from one lap to the next.

In the working world we’re always competing against each other and it can be frustrating when other seem to reach your goals before you. Why does that magazine keep hiring her? Why does he always get grants? Why didn’t I win that award?! It’s a vicious cycle with zero benefit to you. You can never know another person’s full situation. Perhaps they’re best friends with the photo editor or their sibling who is an excellent writer writes their grant applications. Perhaps their equipment is better or the competition judge was in a foul mood when she reviewed your work.

There are an infinite number of things that affect your success, you are only a small part. Getting mad or upset because someone else is doing well is a waste of energy and time. Instead compete with oneself. Are you closer to reaching your goals than you were a year ago? Is your day-to-day life how you want it to be? If you’re moving forward then great, keep doing what you’re doing! If not, what do you need to change?

Image by nineonesix

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1 Comment

  1. Perfect parallel between the race and working life, and is very true. And it is true not only for working life, but for life in general. Do not compete with others, compete with yourself.
    Keep improving whatever you would like to improve.
    Make small, incremental steps, but do it continuously. This is called Kaizen philosophy.

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