As I opened the podcast app on my phone last month and saw an episode about competition, I’ll admit to being less than excited. I get that competition should be exciting, but I’ve never viewed myself as someone who was all that competitive. I want to do well of course, but I seldom feel that killer instinct.
A few days later, within the Iron Council, Ryan issued a 30-day wellness challenge – a team competition designed to promote a healthy lifestyle. I was on the fence about joining as I had a bunch of other things on the go. As I watched others, including the members of my own battle team, sign up and get excited about the competition I decided to jump in.
Despite having felt pretty lethargic lately, the morning the competition began I was out of bed in a flash and off to the gym. It was the start of something special.
This simple challenge, all for “one freaking point” as Ryan put it (each challenge completed earns you one point) was causing a frenzy within the Iron Council that I’d not ever experienced before. The competition was front and center in my mind all day, and it stayed that way for the whole month. By the end of it, I was a frothing cheerleader encouraging the members of my team to push just a little longer.
That really got me thinking. Am I competitive? Do I have the idea of what it means to be competitive all wrong?
Looking back on my life, most of my greatest accomplishments came as a result of competition. I’ll concede that there is a strong element of ego involved in a competition, but I also think this is where a bit of ego can be good. In school, there was always that one girl (it was always a girl) who was just ahead of me academically. I pushed hard to finish at the top. At my first job, there were the others in my cohort vying for the attention of the executives. I worked late to stand out. I dressed well and was better “put together” than the other guys – and the woman I now call my wife noticed me, not them!
Don’t get me started on how I’d “flip a switch” on the football field in high school and nearly tear everyone’s heads off. Nah. I’m not competitive!
Even as I matured, the competitiveness in me was still there. I’d hit the gym because there was no way I was going to be one of those out-of-shape dads proudly sporting their “dad bods”. I ate cleaner and lifted heavier.
Like most things in life, how we view a concept like “competition” is all about perspective. Sure, there is a strong component that is about beating the other guy, and I think many men shy away from that. They don’t want that killer instinct. I never wanted to kill anyone. For some, there is a really negative connotation associated with that.
Flip the script.
To win at any worthy competition, you need to beat the other person or team. That means YOU need to be better. Better than them. Better than you are right now. If you’re on a team, it means it is now your responsibility to help them get better. To support them and bring them up. Isn’t that what we’re all about?
Then a funny thing happens. You make your competitor better. If it’s a traditional competition like a football game, you being better encourages them to get better. I learned in the Crossfit box that when you finish ahead of someone else – when you’ve “beaten” them – you encourage them. You urge them on. Why? We’re good people of course, and want them to achieve their goals, but selfishly, however, you also need them to be better. We need to have someone nipping at our heels or else the competition isn’t fun. It doesn’t push us.
You see, that’s the power of competition. It does other things like teach us to learn how to fail, that life isn’t always fair and that some people may cheat. In the end, however, the ultimate lesson is twofold. The first is that competition makes you better. It provides that drive to get started and the fuel to keep going. Secondly, it makes everyone around you better. It has an infectious energy and something, in its purest sense, that only encourages people to do better has to be good.
Do you want to be better? Embrace competition. Tweet That — Joshua Laycock
Do you want your team, at home or at work, to be better? Embrace competition.
As you progress on your journey towards being a better man, I feel very strongly that you will not accomplish this without introducing competition into your life. It isn’t as hard as you might think. I wasn’t on a team or anything so I had to get creative with how I introduced competition into my life.
I started Crossfit
I was looking for a way to kick-start my fitness journey and ended up gaining so much more. While I have certainly made lifelong friends and learned to push myself harder than I ever thought possible, something else happened. They write down the scores of every workout on the chalkboard at the end of the workout. At first, I was just happy to have survived. Then slowly I started to care more and more about my score – keeping an eye on where I stacked up. Then I was committed to being able to mark “Rx” next to my score (meaning I was able to do the workout “as prescribed” and not need to modify it). I was writing my accomplishments down in a journal and pushing hard and harder. Even though its a solo sport try and tell me that’s not a healthy competition!
I went digital
Many free fitness apps like Fitbit have features built in to challenge friends in various competitions. I found 5-10 guys within the Order of Man who use Fitbit and we linked up as friends. We set up daily challenges and egged each other on as our step-count soared. Lunch hour at work was no longer about eating and zoning out for an hour. I got outside, kept up a good pace around the block. As others seemed to post scores as if they’d been walking all day (or maybe putting the bloody thing on their dogs!) I pushed myself to log more distance – cover more ground in less time. Before I knew it I was posting serious mileage, barely winded, and winning the digital badge at the end of the day which for some reason I desperately wanted to win! But I was getting better, and encouraging others at work to join me. It was infectious.
I got muddy
Not content with just cruising around the block with my Fitbit or upping my clean and jerk PR, I grabbed my siblings and signed us up for our first Spartan race. They weren’t impressed, but every one of us showed up fitter than we’d ever been because not one of us was going to be the last to finish that day.
The really cool thing about that experience was through the trials and competition of that event, we became really close. We rallied around the one who fell behind, pushed the other over the walls (that might have been me!) and in the end, it was “us” versus the mountain. We crossed the finish line together and to this day we are closer than we’d ever been growing up. We weren’t fast but we never gave up. For all of us, it was an incredible sense of accomplishment and I’ll never ever forget that feeling.
I found my tribe!
When you connect with a group of men that embrace healthy competition in just about everything they do, like within the Iron Council, the results are out of this world. We gamify everything! The whole framework is about tracking results. We pit ourselves against the other men on our battle team, but we also track our results because, at this level, we know the greatest competition we’ll ever face is yesterday’s version of ourselves, and the fire that this will light in you is stronger than anything you will have experienced this far in life. When you look around you and see men leveling up all around you, I dare you to stand still. I dare you to be content with not being at least 1% better today than you were yesterday. At this level, the competition is part of your DNA.
Whether you’re someone who thought their competing days were over when you played your last game of little league baseball, or like me, you just didn’t click with the ‘kill or be killed’ notion of what you thought competition was all about, I’d really encourage you to look at it differently.
Introduce competition into your life – and the lives of those around you – and I guarantee you’ll feel more alive and more driven than you have in a very long time!
Competition isn’t about the medal, the ribbon or the parade. It isn’t about the scoreboard or a write up in the local paper. It isn’t about beating the other guy. It’s about the journey to find out what you’re made of, and the process of realizing you have so much more in you than you thought possible. It’s about bringing friends together and uniting against a common foe – whether that is the other team, a mountain or a clock. It’s about standing shoulder to shoulder with your team and feeling strong, or standing proudly by yourself, chest out and chin up, knowing you just fought the best fight of your life.
So get out there and get started. Last one there buys lunch.