Why is Everything a Competition? (hint: because it is)

July 3, 2015 By Tom

I know I approach everything in life as a competition…in fact, I just knocked off a 5k trail run faster than I ever have which is how I got on this topic to begin with.

I’ve talked about it before, the old mentality of simply ripping the legs off of someone else when bike racing is just part of my every day life. It’s about not just settling, but waking up every morning with the desire to kick ass in everything I do.

It’s not always a positive thing, in fact, sometimes it can be downright damaging to myself.

celebrating a victory or two in the midst of this photo

My old cycling coach, despite his many flaws, taught me one thing that is just part of who I am and that I truly value as a valuable life reality: you don’t get a “well done” or “good job” unless you’ve done something extraordinary. Simply doing your job, doing what you’re supposed to do, settling for 2nd best or the easy way—that didn’t earn praise. It took something beyond special to get anything more than “Well, what the hell do you want? You did exactly what you were supposed to do!”

This was compared to a cycling coach I rode for in college for a season that gave praise to anyone and everything for the simple task of breathing. I often found it offensive, those that were just going through the motions and remembering to breathe were getting the same round of applause as those that scarified blood, sweat, skin, and livelihood to win national championships. The polar opposite of those two coaches taught me that I never wanted praise that I give to be empty and that it must be earned and that it isn’t easy to do so.

As I have a staff, and I manage more people and different responsibilities; I have to remember that it’s okay to give praise when deserved, even if it’s for something simple and little. I think the rest of my team understands that when I say “good job” or “I’m proud of you and what you did” actually means something and that it is earned. They also know that when I lean in on them for something it’s because I want them to attack that task with the same desire to win that I have.

The downside of approaching everything in life as a competition is that sometimes, I lose. I try to limit those losses–but it does happen. The level of intensity required to not just win, but to do so in a way that crushes the heart and soul of the competition is exhausting. I know at times it can make me exhausting to be around and to work with. I usually give myself about 10 minutes of celebration after a big accomplishment before I immediately move onto the next goal which is usually much bigger than that accomplishment I just checked off the list. At the same time, I give myself 10 minutes to sulk in a loss before I pick up the pieces and figure out how to win the next round.

I might not win every round, but I always win the next round.

how I approach every single day

It’s been a few weeks full of big wins; new sponsors, new grants, acceptance into some cool stuff, great programs, and a ton more.

But, I’m also in the hunt for a win that will define 2015 when it comes to work, a win that is close, but it’s not a victory until we’ve crossed the finish line. I think it’s going to take that win before I consider 2015 a true success….and then I’m sure I’ll set the bar even higher 10 minutes after the celebration begins, looking for the next “race” I want to win.

Anybody else have this type of mentality? I’d love to hear how it impacts your daily life both professionally and personally.