Life as a Competition? Think Win-Win Instead

May 13, 2020

Categories: Work

I’m a very competitive person. I’m always looking for a game or contest to enter. Last fall, I traveled back to the college I attended, and my college friends and I went to a football game. I loved rooting for my team. My friend had a foosball table and a pop-a-shot basketball hoop at his house, and I loved doing that also. Competition can be fun and exciting.

The Dark Side of Competition

Competition can be detrimental, however, if you aren’t careful about it. I remember awhile back, a colleague was telling me about a great article he had written, and some of the neat things that had happened in his life because of it (e.g., interviews, book contract, etc.). On one hand, I was happy for him. But there was another part of me, the competitive part, that struggled to be fully happy. I felt jealous that he was having more success than me. I wondered if he was a better researcher and writer than I was.

Zero-Sum Game

It’s a big world out there. There’s enough space for everyone to experience success. But if you’re too competitive, it can feel like a zero-sum game. Another person’s gain is your loss (and vice versa). For someone else to be successful, it necessarily means that you are not as successful. It’s hard to get on board and be a cheerleader when someone else accomplishes something.

Collaboration is Key

The tough reality is that this ultra-competitive stance is likely to leave you less successful in the long run. We live in a world where collaboration is key. You can’t master everything, so you need to partner with other people who can complement your skills and abilities. Team-based work is often the norm. You need others to help you get to the top.

Celebrate and Partner

A better response when someone else in your life is successful is to celebrate their win and see how you can partner with them. If you can connect with them and integrate your efforts, their success will be your success (and vice versa). Plus, if your connection is actually providing value for them, they will likely appreciate you and return the favor.


If you are a super-competitive person, think about dialing back your intensity a bit. In the most important areas of life, think win-win. How can you create synergy and work together to get even further than either of you could alone? Don’t feel threatened by another person’s success—see if you can connect yourself to them as you both move forward.


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