It’s rare to find someone who wants competition, but let’s be honest… we need it! Competition helps us grow, learn and evolve. Whether in life, athletics or the job market, rivals push us to hone our existing skills and develop those we lack. They drive us to look inward, dig deep and rise above challenges or setbacks. Want to be successful? It’s a simple formula. You must learn how to deal with competition in a healthy manner.
I first began to appreciate my challengers as a young gymnast, and I’ve been immersed in intensely competitive pursuits ever since. As a collegiate cheerleader, TV news anchor and now in the blogger/influencer sphere, I’ve had to fight to earn my place and am still working hard to do so. There is always more to learn and plenty of fish in the sea! Competition is a natural part of our professional landscape.
Is it comfortable? Certainly not. But we can use it to our advantage!
You can learn a lot by watching what others in your market (or sport) are doing, just don’t become overly preoccupied by their strategies and progress. Your personal development will be unique.
Glean a few ideas from your competitors, then get working on YOU!
For example, whenever I have searched for a new TV gig, I would scour the internet for publicly posted demo reels. I wanted to see what other news anchors—who might be gunning for the same type of position—had to show. Their materials gave me an indication of industry expectations and helped me consider ways I could adapt my own work to look more polished. I didn’t want to copy others; I wanted them to inspire my creativity.
Is there someone within your organization, team or industry you greatly admire? Do you find yourself trying to measure up to that person? Are they chasing a similar dream? Go ahead and buddy up!
By embracing a rival as a close friend, you will gain both competition and camaraderie.
No one will understand the challenges you face quite like someone who is walking the same path. Look at some of the world’s most successful athletes and you will almost always find a friendly rival. Take gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and from 1976 Nadia Comaneci and Teodora Ungureanu. (Yeah, I’m a bit of gymnastics nerd!) These duos managed to balance fierce competition with friendship and support. They pushed each other as teammates and wound up working harder and aiming higher.
The best competitors I know are also easy-going and jovial on their off hours. Sure… They are laser-focused, intense and driven when necessary, but can turn it off quickly. They don’t take themselves seriously 100 percent of the time. Great competitors learn from their mistakes, but laugh at them too. That sense of duality gives them stamina.
Too much intensity can lead to burn out and will kill your competitive fire. Make sure to have a bit of fun along the way.
Natural talent might win out in early competition, but work-ethic and preparation will always triumph in the end. Whether you are looking to increase your company’s market share, competing for a promotion, trying to make a team, or hoping to stand out in a vast sea of job applicants, there are no short cuts to success. Instead, study those who’ve achieved your dreams and how they got there.
What specific actionable steps can you take to propel yourself toward your goal?
When I decided to pursue a career in TV news, I used this tactic to build myself a road map. I listed the skills I would need and what I could do to develop them. For instance, writing ability would be crucial to my success. So, I read every book I could find on news writing. I went to training sessions, conferences and intently watched industry leaders. My natural voice was too high pitched for TV, so I worked with a voice coach to improve the sound. I wanted to “get the scoop” and have something compelling to pitch in our editorial meetings, so I spent time researching story ideas on my days off. In short, if I wanted to get ahead, I knew it was up to me.