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Utilizing Competition to Your Advantage

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The heights reached and maintained by great men were not attained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, where toiling upward in the night”- Henry Longfellow.

Competitions are healthy. Think of how dull a football game would be if the competitive edge was taken out of it. Think of how unmotivated runners would be if there weren’t medals attached to the best positions. Competitions encourage and inspire us to do more.

Recently, I watched a video clip. It was tagged “The Impossible City of Dubai”. The clip I got last year from a friend has become an all-time favorite. For me, it is both amazing and inspiring to see the invisible and seemingly impossible thoughts of architects become realities. A commentator said “In Dubai, Architects are all seeking to outdo the other”. This competitiveness I daresay is partly responsible for the transformation of the emirate.

While competitions are healthy, comparisons are not. While competitions motivate us to do and be better; comparisons breeds envy, jealousy and destroys our self-esteem. While competitions have to do with the question of competence, comparisons question our personalities. This is unhealthy because we can never be better at being somebody else.

It is impossible to talk about Competitions, without talking about the virtue of Excellence. In a world where average is acceptable, excellence is fast becoming an alien word. A research for example, found out that 70 out of every 100 Africans were wired by society and an unconscious decision to end up mediocre. As children, we all had great dreams and pictures to capture a wonderful future. We all wanted to become relevant and that for us, meant studying hard and earning big titles to our name. Where we dropped this dream or agreed to settle for less than life’s best, I do not know. Maybe, it’s the environment we find ourselves. One which hardly supports competitiveness. Maybe its learned laziness to attacking life with enthusiasm. Laziness after all is contagious. Roaming the streets of African societies everyday are people who are discontent with their lives but not ready to do anything to upgrade their present status. Luxury for them would be having a family, and affording three meals a day.

John Mason’s book title gives us a clear warning: There’s an “Enemy called Average”. To one who is determined to live a life of distinction, mediocrity is a sin. Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself. A Mediocre is his own genius. A mediocre is utterly blind to the “room of improvement” because mediocrity is always at its best.
‘There is only one real sin, and that is to persuade oneself that the second best is anything but second best. – Doris Lessing

Despite the disadvantaged beginning he had, Benjamin Franklin had this to say : Reading was the only amusement I allowed myself…and my father having among his instructions to me when a boy frequently repeated a Proverb of Solomon, ‘Seeth thou a Man diligent in his Calling, he shall stand before Kings, he shall not stand before mean Men’. I from thence considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encouraged me: though I did not think that I should ever literally stand before Kings, which however has since happened; for I have stood before five, and even had the honor of sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to Dinner.

There is always room for improvement. An excellent man is not taken up with attainment made, but attainment yet to be made. The best form of competition is in fact, that organized against oneself.

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