Compete to win, not to beat others | Sunday Observer

Compete to win, not to beat others

8 January, 2023

The word ‘competition’ is a much talked about word. Competition is everywhere in our lives from an early age. We are socialised to the idea that competition is an unavoidable and ever present fact of life. Yes it’s true – competition is relative. Every single thing is compared and judgements are passed on. Let’s be honest about this: competition is a part of our lives. It’s one of the driving forces behind evolution, which made us who we are.

We compete on two counts: 1. To win as an individual or a business 2. Beat others. 

Competing against you to be a better version of you is the right thing to do but not to beat someone else. Is it the same thing? No, not at all. These two notions are very different from each other. When you decide to compete against others you develop very malicious and envious feelings which go against the fundamental human values. At the same time you tend to make mistakes – you make wrong moves – waste time, effort and money as the attitude would be to win by hook or crook – it’s another person’s failure that you always dream for. The point of competing with someone else is to try and do better than them.

There is a risk that by competing against others, you will become frustrated when you see that they are doing better than you. You should strive for your best but should never forget that other people have different abilities and strengths.

Do not compare yourself with others

Whereas, when you compete against yourself, you always win. If your goals are difficult enough, you will always improve because meeting your expectations is a better way to grow than beating someone else’s performance. Rather than comparing yourself to other people, stop focusing on what you’re not good at and focus on doing better than your last performance. Take your last workout for example. If you’re a runner, don’t think about how slow the other runners run. Rather, try to beat your previous best time.

If you wish to start making more sales calls, don’t compare yourself with the top salesman in the company; instead think about doing better than your past few days of calling. If you can get into that habit of competing against yourself, it will improve your performance significantly and you’ll start to master your craft.

You should focus on improving what you’re not good at rather than just trying to catch up to other people. Beating yourself builds confidence. Competing against yourself or your own expectations is a sure-fire way to grow your confidence, and confidence is one of the main drivers for success. A better approach is to strive for your best and only focus on yourself. By doing this you will avoid the negative aspects of competing with others.

Business perspective

In the business world, things have too often tipped from competition to a zero-sum war for existence. If your vision for the industry is one that doesn’t make space for competitors, for alternative solutions, for choice, for diversity and more options, you may have already lost part of your humanity. If you think and behave in this way, you are logically extending the belief system to people that chose an alternative to you or your company. You have now extended your personal fears and anger towards people who would otherwise be your customer, and they will see and feel this. If you manifest any binary, zero-sum, winner-take-all, toxic attitude towards another company or their solution, you lower the value of the entire industry. Your flames will torch your own brand and erode its value and goodwill. You will move deeper into fear and fear-based thinking and actions, and this will lead to your own dehumanisation. After you decide one party is an enemy, it will be hard to not see others through the same reactionary lens.


Competition makes us better, and cooperation makes us stronger. There’s so much we can learn from our industry peers if we don’t approach them as enemies to be ground to dust. People bring a variety of perspectives to how they solve a problem, and that diversity is essential for driving entire industries toward the best possible outcomes. Ultimately, that is good for all of us. We still have much to learn about how to embrace diversity and choice, even when it can be an alternative to our own solution and brand. But it’s the path we’re taking. Moving an entire industry will take all of us—working as peers, not enemies.

We have several glaring examples of some local business conglomerates that tried to beat other conglomerates to satisfy their ego have failed and are in dire state. Some are listed entities on the Colombo Stock Exchange so we can study and learn. A better you and your better business will defeat the others but you don’t better yourself or your business to beat others. Use this philosophy throughout the new year – not only will it make you a better and stronger performer and drive you down the right path but also give you the right state of mind to nurture and promote humanity.