Looking to Beat the Next Guy?
HBO has done it again! They have secretly become a documentary juggernaut. Their latest prize pits NBA Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in an epic depiction of two men possessed with competition. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate the layers these two icons peeled back during their reign…racism, big versus small town, East coast-West coast, and dollar for dollar they delivered.
I will admit, as a sports fan, that my competitive juices were flowin even if from the couch flanked by my two cats and a lukewarm cup o’ joe.
I suddenly thought about my youth and how my seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years were staked out by competitive outlets. I had a sport for every season, a grade or project every term, a girl I wanted to look buff for, and distant educational and career goals to tide me over. Life was competitive ALL the time!
Now…well it seems that for many of us competition is relagated to survival…not for mere advantage or gamesmanship, but for our financial security and lifestyle. Where did it all go? Is this Normal? Is it Abnormal? Am I losing a step?
I mean I can turn on the tube and see competition for viewership and marketshare. Shoot, I can even read about competition between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Democrats and Republicans, Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, Oprah vs. The World, Mac vs. Windows, and last but certainly not least Conan vs. Jay. Competition is right at our fingertips…and as I painstakingly reach for it I can’t help but wonder what we would all be without competition?
Looking for Your Competitive Advantage in Life?
Would we be lost? Would we be a species that never got out of the Stone Age? Competition has a place…we need to feed our species, advance our species, and procreate our species…and competition remains the single most important ingredient. It inspires us during times wrought with disallusionment and pain. Competition helps us gauge our progress, modify our approach, and reach for new heights. And, for each gender competition can be deeply personal…
Males are given the edict that to compete is to demonstrate your prowess amongst all in your path from dusk to dawn. Some have deemed this male character the Alpha Male….the Silverback. So, as men age they look for arenas to compete in, to win…and many do so with very little regard for their opponents.We have all read of the hostile takeovers, the businesses now running lean and most have a man at the helm. Most of us have been personally impacted by the corporate competition…I mean greed…
Females, on the other hand, have been wronged for centuries. Females have been given the message that the competitive landscape is for men only…thus relegating women to compete for these men. Let’s not forget that, though, times have changed significantly, the overwhelming message has been for women to compete in non-threatening areas and for menial purposes.
You see it has been the great spoof our species…men convincing women that their pursuits were more important to the greater good…that women had a place…just over there on the sidelines.
For many, these deficient approaches are not borne from intention or malice, but rather from generations trying to survive the way they knew how. It really is hard to pass definitive judgment when we, as a country, are continuing to breed competitive destruction…we have just found new and different ways to mask our approaches and intentions.
We all have a burning desire to stay on top, to pursue the unattainable…it is the American way. Just look at the current landscape…looking even closer at our educational system. We now have “Race to the Top” from the federal government, we have schools and districts that pay students for attendance and top grades…and why? Because competition, today, isn’t about aspirations or dreams…competition is about the almighty dollar. Adults are wooing kids for higher test scores, ratings, and marketshare. It is as if they are saying…“Here kitty kitty….here kitty kitty.”
All the while, children who are only concerned with competing in gym class are actually playing lead roles in the high-stakes game of adult competition. In fact, it is the children who hold the magic ticket and not the adults. Failing tests grades, reduced product usage, and even fewer website hits put us and our American dollar at risk.
It truly is sad that competition, while fantastic as a sport and motivator in times of despair, brings out the animal in all of us. We were once young people competing for a cause, for a purpose, for the betterment of generations past and present. Somewhere along the path to adulthood we lost our way, sold out to the highest bidder and forgot what makes this country so grand….The hope and belief that with a little elbow grease and commitment we can win at the game of life…together.
Let us all think about the role competition plays in our lives, the impact on those around us, and the messages we are downloading to the up-and-coming generation of children.
All the Best!
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male