Competition is about the race, not who wins

A story about nine mentally or physically challenged athletes has been retold on the Internet and other places, including a short film.

“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but co-operation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

 

A story about nine mentally or physically challenged athletes has been retold on the Internet and other places, including a short film.

The story changes slightly with each retelling, but the following is the most commonly shared version.

The athletes start out in a 100-metre race, not exactly in a sprint, but with a desire to run the race, to finish and win. The group runs in threes and, about half-way though the event, one of the male athletes trips, stumbles and falls onto the track. When the other athletes hear him crying, all stop and come back to help. One of the female competitors sits next to the injured boy, hugs him and asks, “Feeling better now?” Then all nine link arms and walk to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stands and cheers and the cheering lasts several minutes.

I would like to believe this tale is true, though I can find no original source or definitive evidence to support the assumption. It does, however, make for an interesting thought experiment. When we hear the story, we might assume the athletes did not understand the rules of the game. On closer observation, maybe they knew the rules better than most do.

I’m not suggesting that we live in a world free of competition or a competitive atmosphere. However, it seems apparent that some of us may have taken our competitive drive too far, and nowhere is this more evident than in our corporate world. Many of us seem to be engaged in a dog-eat-dog battle with the goal of bettering our peers.

I once worked with a salesperson who was so aggressively competitive that she actually frightened her colleagues. She would stop at nothing to succeed, including angry outbursts, gossiping and outright intimidation. She saw her peers not as fellow human beings or coworkers but as rivals and competitors to be bested or vanquished.

Despite her impressive sales achievements, she was let go because, quite simply, no one could get along with her. I learned later that this was a recurring theme for her. I often wondered if her competitive nature was actually overcompensation for feelings of inadequacy or poor self-esteem. If such was the case, losing her job would certainly have reinforced those deep and self-destructive beliefs by an act of self-sabotage.

In simple terms, possessing a healthy, competitive attitude means having a goal and working hard, or being devoted to its achievement. An unhealthy attitude might involve cheating or unethical behaviour.

A healthy attitude would certainly be exemplified by perseverance and an “I won’t give up” mentality. An unhealthy attitude might be evident by an individual taking the shortest route possible, regardless of boundaries.

It seems to me that the most successful and happy people are aware of what others are doing but are actually in competition with themselves — overcoming limitations and exceeding expectations. Having established his athletic supremacy, Al Oerter, American athlete and four-time Olympic champion in the discus throw, once stated, “I don’t compete with other discus throwers. I compete with my own history.”

What are you doing to get ahead? What is your motivation? If poor self-esteem is a factor, then you may damage your well-being by feeling worthless if you don’t finish first. You might also begin to resent those whom you see as better performers.

Here are some questions you might consider asking when it comes to competition. By whose rules am I playing? Am I playing to win at all cost? Who benefits the most from my victory? Who gets left behind? Can I still feel great about myself and my efforts even if I don’t finish first?

Someone once told me that life is about the journey, not the destination. Perhaps in this case, competition is really about the race and not who crosses the finish line first.

Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Glen Carritt organized a United We Roll Canada convoy around May 2019 that travelled in 2019. An independent review said he breached council code of conduct rules multiple times. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Former Innisfail town councillor breached code of conduct many times, says review

Consultants say 29 of 36 alleged breaches by Glen Carritt had merit

Members of the Red Deer RCMP downtown patrol monitor for drug activity and property crimes. (Advocate file photo).
Two peace officers are training to join Red Deer’s downtown police patrol unit

This “integrated” unit will be the first in Alberta

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

A homeless shelter was promised Red Deer to help the city deal with downtown issues. The city and province finally released a signed agreement on what the facility will offer, a year after a $7 million commitment was made for the project by the province. (Advocate file photo).
City and province take next step in bringing a 24/7 shelter to Red Deer

It will include a detox and counselling services

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich (33) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) as Flames' Christopher Tanev (8) and Joakim Nordstrom (20) defend during first-period NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her sweepers at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

A crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien looks towards the ice as his team takes on the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadiens have fired head coach Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt (13) attempts a shot on goal during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match against Argentina, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Phelan M. Ebenhack
Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta's COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, government house leader and environment minister, after Nixon is sworn into office in Edmonton on April 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie attends a a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The CFL faces more challenges in its 2021 return than it did last year when it was forced to cancel its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

Most Read