Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Compete Complete, The Book: Chapter 1

So I am officially working on turning the ideas of this blog into book form.  It will just be named for the blog, it will be released in .pdf format and will be available for free!  Mostly because the blog itself is free, and also because I feel like people shouldn't have to pay money in order to benefit from my experiences.  I genuinely believe my ideas and knowledge will help people, so therefore people should have free and immediate access to it.   When the new version of this site is up (and it's coming soon!) there will be a donate button.  If you really feel like these words and ideas have done you a favor, you'll be able to say thank you in comments, or with a donation.  If you don't think that's necessary, I won't impose on you.

Anyhow, this is the (tentative) first chapter of the book.  I will periodically release chunks of the book on the blog: one reason is to tantalize you, and the second is also to get feedback on the ideas that will be in it so I can make it the best version of itself.  Things may change from these rough drafts moving into the final version, but that's okay.  This is just a fun start.

Anyhow, here is the first chapter.  Enjoy.


I have been competing since I've had a conscious memory.  Whether it was participating on soccer and baseball teams, shooting for high-scores in video games, playing Street Fighter 2 on the SNES with my brother, trying to outdo classmates on tests and homework, or trying to outdo myself in everything, I have always been heavily focused on improvement and the various ways that skills and ability can be measured.

And whether or not you consider yourself a competitive person, you have been competing for the entirety of your genetic life.  You exist thanks to everything that has ever contributed to the survival of you, your family, your ancestors, the different creatures and foods they ate, and the planet they have lived on.  In the single elimination bracket of life, you have made it pretty far.  You have many things to thank for that; your luck is chief among them.  Even if you consider yourself not to be a very lucky person, the fact of your existence is so overwhelmingly unlikely that by being born you have won the lottery of lotteries.  Being born a human and being able to experience sentient life--with all its extreme ups and downs--is just another miracle compounded on top of that.

When I tell you that competition is literally and inextricably in your blood, I am not exaggerating.  If you want to understand life--that phenomenon curious to our world--you ought to understand competition.  If you want to understand how people behave, you need to understand how they perceive competition.  And if you want to change yourself, you should then change your perception of competition.

Competition is a phenomenon that takes place any time two things struggle over resources.  You might struggle over space, water, food; two things might compete for the right to live, so they can use one another as resources.  Even plants compete with one another, growing taller than each other to get a larger share of sun, so they can take a larger share of nutrients in the soil.  You can't even keep it out of the family; there are many animals that compete for their mother's nourishment with siblings, including sharks that hatch inside the mother's body and eat each other before birth.  It's always happening, all the time.

Humans are interesting because, even when we aren't fighting for land, scrapping for promotions, or trying to impress possible mates, we actually go out of our way to invent resources so we can compete over them (interestingly enough, it almost always involves a ball).  We've established structures for competition and games to exist in all facets of our life.  When we aren't competing, we watch people compete for fun.

Why?  Why bother?  Isn't life--and not just your life, but all life--filled with enough competition as it is?  Why do you we take our free time, our leisure, the time we could be using to rest and relax, and use it to compete even more?  Why supplement our steady diet of real competition with even more simulated competition?

There's a benefit to it.  A tremendous benefit.  It's the reason why monks living in secluded monasteries preached enlightenment and inner-peace as they developed new and interesting ways to beat each other up.  It's the reason we encourage children to be part of sports teams.  It's because the key to growth is change, and the key to change is awareness, and the key to awareness is feedback.  Competition gives you constant feedback about your physical, mental, and emotional state.  By becoming aware of those things, you can take steps to change them.  By changing them, you can improve.

When you play games, you receive updated information constantly; who has the ball, who has how many points, who is currently very angry because you didn't pass him the ball.  You receive information about yourself.  If you take the time to investigate yourself, competition becomes a lens for examining not just your physical condition or the skills you possess, but also your attitudes, your emotions, your behaviors, your beliefs.  You examine those things and become aware of them.  And, if you like, you can change them and improve them.

I don't believe that's why most people compete.  We get drawn into issues of performance and competency, we drive neurotically to improve at things even when they lack real bearing on our life.  We have a tendency to look in the wrong places for the wrong things, and unlike in English and math, double negatives don't always lead to positives.

Many ideas have led me to this conclusion.  Timothy Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis, has a formula for performance where Performance = Potential - Interference.  French author Antoine de Saint Exupéry has said "It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove."  Ironically, many of the attitudes we have towards competition--in all cultures--act as interference to its performance in our lives.

The ideal role of competition--the simulated version that we use in games and sports--is to help us examine ourselves, develop awareness, and grow.  The current state is one where we look at our performance during all competitions, both simulated and real, and judge our inherent worth on that score.  We struggle so hard to win all competitions, simulated or real, that we don't take time to grow from them.  We are so immersed in doing them that we aren't aware of what they say about us.  We lose sight of awareness, and the true and greatest purpose of competition--which is growth--becomes lost.  Sometimes we end up growing and learning.  Many times we develop unhealthy attitudes and behaviors.

I'll even argue that real, natural competition is designed towards growth, but on a larger scale over long periods of time.  Humanity only exists because of that natural competition, that tendency towards growth and change, which existed in nature.  The constant struggle to perform against an opponent is the basis for improvement.  The tendency for life-forms to struggle against competition in their environment is the basis of evolution.  They grow to be more capable of handling their specific environment--if you want, you could even refer to the environment as their particular game, and every life-form in that system is a player.  Victory is achieved by genetic growth through children.

And just because you're good at one game or sport doesn't make you good at another, just like how being adapted to surviving in a tundra does not guarantee your survival in a jungle.  There are some people who have models of learning which permit them to quickly learn new skills, so they can contend in most sports; crazily enough, even that is reflected in the human trait of learning and adaptability, which has let us develop technology and behaviors to survive just about anywhere.  The ability to examine one's own weaknesses, to capitalize on strengths, to learn and understand new systems without taking thousands of years to make the shift; these are the hallmarks of humanity.

I would say the most human trait we have is the capacity for awareness and change.  When made aware of a behavior or possibility, humans capitalize on it more than any other creature.  And nothing makes you more aware than constant feedback, granted to you by another being that's trying to outdo you.  It's competition that encourages us to grow, as other people make us aware of how much further we can push ourselves.

It was the desire to focus, control myself, and win which led me down a very internal journey.  It was because of the competition offered by sports and games--and most importantly, the rivals who challenged me--that forced me to analyze myself and my thought processes.  It was that journey that helped me understand more about myself than I could have expected from the start.

That is why this book exists.  Not just to try and sell you on the notion that competition, in all its forms, can help you become a better, happier, more successful, more aware person.  But also to show you how it happened for me specifically, after more than twenty years of indulging my competitive habit.


Thanks guys.


  1. A speck in a sea of awesomeness: The first sentence reads "I began competing since..." You don't 'begin' something 'since'; since indicates a repetition of an action from a prior point forward, but a beginning only happens once. Either go with "I began competing when" or "I have been competing since".

  2. Great start for the book Wobbles... youve got a follower here :D

  3. "Perfection is achieved, not when there's nothing more to add, but when there's nothing left to take away."
    - Antoine de Saint Exupéry (original quote is french)

    Bruce Lee huh?

    1. Hmm. That's interesting. I originally read the quote attributed to Bruce Lee in multiple places before, but I guess 1939 is a bit earlier than when he was alive and kicking (literally).

      Thanks for the correction!

    2. I really enjoy this quote. A person has all that he or she needs to accomplish anything. It's only the limits that we add to ourselves that prevent this.

  4. "The ability to examine one's own weaknesses, to capitalize on strengths, to learn and understand new systems without taking thousands of years to make the shift; these are the hallmarks of humanity." - jacking this. you're an amazing writer man, ya got a fan.