The Competitive Edge
By Auburn Mann
Akin to many things in life competition is a two way street, with each direction leading to a blessing or a curse. It’s nature possess dual consequences that can either propel people to achieve the heights of their potential, or potentially bring out the worst traits, provoking all the carnal instincts that are bound to occasionally slip out of our subconscious being. Competitive situations innately apply a level of stress which forces each party involved to step up or succumb to the pressure of the various demands. For example, if an athlete finds him or herself highly skilled at a particular sport or position, may be able to further demonstrate their prowess when they are confronted with someone of identical ability, as each side pushes each other to the limit. This excitement and unpredictability is what gives televised contest the edge over their timeslot counterparts. For example, the likes of American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Scripps National Spelling Bee, The Olympics, and Super bowl XLVll ( well at least after the power outage ) all contain the thrill of wanting to see who will ultimately come out triumphant within their respective storyline.
This is not limited to overtly competitive arenas. Take those in the various branches of journalism; they have to compete not only against those from rival newspapers, magazines, or television stations but even among their colleagues for the honor to report on a certain story. Although, this form of competition may not be as directly entertaining as far as it’s process, the results of conscientious reporters carefully and strategically interviewing, crafting and editing their stories in a reasonable haste, should provide the public with the most accurate, up-to-date, and compelling news content.
The value of competition can even be perceived as biblically noted. In the Old Testament book of proverbs 27:17 it states, “As iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another”. In its immediate context this implies the value of fellowship’s nurturing contribution to people in their faith, however, if applied to competition it hints at its social aspect. Competition inherently involves the dynamic of multiple people. Being around likeminded peers foster’s growth as each person’s talent and drive sharpens the next one’s, often unintentionally as this typically transpires under the guise of merely attempting to outshine the opposition, but really leaving a reciprocal impact. In fact, the argument could be made that the only way for people to really reach their limits is through the presence of genuine competition. Of course, if they are opposing someone who’s skillset resides at a far superior level or if it’s a case in which someone has gotten accustomed to competing against those who didn’t even remotely present a threat, when finally contention against an opponent who is challenging, they can be overwhelmed by the disparity or lack of it and suffer underperformance.
When taken out of its proper perspective, however, is when competition crosses into unhealthy territory. A common route of expression for this is when, winning or evading failure becomes the sole focus. This usually manifests itself in an attitude of winning by any means necessary, thus pushing some over the competitive edge to dishonest, yet seemingly more convenient routes. For athletes this could be manifested in the form of performance enhancing drugs, journalists could be tempted to fabricate the facts or even plagiarize in an effort to adhere to stern deadlines or even students whose integrity gets tested during midterm and/or final exams.
In the end, the cliché holds true for competition, it’s not about what happens to you, but how you handle it. This all is sourced in mindset. If you interact to the pressure elicited during the various competitive episodes of life in stride, you will be able to bring the kind of energy that allows you to take advantage of competition without it trumping you professionally, psychologically, physically, or morally.