Thursday, December 01, 2005


That's a long word. But it says so much about me. I just finished reading an article in last Monday's LA Times (November 28, 2005) in the Health section entitled "Competition Freaks", written by Marianne Szegedy-Maszak. This feature appeared on the heels of the recent splurge of articles regarding ambitious people, go-getters (see my Manifesto against go-getting) and other super competitive folks who are obsessed with winning. I found myself intrigued at what the article said, primarily from the point of view of the consequences of such behavior. I found it very interesting that the hyper-ambitious individual is a kind of geno-type that exists in nature in order to propogate and protect the species. I was most interested in the fact that American males are considered, by far, the most competitive people in the world. Ms. Szegedy-Maszak makes a wonderful distinction however. She posits that the main difference between effective successful people who win and those who are not successful lies in the nature of their relationship to competition. One woman, in particular, designated a remarkable homage to this truth with her own decscription of "healthy" competition. Lea Antonopolis-Inouye, a financial planner who won the Jr. Wimbeldon championship in 1977, describes winning "is a by-product of super-hard work and dedication and being driven to perfection...You can't just win. You have to forget about winning and work on other things". The ideal of a winning person is someone who MASTERS their craft and is focused on that. The hypercompetitive person is more interested in power and control over others. Ironically, the latter is the american ideal in business, art and commerce. American male athletes tested highest in this range.
The end of the article suggested a book entitled "No contest: the case against competition", by Alfie Kohn. "Competition itself", he says, "is corrosive and counterproductive in every aspect of human life, from interpersonal relations to business productivity".
This was an important read for me. I have found the results of hyper-competitiveness in my life to be disastrous, from how I interact with colleagues, friends and co-workers to how I watch a sporting event. It's good to know that there is hope.


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