Soccer season has started again and I’m spending (mostly) sunny Autumn Saturdays trekking the Northern Beaches suburbs of Sydney watching my boy play in the Manly Vale Lions – his Under 8’s team.

This is his 3rd year of playing and he loves it. He clearly thrives on being part of the team, horse-playing around with the other boys, and gets excited about his matches.

I wish I could say the same.

You see, something happens to my easy-going, happy, go with the flow 7-year-old boy when he plays soccer each week.

He wants to win.

And when his team doesn’t win, there are tears. Lots of them! For 3 years now there have been tears, and most weeks I brace myself for them.

Most kids are competitive by nature, jostling for position in the playground, wanting to stand out and be the best. Sport of course is the perfect vessel to channel that competitive spirit, as well as teaching kids the obvious lesson that life isn’t all about winning – sometimes we lose too, and how we handle that loss has a big impact on our resilience and ability to succeed in the long term.

The theme of competition continues throughout our life. At school we are streamed, ranked and fast-tracked. At University we strive and compete for medals, honours and accolades. When we go for our first “adult” roles in the workplace we are questioned, tested and challenged to see whether we win the competition of “best candidate” for a job offer….

And so on, and so on.

Competition is everywhere in our culture.

So it’s an interesting conversation I often have with my clients, all of whom are professionals building their profile and reputation in highly competitive industries (often internally and externally). Frequently they tell me they don’t feel comfortable putting their thoughts, ideas and work “out there’ in the public domain as a means of building their reputation.

“I don’t want to put hard work into cultivating my ideas and putting them out there for my competition to copy or use.”

“If I can’t be first off the starting blocks ie if someone has already commented or written about it, there’s no point in me having an opinion. “

“I’m not as experienced/well read/as good a writer/*insert appropriate fear here* as my competitors so I’m not going to open my work to criticism.”

These are phrases I often hear.

Instead of focusing on the end result, and who they might be helping, they focus too much on the competition, and what others will think.

“With competition everyone has to try harder.” Harold H. Green, Former US Judge

The truth is in life you will ALWAYS have competition, and it’s the attitude you take towards that competition that will determine how successful you are in your career, sport and in life generally.

You can watch anxiously and constantly tell yourself you are not as good as they are, falling prey to inertia and inaction; or you can accept there is competition and concentrate instead on putting on blinkers, focus on being the very best that you can be, and put out your best work.

Author and Marketer Seth Godin refers to putting your work out there as “shipping it”. In one of his blogs, where he talks about our fear of shipping (because we are scared of criticism, and rejection) he says this:

“In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he’s tired. Everyone is. That’s not the point. The point is to run.”

Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?”

I also work in a highly competitive space – as someone who creates and shares content for a living, I have also gone through the stage of worrying about the competition, or what people might think.

My attitude now is to have a mentality which is more loaded towards opportunity than fear; abundance rather than scarcity; and to care more about helping the people in my network who need it than whether someone might steal or ridicule my work.

Competition is everywhere in our working lives. In most cases the biggest competitor is actually in your head and it’s YOU.

Embrace the challenge of losing the perfectionism gene, and “shipping” more of your work on a regular basis. Before you know it, your real competition will be wishing they could be more like you.


PS At SmartWomen Connect we are creating an environment where we actively champion each other to “ship” more. Come to our next Breakfast or Drinks and find out what makes our growing Clan different. Register by clicking the links below.