24 – 9 – Compete to Achieve More

I do not consider myself a “competitive” person. And what I mean by that is that I am not the sort of person who is constantly trying to out-do everyone else. If I am in “competition” with anyone else, it is usually myself and the standards I set for myself.

If you think about it (or if I think about it), much of what we learn growing up is about competition and how to deal with it. We start at a young age playing games on the playground. They progress to competitive sports and then competition in school and in life. Consider my life’s example:

On the playground at school

  • Kickball
  • Prison ball
  • Dodgeball
  • Kill the guy with the ball

Organized sports

  • Baseball

Organized sports I never played

  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Hockey

In high school I swam, played water polo and pole vaulted.

And this does not get into all the other sports and games that we may have been introduced to that I never played.

I cannot say I really started being “competitive” in sports until I began bike racing. It began when I was about 23 or 24 – as I was quitting smoking cigarettes. I found myself needing to find new hobbies. These were things to do with my time to not think about wanting a cigarette. It also helped because I gained 15 lbs. and felt fat all the time. So, I began riding.

Bike riding was not my only pass time. I also golfed a lot. I tended more toward cycling as it did not cost my $50 every time I went out. This was also around the time I relocated to Pennsylvania from California. And Eastern Pennsylvania proved to be a great place to cycle. Lots of back roads and hills and different places to see. Plus, I got involved with a club – which led to racing.

I was involved in racing for about 4 years. And while I was never all that great, I found that the competition – against myself, against the Hills and against other riders helped me in so many ways.

It taught me to set goals. Some were training goals. Or weight goals. Or race placement goals. I had to think in advance and plan out how to do it. It taught me about honing the metal of your soul. What were my physical limitations? How do I get past them?

I soon realized that that was not a mountain that I could not get over. They could not physically defeat me. I might go slow. But I would get to the top. And this is a freeing feeling.

I just recently read a book. Yes, it was science fiction and what happened could not have happened. But the point it made was important. The main character could switch between bodies. He was in the middle of a battle. And switched to another body to retreat. He began running as fast as he could. He noticed that the body he had taken was not as strong as the one he grew up in. But he had no fear that he would be overcome with exhaustion. That endurance was more a mental thing. You had to be able to steal you mind into getting your body to do what you want it to do. Physical limitations be damned.

And it is this lesson that I have found most important about competition. It is a mindset. It is fixing a result in your mind and using your resources to get there.

When I was about 15, I hiked to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. We finished in about 8 hours and were exhausted. But we did it. A few years later, my mother and sister decided to make the trek. My sister was probably about the same age I had been. But my Mom was 52 or 53. They set the goal. They got conditioned. And they got to the top of Half Dome as well. They did not make it down the mountain until after dark (more like 11 to 12 hours). But the task was accomplished.

This mindset can help you to get anywhere you choose.