“All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.”― Peter Thiel
“The dynamic [of competition] is not unlike a popularity contest in which everyone tries to win by being equal parts friendly, happy, active, and fun. Or an election campaign in which all the candidates try to be charming, serious, humble, and strong. Once everyone starts doing it, no one stands out.”― Youngme Moon
To compete is to choose to play somebody else’s game. This can be a massive source of energy, but it’s also a dangerous game. The billionaire investor and founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, said that the fierce competition in his college career nearly kept him from doing what he actually was meant to do. He later wrote in Zero to One, “All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.”
When we’re locked in competition we tend to obsess on doing the same thing but faster, bigger, or cheaper. Competition can blind us to opportunities to truly distinguish ourselves.
In fact, the fiercer the competition, the more similar things get. Harvard Professor Youngme Moon writes in her book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd that, “The dynamic [of competition] is not unlike a popularity contest in which everyone tries to win by being equal parts friendly, happy, active, and fun. Or an election campaign in which all the candidates try to be charming, serious, humble, and strong. Once everyone starts doing it, no one stands out.”
Put simply, Moon has found that, “The more diligently firms compete with each other, the less differentiated they can become.”
Even more often than businesses, individual lives are ruined by being too preoccupied with competition to look around. Where are you competing in your life that you don’t actually want to be (e.g., money, audience, position, possessions, looks, awards, travel, experiences etc.)? If you weren’t worried about winning that, what would you focus on?
I was having legit trouble thinking of something for this one. after pondering a while, I did what I often do when plagued with a question — turned to Brian. (after Brian, I usually turn to Mom, lol.)
Brian said that I, much like his brother (of whom he thinks the world), am really good about saying “fuck it” to things I don’t care about or that are not important to me. so Brian also had trouble coming up with something.
eventually, however, he presented an answer, albeit not necessarily quite a “right” answer. he said that I am in a challenge with myself about keeping people around me happy and liking me. he said I was “keeping score in a one-player game”. and of that, he is most definitely right.
I don’t necessarily have to be everyone’s best friend. that’s not really the concern. but rather, I do want to be one of the best influences for them — be it for happiness, fun, adventure, empowerment, comprehension, knowledge, et cetera. I want my being around someone to make them be at their best and be the happiest versions of themselves.
and, to be fair, I can’t do the if they don’t like me. so keeping them liking me is a big part of the challenge too. again, they don’t have to like me the most of all the other persons that they like. but they do need to like me enough to trust me — and in most cases, that has to be a pretty lot of liking.
again, this is not quite a competition against others; rather, it’s a challenge against myself. but it is exhausting. I have to wonder how much of this is the cause of my not trusting in or being trusting of others, or even how much of it has led to my dislike of people in general.
something to continue pondering on, I suppose…