Monday, April 8, 2013

Op Ed: To Compete or Die

To all the well-meaning coaches, teachers, parents, day care providers, professors and doting grandparents, I have one very important question for you: Why are you trying to kill our spirit to excel?

You ask us to play nice, to appease the loser, to dispel the disappointment. You expect us to share the glory, run slower so someone else won’t feel left out, and to share the first place blue ribbon with 30 other children. To not win first place, get the highest promotion or graduate with the distinguished honors while others are valued less seems morally wrong to some. After all, life just isn’t fair, but it should be.

Or, should it?

Ever since the Garden of Eden, there has been competition. Adam and Eve battled with their will and discovered the eternal competition between good and evil. A babe competes for his mother’s attention. A man pursues a woman in hopes, but not guarantee, of winning her heart. The Founding Fathers competed for the colonist’s loyalty: freedom as independent American or tyranny with restraints under King George. The buck vies for the doe. The hawk scurries for his game. The sunshine races to pierce the clouds. The mind vies between reason and faith, human nature vs God and decisions to obey vs disobey. Competition is a part of life. Competition is not easy. But it is something that makes us better than we were before, whether we are the last in line or the first to complete the race.

The question is not how to eliminate the sting of a defeat. But the question you as adults, parents, guardians are slowly subtly surrendering to is will I allow my child to fail? Failure is not for forever, but if you allow it, it can be the tantalizing lure to hasten our steps to something even better.

To win has sometimes a momentary victory or a long time reward. To lose has momentary disappointment but even more so than a win, it makes someone even more a champ based on how one responds. To some it is a catalyst for the buffing of their character, refining of their skills, or harnessing of one’s nature. It can make a boy a man, a girl a woman, an Olympic hopeful a gold medallion owner. By fostering the opportunities for fair competition, taking advantages of losses to put life in perspective, and helping your child or young adult determine how to improve their skill – you help them for life.

So next time your child’s little league coach wants to give a gold trophy to all the children, your teenager’s high school has 12 Valedictorians out of 24 graduates, or you have to make a decision to provide all your employees with a raise even though they did not all perform with excellence to necessarily deserve the reward, take a stand.

You do us no favors by fighting for us to have the right to have no competition at all. Everything in life is a competition. But it’s how you help frame it that sets our course. Help us be a generation, not of apathy but a generation motivated with passion to increase our success. To lose is okay. It makes the wins all the sweeter. And it makes us a better person in the process.

- ajh

Lack of competition – results in apathy: “If you're not gonna go all the way, why go at all?”