“Race? I have never gone for a single race in my life? That may cross the mind of many.
Really? Think about school, isn’t it a race to be the top student, so that we can graduate and go to a top school or to get a top notch job?
Think about work, isn’t it a race up the corporate ladder?
They don’t call life a “rat race” for nothing.
In these races of life, were you ever worried that you would be overtaken by your competitors?
What happens when you worry about your competition?
Do you look back, to ensure that competition is not close by?
Do you hasten from your regular pace, and in the process hasten your tiredness?
Do you become so obsess with the competition and forget about why you are in the race to begin with?
In school and subsequently in work, I find myself drawn to seeing people as “rivals”.
When I “beat them” I rejoice when I “lose to them” I become upset.
Sometimes this “winning mentality” even overrides the original mission objectives.
What do I mean?
Just take studying for example:
Qn: Why do we study?
An: Studying is for the acquiring of knowledge.
Qn: Why do we acquire knowledge?
An: We acquire knowledge so that we can apply them in our lives.
Qn: Why do we have tests and exams?
An: We have test and exams to gauge how well we have internalized the knowledge acquired.
The mission objectives for studying is simple: Acquire knowledge!
But what do we do? We complicate things, we add in ranking systems, bell curves. We had to categorize people.
Categorizing people is not totally bad, if you do it this way:
Shaun is good in Maths, perhaps he could be a Mathematician.
Jane is good in history, perhaps she can be an historian.
Tom is good in football, perhaps he can be a footballer.
But in a society such as Singapore where a one size fits all education system is used, this is how we categorize people
Shaun is bad in his humanities, it is pulling down his overall grades, he needs to go for remedial lessons if not he can’t go to a top school.
Jane being good at history just isn’t good enough, she needs to brush up her maths and science, if not no school is going to take her in.
Tom is just a delinquent, he spends all his time playing sports, he is bad at his studies, he has no hope.
The above approach is like forcing a Olympic swimmer to race in an Olympic 200M sprint.
Or making a dog compete in a swimming with a fish in a pond.
The reality is that each of us, has different strengths, and different gifts, to categorize and rank everyone in the same way just don’t make sense.
The result of this one size fits all approach, means that they are a lot more people in the race track then it should be able to hold, the price of the race has to spread out across more people, and people wants to get the big prize…..fast. That is the scarcity effect.
With that we also forget why we run the race to begin with, be it to gain knowledge, to make a difference in our company.
What do we do when that happens? Maybe the following story can shed some light.
Recently I took a physical fitness test that is mandated of all able bodied Singapore male that is part of the Singapore Armed Forces. I am on the reserve force, hence I have to take the test.
One of segments of the test is the 2.4 km run. I huffed and I puffed and I coughed but I finally finished the run.
As I dragged my feet back to registration office to turn in my running tag and obtain the final results of my test. A person turned around: “Bro, how are you?” I replied: “I am tired, haven’t recovered from my cough, was coughing throughout the run. How about you?”
He said: “Take care bro. I passed my test. But I must say: I owe you big time. If not for the fact that I kept pace with you, I would have failed. Thanks bro!”
That sentence changed my view on competition totally.
What if your fellow racers are there to provide moral support?
What if your fellow racers are there to show how its done?
What if your fellow racers are there to show the extent of how far and how fast we can possibly go?
When we fear competition we typically fear being over taken and irrelevant. That maybe true but life is not just one race but a series of races.
When we lose one, the question to ask is are we running the right race?
If we are not, quickly change the type race we take part.
If we are running the right kind of race, the question to ask are:
If the winner can do so, why can’t I?
What did the winner do to win, can I follow suit?
The reality is this: A lot of times we run the wrong type of races. Even when we run the right ones. We spend so much time fearing and hating the competition that we lose focus, isn’t it better that we use our competition as resources to improve our game?
Cheers to a great race!
Your fellow human being.