On Competition

Competition is good…or is it? When does competition become good? I mean, Is it always good and healthy to compete?

Though I grew up as a more cooperative person than a competitive one, I still somehow learned to be competitive sometimes. I probably developed my competitive attitude from my childhood involvement in sports. But that mindset is somewhat carried outside the sports arena to the different aspects of my life.

Pride

That inclination is a servant of pride, I propose. Pride found a way. It uses that competitive mentality developed in sports, and then brought it outside to other areas of our life. Perhaps that’s why we see people everyday competing with one another. They compete, in beauty, in talents, skills, positions, in popularity, even in relationships. You name it, in most areas of life people compete with each other. Why?

People naturally crave for recognition, for appreciation and acceptance. These feelings—of being recognized, appreciated and accepted—feeds our self-worth. It feeds our ego, our pride. Because our society has managed to create a culture that only the winners are recognized, appreciated and rewarded, we become competitive. We learned very early in life that if we are not better than others, we will not be easily accepted.

People have so embraced the idea of competition and forgot that in our daily life, in most of our daily activities, what we need is to cooperate and not to compete. Why? Maybe because we want to be accepted. We want to belong. We think that to win is the only way to be cheerfully welcomed. So we compete to win.

Win-lose Attitude

In all competitions, the lingering attitude is win-lose attitude. If one has to win, the others have to lose. In chess, in football, in all other sports, win-lose attitude is the only acceptable attitude. You cannot think win-win or there will be a tie. You can never think lose-win: why in the first place did you join the competition if you prefer to lose in order for your opponent to win?

How about in beauty pageant? Isn’t It the same, all other contestants have to lose so the best is the only one to be crowned?

Let’s take a look at the school. Can you say you passed the subject if you know nobody is failing the subject? You become number one only because others are not number one. You win only because they lose.

Players compete for the trophies; contestants for the medals and recognition. Churches compete each other in terms of the volume of their members; business organizations with income and market share; celebrities and politicians for their popularity; speakers in their audience; writers compete through their published materials; bloggers with the number of their followers and hits; co-employees in terms of the favors they receive from their bosses.

Even brothers and sisters compete for their mother’s attention. The list goes on and on in an almost never-ending possibilities. One thing is sure: we always compete. We develop win-lose attitude because we have a scarcity mentality. We think that recognition is scarce—that only a few will be crowned. But we, as a society are the very ones who created the idea that only the best will be recognized. We become afraid of our own shadow.

Survival

Why do we compete too much? Maybe one reason is survival. But wait, isn’t it that people will have greater chance of survival when they cooperate instead of compete?

Survival may have a point of argument. Two people starving to death will surely compete for a piece of bread or for a few drops of water, otherwise, they both die. Granted. Well, that maybe accepted if the case is a matter of life and death. But in the office, at home, in school, most of our situations are not a matter of life-and-death situation. Then why do we compete? Why do we always want to be ahead of others?

When then?

I believe competition is good and healthy if and only if we can keep it inside its appropriate venue. In sports and entertainment, competition is healthy and fun. It helps the players to be responsible for their development. But in the office, in the church, in school, it becomes ineffective, counterproductive, sometimes even dangerous.

In most cases in our daily living, to cooperate is more needed and more appropriate than to compete. Let us keep competition within the boundaries of sports, and within the confines of the entertainment world.

We really want to compete? Try the following mentality and we will never run out of worthwhile competitions:

If I can defeat others, I am strong; if I can defeat myself, I am stronger.

Why is that?

Because the greatest battle we can ever have is within.

Let Them Express

William Winter once remarked that “self-expression is the dominant necessity of human nature.” Why can’t we adapt this same psychology to business dealings? When we have a brilliant idea, instead of making others think it is ours, why not let them cook and stir the idea themselves. They will then regard it as their own; they will like it and maybe eat a couple of helpings of it.

Remember: First, arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him, He who cannot walks a lonely way.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People|Page 50

You might want to click the Page 2 (at the bottom of this post) to read my Unforgettable Experience regarding the power of this principle. Be my guest…you are very much welcome

See you on the next page. 🙂

Character Assassination Is A Suicide Mission

Before I continue spraying you with some Droplets of universal, time-enduring, and self-evident principles, please pause with me for a while…let’s do a little pondering about this last droplet of insight from chapter 2.

“Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.”

                                          Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many times for many years different sorts of people share with me their pain of being verbally attacked by other people, of being victims of character assassination, of being bad-mouthed by unprofessional enemies. Just recently I received a message from a friend who has been a victim of non-stop character assassination attempt by bitter people who envy her. In a previous post, “Educated to Criticize?” I also shared the story of two people from two different situations who had been victims of bad-mouthing by professional people. I understand their feeling because I myself endured many verbal attacks as well.

At first, I was also hurt, but when I gradually started to realize the truth in Emerson’s words, I also gradually realized that the people who bad-mouth me are not really revealing things about me; in every word they say against me, they are actually revealing tons of information about themselves, they are in effect, displaying and demonstrating their own character, they’re showing the world who they really are at their core being. They are simply manifesting what kind of people they are. They are broadcasting to the entire world that they are people who cannot be trusted, that they are unprofessional and disrespectful. They are telling everybody that they are pitifully so consumed by their own arrogance and bitterness blended together to make them so helplessly unable to get past their pains.

Let’s clarify. Who do the attacking? What kind of people are they who engage in character assassination attacks against another person? What kind of character do they posses? Is bad-mouthing or is engaging in character assassination the choice of avenue of a man of character when dealing with somebody he doesn’t agree with? How would a man of integrity deals with someone he is in conflict with?

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? But we always miss it. How often do we attack other people without realizing this truth? How often do we criticize other people without realizing that every time we bad-mouth them we are telling the world what kind of character we have. When we attack other people, we are showing the world what we are made of. The words we use against other people are simply a description of who we are at our deepest core being.

I like how John C. Maxwell puts it in the very first chapter of his book, Winning With People. He said,

“Who you are determines the way you see everything. You cannot separate your identity from your perspective. All that you are and every experience you’ve had color how you see things. It is your lens.”

I believe that’s true. In my photo blog, “Point of View” I have chosen that paradigm as my tagline to point out that different people see different things within the same environment. We see things according to who we are. The things that our eyes see around us are just expressions of who we are, and so are the words that come out of our mouth.

You see, every time a person bad-mouths you, stand still, keep intact…because that person is not destroying you; that person is obviously destroying himself unawares. Because he is revealing to others how untrustworthy, how unprofessional, and how incapable he is in soothing his own bitterness. And no body wants to be with people like that.

Isn’t it good to be reminded that it is better for us to be the target of character assassination than to be the one who does the bad-mouthing? Of course we need to survive our own character by keeping our values intact when dealing with personal attacks, lest we become one of them.

When you are being attacked unprofessionally by others, just don’t forget this truth:

The first person being destroyed in a character assassination attack is the assassin himself. He’s just not aware of it. Bad-mouthing is a suicide mission: it destroys the source of criticism in the process rather than the one being criticized.

Educated to Criticize?

I don’t get it!

In the past few days, I showered you with Droplets of excerpts from the book of Dale Carnegie. Most excerpt I chose bring with it a sense of universal, timeless, and very self-evident truths embedded in every note of its tone whenever you try to articulate it.

Universal means that those principles are supposed to be understood in every culture regardless of whether you come from the East or from the West, or from anywhere. Timeless means that whether you are from the stone age, agricultural age, from the industrial age, or from our present internet or information age, these truths remain truths. Self-evident in simpler term means “obvious”—you don’t need empirical researches, or extensive studies, you don’t need to be masters or doctors of certain discipline, you don’t need any title or position to at least observe that these principles are true to most of us; you only need to be open-minded and humble in order for you to recognize these truths.

However, given its powerful description of having universality, timelessness, and obviousness, still many people, including educated people don’t get it. And that is what I don’t get. That exactly is what I don’t understand!

Why is it that despite our society’s enormous knowledge of many things around and about us, these knowledge seem to be so enormously inadequate too, inadequate to at least recognize very obvious, universal truths that have been existing for maybe thousands of years?

Encounters

One night, I was having a conversation with a crying 17-year-young woman who has been severely criticized for something she didn’t do. The following morning, just fifteen hours later, I was listening to an adult lady having exactly the same predicament. At first, she tried hard not to appear weak or hurt, well at least in her face. But eventually the impact of pain kicked in. She burst into tears…into reasonable tears. These two ladies are not friends, they come from different worlds—one a teenager; the other, an adult—yet they are experiencing very similar painful situations. Both are emotionally hurt.

It’s so saddening that the people who hurt them are highly educated people. And they were supposed to be the people who would be considered as “friends” and “mentors.”  By default, their titles and professions suggest that they must be people who can be trusted. Yet they betrayed the trust of these two ladies in different occasions by being too judgmental and by delivering sharp, uncalled for, and very bitter criticisms.

Why?

Is that what our modern sophisticated, full-packed systems of education teach us? By learning too many advanced academic subjects and focusing too deeply on mastering them, we forget the obvious, the basic, the more powerful lessons! Of course, not all educated people are like that, but I guess most of us are. Yes, including me. I cannot deny that I also criticize too much. I criticize more than I praise. How about you in your daily life? Do you praise more than you criticize?

What is the use of education if all we can learn are academic matters instead of life matters? What is the use of education if it develops pride and prejudice to us…pride and prejudice that will make us criticize other people just because we don’t agree with them?

We have learned so much about the technical side of life—mathematics, literature, science, arts, and many other subjects in between—but have we learned not to throw sharp, bitter and useless criticisms? Have we learned yet not to become judgmental to others?

Does our modern education help us develop the knowledge, attitude and skill NOT to criticize others, but instead understand them? Where is the proof?

Just Like That

The first time I watched the movie Forrest Gump many years ago, I thought it was just an adventure story that luckily won 6 Academy Awards. When I watched it again a few days ago I have gained an expanded insight about grace…about how scandalous grace is.

Watching Forrest Gump again also deepened my understanding of the implications of grace in the daily basis, and once again threatened my strong sense of “deservingness.”

Forrest was not a matinee idol. He was a subject of ridicule for the educated, for the smart, for those people who think they are better than him. Forrest was a subject of irritation for Jenny, his girl who doesn’t want to be rescued and insisted that he doesn’t understand what love is.

Forrest was a subject of hatred and envy, and the cause of disappointment to his former lieutenant, who even labeled him “a moron who appears in the TV and makes fun of himself.” He was called “stupid” by his school mates, and considered as “local idiot” by a coach. He was supposed to be nothing—a nobody…an undeserving.

To many, Forrest is below normal, having low IQ, and a living joke of the town. He is not entitled to be popular, to be adored or even to be lucky. He doesn’t have what it takes.

But Forrest was graced. He is more than lucky, he is graced beyond belief. His life was full of unexpected thrill, unbelievable blessings, indescribable delight and fulfillment.

Just Like That?

Forrest Gump has become like a classic movie now. Maybe because deep within our hearts, we long to receive what Forrest received despite our strong denial of our own unworthiness. We still long for some kind of unexpected delight, a surprise gift, an extravagant blessing, something that we don’t have to earn, something free. Just like that!

I have noticed in the movie that Forrest, as he narrates his life, has a habit of asking, “Can you believe that?” and a habit of exclaiming, “Just like that!” Have you noticed that too in the movie?

As I ponder more about it, I realized: grace is “just like that!” no works required, no strings attached, no payment to follow, no conditions to keep. Can you believe that?

The movie begins and ends with a feather “so light no one knows where it might land,” remarks Philip Yancey. And indeed, it landed in front of a low IQ, undeserving man. Just Like that! The undeserving boy who had a back “as crooked as a politician” becomes the fastest runner in his place, in his time. The low IQ, below normal student, later received a Medal of Honor, became pingpong champion, invited by the President of the U.S. more than once, and gathered followers from the street as he ran during the time when he just felt like running. Run Forrest, run!

Being so graced, Forrest became a living dispenser of grace—the one who truly understands what love is, knows what it means to be loyal, and exemplifies the virtue of forgiveness. “No Forrest, you don’t know what love is!” his unfaithful Jenny accused him just after he rescued her. No Jenny, you’re wrong, Forrest knows exactly what love is. And he’s demonstrating it all the time.

The concept of grace awakens in us an excruciatingly painful realization that in the eyes of God, we stand in common ground. No one is holier or more deserving. No one can boast. No one is better. We are all the same. We all sinned. This implies that we cannot or should not compare ourselves with others in terms of “being deserving.”

Grace challenges our most embraced self-deceptive lie: that we are more deserving of praise, of reward, of recognition, of heaven…than others. Grace opens our eyes so we can see that grace doesn’t choose based on performance, that, like the feather in the beginning and end of the movie, it may land to anybody regardless of status and intelligence, of titles and ranks. Just like that!

In my last post, Unlikely Protagonist, I explored about how I normally identify myself with the protagonist whenever I watch movies. And I seldom recognize that in front of God or perhaps with other people, I more resemble the antagonists than the protagonist.

Now, looking in ourselves with grace-filled lenses in our hearts, we come in contact—face to face—with the our true status before God. Because of our realization, we no longer identify with the protagonist whenever we watch movies. Instead, we realize that in God’s perspective we resemble the antagonists, the sinners, the undeserving. But we are being accepted—just like that!

Like Forrest, this grace lens helps us to be compassionate with others, to be forgiving, to dispense grace to the undeserving, to be humble. Because of grace we become slow in judging others—believing that the grace of God will land to them as it did to Forrest Gump, free of charge, no works required, no merits to be earned, no diplomas or certificates to boast, no strings attached…all is free. Just like that! Can you believe that?