by Bryan Golden

Is competition good or bad? Are you in competition with other people? Is it OK to do whatever it takes to win? Is winning of paramount importance? How are winners determined? Understanding the answers to these questions is essential to have a satisfying life.

Competition can be either good or bad, depending on the situation. In sports, competition between teams is good. Within each team, cooperation between the players is essential for peak performance. Competition among businesses creates innovation that benefits consumers. However, a company whose employees are just out for themselves will falter.

Competition on an individual basis is great, when appropriate. On a personal level, you seek to be the best you can be. In an educational environment, each student can strive for an “A” without having a negative impact on anyone else. In a business, each employee can endeavor to do the best possible job and everyone benefits.

Healthy competition compels self-improvement. A competitive environment fosters innovation. Competition motivates people to excel, pushing them beyond self-imposed limitations. Competition provides an incentive to work hard. Without competition, there are no rewards.

Historically, countries that have sought to eliminate competition have failed miserably. In a free society, everyone has the opportunity to compete. They also have the freedom not to. But it’s the competitors who reap the most from life.

Competition is bad when it is self-serving, to the detriment of others. Competition is good when it doesn’t undermine anyone. Competition to get ahead by excelling is good. Attempting to advance through unethical or underhanded tactics is bad.

The best competitors compete with themselves to continually improve. They don’t measure their progress by comparing themselves to others. They consistently try to do better then they have. They understand that there is always room for improvement, however slight.

Although it may seem as if you are competing with others, you are actually competing with yourself. If you are not maximizing your potential, not developing your capabilities, you are cheating yourself.

It’s not OK to do whatever it takes to win. If you win by stepping on others, any victories will be short lived. When your strategy involves tripping others, you will inevitably harm yourself. A victory won through nefarious means is no victory at all.

The news regularly has stories of athletes attempting to excel through the use of performance enhancing drugs. When caught, these people become disgraced and may even be banned from their sport.

Companies that deceive their stockholders and cheat their customers never rise to greatness. Employees who get promoted by back stabbing their coworkers invariably stumble and fall. Dishonesty may produce temporary gains, but the long-term results are disastrous.

Winning over someone else is not the goal. You don’t need to compare yourself to others in order to determine your level of success. You don’t have to be better, smarter, or wealthier to be happy.

Real winners are happy, content, and appreciative with their life. They compete with themselves by consistently growing. They are always competing in a positive fashion and never rest on their laurels.

You are your main competition, not someone else. Your objective is to keep developing rather than trying to be better than another person. Winners of races train to go as fast as they can. During a race, they look forward at the finish line, not behind them to see if anyone is catching up.

Are you a competitor or are you sitting on the sidelines? It’s never too late to jump on to the field. Do your best, keep improving, stay motivated, and you will always be in the front of the pack.

NOW AVAILABLE: “Dare to Live Without Limits,” the book. Visit or your bookstore. Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at or write him c/o this paper. 2006 Bryan Golden