The Fierce Competitor

Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep. - Unknown

If you look up the word competitor in the dictionary, you will find the following: “a person who takes part in a contest.” That struck me as odd, as I believe competing is about much more than participating. If I think about the times in my life/career where I am really competing, I lose track of time. I become engrossed in the outcome. My preparation is greater than the performance of the competition. And the end result is winning. After all, we play this game of life and work to help others and to win. That requires an edge and a ferocity, well above the norm.


Andre Agassi tells a great story in his autobiography:

My father says that when he boxed, he always wanted to take a guy’s best punch. He tells me one day on the tennis court: When you know that you just took the other guy’s best punch, and you’re still standing, and the other guy knows it, you will rip the heart right out of him. In tennis, he says, same rule. Attack the others man’s strength. If the man is a server, take away his serve. If he’s a power player, overpower him. If he has a big forehand, takes pride in his forehand, go after his forehand until he hates his forehand. My father has a special name for this contrarian strategy. He calls it putting a blister on the other guy’s brain. With this strategy, this brutal philosophy, he stamps me for life. He turns me into a boxer with a tennis racket. More, since most tennis players pride themselves on their serve, my father turns me into a counterpuncher- a returner.

That mindset is well beyond that of “a person who takes part in a contest.”  That is the edge that we need to find.


Urban Meyer talks about types of competitors. Here is my adaptation, based on what I see in the business world:  


If you ask yourself what level you really are, you might be scared by the answer. The first step to getting where you want to be, is to acknowledge where you are today.

There are four sources of edge, created by fierce competitors: 1) Learn faster than your competition, 2) empathize with stakeholders more than your competition, 3) communicate more effectively than your competition, and 4) be willing to fail more than your competition. (Adapted from Morgan Housel post.)

Everyone can find that extra edge. You have to step into the moment.