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My Basic Philosophy on Competition

I scoff at participation awards, which are awards you (or your child) get for just showing up. I like healthy competition. I distinguish healthy competition from unhealthy competition in this way - In healthy competition, you strive to do your best to win. In unhealthy competition, you seek to win at all costs and belittle your opponents if you do win. For some people, competition brings out the best in them. For others, it brings out the worst in them. You can easily tell by the way they respond to a result. People with a healthy outlook on competition win graciously and find inspiration in losing. I also want employees who want to win, not ones who just want to show up. People who bring a positive viewpoint on competition into business also tend to seek win-win business relationships. In the end, that is the only negotiation style that can continue to produce positive results. If you continually strive for win-lose relationships, people eventually just stop playing with you.

A healthy attitude towards competition is a learned behavior. As a child, I didn't pay attention to participation awards as they didn't have much meaning to me. I always wanted to win, individually or as a team. I think I learned this from my parents. We competed using board games from as far back as I can remember. I wanted to win, but more importantly, that drove me to want to get better. At sports and games, I am always competitive. I also competed with my children and taught them to want to improve at whatever they decide is important to them. I never took it easy on them, but I was always a willing coach (and if I couldn't coach them on what mattered to them, I would find them a good coach).

To see what competing in sports, music, and games (poker in particular) has meant to me, please select those articles below.

When we play games we are often doing that, just playing and trying to have fun. But games can easily become a competition, and much like athletic competitions, they can push us to improve our game. I can remember playing games with my parents when I was quite young. We would play Chess, Backgammon, Scrabble, Gin Rummy, Monopoly, Cribbage, etc. - the list was long. I still play Words With Friends (similar to Scrabble) with my mother almost every day. I do not need to win to have fun. But for me, if the other person is not trying, it is not as fun.

I know a lot of you must be thinking that music is an artform, therefore you don't compete. I see it differently. The local nightclub decides which band will play at all and in which time slots. Those bands are competing with each other, even if they never meet on a field of competition. Then, of course, there are The Grammys. That is clearly a competition (by votes). And television has created many competitive game shows around musical talent as well. Of course, Music is an art form as well. I find it a tremendously effective emotional outlet, too. But if you ever start thinking about what it means to play for others, you will soon realize you are getting into a competition of sorts.

I love sports - as a participant, as a coach, and as a spectator. Organized team sports started for me in 4th grade when I first played flag football through the local city recreation department. For 4th through 6th grade, the recreation department actually organized the teams from the four elementary schools in our area. So I had many of the same teammates in the park basketball league as well. In 5th grade, I felt like I hit the jackpot, with the flag football team winning the local league and the basketball team winning the city tournament against 11 other teams. That was also my first year in baseball. We had an independent little league program in our area and that season in my first year of baseball we won the league championship - and I batted 0.000 for the entire season, not one hit! But dominant in my mind was "We won!", soon followed by "I need to learn to hit better."