Last week I wrote a bit about how much I hate competition. Since then I’ve received a few responses and emails about this topic and I can tell it hit home with some people. The richness of responses prompted me to think about it a lot more deeply.
Looking back on my life, I have had a few successes that have won me some of the prizes we are all after, that is: love, money, good feelings and great relationships.
In every case where I had achieved success, I did so because during the process of achieving these things, I attracted people and things to my life because I was being me. Most of these incidents felt like accidents. One day, an opportunity dropped on my lap. Another time, I met a key person. But thinking of the circumstances behind such events, there is a clear correlation: I was in the act of being “the most of myself I could be” when they all happened.
Conversely, when I have pretended to be something other than my true self, it has ended only in disaster. The recipe goes like this: I want something, I exercise those mirror neurons and copy whatever I need to copy in order to attract it, then I get it, then I am in misery, or I disappoint, or I fail, or I ruin it. I fail because I simply can’t keep up with the charade any longer. It’s too painful, it’s too inauthentic. It isn’t ultimately what I want.
You can’t pretend to be something other than you are for very long.
This happens in the early stages of romantic relationships a lot. Ever noticed how many people put “I like hiking” on their dating profiles? These people don’t like hiking. They don’t go hiking. They simply hike once to get the date, to seem adventurous, then it’s Netflix on the couch with popcorn like everybody else.
It’s super scary to be ourselves. That’s because “ourselves” are pretty ordinary, kinda pathetic sometimes and a little weird. We definitely aren’t as interesting as the people on television, or as funny or as good. We are human.
We don’t want anyone to find out.
What does this really have to do with your distaste of competition?
Tim Ferris recently did a great post about some powerful questions he asks himself. One of them is: “What’s the least crowded channel?”
In any endeavor, there are tried and true channels. To get something published you need to get an agent. That’s a super crowded channel. One agent I talked to got 1,000+ queries per month. Another reported it was more like 2,500.
When you are in a crowded channel, you must compete. No question. You must write the best and brightest query, have a hot idea, get the right personalities to look it over, etc. etc. You are doing this and so is everyone else. You are in the arena, gutting your competition with a spear.
And you hate it, don’t you?
That’s because you secretly don’t feel like it’s right. You are a peaceful soul. You don’t feel like you should fight. You should be immediately recognized as a champion because you know you are. You put in the time, the money. You have your ten thousand hours. You’ve read the books. Now you have to fight too?
I can hear the chorus say, “Yes! You have to fight! There is no way around it!”
I’m the pipsqueaky mouse under the stands shouting “Ahem, not really.”
When I started a store in an uncrowded market, I got sales immediately. I grew fast. I had almost no trouble.
When I started a store in a crowded channel, I had to fight to get seen, to get sales. The fight was expensive in advertising dollars and personal time and sanity. I still didn’t get the spoils.
In the first store, I was being me. In the second store, I was being someone else.
You are the most uncrowded channel!
Joseph Campbell calls this “Following your bliss.” If you have something you love, even if it’s embarrassing, weird, mock-worthy or even stupid, you must consider running after it with more speed and vigor than before. This is your little crack, your way.
If what you love is traditionally a crowded channel (like writing, sports supplements, as seen on TV gadgetry) then you have to figure out what your weird little spin on it is then spin, spin away!
You have to create a territory. A comfy little nest for yourself.
If you find yourself persuing something that gives you almost no pleasure and mostly lots of pain, it might be because you are trying to compete in an overcrowded arena or trying to be one of your heroes.
Go make your own arena, go be your own hero.