With The Last Dance weekly on every single basketball fan's (and beyond) screen the notion of competitiveness is one I would like to explore. It takes no time at all listening to Michael Jordan speak (or watching his famous Hall of Fame speech) to see what makes him tick.
But is it about competition or is it about winning? Is there a difference? I think there is...
One thing I discovered interestingly this year is that the base of the word compete means "to strive together," the original Latin definition didn't refer to rivalry or outdoing an opponent at all, it was not until later uses that it morphed into that.
To go with this newfound meaning of the word compete goes Peter Thiel's best selling book Zero to One. Thiel founded PayPal and was the first outside investor in Facebook, among many other impressive resume pieces. Thiel spends most of the book arguing against, as he puts it, the "ideology of competition." Rather, he believes in going from "Zero to 1," building something new, and gaining monopoly share. He uses multiple examples of how competition for scarce resources really does not lead the competitors to get further ahead, and how it leads to zero-sum games.
Where these notions come together for me is when placing them under the lens of what you can and cannot control. You do not have complete control over your opponents, their programs, companies, etc. The road to success and championships (in my context) is not by climbing a ladder or going through a maze of competitors, in Peter Thiel's world it would mean you move out of that box and build an elevator, or find your way outside the maze but still ultimately get to the end. In a basketball sense this means spending less time worrying about beating and scouting your opponent and more time building your team and program. John Wooden famously didn't focus on his opponents nearly as much as his own team, or as 49'ers legend Bill Walsh puts it, you want to "Let the Score Take Care of Itself." We spent a whole lot of time this year talking about what is inside your circle of control, circle of influence and what is not. Our team bought into working towards directing all of our energy only towards the elements which were directly in our control, inputs not outputs. As always it's an ongoing process.
This is a set of ideas I look forward to continuing to explore but I think my early conclusion is that competing and winning are not synonymous. You can absolutely win and not spend your time focusing on beating the "competition." This is not black and white obviously but in terms of the Pareto 80/20 principle we would be spending the bulk of our time and energy on what we can control, grow, and actively see improve, which is ourselves.