I win, so I am better than youThu, 8th Mar '07, 8:15 am::

A funny contradiction has been happening to me over time and only now am I starting to realize it. I find that the older I get, the more time I feel I have. One would think that as you grow older, you have less and less time to achieve what you want, yet I feel quite the opposite. When I was fifteen, I was always running out of time. Everything had to happen NOW. There was no time to waste. It's now or never! At twenty-six, other than committed deadlines, time doesn't really bother me. There are so many things I want to do and I feel I'm on the right path. I've found some sort of balance between impatience and procrastination. Even when I wrote about patience, I did not know how that came about, other than inheriting my mother's patient attitude.

While reading The Future of Leisure That Never Arrived, I realized what is missing from my life today that overwhelmed my being ten years ago - competition. I don't compete. There is absolutely no competition in my life. At age fifteen, I competed in more activities than I can remember, from soccer, volleyball, athletics, to violin, theater, and aero-modeling (that's making model planes that can fly, not mile-high modeling). Today, I create. I sit back, take my time, and make whatever I want. I build things I want and at my pace. Nobody else is doing what I'm doing any more. There are no standards to measure my worth by.

The void of competition is not some happenstance. It is completely intentional, albeit indirect. I have chosen to not involve myself in activities where the sole purpose is to win by being better than others. While competition in kids fosters development and personal growth, I find that competition among adults simply regresses communal advancement. I learnt a lot about my strengths and weaknesses when I practiced months on end for music competitions as a teenager. However, by spending three hours a day on my yard to make my lawn greener than my neighbor's, I'd pretty much be wasting my time. My time would be better spent making new things instead of proving I AM BETTER!

What makes the world a better place: A bunch of adults that study for months to get the highest score in mySAP-ERP certification so the winner gets a new laptop and a bonus, or the bunch of them working together or on their own projects to actually make software that help others? Having decided that I'd rather build things than run rat-races, my life has become quite different. I know many people that are winning their selective rat-races, and not just eking out a living. Yet they find their lives miserable and often whine about having no leisure. I know many folks that instead build things and they are generally the most interesting people because despite having twenty-six ongoing projects, they are always interested in learning new things and figuring out how to make something else.

Exceptions to the competition rule is when competing professionally is all you do, i.e. sports professionals, athletes, and the ilk. These are the people that, by doing their very best, actually push the human boundaries on what can be done. If I could run a mile under 3:50, I would and my respect goes to those that can. However, this kind of competition is different from forcing your daughter to get better grades than your brother-in-law's kid. People think that by pushing kids to compete non-stop, the kids will learn to win in life. No, they will learn to win in competitions. Then they will compete for that promotion and then that client account. Next thing they know, they have no time for anything, except of course, pushing their own kids to be the best basketball player and the best pianist in their class.

Thankfully, I competed out of my own volition and not parental or peer pressure. Consequently, I found it easy to get out of the competitions without a loss of self-worth. I never measured how good I am by how many people I'm better than. I do measure how good I am by what I make and how does it make the world slightly better.

Of course, everything has side-effects and my lack of competitiveness has its own repercussions. The fact that I refuse to compete in anything seeps into my private life, especially dating habits. I simply won't compete with other guys for a girl's attention. I won't. I don't care how great you are but if you expect me to prove myself better than the four other guys you're eying, have a nice day and a good life. I'm pretty sure if I wanted to compete and win, I could. But I won't. I'd rather be valued on my absolute merits than some relative edge I might gain over others momentarily.

So who's up for a little kayaking this weekend? I'll race you across the Bay to Tampa and back!

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