Get Up And Code 36: Competition…Love It Or Hate It?
What do you think about competition?
Do you love competing or hate competing?
I, myself, find competition to be a great driving force that helps me excel.
In this episode of Get Up and CODE, Iris and I discuss competition and how it can either drive you to success in your health and fitness plans or cause you harm.
Check out the episode below and let me know what you think.
Full transcript below:
Iris: Hi and welcome to another episode of Get Up and CODE! Today we will be talking about competition. I’m here with my co-host John Sonmez and I’m Iris Classon and I know we both like competing for various reasons, so we thought this would be a really, really good topic today to talk about competition. Now John, tell me, what do you think about competition?
John: You know it’s interesting. I was just thinking the other day that I’m always in some kind of competition. I’m always competing with something. I thrive on it. I was looking back in my days as a kid like I would play Magic the Gathering and I played that competitively. I had to get to the competitive levels and then I did – I played a lot of poker and I did that competitively. When I’ve gone into sports I’ve done that and just last week I was – just this week I did a competition. Yeah, competition is definitely a big part of my life. What about you?
Iris: I think I might actually be the opposite of you.
John: Oh really?
Iris: I’ve actually never been really competitive. I like to perform really well and I do enjoy difficult tasks, but I’ve never really competed which has annoyed my sister for example because she loves to compete. All my friends who love to compete kind of hates me for it because they try to compete and then I go, “I don’t care.” I just like to do really well.
So I guess kind of competing but with myself not with other people. I’m not quite sure where I have that from ‘cause my parents are the opposite. They like competition. They like to be best and so on. Maybe that’s why I don’t have that.
John: Yeah, sometimes we go the opposite way. Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean it’s just kind of baked into my DNA, I think. Every time I find myself competing. Just last week I actually – that’s what got me really thinking about doing an episode on competition is I meet with a group of guys. It’s kind of a mastermind group is what we call it, but they’re fellow entrepreneurs who – we’ve actually had both of them on the show, Derek and Josh. We came up with this idea of doing this competition where we’d all take off from work and we would try to make $100 online in one day using nothing that you had already. It’s like being dropped in the forest with a hunting knife and go find food, go survive. That was the idea. We did this competition on Tuesday and it was a lot of – I mean it’s scary. It got me going. It pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and that’s what really got me thinking about this.
For my competition what I did is I created a website at devcareerboost.com and I’m selling a package for marketing yourself as a software developer. I put that all up in one day, the site and everything. I’m pre selling it. The thing that I really realized from doing that like it got me thinking and the same thing on the fitness side is just this – sometimes having that and knowing that there’s someone else there that you’re going to have to show your face that you’re going to be competing against, you have to produce results, pushes you just a little bit further than you would have when on your own because if I set out on Tuesday to just do this by myself without the competition I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far. I felt like there was someone chasing behind me so I had to run faster. That was what really got me thinking about competition.
Iris: That is quite interesting. I wonder if it’s – so I know, I’ve seen some studies that suggest that competition isn’t as high of a motivational factor for women as it is for men, even more so if it is against other men. A little bit to do with negative beliefs about your own ability kind of becomes true. Also that there’s the suggestion that women grow up to be more mastery oriented in terms of motivation and competition so that they like to perform well and they like to do difficult tasks and they like the idea of mastery, but not so much winning over other people.
I wonder if it is true, if there is a gender difference. I’ve only seen a couple of studies, but that’s definitely not enough to draw a conclusion. I thought it was quite interesting when I read about that because I did recognize myself in some of that, but then again, both my mom and my sister are highly competitive and they like to win whatever it takes.
John: Yeah, that is interesting. My wife doesn’t like to compete. She doesn’t like the feeling of it. It’s kind of like – I think back on my days when I would enter a Magic the Gathering, it’s this card game, I know you know it.
Iris: Yeah, yeah. Don’t we all know it?
John: Actually probably a fair bit of our audience probably knows about it. Anyway, I played at like the pro level or the Grand Prix events and stuff. I just get this knot in my stomach. It’s like you feel sick like, “Oh my gosh. What am I doing?” like so nervous and like – I don’t want to even say nervous. It’s just like you feel this pit in your stomach. Same thing like when I do a big poker event where I was like a $1000 buy in that I wanted to take it up to. Now I’m playing in the main event and it’s like – you’re just—I don’t know. That feeling, it’s like an adrenaline rush. At the time it doesn’t feel good but it’s – it’s because it’s that adrenaline rush I think is what – I’m addicted to it. I have to find more of it. I’m primitive.
Iris: I think competitive arousal is – it’s grouped into, depending on which researcher you ask, is grouped into different type of categories. The feeling of winning is just one of those categories in competitive arousal.
I think mine kind of probably ends into the mastery like doing – I like to feel like I’ve mastered something new and I’m evolving. A lot of times I’ve ended up placing fairly good in competitions although I haven’t competed because I’ve been so self focused on getting really good at it and doing really well, not really looking over my shoulder to see how the person next to me is doing.
There are many different motivational factors within competition which is it seems some of them work better in terms of motivation than others. I think that’s – you can see that in sports as well.
John: Right, yeah, yeah, definitely. That’s the thing, I guess kind of to segue it into the fitness side of it is I know that a lot of people do these – I think the most common thing in the US, I don’t know. You probably do it in – and it’s probably popular in Sweden too is this 12-week challenges or 3-month challenges to do like you try to lose some weight or reshape your body and then you have some prize at the end for whoever does this the best.
I’ve done it myself at one point and I know that that actually pushed me to actually making a lot more progress than I would have on my own without that competition. It seems like it could be a good thing. I’ve seen a lot of success stories from people that when they entered this challenge they finally got serious and they did something and actually got a good result.
Iris: I think if it’s – I think it’s more of thinking about it and sitting down to find out if you like competition, what type of competition, what triggers you to want to – whether it be winning or doing well or feeling like you’re mastering something or if you just like putting in the actual effort or you like the idea of improving. Because if you find out that you do like competition there might be different reasons as to why you like competition. If you find the right one then you can find the right competition and then that will help.
But if you’re just joining in a competition because you think it’s going to help you, it’s going to motivate you, it’s not necessarily going to work for you, but some people get extremely stressed about these things. Some people will, for the wrong reasons, push themselves almost to the point where they become injured. I think it’s a really fine line there and it’s really hard to balance.
John: Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s interesting. We’re both coming at it from different approaches because I’m very gung-ho on the competition and like you said, you prefer to compete with yourself for the mastery side. I think that that’s probably like – it’s good that we’re both talking about this because I think there’s probably, within our audience, it’s probably split that way too. I think there’re a lot of people that like competition gets them fired up. Those kinds of people would do well in a competitive environment so they should get – if you’re like that you should enroll in a 5K race or enroll in a marathon that’s going to motivate you to get there next year. Or start doing competitive events. Look and see if there are competitions.
If you’re on the other side and that doesn’t drive you then there’s – then don’t do that because that’s going to push you away, because then you’re not going to want to – you’re going to be afraid to actually run because you’re afraid that you’re going to have to compete and you don’t like that feeling. I don’t know. Does that sound …?
Iris: I would say that registering for a race and joining in a race can incorporate all the different motivational factors within competitive arousal. For example, if you sign up for a marathon like our friend Matt did, and he’s actually doing really well with his running even though he’s been really sick he still continues to run. That’s pretty cool. Now he’s doing this to have a sense of mastery. He wants to accomplish this. He wants to do this. He hasn’t signed up to win.
Now, I do however, have a lot of friends, Aaron Skonnard likes to run marathons as well and I know for him getting a good time is really important and maybe a little bit better than some of his friends. He’s like a combination of performing better than last time as well as a certain degree of winning. I’m just saying this based on some of the conversations I’ve had with him. I don’t know him that well to say that’s a fair and accurate statement but just to give an example. You can still sign up for a race but it might be different ways to go about the excitement about competing.
For me personally I can give a really good example. I’ve been playing squash for a long time. You play with a racket and you have a tiny ball and you play in a little square room and you can hit any wall. Now, with some people that I play with they want to compete, they want to win so they just smack the ball and we just run back and forward. I actually found out I didn’t enjoy that because I felt I spent most of the time just picking up the ball and doing serves.
With some of my friends we agreed on just seeing how long we could keep the ball going and how we could advance together and do tricky shots and picking up the speed a little bit, getting closer to the wall and doing things like that working on mastery. Then it became a joint competition because we were still competing together, not against each other.
Some of our friends refused to do that because they want to go there and they want to have this feeling of, “Yeah, I won today.” For me that didn’t work because I just felt like, “Okay, you won, so what? I’m still not getting better at squash. I’m just picking up the goddamn ball. I don’t even get an exercise.” Oh crap, got to beep that.
John: You bring up a really good point though. It’s really interesting because I’m definitely the guy – like if I got in there I want to play to win. I can’t like …
Iris: I can recommend some friends.
John: That’s just how I am, but I recognize sometimes that’s a big fault because like you said, this is something – I was just reading about it in this book by Cal Newport called So Good They Can’t Ignore you, really good book. Anyway, he said that basically there’s a difference between – he’s using chess. He said that – they studied chess and he said, “Okay, what makes people like chess good?” People guessed that – the best educated guess was that it was playing a lot of tournaments, plain competition that would make you better.
But what it turned out when they actually did the study and they actually questioned people who were good at chess, and basically this whole big study, was that what actually made you good at chess was deliberate practice which was this idea that you work on the mechanics or you work on a particular part of your game. Or you work on, you know, if you’re a runner you work on a particular part of that, not just competing in races.
It was really interesting because that’s one thing that sometimes I lack is I just want to go out there and compete. I don’t want to necessarily do the deliberate practice part and what you’re talking about with the – you’re going to become a better squash player than someone perhaps who just always competes and never works on the smaller parts. That’s probably true in a lot of sports as well.
Iris: I like to look back and see how much I’ve grown and see the progress like where I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, today because that gives me an idea where I can be 5 years from now and that’s quite exciting to me. If I look at trophies or diplomas or something I get more of an anxiety because then I feel like I won and then sometimes feel like maybe it was just an accident or I didn’t quite deserve it. I get a little bit of the impostor syndrome I guess you can say, so maybe that comes into play as well that if I focus on my skills instead on improving those then that’s something nobody can ever take away from me.
John: That’s a good point.
Iris: I maybe didn’t become number one but I can say I was there yesterday and I’m here today. Since you predict the future by looking at the past it’s looking pretty good for me.
John: Yeah, that’s a good point, yeah, yeah. Sometimes when you’re on the top it feels like – or you’re competing – you’re always trying to prove yourself and then validate again. It’s like you’re never there, like you can never – it’s like the boxing champion world. As soon as you get the title, okay, now people are trying to take it from you. That’s stressful. I know, but that I actually kind of like. I strive – I don’t like it, like you said, there’s that anxiety but then that kind of – I don’t know, maybe I’m just whatever the word is, is it masochist or whatever, I don’t know. I like the pain.
Iris: Something with the chimpanzee.
John: Another point, the competition point I think that’s really interesting is like I think a lot of people are turned off by competitions because sometimes the way people behave in competitions.
I think there’s a right way to do it. For example, when we did that competition on Tuesday, I mean everyone is supporting each other. We’re trying to win. We’re trying to do as good as possible – at least I’m trying to win, but I’m not turning my competitors into my enemies. I don’t take down. I’m not trying to trip them. I want to do the best that I can and we’re all in this together. It’s like a collective – I guess for me the collective experience is more important, like afterwards we’re all friends, it’s good.
But some people they have a hard time doing that. When they get into a competition they hate the other people that are there. They view them – and then when they win they gloat. I don’t know if you’ve ever – I’m sure we’ve all been there.
Iris: I gloat if I win because I’m proud. It’s not to be like “In your face” but it’s just I’m proud. It’s cool like “Look, I can do stuff. That’s awesome.” Some people take it the wrong way but whatever.
John: Yeah. It’s okay to like do your little dance or whatever, but not in – well, I guess a good example – oh, actually, Magic the Gathering and poker like there would be people who would win at the poker table well, for example, right? There’s a lot of money on the line. This is someone’s dream or hope and they would win and they would just throw it down, throw down the cards and say, “Oh, yeah” right? The other person on the other side, they’re feeling like crap.
I try to downplay the win and shake someone’s hand and be – I don’t know, maybe that’s just sportsmanship, but at least how I consider it. I think it sometimes gives competition a bad name because you don’t want to like – I mean it’s one thing to lose and then it’s another thing to have it thrown in your face and have someone really come down on you and gloat over you.
Iris: Well, I think just because a person shines after their winning doesn’t mean they’re coming down on other people. Also I think if you really want to dance and you’re really happy and you’re really excited about it, I'm more annoyed if you’re not enjoying the moment because I know I would. The whole, “Oh, I'm so humble” sometimes for me it feels a little bit fake when people do that, because if you feel like dancing go ahead and dance. Because if you do anything different that means you’re not being yourself. It’s like, I’ll have a moment. I’ll like cry. I’ll be upset. I’ll get over it like everybody else. I guess on some people, long term hurt, feelings, go home, cry.
John: Yeah. I guess my perspective on this, I’d rather like if I win something, I'm more likely to be solemn after winning. Inside I'm like, “Yeah, yeah,” but I'm more like, “Okay, let me make sure that this other person is not going to – that they feel all right. They’re okay.” I can celebrate later when I get home or at the after party, or whatever. I'm going to save my celebration, but I can definitely see that, I mean – but some people get too sensitive too just on that side of — I don’t know.
Iris: I don’t know if I want to …
John: I don’t have any problems with someone dancing.
Iris: I don’t think I should be responsible for other people’s feelings unless I do and put an effort into hurting them. Because trying to figure out how people feel or think sometimes just takes so much energy. Do you ever feel …
Iris: Do you ever feel like if there are a lot of competitors like if it increases and becomes a lot, do you feel less like competing?
John: When there’re a lot of competitors?
Iris: Yeah, when it becomes too much. It just becomes a lot, a lot, and it goes like when the chance of winning just starts feeling really, really small.
John: That’s a good point. I think that’s probably true. I'm trying to think like the biggest field that I have ever won. I won a poker tournament once and I was like — it was like $5 to enter. It’s online and there were 10,000 people in it, and I came in first. There was like a big cash prize, but I didn’t think I was going to win it. I wasn’t into the competition.
When I'm sitting at a four or five-person table playing poker, for example, at a tournament I'm more in it, because I feel like there’s a better chance I'm going to win. There’s more at stake. I can’t write it off as much. I guess when there are a whole lot of people in the thing like a marathon or something, you could say, “Oh, yeah. I wasn’t expecting to win anyway.” It’s not so personal, I guess, to me like if I lose. If there’s only like four people and I come in last, that’s a big – I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to come in last. I'm going to give it all I got so I don’t come in last. Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right. That’s a pretty good observation.
Iris: It’s not actually my observation. I read this really interesting study about competition. What do you call this test in the US that they do? STA? No. The tests, summary test you do in the US.
John: Oh, SATs. The SATs.
Iris: SAT. SATs.
John: Oh, yeah, like SAT, the college, yeah.
Iris: Oh, my God. STA stands for sexually transmitted … no, that’s the STD. Sorry. Oh, God.
John: Remember, the only difference between a stud and an STD is you.
Iris: Oh, dear.
John: That’s mine. I’ll claim that.
Iris: SAT. I'm completely blushing now. SAT.
Iris: They compared people who are doing their SATs. The more people who are doing them the less the person wants to compete. I thought that was really interesting because not too long ago, I was looking at the Pluralsight Course Library and we have so many offers. I remember when I first started doing courses for Pluralsight I was like, “I’d like to be in the top 10. I just want to be good enough to be in the top 10 because that would be really cool.” Not long ago I was scrolling through the list of offers in the course. I was like quite happy to just do a course. I'm fine with that, actually.
It was really interesting how I felt that switch. We felt a little bit like my goals only changed. I don’t know if it’s a cognitive dissonance. My mind is trying to save me somehow and goes like, “No, no, no, you don’t need to be in the top 10.” That was quite interesting because I felt a noticeable change.
The same thing happened when I was running our first marathon. I had all these ambitions. I'm getting a good sign and I was being really good. When I started running, I just realized I wasn’t going to get a good time. I switched over to having another goal instead of just giving up. I just decided to compete in something else. Instead of going for getting a really good time, my competition was like I just want to make it to the other end, and I did. How convenient.
John: That’s a really good point. Well, okay. Have you ever been to like the mall and you see those games like the claw game, but they have these new skill games now? We have to like move something and there’s like an iPod in there. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Iris: Oh, yeah. Oh, those are mean.
John: Okay. You know why? They prey on that because—and what you just talked about. Because it’s like you think you can win. This looks easy like you wouldn’t put your dollar in there and try to win an iPod because who cares. No, no, no, the reason why you do it is because, “Oh, I could do that. That looks like I could win. I could win that.” That’s exactly the thing, is it’s – but we could use that to our advantage with fitness and working out. Like you said like with the big marathon field, “Hey, you’re not kidding anyone, you’re not going to win the marathon.” I'm sorry. If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably not going to win the marathon like it’s not going to happen. There’s a – but you know what, if you and a couple of buddies of yours enter a competition to see who can do best in a marathon, you got 3 people competing, you got a one in 3 chance of winning. Just a random chance but if you’re like me and think that you’re always going to win, you might give yourself a 90% chance. You feel like you’re going to do it.
I think that we could use that to our advantage and we could set up these scenarios like figure out the right competition size. Set up competitions with friends to lose weight or co-workers. Put something on the line, some money or something to make you – whatever it takes to get the motivation so that you feel the competitive spirit, but enough that you feel like you can win. Because if you don’t feel there’s any chance you’re going to win, you’re not going to be motivated.
Iris: I like to propose other motivations. I like to propose actually entering a competition and making sure that what you’re competing for is actually to just mastery. You just decide on doing something really well and you have a definition of nice, agile style, what that would be, what master would be for you. You look at what you’ve done before and you just choose a little bit more difficult, a little bit further than what you’ve done before and you set that as your goals. Then it becomes a mastery thing. You can always adjust it a little bit to fit your needs if you overestimate a little bit.
I like to use the example with Matt again which he hasn’t exercised before. He’s never run before in his life and he set a very big ambitious goal of actually running a marathon, and that also having an illness which is basically renders him in bed like for weeks at the time or in hospital.
I think that’s like pretty, pretty cool. For some people, that’s going to work really well. Some people need another person to compete against. I think we should suggest both.
John: Yeah, I agree. I agree with you definitely. I guess you got to know what kind of person you are. When you sign up for something do you – like do those butterflies in your stomach, do you live for that feeling or do you not? Does that turn you away from it? If it turns you away then don’t – like the competition with other people is not going to be good. You don’t want to push away. I think that makes a lot of sense like the idea of mastery, self-competing, right? It’s like competing with yourself to make a better version of yourself. It’s not someone else that you’re competing with.
Let me ask you about this because this is what I'm curious about, because I'm obviously coming from the other side. You still would enter a 5k or you’d still enter a race or – the social aspect or like you play squash. Maybe I thrive on the competition part of the social aspect, but is the social aspect itself a motivator for you? Do you feel more motivated running with friends or doing something with friends or other people even if you’re not competing against them?
Iris: Aside from running which I like to do alone, for me, in terms of intrinsic motivation, curiosity and collaboration are my biggest 2 intrinsic motivational factors that I am aware of. Collaboration for me is a really big thing that always really drives me. When I, for example, play squash I like to see how well I can interact with the other person. When I air programming, I like to see how well we can work together and bring out the strengths in each other. It sounds maybe a little bit like soft, kumbaya my Lord but that’s honestly how I feel. You’re really excited because you have the opportunity of having somebody fill out the things you’re lacking. Therefore, you can become this ultimate person together with somebody else. It’s cool to play superhero for a day or 2. That’s how it feels for me.
John: Okay, that’s cool. I like that. Cool. I'm trying to think. I think that’s pretty much – I don’t know. I think that’s all I’ve really got on the motivation side or on the competition side. It’s something that for people to consider, I think, if you’re that kind of person that the competition could be a good thing to drive you and then like you said too, I think you made some really good observations, especially the – I really liked the difference between the big groups and the small ones. Some people will see opposites.
I guess it’s really just thinking the big thing that I think people can get from this episode is just consider it. Are you a competitive person? Do you thrive from it? If you do, you get on this. There are plenty of places to compete in, in nutrition, in sports that will motivate you and help you. If you’re not, then you got to know too like what is the thing that’s going to motivate you?
I like your idea of having the personal improvement or mastery as a motivator as well. That’s something I need to – like I said, more deliberate practice. Well, we haven't aired that episode but when we’re talking about the running like – and you’re suggesting to me to do the hills and like doing the sprints and stuff. I want to compete against my last time, and that wasn’t working for me. Just competing every time is not good enough. The deliberate practice is really important.
Iris: Yeah. It’s funny how everybody I know says, “Oh, I'm really a competitive person.” Everybody says that. I don’t think people have spent enough time thinking about what they mean by a competitive person, because we’ve identified at least 5 different ways of liking competition. Winning is only one of them and master is only one of them, but then you have all the other ones as well.
I think when people say they like to compete they should spend some time to think about what they mean by competition and what they get out of it. As soon as they can pinpoint that, they know what they can use as a little trick, magic, secret, something, to push themselves a little bit further. It’s always good to identify what drives you.
John: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s a good point.
Iris: I think we have a little bit of a lag time.
John: Yeah, we do.
Iris: Yeah, we got really bad connection today. There’s a little bit of a lag time. Sorry people.
John: Oh, 2 things I want to plug. Well, a re-plug. Definitely, our sponsor, right, I always forget this. I'm going to have to get used to this. If we have some other potential sponsors out there, we’re getting better at it. Signaleaf.com, they’re hosting us. We appreciate them hosting our podcast. Go check them out if you want to start a podcast. Hey, you could do it. Compete against us.
Iris: Don’t think you’re going to win. I'm just kidding.
John: That’s right. Iris will slam. She’s going to throw you down.
Iris: Yeah. When I lose I would be like, “It’s not about winning, anyway.”
John: Oh, exactly, yeah. Iris is one of those, “Oh, I don’t like to compete. In your face!”
Iris: Yeah. Actually, if I win I moonwalk. I always moonwalk when I win. I moonwalk, I dance, I call everybody, and then I blog about it, no. I definitely moonwalk.
John: I see. I see there’s that competitive type of person that says they’re not competitive. Then what they do is they only compete at things that they can win like hands down win and they could dominate. Then you think, “Oh, okay. Well, they’re not competitive.” Then they just slam you down. They turn to another person then they’re in your face.
Iris: I joined the kids karate seminar.
John: Oh, God.
Iris: Oh, yeah but let’s end this now.
John: Okay, so yeah. Check out Signaleaf.com if you want to host a podcast, and they’ve got some really good steps for getting started with a podcast. I just want to plug my thing real quick from that competition. Devcareerboost.com, I'm putting together a course on marketing yourself as a software developer which is – it’s related to podcast and this is something that – Iris and I, we do this podcast because we like this podcast. It’s also one of the way at least, I won’t speak for Iris, but that we are able to market ourselves.
You get out there and get your personality out there. People like you. Some people hate you, but it’s a good thing to do for your career and it’s a little bit out of your comfort zone for a lot of people but it could be really helpful. Okay, that’s it.
Iris: All I want is that somebody that listens to me when I talk because my mom told me that would never happen. I'm just kidding. Okay. Thanks for tuning in people and talk to you in a week. Good bye.
John: We’ll catch you next week.