Winning Without Competing

It was Monday at 9:58 PM, and I finished a CAD assignment with the help of my TA. Nick is a great dude, not only because of how helpful and knowledgeable he is but because of his willingness to explain the fundamentals of CAD and engineering until one deeply understands it. 

It’s become a routine when I finish the assignments, we talk about life, economics, psychology, and anything that comes our way. In our conversation, the topic of competition came up. 

He tells me when he applied to colleges, he avoided the “famous” and “prestigious” places from the East Coast because of the overfocus on competition, and the lack of focus on what you’re genuinely curious about. 

He says, “Students don’t do what they like or what they want to learn more about, rather they tend to do what they’re good at because the school, parents, friends, etc tell them to.”

As soon as he said that, sparks started happening in my head, and I was ready to share my response about the dangers of competition. 

Competition is great [1], yet I avoid it as much as possible. Competing with others can lead you to an unhealthy path where you end up doing what you thought would make you a winner, and not what would make you enjoy what you do. 

Nick tells me that often being the best and competing with others can often lead to putting other people down. In zero-sum games, if I win, that means you have to lose. There are plenty of cases where it's positive-sum, where no one wins at someone else’s expense. 

I avoid competition [2] because if you want what other people want 1) it becomes harder to get what you want, and 2) even if you win or get what you wanted, you may realize that was not what you wanted. 

It doesn’t have to be this way, as there are many alternatives to thrive without putting other people down and doing things you want to do by following your curiosity and interests. 



You uniquely define what you do in a way that no one else is doing it.

If you are passionate about entrepreneurship, you can’t call yourself an “entrepreneur.” You need to go deeper. For instance, if you are an entrepreneur, define the areas, the people who you work with, where you work, how you work, and why you work. 

You might be an entrepreneur focused on the well-being of the environment and human life in the southern parts of the country who is trying to implement Algae-based biofuel on tractors. That’s specific and you can go even deeper like the states, the brand of the tractors, and the type of algae. 

Or if you like writing, you can’t call yourself a “writer.” See within and start unburying. You could write about how the sophisticated Roman city of Pompeii affected how we think about building and designing cities in the 20th and 21st centuries. 

I know you may feel uncomfortable being that specific because you may think: 1) You’re passionate about more topics, 2) You may lose opportunities, 3) You may not like being that specific. 

Frankly, that’s how I feel too. However, I can define what I do in such a unique way so I can see where to go or what to do. I don’t have to follow it and can always change it. In my case, I didn’t even worry about it, and I followed what interested me and what seemed curious. 

Like in my writing, I’ve written about statistics, physics, economics, life advice, linguistics, and a bunch of other topics. 

I’ve realized that following your genuine curiosity is the best way to avoid competition and win (whatever that means for you). 

I followed my curiosity and I can look back at the essays. Although they may seem like different topics, they all have one purpose: making my readers more optimistic, ambitious, and curious. 

Define what you do uniquely so you have no competition. That way, you’ll win without winning and without other people down. 

And that was only ten minutes of one of my chats with Nick. Our conversations get more interesting every week. If you’d like to hear more about them, join hundreds of people in the Weekly Memos.




[1] I’m not talking about “Market Competition.” I’m referring to competition at a personal and an individual level.

[2] I don’t just avoid competition for the sake of avoiding it. But if I find myself competing for no reason, it could be a sign that I’m not thinking for myself.

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Tags: philosophy