What do you think it means to compete?
Google ‘compete’ and this is what it spits out: strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same. It even underlines its synonyms for you.
But if you look below the definition on your google webpage and click on “Translations and more definitions”, I believe you’ll find a truer definition of what it means to compete…
Origin: Latin → ‘com’ (together) + ‘petere’ (aim at, seek) = ‘competere’ (strive together)
To compete means to strive together.
I don’t believe focusing on defeating or establishing superiority over others will serve you best in competition. Anyone can find an opponent in a given field to dominate. We could win every game, every time if we wanted. That’s not what competition is all about.
Competition is a camaraderie. Competition is a partnership. Competition is just as much with as it is against.
There are shared rules, formal and informal. There’s respect.
We need the other side. And competition is always at its best when our opponents bring their best.
Last week, tragedy struck the Michigan State University campus. The school postponed all classes and athletic events until the weekend when their basketball team visited their hated rival – the University of Michigan.
Michigan’s bands played Michigan State’s Alma Mater, their fans observed a moment of silence, and their players wore Spartan Strong shirts. It was a powerful scene of togetherness after a horrendous situation. Then, Michigan went out and won a hard fought game against their rival. Respect.
There are bigger things than basketball, of course. And there are probably bigger lessons in this than what it means to compete. But watching an adversary offer support and then two teams come together and go at it was a beautiful picture of the true essence of competition.
We need each other – teammates and opponents – to be our best.