On Competition

Are you the type of person who worries about “the competition” on a personal or professional level? I used to worry about it myself a long time ago, but a personal epiphany changed the way I viewed competition. I’ve been quite happy ever since then.

Competition has its good side. It can drive you to greater heights, compel you to innovate, and give you greater confidence in what you do, assuming you “win”, that is. It can also drive you crazy, too. You can worry yourself to death thinking about your competitors and how much better they might be at what you do, and you can stress yourself needlessly by fearing whether you’re ever going to be good enough to “beat” them. One day I finally asked myself, “Why does this all matter?”

Well, it doesn’t.

I finally realized that there is an excellent way to overcome these fears and eliminate all the negative stresses. Compete with yourself.

Focus on how you can become better at what you do and what it will take to be the best that you can possibly be. You’ll be surprised at how much progress you make, how smoothly that progress actually comes, and how much calmer you are. You’ll break past the stressful bonds that “normal” competition imposes upon you, and you’ll find the self-motivation and self-discipline required for you to grow. It’s a wonderful feeling of absolute freedom.

An important part of my personal philosophy on life is to be present in the moment as much as I possibly can be. It is so important to me that I wrote something to remind me of it always.

The Past is behind you – you must let it go

The Future is in front of you – you must flow toward it

The Present is where you stand – it was the Future that will become your Past

Therefore, be in the moment, for it is all you really have

When I know I have a particularly creative day coming up, whether I’m performing music or doing Tarot readings, I ask myself these four questions (let’s assume I’m having a Tarot day):

  1. What should I do to be the best reader I can be today? (Note that I didn’t say “…to be a better reader than yesterday.” Yesterday is already behind me. Unless I have the exact same circumstances today that I had yesterday, comparing what I do today with what I did yesterday is, in my view, meaningless and irrelevant.)
  2. What can I learn from my failures that will make me a better reader?
  3. What can I learn from my successes that will help me hone my craft further?
  4. What can I learn from others that will broaden my knowledge and skills, and make me a more well-rounded reader?

When I think about this subject, I often remember an incident that occasionally happened when I was a professional musician. I would be at a night club, listening to a band, and inevitably I’d hear a particularly cool lick that the guitarist played during a song. At the break, I’d go and introduce myself to the guitarist and finally get around to asking him if he’d mind showing me the lick. All of a sudden, the guy has a horrific look on his face and an attitude that made me feel like I just asked him to give me one of his kids. “Sorry, I can’t show you the lick. Why would I help the competition?” Geez, give me a break.

On one occasion, I finally had enough of the ego trip and let the guy have it – in a diplomatic way, of course. “Look, it won’t hurt you at all if you show me your precious lick. Think of it: you and I play different guitars; we use different brands of strings; we use different types of picks; we attack the strings differently; we press the strings differently; we phrase differently – there’s absolutely no way I’m going to sound like you if I play your lick!” He didn’t show it to me anyway, of course, so I left.

My point in telling you this story is that I have the same perspective in regards to my fellow Tarot readers. It doesn’t matter if I show another reader my most successful relationship spread because our approaches and reading styles will be so different. As such, there is, truly, no competition between us. I think the Tarot reader community needs to discard the traditional competition mindset and instead foster a mindset of mutual understanding, growth and trust. I know from personal experience that this can work, and that a positive side effect is a greater sense of self confidence in those who put this into practice.

Remember that the greatest competitor you have in life is yourself.

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