Monday, August 12, 2013

Competition's Charm

Not so much anymore, but I used to be a competitive person. I could feel the hackles go up if I felt someone was one up on me. And thoughts would come automatically as to how I could get ahead. Conditioning or not, I would feel shame connected with this and am feeling it now as I reflect. I’m hoping that this might be something that everyone must go through in youth.

Bracelet Charms in Competition With Each Other
I really do not like the feelings associated with competition. Yes, let’s leave them behind. There’s a feeling of my inferiority and someone else's superiority. I feel a lot of fear of failure. And if I actually come out “ahead” I feel bad for being insensitive to my “competitor.”

So, I have conditioned myself to walk away from competition. Once I was in a class on art and business and the instructor was talking about knowing your competition. For an example, she explained that another PMC artisan (who was also present)  and I were in competition with each other. I felt my face go red from the sudden attention, but more so because I had not thought of this before. Later, when I had time to process it all, I realized I had felt misrepresented--I do not regard the other PMC artisan and myself as competitors. The instructor had just defined in part our relationship, a relationship we hadn’t yet had the joy of fully developing.

Competition is what sports is all about. This is where competition stimulates a reach for higher, faster, farther, more precise, etc. Outside of sports--say arts, education, marketing--some argue that competition stimulates higher quality, service, and product. Would I rather accomplish amazing stuff in solo to spite an opponent or accompanied by the cheers and support of comrades? I’ll take the support any day of the week.

Skipping topics here, I attended a Montana Board of Tourism quarterly meeting as a member of a panel of artists to crunch ideas on how artists fuel the tourism industry and how this board could further support artists in the state. A locally well-known, from-Broadway actor, also on the panel, told his story. In our little town of three to five thousand people (depending on the time of year) we have two theaters and three troupes. He said people thought he and his wife were crazy for starting the second theater company because one existed already. The fear? There won’t be enough people attending shows. He drew an analogy between an abundance of theaters and driving on the interstate. He pointed out how at exits all the places to eat and gas up line the streets and boulevards. He said the accumulation of services invites people to get off the exit, eat, and fill their tanks. Would someone likely pull off if there were only one gas station?  Not unless they were desperate for gas. This also is how my town’s downtown association works: they think of ideas to get folks downtown, not into just one store. By cooperation, each business gains more exposure and customers.
Bracelet Charms in Cooperation With Each Other

By emotional contagion, if you are around a person still living in a competitive world, your emotions will take you there with him or her.  It’s not easy to morph a potentially competitive situation into one of mutual cooperation, to focus on abundance rather than scarcity, on connection rather than separation. Cooperation is a phenomenon in the natural world of animals, plants, and other organisms. You don’t see many animals in their natural setting walking around in a state of competition-induced defeat or braggadocio. Sure, there is a hierarchy. For example, horses and dogs might spar for their place in the herd or pack, but in the bigger picture this benefits the herd or pack. Like respect and ranks in the military.

In humans, it takes certain mindfulness, perhaps enlightenment to walk away from anything that benefits one at the expense of another.  In a sense then, what competition does for us that lets us know it serves us is this: It causes us to be mindful enough to value and choose community, abundance, and connectedness.
A Charm Bracelet or "Mecca" of Charms
Ah, I can see it now. A PMC mecca in Montana. Anyone in? Or maybe I’m living in an idealistic world.  What are your thoughts and feelings on competition?

by Kris Kramer


Phoenix said...

There is nothing I could really add to what you had to say Kris. I was particularly fond of the last bit . . . the difficulty in not being drawn in to the energy around me, sometimes. I happen to think there is enough room in the 'verse for all the artists and teachers . . . everyone brings their own authentic self to the proverbial table and in each of us that is different, bring incredible uniqueness to each experience.

thesilverpendant said...

Well said, Phoenix. Well said. I appreciate your comment.