There is Room for Everyone: Success and Competition

In Part I of this series, I explored the topic of racial equality. For Part II of this series, I would like to consider whether there is room for everyone in another area of life: personal success. 

If you are living, then you can relate to the pressure that comes with needing to feel competent and successful.

From birth we are taught to be the best, eat or be eaten, strive to do better than our parents, set an example for those following behind us, live up to our fullest potential, and strive for success. Well, I was 10 years old when I started hearing all of that and I didn’t know what any of that meant in practice. Thanks for setting me up to chase after something I had no idea about!

There is a lot of pressure on children to figure out life before they are 18. No wonder youth struggle with so many internal and external pressures. All I knew as a child was that “success” was this illustrious concept that every older person I knew was still striving for. I just wish someone would have told me that success is something you achieve every day, step by step, goal by goal, instead of making me think it is a single destination.

It is very sad to think that we spend the majority of our childhood, teenage, and early young adult years chasing a concept that we cannot even define for ourselves until much later in life. People ask, “do you want to be successful?” Well, YES, of course! Who doesn’t want to be successful?

Unfortunately, that is the wrong question.

The real question is, “what does success look like for you?” 

Simply asking someone if they want to be successful without first guiding them toward a personal definition does two things: 1) sends the message that they are currently unsuccessful and 2) ultimately sends them spiraling into the abyss to chase success with a blindfold on.

From an early age, we find ourselves quickly entrenched in comparison and competition wars. “Be yourself,” they say. But what does that mean when you don’t yet know who you are? So, in an attempt to figure out who we are, we start looking at other people for clues and directions. We take bits and pieces of other people’s success to help form our own. Personally, I think this is one of the most damaging things we do to ourselves. From the physical, intellectual, financial, materialistic, and emotional, we constantly struggle with comparing ourselves to others.

This comparison and competition are heightened when it comes to professional areas of life. Do I even need to explain this one? If you work or have any kind of position or status in an institution or business, then you know that competition is often at an all-time high. The more prestigious the job, the more competition. It really takes a mature, self-assured, confident, independent person to not fall victim to the competition and comparison wars in professional culture.

So in the end, is there room for everyone when it comes to being successful?

It will be challenging, but I say it is possible to make room for others.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • There will never be room for everyone else if we don’t figure out what success looks like for each and every one of us. We are all unique and have our own individual paths in this world. Success means finding your own lane and mastering the art of running in it.

  • In reality, we were all created to be different so there are enough lanes for everyone. I know competition seems natural and inevitable. I understand that. However, our success is not measured by how we competed against someone in another lane; rather, it’s measured by how we mastered our own. Competition against others only leads us to emotional and mental exhaustion. Remember, the best version of you is not a series of stolen bits and pieces of other people.

There is room for everyone to succeed, but that’s only possible if everyone commits to staying in their own lane. You can look at other people’s lanes to find inspiration, but at some point, you have to go back to your own lane and get moving. The only competition allowed is with yourself.

Read Part I: There Room For Everyone: Racial Equality?

Read Part III: There Room For Everyone: Compromise and Chemistry in Relationships

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