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Winners Don’t Compete – Peter Burke

By 3rd April 2017April 21st, 2021No Comments


Here’s what I think, I think…

  • Do what makes you happy
  • Invest time and energy in your mental and physical wellbeing (ideally in a crossfit gym near me)
  • Be kind to others
  • Don’t settle

Growing up Frank was the kid. He was first pick on all the teams and when he played you were likely to win. Victories came thick and fast and soon became the norm for Frank. At 12 he won footballer of the year. Driving home after the final Franks mum said: “that was a great year, you must be very proud of yourself. Well done”. Frank barely noticed, winning came easily to him. A few years later Frank and his teammates lost in the semi final. Driving home after the game Frank’s mum said, “maybe not your best season, what do you think happened?” Frank was less than impressed; he didn’t like losing and was in foul humour with the ma. During his final year Frank and his pals won the cup. Post celebrations Frank’s mum offered, “ That was a great year, you must be very proud of yourself”. Frank shrugged this off – he had always won.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later Frank understood the lesson being taught. In this instance sport represented the ebb and flow of normal life. Day to day we traverse a subconscious emotional midline. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. When we win it is important to try mark, celebrate and be present in the moment. This is a valuable (yet transient) elevation above the midline. We should try and bank these good feelings. Conversely, sometimes things may not go our way. Here we can try reflecting on the banked feelings of the good times. To understand that like the good times this dip too is transient and normality will return.

Who or why?

Soccer aside or (title) I have no issue with competition. I believe competing to be a great learning tool. To quote McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh “Win or Learn”. My query isn’t on the why or the what, but vitally the who. Who are you competing with?

See Casey Neistats greatest ever Vlog.

Casey alludes to this magnificently in this video. Who are you competing with? If Irish Rugby international Garry Ringrose just competed with a centre in Leinster would he be on the cusp of Lions selection for this summers tour? To compete with another or to set tangible external markers of “success” is limiting and ultimately may leave you unhappy. If I achieve X then I will be happy. Insert “six pack”, “Boyfriend”, “200kg Deadlift” where relevant but when you achieve that, what then? Compete to learn about and better yourself. Try not sweat the small stuff. (P.S it’s all small stuff).

I’ve been involved in CrossFit 353 for the last 4 years. For the first three of these years we were concerned with the activity and movements of our competitors. How were Rob and Alex in Navitas programming class? How many members do Rudds and the FFS boys have? It took us a while to appreciate we are not competing with any of these. There isn’t a finite pool of CrossFit customers that we’re fishing from. It’s quite the opposite. The more people deciding to train – the better for us all. Ben Bergeron suggests your most valuable marketing asset as a gym is your current members. Look after your own. If you’re perpetually looking outwards trying to fill the bucket maybe you’ll miss the leak in the bottom?

For me the paradigm of endless (externally focused) competition cannot be healthy. I was in it for a while but exited swiftly…twice.

Where do I get this stuff?

I’m not great for reading (too impatient). Instead I listen to podcasts. I switch them on when driving or doing the chores – to keep me sane through an hour of hoovering / ironing (more ironing than hoovering – our place isn’t very big). One of my favourites is “The Tim Ferriss Show”. Tim is a serial entrepreneur & investor and interviews high performers across all walks of life from Schwarzenegger to Jamie Foxx. Tim is also a ‘life hacker’. He pushes the boundaries of human performance and shares his journey via audio interview. Admittedly I probably started listening to podcasts like this to see if I could glean some competitive advantage in business or life or somewhere… I wasn’t really sure. The more I listen to Ferriss interviewing, the more the same messages ring home loud and true.

  • Do what makes you happy
  • Invest time and energy in your mental and physical wellbeing
  • Be kind to others
  • Don’t settle

I listened to a Ted talk on the nuisance of social media. Result: I no longer use personal social media accounts. Since removing myself from Facebook I am genuinely happier. I have greater clarity of thought and am more focused. I am embarrassed at the immediate (but fleeting) gratification I used to get from ‘achieving’ 100 likes on instagram (full disclosure very rarely got above 11 likes). I am embarrassed that I would check various social apps innumerable times daily seeking external validation from effective strangers. Then I’d mindlessly scroll, zombie-like, glazed, consuming nonsense. I’d often do this while driving which is probably the most worrying of all.

At the same time as quitting social media I began writing twice daily in the 5-minute journal. This is a super twice-daily ritual. On rising & before sleep you note a few things you are grateful for, what good things happened today and what could have made today better. It’s not so much the content of what you write, more the process of recognising and practicing gratitude and reflection daily. Almost immediately I became a little bit of a nicer person (not hard when you’re naturally grumpy)  – magically beneficial!

Undoubtedly sport is special. It’s an incredible vehicle to help discover perhaps life’s most important question for any individual “who am I”? Joking aside – who am I? Am I the beautifully edited images shared on social? Or am I the person cursing at a cyclist in traffic? Or am I trying to do good by others mostly?. Personally I’m trying to address this daily. How can you help others if you’re not comfortable in yourself?

There’s no question that sport and competing can help us unearth this. The key is to understand that in the end, we are only competing with ourselves. If our goals are to make the team, or to get the job or to win the race – whether you achieve it or not…what then? Are you better or worse for winning or losing? There’s an old adage that goes “it’s about the journey not the destination” and I’d tend to agree. Peace!

Don’t waste your time on jealousy;
Sometimes you’re ahead,
Sometimes You’re behind.
The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

– Baz Luhrmann

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