It’s Not a Competition

by: Shannon McNay

Why is it that so many people seem to feel the need to compete?

Who has a bigger house.

Who has a nicer car.

Who makes more money.

Whose relationship is better.

Who has the better job title.

Whether it’s friends, family, or coworkers, people seem to compete with each other in all facets of life. Sometimes this competition is overt (such as a co-worker waiting for you to fail). And sometimes the competition is masked by other things (such as a family member or friend who doesn’t hesitate to say, “I told you so”).

It doesn’t have to be this way. And if this constant competing wasn’t bad enough in regular life, it’s really detrimental in networking.

We’ve all been there: feeling inferior or superior to the people we meet based on their experience or job title. If we’re feeling superior, there’s a good chance we’re selling the other person short. If we’re feeling inferior, we’re probably worrying about the other person getting in the way of opportunities we want.

While this is perfectly natural – understandable even! – it’s dangerous. Viewing the world through the lens of competition can cost you a lot more opportunities than would be gained by “protecting” your status.

Resisting the Urge to Compete

As a writer, I’ve always had a fear of being able to make a decent living for myself. (The life of a writer is not exactly known for opportunity and wealth). So when I made the decision to focus on writing, I was basically deciding I may always struggle, but that it would be worth it.

Then I miraculously discovered the world of content strategy and everything changed. Suddenly I saw that there was a way to get paid to write – get paid well even! I started freelancing and working for startups and within a short period of time I got to utter the most wonderful phrase:

I’m getting paid to write. I’m a real writer now.

Let’s ignore the fact that I was a fool for waiting until someone paid me to consider myself a “real” writer and focus on what happened as soon as I discovered opportunity:

Sure, there are jobs for content strategists, but how many? And how do the more successful content strategists get so much more attention for the brands they work for? What am I doing wrong??

If you’re following this inner dialog (spiral), you’ll notice that as soon as I discovered opportunity, I immediately became fearful and competitive. I assumed I was doing something wrong. I thought my first job as a content strategist would be my last. I wondered when it would all be taken away from me.

In those dark days, I had a hard time networking or connecting with people in my field. I would see them as competition who would ensure that there’s not going to be enough room for me in the field.

Then I went to the financial bloggers conference. As riveting as that sounds, it was actually really fun and gave me a chance to meet many of the writers in what was my niche at the time. Rather than feeling competitive, I made a group of friends that to this day makes up some of the most cherished people in my life. How did this happen? Through collaboration.

Why You Should Collaborate – Not Compete – When You Network

I still remember the last day of the conference. My coworker and I sat with three other financial bloggers and started to miss each other before we even had to go home. It was then that we decided to form a mastermind group.

Cut to two years later and our mastermind has doubled in size. Not only that, several of us have moved on to much different career landscapes. Some of us have changed jobs. Some of us have formed companies. Some of us have decided to go full-time freelance. And rather than feel competitive with each other – we’ve all gained immense knowledge and contacts by supporting each other.

Let me remind you: we are all bloggers. We all got our start writing about personal finance. And some of us even work for the same clients. If any group was set up to be competitive, wouldn’t this be it?

Here’s why we’ve never felt the need to compete, even though there is an immense amount of overlap in our skills:

  1. No one in the group tries to take more than they give – everyone is equally dedicated to lifting the entire group up.
  2. We’ve all gotten to know each other and relied on each other for both advice on our work and moral support through our struggles.
  3. Even though our general skillsets look the same (writers, content strategists, personal finance specialists), we all bring extremely unique angles to our work. No two of us would write the same type of blogpost or article – even if it was the exact same subject matter. Thus…
  4. We are all offered different opportunities and interested in different opportunities. So…
  5. We all enjoy each others’ success and relish in the fact that the success of one member lifts the whole group up. And, of course, we share our learnings with each other so we can all improve!

What I’ve learned most from being in this mastermind is how powerful it is to have a roster of people in your corner. Sure, you could think competitively and hole yourself up to the top of a mountain to reach success – but why? Why, when you could do even more with a whole team of amazing people to help lift you up? Collectively, you can do a lot more together than you can do alone!

Think about it this way: You’re always going to find someone better looking than you, someone with a better title than you, someone with more money than you. Competing with others is simply a waste of your precious energy. But if you recognize the specific angle you bring to anything you do, if you compete with yourself instead of everyone else, you’ll realize something amazing:

No one can beat you at being you.

Your specific angle, the way you look at the world, the way you operate. These things are unreplicable. And these traits will inform you work and help make you great – if you embrace them and empower them!

While you’re at it, remember to do the same for the people in your network. Building others up will make you better. Some of my most important “aha” moments came out of what was supposed to be a conversation in which I was helping someone else. Anytime you exchange ideas, discuss challenges, or ask questions, you’re guaranteed to learn something. And that makes the both of you better in the end!

Empower your network and they’ll empower you back. Focus on the greatness of each others’ talents, differences, and unique personalities. Fill in each other’s gaps. And remember, there is no secret. No one is holding the key to success – so there’s no reason to compete! Build your roster and lift each other up and you’ll not only rise up in your career, you’ll be more fulfilled while you’re doing it!



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