Racing Against Phantoms
"I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been." --Wayne Gretsky
My family and I were dining in a fun little 1950s style diner last week... complete with table-top juke box so we could share our favorite golden oldie's with the whole restaurant. In the middle of our dinner, the 1958 hit entitled "Beep! Beep!" from The Playmates blared out through the restaurant. For those not brave enough to link over to listen to the song or at least read the lyrics (and it really is worth the link to hear the song), the basic plot of the story is that a guy driving his Cadillac notices a little Nash Rambler riding his tail and honking his horn. The Cadillac driver assumes the little runt wants to drag race and floors it. Much to his surprise and annoyance, the Rambler keeps up until the Cadillac has topped 120 MPH, when the Rambler driver pulls along side him... not to race him but to ask how he can get his car out of second gear.
It wasn't a competition at all. Somebody was just wanting some assistance, when pride and arrogance clouded perceptions. How often have we encountered that mindset in our jobs, where we perceived that somebody was competing against us when, in fact, that was not the case at all. Maybe we were not even on their radar screen, and they were just doing their job. Even worse is when somebody misperceives our motives and won't help us out. How dare they think so lowly of us?!?! We're indignant.
While we're on the topic of corporate competition, I was surfing for new blogs to link to, when a post on the blog, Ask Uncle Bill, caught my eye. This corporate sage shared a great story about a young woman he encountered through a business transaction who actually had sized up her competition and created a strategy for dealing with them. Not maliciously, mind you. She simply used her skills and abilities (along with a little God-given edge) to ensure that she stood out among the other nameless, faceless suits. Sometimes we need to assess our competition realistically before we create a strategy to face them head on.
Finally, when it comes to competing in the work place, we must address the worst kind of competition. It has destroyed many a great professional, and injured many innocent bystanders because of its nefarious nature. I'm going to defer to one of my favorite life-altering authors (Dr. Seuss from his book, Oh The Places You'll Go) to describe it more fully:
I'm afraid that some times you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.
If the end game is Carpe Factum - seizing the accomplishment - it would only seem logical to assess the competition that could hinder our ability to get there. Is the competition real? What do you need to do to compete intelligently against the real competition? And, are you really only competing against (and defeating) yourself? What do you think? How do you approach competition in the work place? Who is your Nash Rambler?