by Federico N. Fernández
Competition isn’t our enemy. It’s not a destabilizing force within society. On the contrary, competition helps each and every one of us to achieve our best.
Although this may sound strange, competing against somebody is also cooperating with them.
Well, being in competition with someone forces you to give your best.
Current professional football gives us a good example – both individually and collectively. Teams compete first to get the best players and coaches. Once they get the best players they can, they do a lot of efforts to take good care of them.
Not that long ago, a 30-year-old player was a veteran. Diego Maradona was 30 when he played for Argentina in 1990 World Cup in Italy. The official movie of the event refers to him as “Argentina’s old master.” Today that wouldn’t be the case at all…
Nowadays, many superstars are way above 30 and it’s very likely they have not yet peaked. Cristiano Ronaldo is maybe the best example of this, but hardly the only one.
This ultra-competitive environment of super-teams that struggle to win national and international competitions has created better conditions for everybody. Naturally, the winners of competitions like the UEFA Champions League get a very well deserve place in the sports pantheon, but they also receive a huge amount of money at the same time.
Moreover, the highly competitive system that is European football has created a better place for everyone who takes part of it. The struggle to get the best of everything has raised the bar so high that contemporary mediocre players make much more money than the stars of just a decades ago. Competition makes us stronger and better, and helps us all to improve our situation.
And competition is main driver to put everybody where they belong. All professional players would like to be the stars of Barcelona and Real Madrid. But those places are occupied by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo because they are the very best. However, this isn’t enough. Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, and many other football superstars know that they have to re-validate their titles each and every game. Not only because their teams have to face strong rivals week after week but also because there are hundreds of talented players who would die to take their places. It’s precisely this competitive edge that keeps them performing at the top of their abilities.
All I’m saying may very well be summarized by this awesome metaphor of Immanuel Kant, an 18th century German philosopher:
“Just as trees in a forest, for the very reason that each endeavors to rob the other of air and sun, compel each other to shoot upwards in quest of both, and thus attain a fine erect growth,—whereas those which stand aloof from each other under no mutual restraint, and throw out their boughs at pleasure, become crippled and distorted.”
Trees compete with each other. But they also cooperate in the sense that they help each other to give everything they’ve got, to become their best version ever.
Terry gave an eloquent speech on the virtues of competitiveness and, during Q&A, a local university professor told him that he didn’t believe in competition and that he didn’t want to live in a competitive environment. Greek people, the professor claimed, were more relaxed and wanted to enjoy life instead of being forced to optimize their performances by competitive pressures.
To this, if I remember correctly, Terry replied that he may wish to live in a non-competitive environment. The problem was, however, the people who wanted to compete against him.
Terry made in fact a very good point. We can’t control the goals and objectives of other people. And if they’re free to pursue those, there’ll be no other alternative than competition. We live in a world of scarcity, there’s no escape.
Unfortunately, governments all around the globe try to falsely and paternalistically shelter us from competition using force.
“The attempt to escape from competition can be accomplished only by using coercion to prevent others from pursuing their objectives.”
So, in a free society competition is unavoidable. The only possible alternative is the use of force. This alone represents a big warning.
But there’s something maybe even worse. If competition is a necessary ingredient for us to become the best versions of ourselves, then without it we will all be underachievers. And like Sonny, the magnificent character from “A Bronx Tale” used to say, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”