Let me tell you a story of two competitors. This was two companies that sold house hold appliances. They fought each other and were happy whenever they could steal a customer from each other. Then a third competitor showed up outside the main street, in a warehouse, and during the first year nobody noticed this newcomer. The two competitors kept fighting and like two old dogs sometimes they rested. The new competitor grew slow and steady and soon started to catch up with the two old companies. Everybody was puzzled because there was no room for three competitors. Still now they had three equally big competitors. And one day this new CEO was interviewed and was asked about how he feels about the competition – he said: “I love what I see in the mirror each morning, and I try to wake up, enter the world, and do a little better than yesterday.” – The journalist explained that he meant the other two companies. He replied: “I don’t know, I do not know how they run their business, I do not know if they make money, and I do not care, I have only one company to beat, and that is my own”
This story is not true; I just made it up to illustrate an important point. Those who strive to become better than themselves, will never settle with average and always find areas to improve. In Norway we have “Vinmonopolet” – The governmental owned liquor store. They sell wine and alcohol stronger than beer. They have monopoly in Norway – no competition besides Sweden and smugglers. Still they manage to rank in the top when it comes to customer service levels. They rank top 10 year after year. And they keep improving their training and their knowledge to wine. Why? They have no competition. I was a few years back listening to one of the leaders at Vinmonopolet in Oslo, he said: “If our customers becomes dissatisfied, then there will be room for competition, as long as we develop, nobody will feel the need for a competitor” – how about that. I must say being a company owned by the state – they are very good at what they do, because they continue to become better than themselves.
My own goal is this: “I want to become the best leader I can be” – That is why I write and this is why I read books. Even if I am unemployed or hired in a non-leadership position, I keep improving. I will not sit down and stop learning because I am out of the race. I have met people with high education – school talents that once out of school stopped learning – they had their diploma. How sad. I owe it to the people around me to be the best I can be, to inspire them and be the best support I can be.
[quote]It does not matter how good you are, what I look for, is how good you want to become.[/quote]
So I have now covered the business part of my thoughts here, let’s look at life outside the cubicle.
Who do you compete against at home?
Do you compete against your neighbor, your friends or siblings? Do you feel unhappy because they have more “apparent success” – I claim that the number one reason for unhappiness is because you do not have what the people around you possess? About 8-9 years ago, I got into an unlucky financial situation that knocked me into a hard regime for several years where I had to get out of debt. While it seem like the rest of Norway are saving up a fortune, I am about to get into balance. If I compared myself to the rest – I would jump off a cliff a long time ago. But I am happy, I am happy for the progress that my life has made during the last decade. I was in deep shit, and then I was in shit, now I am kind of dusty, and soon I will be debt free. I have had promotions, I have lost jobs, I have kept learning. I am a much better employee and leader now, then I was six months ago, I am a totally changed person compared to six years ago. I do not care about how the rest of you are doing, there is only one contestant in my race, and that’s me. – And it makes me happy. I have sad moments in my life, when I wish I could afford something or when I miss out on opportunities because of it. I have however learned that being sad is not the same as being unhappy. And this is a true story. I consider myself lucky because I have been able to learn and grow as a human. I have discovered my values in life, and I guide myself according to them. I am not in this race to beat others; I am in this race to beat myself a little at a time.
I started to exercise a while back, and I could almost not run, after a few months I managed to run 10.000 meters in about one hour and 12 minutes – yes I know some walk that fast. But I made it. It was my goal to celebrate. And then I started to beat my own records. Until I was down on 50 minutes, a major deal for me, not even close to an athlete.
“Why do you do this, don’t you feel that you are good enough?” I got this question once. I know that I am good enough, but I want to see if I can become better. I have no idea if I am better than someone else, I might even be far behind or ahead – but for me, it is not important – I have no final goal, I have a journey with no end. I love the progress, I do not know where it will take me, but that is not up to me. I will do my best, and I will get the life I deserve nothing more, nothing less.
So acknowledge and approve who you are now. If you want to change it, go for the small steps that lasts a lifetime – and when you reach your own milestones, celebrate like you became the world champion, because you just did.
– What can you do tomorrow to make sure you are a better partner?
– What can you do to make sure you will be a better parent tomorrow?
– How can you improve your quality of life, and at the same time improve the quality of life to other people in your life?
In both office hours and on your leisure time, there is only one competitor – make sure you cheer for the right one.