Saturday, February 16, 2013

Constant Competition

Competition considered as a main thing in life is too grim, too tenacious, too much a matter of taut muscles and intent will, to make a possible basis for more than one or two generations at most. After that length of time it must produce nervous fatigue, various phenomena of escape, a pursuit of pleasures as tense and as difficult as work (since relaxing has become impossible), and in the end a disappearance of the stock through sterility. It is not only work that is poisoned by the philosophy of competition; leisure is poisoned just as much. The kind of leisure which is quiet and restoring to the nerves comes to be felt boring. There is bound to be a continual acceleration of which the natural termination would be drugs and collapse. The cure for this lies in admitting the part of sane and quiet enjoyment in a balanced ideal of life.  
- The Conquest of Happiness (p. 47) by Bertrand Russell
Bertrand may look like a sourpuss, but he's surrounded by happy clouds

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE competition and, in correct doses, nothing is a better kick in the pants to your training than a contest. But competition, without frequent periods of repose, reflection, and recovery, is NOT any kind of fast ticket to grace and mastery. Competition is, as a teaching technique, wonderful; as a training approach, it is horrible. Constant competition is a fast road to fatigue, breakdown, and burnout.

Mastery and competition are not dichotomous terms, but they can be at odds with one another. Go to many gyms, and you will be able to very quickly discern if a mastery or competitive mindset is more prevalent.

MASTERY                 vs.                COMPETITION
qualitative                                       quantitative
calm                                               tense
autoregulatory                                 Smolov
tailored                                           cookie-Cutter
engaging                                         exciting
every rep perfect                             AMRAP
take your time                                 for time
purposeful                                       rushed
Let's turn off the music                   Let's crank up some 'Tool' for this set


Esteban said...

So, now the question has to be asked Boris: Are you a Tool fan lol?

Boris said...

I like Tool, yes.

Jeff Hammond said...

Good post, Boris. I wonder where Michael Jordan would fit into this "dichotomy" (I'm not sure what else to call it at this point)? Since we just passed his 50th birthday and there has been much talk about him and his competitive nature, it's a timely question to ask.

If I had to guess, I would say Phil Jackson was able to channel his desires correctly--my $.02.

Boris said...

Thanks Jeff.
I don't know Mike, but here's some thoughts:

Great athletes are competitive, but they don't (as a general rule) beat themselves up about every rep, set, game, or session either. Most great athletes (especially those with lengthy careers) have a good combination of talent, competitive-fire, and mastery-mindset.

Fame and fortune probably complicate the matter but I couldn't comment from experience since I have neither.

Jason Ross said...

Another great post Boris, thanks. Manage fatigue to master it in my opinion. Reading through Green's Mastery so this was very timely blogpost. Thanks again.