Competition usually helps. It focuses evolution, buffering unoriginality and imitation, allowing us to create at a level worthy of the world’s attention. Open, honest criticism forces us out of mediocrity and into a global, magnetic web of collaborative art and vision and invention.
But competition can also nuke your soul. Since arriving at Fuller, I’ve noticed a quiet selfishness growing the in cracks, lacing words and smiles with hints of ego. Not a Princeton level of cutthroat, but subtle and selfish, thousands of micro-comparisons every moment. Envy. Factoring “personal success” into “changing the world.”
Which, unfortunately, keeps it unchanged, and eventually becomes intellectual rape and pillage, night-sticking friends and family the back of the knees just to jump past them on the social success ladder.
Because we aren’t really a materialistic society, are we? We don’t really want “things” as much as we want the social rewards that those things offer. We want “this” because we think it will change how others see us. And if I have “that,” then “they” will include me, or “he” will respect me, or “she” will love me. But eventually, we begin to realize that it doesn’t work, and that it isn’t really a ladder at all. It’s a flow. A shifting swarm of collisions and interactions every moment. And that we’re all in this together. Your successes are my successes. And my successes are your successes. Almost like we’re one body. And that low self-esteem isn’t linked to failure, but rejection.
There is always a gap between how we want our lives to be and how they are.
“Life balance” is bollux, no one can be a rockstar at everything. Pouring into certain things causes other things to suffer. And it takes a while to stop wishing we were someone else.
It’s interesting that jealousy doesn’t explode at distant superstars. We envy our closest friends. The more like us they are, the deeper the resentment.
Until we understand that creativity is far too big to define as “better” or “worse.” ”Higher” or “lower.” And that success and failure are two sides of the same LP. What if we embraced both?
What if we fueled each other like a well-oiled machine, letting the “better” in others fill our own shallows? What if working with someone “farther on the journey” wasn’t a slam to identity, but seen as a gift? An opportunity to leap forward. The married friend. The published roommate. The celebrity sister. A new, radioactive fabric of innovation that creates it’s own feedback loop, building on itself through a churning torrent of creative collusion.
Identity and individuality are important, of course, but personal work could be better, farther, original. Competition redirected from undercutting and outshining, channeled into cooperative collaboration. Something that amps us. And explores us. Something like a headrush.