Purposeful thinking: The competition

I am a meditator — a reluctant one. I sit for 20 minutes twice a day, and sometimes it is still excruciating to just tether my mind. For those of you who may know me or get the vibe from my writing, I am clearly a Type A extrovert — a hummingbird with legs. Multi-tasking is my drug of choice — yay, 10 things to do at once! The idea behind transcendental meditation is to notice when thoughts come up and replace endless automatic thinking with a mantra. And here is what is amazing. When I can turn off thinking, I have new and more profound thoughts I would probably never have otherwise. Like a computer, until you reboot, the upgrade remains unavailable.

So I tried an experiment. I sat down on a grassy knoll — eyes open, no mantra — determined to entertain a new thought. Not as easy as it sounds, as most of us keep winding back to the thoughts we always have — biology’s trick to keep our ego in check.

I decided to have a new thought in front of a tennis match. Here is what I saw: two opponents assisting each other while competing with each other — seems counter-intuitive, right? There could be no game if they didn’t play well together. To say only one wins is a biased and contrived way of looking at things. They both get a workout, and they both have satisfaction, laser focus and drive toward greater discipline. They share their toys and are committed to keeping balls up in the air for each other. They are collaborative competitors aligned with purpose and interdependent upon each other. They each bring out the best in each other. 

My “automatic” thinking always points me back toward leadership and business. If we ignore the value of competition as a way to improve our game, we miss the point. By watching our opponents we get to prepare our next best move. I am not talking about the age-old, lifeless and desperate word “benchmarking,” but rather, keeping our eye on our competitors to find a hole in their court so we may deliver our best shot. Where is the hole in your market? Bring new thinking to what your market really consists of. It might be beyond your industry and beyond your community. What space can you see? What can you fill it with? They call the end of a game “match.” I say we call the end of our games “advance.” Let’s use everything to our advancement.

As in life, so in business — no ordinary moments.