Competition

Over the short four years of my career, I’ve learned many lessons about business, management, engineering, sales, and human nature. I’ve also learned a ton about myself – mostly through failure. Failure is terrible in the moment but there’s (almost) always a lesson buried in the misery.

In the beginning, the lessons came early and often, and I did a great job of writing them down. I had this notebook in my desk. I would pull it out when we lost a project or when my manager did something I would rather avoid doing in the future. It was a great habit, but at some point it fizzled out… I only have lessons up to the end of year one.

In those notes, there’s a lot of thought about selling better so we can beat the competition. I’ve always been territorial about my work, and I’ve always made a big stink about hating competitors. Each job they stole was holding back my career and personal development. Each customer they stole had to have been fooled by their trickery. Silly.

Fast forward to today – I’m on a new team with very few direct competitors. It’s a great feeling, but I can still feel myself grasping for someone to hate. I’ve realized, mostly through the influence of reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, that my grasping is completely irrational.

Competition is for losers. If each employee in a company is obsessed with their competitors for career advancement, then the firm itself will by default become obsessed. Then you’ve lost focus on what actually matters.