» Are You Addicted to Competition?

Pro to Pro Insights

Laura Cannon

This post was written by Laura Cannon, President of the International Association of Professional Wedding Officants and owner of Ceremony Officiants™, an award-winning team of officiants serving 8 states on the East Coast. A member of the National Speakers Association, Laura is passionate about bridging the gap between spirituality and business and teaching others how to bring more love, balance, and mindfulness into their lives. Visit her website to learn more.

It’s no secret that competition can be fierce in the wedding and events industry, with a crowded marketplace of wedding professionals vying for business in practically every corner of the globe. Competition can bring out the best in entrepreneurs by spurring innovation and creative solutions, and fueling a desire to constantly push the limits of what’s possible. But is there a hidden cost in being addicted to competition?

Arm wrestling competitionThe Art of War

Inc. Magazine recently named The Art of War by Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese treatise on military strategy and tactics, as one of the top ten most influential business books of all time. Although it wasn’t written as a business book, it has had a huge influence on capitalism in both the East and West, with many Japanese corporations making the book required reading for executives. The notion of treating competitors as enemies to be conquered, an “us against them” attitude, is generally accepted and encouraged in business – with few questions asked about its effects on companies, people, or the broader economy.

Viewing competitors as enemies can have many short-term benefits, but it’s a perspective that also comes with unintended long-term consequences. Like anything in life, a competitive mindset is best used in moderation – it may be helpful in some situations, but could become detrimental if it gets out of hand. What happens when a competitive mindset becomes an addiction?

The Price of Competition

Anyone who has achieved great success in business, or at anything in life, can tell you that winning feels good. The problem is, the good feeling doesn’t last long, and once you’ve had it you only want more. To get more of that good feeling, you stay locked into the competitive mindset.

Focusing too much on competition can easily become an addictive cycle that takes on a life of its own. Just like any addiction, the competitive mindset may have short term rewards but it also has long term consequences.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Comparative Social Science, happiness decreases as the level of competition increases. It is nearly impossible to win 100% of the time, but of course as business owners, we want to be the best in our trade. When it doesn’t happen we are left feeling angry, humiliated, worthless, and ashamed.

To make matters even worse, since people typically avoid feeling those types of negative feelings, they tend to unconsciously project that negativity onto others by gossiping and attempting to discredit them in some way. This way of being creates even more negativity in our lives and in our industry as a whole. It’s a way to become caught in a never-ending loop of habitually focusing on the external world to determine our internal sense of self-worth.

Shifting Our Mindset

It’s not easy to break any habit, and the habit of viewing our colleagues in this competitive mindset is no different. In order to change any habit, you first must become aware that there is another choice you could be making instead and make that shift. This is not to say that competition doesn’t have its place – it certainly does – but there is value in being able to shift from one perspective to another when it serves us to do so.

Shifting to a cooperative mindset instead of a competitive one offers the ability to “co- operate” from two perspectives simultaneously, peacefully coexisting alongside competitors in an open market. Adopting this mindset doesn’t mean that you are ignoring your competition; it simply means the focus is on your own natural internal motivations for success, happiness, and peace. What would a shift to a cooperative mindset look like?

Competitive Mindset Cooperative Mindset
Focuses on beating competitors and winning customers Focuses on self-improvement and delighting customers
Believes in the scarcity of resources Believes in an abundance of resources
Creates a fear of losing customers to competition: “I need to close every sale to succeed.” Establishes trust in attracting the right kind of customers:  “I don’t need every client; I just need my ideal client.”
Asks: “How can I win?” Asks: “How can I help?”
Tears others down through gossip, discrediting, and trash-talk Builds others up through cheerleading, collaboration, and cross-promotion
Views the success of a competitor as intimidating Views the success of a competitor as inspiring

It’s easy to see the differences in each perspective and, while each one certainly has its benefits, it’s probably safe to say that the cooperative mindset feels more open and free.  If we are truly searching for a way to have “healthy competition” in our industry then perhaps a cooperative approach is exactly the way to achieve it.

Breaking the Addiction

While the cooperative mindset sounds like a refreshing change, how do you actually break the habit of comparison and competition?  Start by choosing to re-imagine your competitors as friends, mentors, and allies, even as you operate competing businesses in the same space. This is exactly what successful photographers Natalie Franke and Krista Jones found out through experience.

“We were classic competitors, in the sense that we are both wedding photographers of the same caliber, in the same market, at the same price point,” Natalie recalls. “Yet, we were also great friends who genuinely cared about each other.”

That strong personal friendship has sparked a number of successes, both individually and as co-founders of a local wedding blog, Bayside Bride.

The benefits of this shift in mindset, say Natalie and Krista, are many. The typical loneliness that entrepreneurs (especially solopreneurs) often feel when working alone on their business is replaced with support and encouragement. “The notion of camaraderie and genuine compassion that is integral to our professional friendship does not go unnoticed by our clients,” Natalie says. Working together, albeit on separate businesses, also results in everyone learning quickly and making fewer mistakes.

Supporting the Shift

Once you’ve made the choice to adopt a cooperative mindset, the most effective way to support the change is to surround yourself with other people who are making that same choice – find your tribe! Aligning yourself with other positive entrepreneurs can have fantastic benefits for your business, but most importantly, it supports your decision to break the addiction to comparison.

First realize that, while you may have decided to look at your competitors in a different way, it doesn’t mean that they have made the same choice. You can’t control what others do, and you can’t force your competition to adopt this same mindset – this is a choice that you are making for yourself because of the way it benefits you.

While you can’t force others to break their addiction to competition you can find people who share your vision. This is exactly what Natalie and Krista are sparking with their newest project, The Rising Tide Society, which officially launches June 1. The Rising Tide Society was created from their experiences as competitor-friends and helps others be supported in making this shift into this cooperative mindset.

“Its purpose is to empower and educate creatives and entrepreneurs to thrive – all in the spirit of community over competition,” says Krista. “This movement is about choosing to build people up instead of tearing one another down. It’s about being for one another, not against one another.”

Part of this project includes monthly gatherings, #TuesdaysTogether, where wedding professionals and other entrepreneurs can meet in their local city to discuss business strategies, provide support and foster relationships. During their first call for local group leaders, they received more than 200 applications for groups all around the world, proving that this desire for a new way of relating in business is rapidly growing.

“By supporting one another privately and publicly, we’ve found that clients have a more fulfilling experience and enjoy being a part of the interwoven network that all of us, as a community, are building,” Natalie says. “They take pride in hiring professionals and investing in small business owners who are supporting one another,”
Making the change to a cooperative mindset has the potential to lead to more fulfillment, happiness, and peace in our lives and in our industry as a whole. While we can’t do away with competition entirely, nor should we, the cooperative mindset allows us to experience “healthy competition” in a way that benefits both business owners and customers alike.