I’ve been speaking a ton this year, primarily around the Modern Management Made Easy books. Some meeting facilitators have a little trouble with the idea I wrote 18 books. Some people can’t believe it. (Literally. They say, “I can’t believe it!” I laugh.) Some facilitators ask how many more I plan to write. (Many!)
One facilitator, Guy (not his name), asked me if I knew another colleague, Bill (not his name) in the industry. Yes, I do. Guy told me Bill wrote a “lot of books.” I looked. I saw 5 books. (Which is nothing to sneeze at.) I asked if Bill wrote more books? Maybe I was missing something? No.
Guy asked me if I knew of people who wrote books than Bill. I promptly answered, “Jerry Weinberg.”
Guy asked me if I was in competition with Jerry?
NO! I use Jerry as a model of what I might do as a writer. Not even what I should do as a writer.
That’s because I’m not in competition with Jerry. Or with any other writer.
I’m only in competition with myself. And not for volume. I compete with myself to continue to improve. I happen to want to improve in several areas:
- Writing speed: how fast can I write well? (The faster I write well, the more possibilities I have for publishing.)
- Clarity: how well can I explain what I want to?
- Publishing (which is separate from the writing): how well can I help people read my work?
I use prolific writers such as Jerry as a model for my possible accomplishments. When I see a model of accomplishment, I can challenge myself.
I don’t feel the same way when I compete with others.
We Sometimes Compete With Others
To me, competition is about win-lose. You win, I lose. Maybe I win and you lose.
I do enjoy some competitions. For example, I regularly send my short stories into anthologies. I also create submissions for talks at conferences.
The anthologies and conferences cannot take everyone who submits. They reject some people, including me. That’s fine.
But competing with others to see where I stand with respect to my career? That doesn’t fit for me.
Notice that I separate my internal drive, where I challenge myself, from any competition with others.
I want to excel, so I do enter some competitions (the anthologies and conferences). What if I “lose” those competitions?
I find another place to enter.
Every year I propose talks for the big agile conference. Every year they reject some of my talks. Last year, they rejected all my proposals.
I’ve given each of those talks since, and people love them. Yes, those rejections turned into my biggest successes. Imagine if I had taken those rejections as competition and decided I was unworthy?
I had to change my mind to consider the competitions possibilities. I had to use the growth mindset.
How Can We Make Competition a Model of Possibility?
I can’t change when I have to enter a competition. I can take any feedback I receive and try to make my work better.
Then, I use the idea of modeling my products after people I respect.
Let me circle back for a minute to the topic of the number of books. Many people say they want to write a book. Most of those people don’t write a book. Of those people who write one book, very few continue to write more books. Then there are people like me who create a habit of writing. We write more and more books. (And blog posts and newsletters, etc.)
I created a habit that reinforces my model of achievement.
That’s the question this week: Are you competing with others or modeling yourself after their accomplishments?