Why Real Competition Sucks (and Rocks, too)

“And the winner is. . .” The whole room, tense with excitement, waited for me to finish the words. 


I was standing onstage, reading the scribbled notes I’d made about who was going to lose and who was going to win. This is my third year of participating in a highly competitive piano competition, and with more entries every year, the odds of winning keep shrinking. 


Real competition sucks. It sucks because it doesn’t matter that you tried your best. If you’re not good enough, you’re just not good enough. 


Most of the 35 students that were participating this year were going to not take first place. Less than 10% were even going to qualify to be part of the final. Your odds of losing were ten times higher than your odds of winning. And it really hurts when you don’t win. So why compete? 


Because it builds several things you can’t get any other way: 


1. It encourages you to push yourself.


2. It teaches you to deal with failure (because that’s the most likely result of contests).


3. It challenges you to see what others are doing, and improve what you’re doing. 


4. It gives you the opportunity to know you did something amazing. 


5. It teaches you how to recognize excellence.



We are all horribly inaccurate judges of our own abilities, talent, and work ethic. When we compete, we’re given a chance to honestly evaluate our skills, celebrate what we are good at, and improve the areas that we struggle in. And as trite as it may sound, that makes everyone a winner. 


“And the winner is. . . “ I repeated, a hint of a smile appearing on my face.