When Competitors become Collaborators – Part 1

cannonball

Originally Published on LinkedIn Pulse August 9, 2016

Inspired by the Olympic competition and looking back at the Motorcycle Cannonball Run (photo above), I have found two different types of competitors. Those that will win-at-all-costs, and those who collaborate and work together to win. Same as in my day-to-day professional dealings with employers, clients and colleagues.

The competitors that win at all costs will look you in the eye and tell you one thing, only to get information so they can beat you in the next turn. The collaborative winners see the race a bit differently. You win, we all win. You can see it in the Olympics clearly. The bicycle road racers draft each other to get ahead of a pack, swimmers will navigate to the edge of their lane next to the person ahead of them. 

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For the competitors who enjoy the race, it's not about winning at the mark, but winning in the competition. They are the ones who will help an opponent when they are down. I remember like it was yesterday when I first heard of such a competitor. It was at the 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball Run. Here are 45 Pre-1915 motorcycles running across the country from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to the Santa Monica Pier, west of Los Angeles, CA. Along the long route and 16 days, sure there were breakdowns. These are 100 year old vehicles for heavens sake. 

At each instance of a breakdown, many of the other racers would stop to help. A pact to have each competitor complete the grueling race, or at least hop the bike on a cycle sidecar to complete the race. I was there at the pier watching these historic racers in this inaugural modern version of the race. It was inspiring. It wasn't about the winner, but the competition. Each one, like the Olympians, are winners to even compete in such an event.

What is the benefit of being a collaborative competitor?

As a winner-takes-all competitor, the benefit is you win big and you did it yourself. You strategized, and manipulated the competition to best them. There is pride in that. What I have found is, there is also loneliness. The only people around you are subservient and do not share in your win. They are pawns and they know it. However, the collaborator, they share and are grateful for those who help, because they help too. I find more pride in that kind of winning. Not necessarily teamwork, but collaboration. Each person who helps others succeed, are succeeding on their own terms. More wholly. Still competitors, and always winners.

Are you a collaborator? Do you appreciate collaborative efforts? Then we are the right fit. If you have a winner-takes-all mentality, keep moving, you will find a pawn out there somewhere.

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