Run Your Own Race

Very recently, I received a Whatsapp message from someone that mentioned the concept of time zones. While the message itself did not enthrall, what did strike me as interesting was that it mentioned the concept of ‘each person in his own time zone’. It also negated that it was not as if people in the US were behind those in Japan but that each person was operating in their own time field.

The concept may be extended to more than just time. Capability, motivation, personality, desires and maybe even other aspects. The idea therefore boils down to avoiding comparison. Today it is not just about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ but being more than them.

The issue pervades society like a virus irrespective of age, sex, country or economic strata. Children are expected to get better grades than their classmates, you need to perform better than your colleague, your housekeeping and cooking skills should be better than the woman next door and the list can go on.

We are forever competing with someone and the line never ends. It is more common to look at those earning more than you or getting better grades than you and feel dissatisfied with what you are achieving. Helen Keller’s proverb ‘I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet’ is not something we remember often these days!

Is Competition a Necessity?

The way in which society has developed creates an environment of continuous competition. When the hunter-gatherer went out in search of food, he had to be faster and better than the animal to get food back to the tribe. We are the descendants of those who were faster and competitive and able to get the food home. The others did not get food home and perished oved time.

Survival of the fittest is a well understood maxim. The theory of evolution also proves that only the fittest lived through the ages. The bulky mammoth that provided such good meat without the ability to run fast was hunted and driven into extinction. The dumb and foolhardy (and now extinct) dodo that did not show any fear of humans was eaten into extinction by humans that landed in Australia. When nature itself tells us to be smart and competitive can it be wrong?

Adapting Holistically

Evolution has ensured that we behave and think in a certain manner. However, we no longer live in a world where lack of the killer instinct will cause us to die. If you do not own a larger car than your neighbor, you will not die of starvation. If you do not excel academically, you will not be doomed to a future without a career.

Each one of us is aware of this. And yet, we continue to push ourselves to limits that may well be beyond our capabilities. The interesting aspect of the whole thing is that these areas where one is supposed to compete are decided by …yes, you guessed it right…society!

The more money you have, the more successful you are. The higher overall grades you get, the better chances of getting in the best university. The better you cook, the happier your home will be. Money, being thin, wearing expensive (I use expensive since I can’t even pronounce the top end French sounding brand names) shoes and carrying expensive bags is in. As a side line, remember, that at one point in time, being honest and being fat (a sign of being wealthy enough to afford food) was considered more important.

Jungle of Mediocrity

By falling prey to these definitions of society we have only created a huge jungle of mediocrity. We are just as good as averages and probably even worse. Let me give you an example of what happens when we are forever trying to make sure that we are better than the ‘other’.

Consider competencies as level A, B, C and so forth. Let’s say we start a company where everyone has the highest level of competence (A). When it is time for these A level people to hire the next batch of people, they make sure that they hire those that are of a level that is slightly lower than theirs. Of course, they do not want the ‘other’ to overtake them in this race towards the top position (and of course more power and money). These B graders, then hire the next batch which obviously have a competence that is lower than theirs. And thus after a few years, we end up with more Z’s. What happens to the fate of this company is not really speculation!

When it is no longer a matter of survival, why do we let anyone else decide what we should do or what we should aim for. Very well put was this recent cartoon that I came across:

Don’t let this happen to you! Question everything that is presented to you as a given, irrespective of the source of this information. Don’t let society tell you that money is important. Don’t let your parents tell you that a degree in computer engineering is the only way to become successful these days. Don’t let your mother subtly or aggressively put ideas into your head about what a good wife should be like. Create your own benchmarks, make your own definitions and live your life accordingly.

The Beautiful Ending

When you are a unique person, different from anyone else, you should have your own path. What you do, how you do it, the goals you aspire for and the things that give you happiness are different. So, choose your own path. When you choose to do your own thing, you shall always emerge as a winner! Always!

Because you decide the goals, you decide the path and you are the only one running this particular race. When we do this, we make sure that we shun mediocracy and aim towards greater levels of perfection – the perfection being you!

I will not even say that when you follow your own calling, the money will follow. Because this would mean that I am assuming that the ultimate goal is wealth – Define your own Goals!

In a world where everyone is a winner, there can only be happiness and success! Would you agree?


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