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100 Q’s for Life: Am I supposed to compete or co-operate?

October 7, 2011

  • Let’s end the week with a question from the “100 Questions for Life” series.

As we wander through life, there’s always the risk we evolve into stereotypes and beliefs which inhibit our personal success, however we might measure it. The actions of our politicians suggest they might have fallen  into this trap. When you choose to characterize the world in a series of absolutes like:

    1. All Tea Party members are being unreasonable
    2. Social security and benefits for the poor are not negotiable
    3. Taxes cannot be raised under any circumstances
    4. Failing to improve our situation is an acceptable option
    5. Point scoring is an important part of the political process

it quickly gets to the point where the opportunity for meaningful progress is limited or non-existent. If our highly qualified, supposedly community-oriented representatives can’t work out whether they are supposed  to be competing or co-operating, where does that leave the rest of us?

Without competition we would never have seen:

  • Man land on the moon
  • The evolution of anything
  • Some of the extraordinary feats and moments provided by competitive sports

However, we might also have missed out on:

  •  Almost all of the wars throughout history
  • The extremes of wealth and poverty apparent today
  • My brother losing a tooth while fighting for my football

Competition is an important part of our progress, but used unwisely, it’s highly likely to “bite you on the bum”. In contrast, co-operation between parties has gifted us:

  • Democracy and stable government in many places
  • Creation of incredible corporations and inventions
  • Vaguely amusing and slightly well-adjusted children

However, we could have passed on:

  • Creation of the Ford Edsel
  • Funding dictatorships
  • Thinking banks should be allowed to regulate themselves

While your examples might differ from mine, the reality remains that working together or against each other runs the risk of great loss but can offer enormous benefits. Supposedly, life experience is the source of great insights on when each is appropriate, so how come we keep getting it so wrong?

I suspect there are some simple rules we can follow moving forward. You should compete when:

  1. You have no other choice
  2. The rules of engagement require it
  3. Woirking with others would take the fun out of it

You should never compete if co-operating would yield a better result. However, you should avoid co-operating where:

  1. The goal is not aligned with your underlying values
  2. You are surrounded by idiots
  3. Only the bad guys benefit


Yes, you could argue my perspective is simplistic and that’s there’s a number of subtleties that didn’t get their appropriate verbiage. However, if life is an exercise in intelligent decision making (among other things), shouldn’t we be taking the time to get that process so it’s correct more often than not?





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