Competition Vs Cooperation

February 19, 2021

I’ve been racking my brain around this concept for the last 31 years of my life; or, at the very least, as long as I can remember. Our society wrestles with some fundamentally opposing world views: that of the individual, striving to be the “Greatest of All”, alone at the “Top of the Mountain” and that of the one who works with others to create and advance a better world around him. The two really are at odds with one another just be definition: “individualism” vs “collectivism”. This is the duality at the heart of Western Society and I truly believe it is at the heart of so much mental, emotional and physical unrest. We strive to be “better” than the next person, or again, at the very least not “as bad as” this person or that person. But what an exhausting and unending race. A forever game. Now I forgot who said it, so I’ll pull up the google but a wise man said “you win the race the day you stop racing” or something to that affect.

It was Bob Marley, go figure. That man had it understood.

But back to my ramblings. Since starting this paradigm shifting journey that is the podcast and my open exploration of the distance between the heart and the mind, I have wrestled with my own roots of understanding. You see, I come from a family that has such immense pride, on both sides. Now pride isn’t such a bad thing, but it really can get in the way of ones learning and growth. The most dangerous place to be in the world is to think that you know it all. News flash: you and I will never know it all. The day you think you got it all planned out, either you begin to die or you will be humbled.

So to return to the argument and the clash between the ubermincshes of Nitechizsm and the Egalitarian Romantic Idealism of Marxism AKA being the individual soley on top of the world and working towards cultivating a shared and equitable society. One must understand the importance of balance. Without balance there is chaos and trust me when I say this, no society runs on positivity. If that were true, then we could all think ourselves to prosperity. But we can’t. There are limitations. This is known in the Western World as work. We have got to do work to get to where we want and there are two very different ways of achieving this: through cooperation or competition. Both of which result in very different outcomes.

Let’s look first at competition. All throughout University, I hated doing group projects. Why? Because the work load was never balanced, or so I felt. Someone was always doing more and that just didn’t seem fair to me. You might have someone who was so controlling that they did everything, thereby rendering me useless; or, I had to do a lot because nothing was getting done. I once did a project with another guy and we had a great time. Drinking beers and shooting the shit but ultimately we got nothing done and put together something so half-assed that all our peers laughed at how clearly aloof we appeared in our work.

For my naïve self, I saw it as a wake up call: you want something done right, you better go do it yourself.

Well, that made for a very difficult next few years of my life. As you expand in your success, be it a business or any concentrated effort, there is only so much one person can handle before they have to share the load. If you are able to handle all your endeavors single-handedly, congrats, but there is a point of critical mass or a ceiling from which you can’t move passed as a single person. You need someone to help lift the ceiling higher. This is where sharing the load comes in, now as a boss or a leader, you will by nature always(or should always) be doing more than those following you. If you are not doing more than your employees then, my dear friend whom I respect, you are a shitty leader (this is Leadership 101). Expressed simply: leaders do more than their employees to run successful companies; however, they do not do everything. They give people tasks and divide things among others. They also develop a connection to the individual on a human level and if they can’t then make sure someone is.

 Another aside, if you can’t make a human connection with your employee, than they might not be the right fit or your business is growing and you need to find someone who you can connect with and who can connect with them. I’m no genius but if I’m not mistaken, I think they call these people Supervisors or Assistant Managers…

The point is, you can’t be successful at life by yourself. You need to share the load. You need to cooperate with others and see their success as your success. Simply put (because I like keeping things simple as it has always helped me to get the information I needed): when you prosper, I prosper and when I prosper, you prosper. This is information that seems to be lost amongst our Western Society, especially places like Social Media where “influencers” poach “followers” for their own personal popularity and not the growth of a real community. It happens to me all the time, can’t you sense my bitterness? Really though, why the hell are you following me so I can follow you and then you unfollow me? That’s the most childish shit I can think of… but allow me to catch my own judgement and self-righteousness, if we are not careful, we can all be playing the silly and pointless game of competition. So I’ll stop my finger waving and redirect my focus to myself. The moral of my rantings are that we have to be careful of the community we sow and what we hate most in others is usually just a mirror’s reflection of our own insecurities and frustrations.

So rather than admonishing the shortcomings of “influencer” culture, ask yourself (as I ask myself the same thing): why are you getting caught up in the non-sense? In the game without end? There are plenty of people who are authentic and genuinely want to make the world a better place, the thing is that they aren’t always as obvious and openly visible as the misdirected “changers” among us who really just want fame and fortune so they can sip champagne on a yacht (oddly specific? It’s because I’m definitely guilty of this). It all comes back to balance. We can’t be purely cooperative, there will always be some individuals who will abuse privileges and want more, just look at how Marxism worked in practicality: not well.[1] We also have to make sure that we have a strong support network of people who truly have our backs, or else we can become jaded when we find ourselves being “used”[2]. Also, never wait around for people to do what you want to be doing, lest you wait forever. If you want to do something or want to share something with the world, fucking do it already. In the age of the Internet, there is truly an audience for everything and I mean everything. If you want to write a book about Space Exploring Giraffes, a guaren-goddamn-tee you will make a millions of dollars.[3]

And my last point, in keeping with the theme of balancing between the two fields of cooperation and competition, or, collectivism and individualism respectfully; it is okay to experience financial success for what you create and provide for the world. Just don’t make that the sole purpose of what you do. Robin Williams talked about the harms of being so successful that people just artificially goad of you and de facto not your people. Charlamagne Tha God talked about this with Kayne and how disconnected he was due to his massive success. Kayne had a paid posse of people telling him that everything he did was “amazing” and “unprecedented” that it gave him a god complex, literally.[4] Honesty is salvation and salvation is painful, so just be careful of what you reap in this world because you likely will receive it. Keep the balance, enjoy the fruits of your labor, but never live like you think you are the King of All Men because you will be humbled at some point and the worst time to be humbled is upon your death bed because you have no chance at changing the story.[5] Ultimately, there are no bad people in this world, just lost people.

In conclusion, thank you for reading this. I enjoyed writing it. To pretentiously quote a genius, Richard Bach, “we teach best what we most need to learn” and I am no exception to this truism. I need to learn, which is what I strive to do daily. It has benefited my greatly and I fundamentally believe it will help you too. So let’s stop competing to be on top of the mountain and enjoy this most precious journey called life together. Keep the balance and God bless!

Robert Grant


[1] Don’t take my word for it, read a history book on Siberian Gulags.

[2] We got to get away from this language. If you are making yourself so available that you are being taken for granted, then maybe you need to reflect upon yourself and ask why you are being taken advantage of. Don’t be an easy target unless you can handle the consequences of being vulnerable.

[3] This is hereby a record of this idea, so if this comes out, I expect royalties. Thank you.

[4] No for real, you can search this shit up. I’m not lying he has compared himself to Jesus, his sixth-studio album is called Yeezus for God’s sakes. Pun intended.

[5] Because your cocky misdirected ass is dead.

Priority, Not Priorities

Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

I recently checked out the audiobook version of Essentialism by Greg McKeown and while I am not yet finished, there has already been much to think about. The book itself is a proposal for a better life, a self-help book of sorts but with practical application. It is not about giving you another set of rules to follow for success, romance, or finance but rather a way of decluttering your life and tailoring it to your needs, wants and interests.

In our society, we are constantly inundated with expectations that, for the most part, are not our own. We are expected to go to another board meeting despite the high chance that it will have nothing to do with us. We are expected to go to random social events because, well, the more people there the better they probably look. We don’t want to hurt peoples feelings, so we sacrifice our own. For what? To keep good social standing? So that we have that many more people at our funeral? Why are we so caught up doing the things we don’t want to be doing? This is the thesis of McKeown’s book: what is it that is of highest importance to you? And if you are not already doing it, then why not?

Early on in the book, McKeown talks about the word ‘priorities’ and why this is a corruption of the word ‘priority’. The word ‘priority’ was introduced around the 14th century and meant the most important point or goal taking place above all else. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that we pluralized this word.[1] As many of us have come to find out, we are not effective at multitasking. The human brain is not meant to take on several tasks at once, should this happen, you are doing several tasks at various degrees of effort.[2] It is said that we only have so much cognitive bandwidth and to divide this among multiple tasks means that none of the tasks will be done to our maximum capacity and efficiency. The more you divide, the less cognitive bandwidth you have to put into a separate task. Take me for example, I am currently writing this article while watching my ten month old play with toys. I simply can not do both at the same time, so I am constantly jumping between the activity of writing and watching my child. The result? Probably the formation of sentences that aren’t as clear as they could be had I only been writing this (I appreciate your understanding).

You are probably saying to yourself, well that’s great but we live in a world that is meant to multitask. Very true, which is why we need to give ourselves a long hard look and examine what needs to stay and what needs to go. We must identify our priority not our priorities. What is essential? What is the number 1 focus and let’s just stop there. Imagine your brain as a computer, on any given moment you might have several applications open: listening to music, three different social media apps, two different emails, four different word documents, whatever randomness you are searching on the internet and, just for a cherry on top, the latest “free-to-play” game that’s out.[3] All these different activities result in your computer running slowly. Your brain is no different. When you have multiple things on the go, you simply cannot think or focus clearly. While you might not be able to close all your applications down and just run one (I know I can’t stop watching my daughter), you can close down most of the other ones. With particular emphasis on the ones you don’t need.

This returns to my original point, there is so much unnecessary distraction in our lives. I say this because I used to be a willing victim of it all. I had all the social media accounts and all the time eating games out there. My life was one big distraction. I couldn’t focus on anything because I had something else burning in the back of my brain. I couldn’t enjoy the moment because there was another moment to think about or enjoy. While I am in no sense a master of the practice of essentialism, it is something that I want to incorporate and something that I truly believe will benefit you as well. So look at your life and ask yourself, what windows can I start closing down? Do I need this? Is this a good use of my time? Because time is the ultimate resource and it is not renewable. How you choose to spend your time is what makes you a free person. So choose wisely. Cut the distraction out of your life and I promise you, you will feel happier and more fulfilled.

There is a reason why people lose faith in politicians and leaders in general. Their goals are too vast, too numerous. They lack singular focus. They lack priority in favor of priorities. This is usually done to appease as many people as possible and ‘win them over’ but the results are often that everyone becomes equally dissatisfied (unless they are superheroes and able to achieve everything they promise). Perhaps this happens to you? You make so many promises but end up disappointing someone or worse yet, you spread yourself out so thin you don’t have time for you and you can’t give anything your full potential if you are not at 100 percent to begin with.

So ask yourself, right now, what is your top priority? What is the first thing you need to do today before you do anything else? Once you complete that, then you move onto your next objective. Give this one thing your most attention, effort and presence instead of completing multiple goals at once. If you can achieve this, then you are on your way to being an essentialist.

-R.G.


[1] McKeown, Greg. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (2014).

[2] See Salvucci, Dario D. & Taatgen, Niels A. The Multitasking Mind (2011) for further information and research on why the human brain can only effectively do one task well at a time.

[3] Don’t get me started on “free-to-play” games.