Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Competiting with People: Good or Bad?

I always wondered how competitive I was. In team sports, I showed a lack of really wanting to win. In German, there is a saying that if you lose a game you'll be lucky in love, so I was never too upset about losing. Over the years, I always characterized myself as not competitive because I never wanted to win and never felt bad seeing other people take the glory. Until last year. I had a interviews for some jobs I really wanted and saw people get it I immediately didn't think deserved it. Whether that is true or not is impossible for me to decide, but having these thoughts showed me I really am competitive, if only in cases where it matters most. Instead of envying them, however, I decided to just do better than them. At no point I thought badly about the people who got what I believed I should have, I just decided to show those who rejected me that I can do EVEN BETTER. As of this week, I finally made it happen.

Throughout my career as a writer I always tried to refrain from comparing myself to other people which worked very well. In the end, I am a girl from Germany, from a middle class background which does not necessarily set one up to success too well, with just one parent and an emotional but fierce personality. Comparing myself to anyone fails exactly here, as I know nobody who could say the same thing. Jealousy or wanting to switch lives was never an issue for me. One person, however, served as somewhat of a beacon: my friend John who was working in the same career, just in a vastly different country, had a similar backgroung to me, at least educationally, and he was doing very well for himself. I never envied him, but it encouraged me to think "if John could do it, I can!" Of course, John's success was skill AND luck, but I believed I deserved that luck as well. I guess it was not competition but measuring myself on that standard. I didn't want to prove John or our friends or our teachers, but myself, so the luck and opportunity John had was what I requested as well. It was the real deal, or nothing for me. 

In fact, I always relied on my luck. Of course I knew it would be hard to find a job after a Masters in Politics, but I believed I'd be lucky. Over the past year, I started thinking I had been wrong. I applied to all the jobs I wanted and got through numerous rounds of recruitment, thinking I must be doing something right. But the last round always failed me. Each time, the next opportunity was already waiting and I convinced myself I will be better off. I still tried to interpret the rejection as "luck". When the biggest publications in Germany refused me, and my friends told me "their loss for rejecting you", it wasn't a consolation, it was fire under my freaking butt. I wanted them to regret it. I wanted to do better than their ridiculous traineeships (note: terminology changed to accomodate my "fire"). The truth is I wanted to do their ridiculous traineeships but when they rejeced me, I knew I needed to top it. It's the same principle as breaking up with someone, then looking stunning the next time you see them. You want it to burn. Weird behavior, yes, but I can't say I'm not guilty of it. In both cases, this revenge thinking is stupid because, it's always easier to see in retrospect, it wouldn't have worked out. I was indeed meant for other things... 

Sooo, I guess I am competitive as I wouldn't call this normal behavior. I seldom needed to be the best in my life, but that's easy enough to say because I never sucked. To be among the best, I had to admit, is super important to me. I can accept someone being better, more experienced, prettier, or even richer than me, but I found out this year I have this scale in my head that I need to be balanced at all times. As soon as I heard a girl with half the education I had was outearning me by a lot, I started feeling bad about my money. That is competitve (and detrimental to happiness), although I refrained from taking any action. It's just a moral compass in my head that tells me what I believe I deserve, and as long as I get less than what my head tells me I deserve it doesn't make me happy. As a result, every time something didn't work out I was convinced in the end I would do much, much better than I could have in that scenario. "It will all be for the better", turns out, is probably the wisest thing to say ever...

Which brings me to present day. I have in fact done pretty well this week. I signed a contract with one of the biggest companies in the world, not Germany, that every single person on this planet knows and will be delivering news to a number so large I can't even imagine it and in a way more futuristic than any of that social media malarky. Best of all, however, is the fact that this position, unlike any of the ones I wanted so bad this year, seems to appreciate me. How do I know? After hundreds of applications in the past few years, I took the job that approached me on LinkedIn in a time I wasn't even looking. Just like John back in the day, I had just taken a new job when I was approached. I was happy with what I have, the opportunity I was in the process of taking was great and I felt bad to be leaving it, but thinking back to John I knew that "you only get on shot, do not miss your chance to blow 'cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime" and there was no way I wouldn't take it. The day had arrived I'd stand on my moral scale and blow it up!

This opportunity isn't better than the others I wanted (actually it is maybe a little better but irrelevant to the point) but it just suits me better than all the others. When I was first made aware of that position I didn't even know where I'd be based, and now it turns out they're sending me back to where I wanted to be all along. Not only do I like the UK a lot more, I have more friends in London than I have anywhere else on the planet. And those hired in my place during the summer are happy with what they're doing, too, so everyone won! That day where I get the silver lining of the last few months of rejection is here and I never even intended for this outcome to happen. Getting what we want just sometimes isn't the best thing you CAN have. There is no point to this competition. The only thing it's good for is to make yourself the best you can be. "Competing" with John or the people hired in my place has been very healthy for me and made sure I don't settle before I got what's best for me. Right now, it looks like the patience paid off, and I could be wrong, but then I'll just start wanting to prove myself again and wait for another lucky turn. 

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