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Old 06-16-11, 08:32 AM   #1
NOS88
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My Zen coach... long and perhaps a bit different.

Several recent threads got me thinking about a watershed experience I had earlier this year. A group of people I worked with 20 years ago keep in touch and I see them about once every two years or so. One of them is a woman who teaches Zen Yoga. She's a highly respected professional in her field and does not make her living doing the yoga thing; rather, it's a lifestyle thing for her. In any event I was surprised to see her in the audience at a professional conference in which I was giving a presentation. After my presentation we spoke. She asked how I was and I said OK. Her response was, "Just OK? That's not like you." I responded that to some extent I was feeling a bit less joy these days. To make a long story a bit shorter, we spent the afternoon together talking. Here, to the best of my memory, is how the conversation went.

Abby: "So, are you still riding."
Me: "Yes, but feeling a bit guilty about it and enjoying it a bit less."
Abby: "Why guilty?"
Me: "I finally got the expensive custom made bike I've wanted for years late last summer, and I don't think I really deserve it in terms of my abilities."
Abby: "What's happened to your abilities?"
Me: "Well, as an example I was riding with (my oldest son) last week and we hit a hill that he used to struggle going up. This time around I was the one struggling just to hold his wheel. I was completely breathless at the stop while for him it was almost no effort."
Abby: "So, why does that trouble you? He's 30 years younger than you."
Me: "I don't know. I guess the competitive part of me just doesn't like getting trounced like that."
Abby: Laughs and says, "You competitive? No, I don't think so. Now my husband John is competitive."
Me: "Abby, I don't know what you mean. John likes winning and I like winning. Where's the difference."
Abby: "I don't see you as competitive at all. Rather, I see you as purposefully tenacious. When we worked together I saw you fearlessly take on our direct supervisor, the CEO, and even folks in the position to shut us down if they wanted to. You were like a little bull dog. But you didn't do it to beat anyone. You did it because you believed your ideas were correct and would do a better job of reaching the goals we were trying to achieve. It was never about you trying to out do someone else. Now my husband, he's competitive. He simply likes to beat other people. He wants others to be less than him in given situations. He wants to be the alpha in any sporting situation. That's being competitive, and that's not you."
Me: "Purposefully tenacious...sounds kind of odd. Where do you come up with this stuff?"
Abby: "Think about it, when you're riding and try to out sprint someone to the road sign, is it about making you stronger or beating them? I'm guessing you just like to do it because it's a way of pushing yourself, not because you want the other person to be less."
Me: "Abby, I think you are right. I'm not really interested in being better than someone else. I'm more interested in me getting better at something."
Abby: "It's important to know the difference between what you think you are and what you really are. You are very purposefully tenacious, but really not very competitive at all. So, stop worrying about the hill. What your son doesn't know is that while he might have mastered the hill for now, it is inevitable that the hill will someday not be mastered so easily. The question is if you're purposefully tenacious enough to still want to go where the hill takes you and willing to continue riding it."
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Old 06-16-11, 08:40 AM   #2
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Oh man!! And it is only 8:40 am - TOO EARLY!!
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Old 06-16-11, 09:25 AM   #3
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Nos,
I really enjoyed your post. It has personal significance to me. Last month I graduated with an associate's degree in Paralegal studies. It took me three and a half years to complete as I did it part-time by night and summer classes. A few weeks ago, I said to my husband, "You know, I'm a bit surprised and proud of myself for having hung in all that time and finishing school." He looked at me and said, "I'm not. You're tenacious!" I asked, "Is 'tenacious' your code word for 'nag' or 'P.I.A'?" He said, "No. It's one of your good characteristics; when you say you're going to do something, you always do it and it forces me to get things done that I might not have without you."

I have been thinking about it since that conversation. Your friend is right in that it is not about being better than someone else, it is about being a better person. I do prefer the term "purposefully tenacious."
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Old 06-16-11, 10:56 AM   #4
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I think Abby has hit it right on the nail for me too. 30 years ago I was competitive- had to be in the sport I was in then- but I hope I have matured since then. I realise my current capabilities and for me my aim is to get up that hill. If I were to be competitive and want to kill the hill- then it would take a lot out of me for the rest of the ride. And hopefully there will be a lot more of the ride to come.
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Old 06-16-11, 02:54 PM   #5
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NOS88, that's how I felt when I bought my new bike as well. It dawned on me that I probably could have kept my Roubaix and accomplished the same thing, I'm doing now with the LOOK. I thought I could get faster and I did, but it was really not the bike, but me riding harder. I don't care to try and impress anybody with my speed and climbing anymore, I just except what I'm doing. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but still riding and enjoying it.
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Old 06-16-11, 04:01 PM   #6
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Relieve your guilt-send me your new bike-I'll even split the shipping (I'm that kind of guy).

Last edited by phoebeisis; 06-17-11 at 05:00 AM.
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Old 06-16-11, 04:21 PM   #7
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Came for the cycling. Stayed for the zen.
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Old 06-16-11, 06:16 PM   #8
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You're basically saying that competitive is bad. I disagree. Any personality trait can be bad, depending on the person and the situation. I know someone who is extraordinarily competitive, and the nicest person in the world. And as for tenacious, I guess you could call this person tenaciously competitive.

There's a huge difference in someone who uses competition as a measuring stick, and someone who wants the competition to be "less than him (her)".

I've seen just as many tenacious whack jobs in my life as competitive whack jobs, probably more. Now that I think about it, I've seen a LOT more tenacious whack jobs than competitive whack jobs. Often times tenacious people are just trying to be competitive in a game that no one else is playing.
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Old 06-16-11, 06:24 PM   #9
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You're basically saying that competitive is bad. I disagree. Any personality trait can be bad, depending on the person and the situation. I know someone who is extraordinarily competitive, and the nicest person in the world. And as for tenacious, I guess you could call this person tenaciously competitive.

There's a huge difference in someone who uses competition as a measuring stick, and someone who wants the competition to be "less than him (her)".

I've seen just as many tenacious whack jobs in my life as competitive whack jobs, probably more. Now that I think about it, I've seen a LOT more tenacious whack jobs than competitive whack jobs. Often times tenacious people are just trying to be competitive in a game that no one else is playing.
How did you come to that conclusion? I've re-read what I posted, and I think you're reading things into what was actually there. I reported a conversation in which I gained awarness that competition is not a large part of my makeup. In terms of a measuring stick, the only thing I have to measure up to is my own expectations of self.
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Old 06-16-11, 06:27 PM   #10
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You're basically saying that competitive is bad..
I agree with NOS88 - I don't see that there at all.
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Old 06-16-11, 08:00 PM   #11
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didn't see that conclusion either, but this is too tempting. Competition is bad. It is just a form egotism. Why does Winning matter? Unless there is some desired reward which is earned, who care who comes in ahead of anyone else in anything? Imagine that it matters who finishes one hundreth of a second faster than someone else in some timed athletic competition. Nothing but silliness.
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Old 06-16-11, 08:04 PM   #12
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I agree with NOS88 - I don't see that there at all.
The heart of the description of "competitive" in the OP's post : "He wants others to be less than him in given situations...That's being competitive."

This is clearly ascribing a negative connotation to the characteristic of being competitive.

You just can't say something and then not say you said it. There, I've said it.
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Old 06-16-11, 08:31 PM   #13
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Seems to me that if you want to be better (that is, beat) other folks, it necessarily follows that they must be less than you, or one would hope so, else you would not win. Is your question/concern about whheter or not someones wants them to be less? I would guess some folks do and some folks don't, leading at times to such things as the poisoning of horses in races and similar incidents, some, I suppose, in human competition.
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Old 06-16-11, 10:15 PM   #14
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I agree with NOS88 - I don't see that there at all.
Neither did I.
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Old 06-17-11, 04:16 AM   #15
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The heart of the description of "competitive" in the OP's post : "He wants others to be less than him in given situations...That's being competitive."

This is clearly ascribing a negative connotation to the characteristic of being competitive.

You just can't say something and then not say you said it. There, I've said it.
You really don't get it do you? I was quoting someone else. I don't know what kind of selective blinders or filters you're using, but you might do well to read more carefully before trying to tell me what I posted.
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Old 06-17-11, 05:23 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by NOS88 View Post
.............................
Abby: "Think about it, when you're riding and try to out sprint someone to the road sign, is it about making you stronger or beating them? I'm guessing you just like to do it because it's a way of pushing yourself, not because you want the other person to be less."
Me: "Abby, I think you are right. I'm not really interested in being better than someone else. I'm more interested in me getting better at something."
Thanks for a thoughtful and, for me, very pertinent thread. The above quote pretty much represents where I'm at in my cycling.
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Old 06-17-11, 05:36 AM   #17
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NOS,
Very helpful thread, and thank you for posting it.

I think that this describes me, too. I want to drive myself to go beyond what I I think is possible. But it's never at the expense of another, it's just to improve, to gain new competencies, to have greater reserves to draw upon when needed.

Your friend offered a valuable insight there...

Also, competition is good. In business, when you're fighting for market share, you must take on your competitor head on. Debate is competition, and it sharpens minds. The Stanley Cup was just awarded to the team that competed for every inch of the ice on every shift. The result - their names inscribed on a piece of history. Don't knock competition.

By the way, the Chinese intend to destroy us economically and politically. They'll probably succeed within our lifetimes.

PG
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Old 06-17-11, 08:54 AM   #18
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I'm not competitive at all, I probably the least competitive rider in our group, I may be the least competitive rider ever, I may be the least competitive person ever!
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