"Everyone was saying I should be happy with how I played and stuff. But, like, I don’t care about that. I want to win."
The quote above is from an article written by Patrik Laine, right-winger for the Winnipeg Jets. The article generated buzz on social media for a number of reasons, including Patrik's self-professed love for my hometown (fuck the haters, Winnipeg is good). But it was the insight into the inner monologue of a professional athlete that has stuck with me. Even though I'm partially allergic to exercise, I relate to it. I also want to win.
My partner learned this recently when we played badminton together for the first time. I hadn't played in eons and forgot most of the rules but that didn't matter. I went in hard. After volleying for a bit, he commented on how I was better than he anticipated. I gave my best "awwww, shucks" face and continued with my strategy of playing to his strengths while blinding him with mine. After all, I'm not there to look cute while feeding into someone else's ego. I always bring my A-game. I'm there to win.
I recently had a psychometric assessment of my personality done at work. To no one's surprise, I came out as an extreme type-A, being very purposeful and structured with tremendous attention to detail. But also competitive. Very competitive. In fact, it was the highest rated quality of my persona at 98% (and it was my competitive side that wondered if anyone ranked higher). I did shrink a bit as our team compared notes, wanting to conceal what I initially perceived as a negative trait, but I'm learning to embrace it more openly. This aspect of my personality never stems from a dark place, only one of potential betterment (for myself and, I believe, others). For example, I would never aim to "win at all costs". If my body, mind and accumulated skill level can't get me to succeed on their own, I see it as a means to improve myself, not cheat. This is where the challenge of competition can lead to great things. It can motivate. It can elevate. Picture a world in which the genius of Thomas Edison wasn't feuding with Nikola Tesla. Imagine where we'd be without the duelling technological might of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Being inspired to evolve, rather than simply adapt, is what gives humanity purpose.
It also reminded me of a piece of advice my father, also a former athlete, once gave me eons ago:
"Don't lower yourself to anyone else's level. Make them rise to yours."