According to Marshall, winning too much is easily to the most common behavior problem that he observes in successful people. Successful people are naturally competitive. They want to win and be the best…at everything!
Competitive people always have to be right, have the best ideas and the most brilliant solutions. They argue, can be condescending and are always at the ready with an opinion. In short, competitive people have an overwhelming need to be King of the Hill, regardless of how big or small the hill actually is.
Common sense may tell us to “shut up”. But our obsession with winning is so great, even when the issue is clearly of little consequence, we still want to win.
Dale Carnegie provides a great example of this concept in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People with the following story:
One night, while at a banquet in London, Dale was seated between his old friend Frank Gammond and a stranger.
The stranger told a humorous story punctuating with the following quote: “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.” Then, the stranger mentioned the quote was from the Bible. Carnegie knew he was wrong. Because he was absolutely sure of it he tried to correct the man.
The man would not be corrected. “What? From Shakespeare? Impossible! Absurd! That quote is from the Bible; and, I know it!” Carnegie’s friend Gammond had studied Shakespeare for years, so Carnegie and the stranger agreed to let Gammond settle their argument.
Gammond kicked Carnegie under the table and said, “Dale, you are wrong. The gentleman is right. It is from the Bible.”
Later, on their way home, Carnegie said to Gammond, “Frank, you knew that quotation was from Shakespeare.”
“Yes, of course,” he said. “Hamlet. Act Five. Scene Two. But we were guests at a festive occasion, my dear Dale. Why prove to a man that he is wrong?
Here’s another scenario from Marshall’s book that you might recognize yourself in.
You and someone else are trying to decide what restaurant to eat at. You choose X, the other person Y. You have read bad reviews about Y and provide numerous reasons why you don’t want to eat at Y. The other person is just as persistent about wanting to eat there. In the end you grudgingly give in and end up going to restaurant Y. The experience confirms your reasons for not wanting to go.
At this point you have two options.
Option 1 – Critique the restaurant and smugly point out that the whole unpleasant experience could have been avoided if they had listened to you in the first place.
Option 2 – Shut up and eat the food.
Being competitive is not a bad thing. It can become a bad thing when we become competitive about things that don’t matter.
Self awareness is the most valuable tool we can have in our drive for greatness, for being our best. If you are looking for an objective look at yourself contact me and I can make some recommendations.