Color War & Competition Virtues (#35)

As summer winds down, I am reminded of one of my favorite activities as a kid – Color War. Color War is a 100-year-old tradition that started at sleepover camps and is organized in the spirit of the Olympics.

The camp divides into two colors for either a few days or weeks of competition and campers at each age are asked to take leadership roles. It’s not just athletics; there is singing, bunk bed-making inspections, military style line-ups and even silent meals that are judged for points. It can be intense.

For several days, your best friends are your competitors and both level of effort and discipline are raised significantly. But then suddenly, it’s over and there are celebrations and tears and everything returns back to normal.

I loved Color War and never ran harder, stayed quieter when asked or had better hospital comers on my bed than during those summers.  As my kids now participate in Color War, it has allowed me to reflect on what it taught me about leadership and competing in life.

I strongly believe many of today’s parents and schools are doing a disservice to a whole generation by trying to eliminate, discourage or pretend that competition does not exist. Instead, they offer trophies, praise and other awards in exchange for often minimal effort or basic participation. In doing this, we are ignoring some of the principal benefits of competition:

1)      Bringing out one’s individual best
2)      Learning how to be a humble winner and a resilient loser
3)      Discipline and persistence

At every stage of life, we will win some and we will lose some. But without the right preparation, we won’t do either well.

As a company, we must compete for clients, awareness and talent on a regular basis. As individuals, we often compete for things that others want (a house, a job, a part in a play, etc.). If we’re not compelled to compete and are handed everything, we would become complacent and overconfident. This is how empires fell in history.  

Through healthy competition, we’re given opportunities to reach our best and fullest potential – and bring that out in others as well. The word “compete” even comes from the Latin root meaning “strive together.” It is a foundation of excellence.

This desire to elevate individual and team performance collectively is the real goal of competition and something that we should be encouraging more in our personal and professional lives.

 

Quote of The Week

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”

Confucius

 

Have a great weekend!

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