I’ve been playing sports since I was seven, the year my parents finally gave in and let me join minor hockey.
Since then I have had many wonderful opportunities and experiences, some that were great at the time, and others that I didn’t appreciate until later.
Over the years I tried out for quite a few competitive teams (some I made, some I didn’t) and applied to a number of prep schools, and one thing they all had in common was the interview. Every interview asked why I wanted to be a member of their organization, and how it would benefit me. Each and every time I answered the exact same way. Being a member of their organization would be an honor. That it would help me improve not only as a player, but as a person. And while that may seem cheesy, I swear it wasn’t a line to make me look good. I truly believed in what I was saying, I just didn’t realize how true it was.
Playing sports taught me a lot about life. I learned valuable lessons about teamwork, discipline and work ethic. All of which have had benefits that reached far outside the walls of the rink.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned is one I didn’t realize would even apply to, or be so important in the real world.
In hockey or any sport rather, “playing down to the competition”, is a derogatory term that means a superior team doesn’t play their best against an inferior team. They play as good as their competition, but not as good as they are capable of, in other words, they do not play to their potential.
No matter the arena you’re playing in, the hockey rink, school, business, playing down to the competition is wasting your potential. It is a lesson I learned the hard way a few years ago.
When I started my first “big girl job” I was the only young adult in the entire branch of my company and one of only three females. To say that people doubted my ability to do well would be an understatement. I was motivated to work hard, bust my ass and prove myself. I continually impressed myself and my colleagues with how quickly I learned the ropes, and the quality of my work.
After a couple of years the company hired two new young females, and I was excited to feel less like the minority. When they joined the team the “need” I felt to prove myself slowly dissipated. Perhaps because I no longer felt alone. The problem was that the longer I worked with those girls, the more my work ethic matched theirs. I began to notice that I made more mistakes, received less praise for my work, and the projects that once would automatically be mine (because I would do an awesome job) were now being shared with my co-workers. It wasn’t something I was fond of. I liked being on top, and it wasn’t satisfying to be anything less. I quickly realized that in order to be the best employee, the person people turned to for help or trusted with important tasks, to get the promotion, or to “win” so to speak, I would have to work harder than everyone else. I would have to play to my own potential, not to that of my competition. Yes, your co-workers are your competition.
In life, as in sports, you should surround yourself with people who are at your level or are higher than you. These are the people you can learn from, who can push you to higher levels. These are the people who will help you to continue to up your game. Your business associates should be a reflection of who you are or who you want to be.
Never stifle the drive to be above the competition. Don’t get comfortable. Always play to your strengths. Never settle for being destined to be normal and surround yourself with people whose passion for success mirrors your own, or you will drown in a sea of subpar expectations.