I’m convinced that if we focus on finding and building the best version of ourselves it makes everything else better, including ourselves. Using others as a benchmark has a place, but more often it is a race to bottom.
We measure the number of hours we work, customers we bring in, website visits we generate, etc. compared to someone else. There’s really no end to things you can compare when it comes to yourself and another person. Even if you come up on top what’s the real benefit?
I’ve experienced team environments like this. They aren’t a lot of fun–often toxic. When the team becomes suspicious of each other and there’s no trust, comparison becomes a key metric for measuring success.
In one of the last chapters of Start With Why, Sinek tells a moving story of a boy named Ben Comen who has cerebral palsy. Ben is not the fastest runner on the team or the slowest… technically he probably he is the slowest runner, but he never finishes last because after the team completes a race they always loop back to finish the race with him. Ben falls down a lot, often finishing the race bloodied and bruised.
The idea is that Ben is racing to improve and compete against himself, not beat the other runners. There is no way he could. Take this in.
Something amazing happens after about twenty-five minutes. When everybody else is done with their race, everyone comes back to run with Ben. Ben is the only runner who, when he falls, someone else will help pick him up. Ben is the only runner who, when he finishes, has a hundred people running behind him.
What Ben teach us is special. When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you. Olympic athletes don’t help each other. They’re competitors. Ben starts every race with a clear sense of WHY he’s running. He’s not there to beat anyone but himself. Ben never loses sight of that. His sense of WHY he’s running gives him the strength to keep going. To keep pushing. To keep getting up. To keep going. And to do it again and again and again. And every day he runs, the only time Ben sets out to beat is his own.
Now think about how we do business. We’re always competing against someone else. We’re always trying to be better than someone else. Better quality. More features. Better service. We’re always comparing ourselves to others. And no one wants to help us. What if we showed up to work every day simply to be better than ourselves? What if the goal was to do better work this week than we did the week before? To make this month better than last month? For no other reason than because we want to leave the organization in a better state than we found it?
I get that businesses have to make money and all that. I think Sinek is onto something here. I love Sinek’s idea of becoming better versions of ourselves because that’s a reoccurring theme my buddy Gregg Monteith raises in our podcast–the idea that we are meant to be the best possible versions of ourselves.