My friend and softball guru, Bobby Simpson, shared an insight with me about competition that has captivated my mind.
Tony Gwynn was one of the greatest hitters in the history of major league baseball. According to Greg Riddoch, former San Diego Padres manager, what made Tony great was whom he competed against. He found no satisfaction in being better than most of the other hitters his era, but constantly competed against himself. He always wanted to be better than yesterday’s Tony Gwynn.
Some players find contentment being better than most other players. Most players would be satisfied being the single best in their field. Tony was never satisfied. He didn’t compare himself to other outfielders or any other hitters, but he constantly compared himself to himself.
A story about competition
Jesus told a story about a man going on a journey who left shares of his possessions with three slaves. You can find the parable in Matthew 25:14-30. He gave one slave five shares, another two shares, and a third he gave one share. Two of the slaves invested the man’s possessions and double his holdings. The one with a single share played it safe and buried the share for safekeeping.
Upon the man’s return, he settled accounts with his slaves. As you might imagine he praised the two productive slaves for their industry and faithfulness. Conversely, he condemned the unproductive slave as wicked and lazy. The difference was not where they started nor where they ended, but what they did in the meantime.
A lesson in competition
So what does the parable have in common with Tony Gwynn and you?
The unproductive slave looked at what the others received and knew he could not compete with them. He decided to “play to not lose.” How many times are we like this slave? We look at what others have and give up. We feel like we can’t compete with them, so we don’t compete at all.
The slave with two shares might have looked at the one with five and gave up thinking he couldn’t compete. But he didn’t. Too often, we fail to better ourselves because we believe we have to be better than someone else. So, we don’t even try.
Tony Gwynn became one of the best hitters in baseball because he competed every day against one of the best hitters in baseball – Tony Gwynn. Instead of looking at others against whom you think you can’t compete, see your greatest competition in the mirror. Stop trying to be better than someone else and seek to be better than yesterday’s you.
This commentary originally appeared at Duggan’s personal blog.