In economics, competition is the rivalry among sellers trying to achieve such goals as increasing profits, market share, and sales volume by varying the elements of the marketing mix: price, product, distribution, and promotion.  We can also refer to it as the activity or condition of striving, to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.  An event or contest in which people take part, in order to establish superiority or supremacy in a particular area.

Interestingly, from the above definitions, competition is not limited only to business or sporting activities as many people may have erroneously assumed. The word can be used interchangeably depending on the circumstance and the environment. For instance, competition is synonymous to what happens in the home between two wives married to the same man and each of them is trying to gain better attention of their joint husband. That is called rivalry; it is a form of competition. In politics we refer to the same word, competition as opposition. In Christianity or religious circle they call it adversary or antagonist.  In social world, it is often called racism or discrimination.

That great philosopher Vince Lombardi said “A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”

I don’t want us to restrict this interesting discussion, winning the battle over competition to the world of business or economics alone. I will like us to open it up a little bit wider for interested parties to pick such aspect that relates to their areas of interest in order to promote free enterprise and unlimited access to knowledge.

Why Competition?

Merriam-Webster defines competition in business as “the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favourable terms.” It was described by Adam Smith, the economist as allocating productive resources to their most highly-valued uses and thereby encouraging efficiency.

The key words here are favourable terms and efficiency.  The reason why I am making this clarification is for us to know that on the positive side competition is good but on the flip side it can be so dirty and unhealthy particularly in politics and in some homes. We have seen this play out in African politics and in some families too where things can go hay wire to the extent that caution is thrown to the winds and people get dirty to the point of eliminating their rivals or opponents.

My own idea of competition is how to do what you know how to do well for you to become the best and make competition irrelevant.  The enemy of the word better they say is best. A popular adage in my place says ‘’if a woman doesn’t face competition, her soup won’t be sweet.’’

Janet Jackson, the sister of Michael Jackson, the late American pop singer said ‘’ Competition is great. And as long as it’s friendly and not a malicious thing, then I think it’s cool.’’ That is very true once it is not nasty or destructive, competition is good and it promotes talents and bring the best in people to outer surface.  They say “a horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace’’.

Competition is one of the secret of success. If you know how to compete fairly and squarely you are on your way to the top because competition it’s what spices our world. If there is no competition in this world the whole place will be boring and uninteresting. “Brains without competitive hearts are rudderless.” So says a wise man.

See how Apostle Paul, the great servant of God captures it in 1 Corn 9:24 ‘Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.’ This tells us that God’s word also supports healthy competition too.  Whatever the level of competition you are engaged in, the ultimate is for you to win and be the best you can ever be in that field.

In a world where blacks generally and Africans in particular are considered to be non-starters, we have seen some amazing achievements of some black Africans both in terms of origin and colour competing at the world stage and conquering the world. The secret of their achievements is what we want to use as our major focus in this article for anyone facing any form of competition in life to know that the only guarantee to your outstanding success either in business, politic, sports, family or religion, that narrow road that leads to your heavens is to be the best in your chosen field.

We have seen some sarcastic questions like ‘A black man in a white house?’ which later turned to be a reality in our days even after it was prophesied many years back by Martins Luther King Junior that it would happen one day that a black person will be leading the most powerful nation in the world. Even Doubting Thomases couldn’t fathom it but it happened.  An African-American is currently occupying the Oval Office (White House) in the United State of America.  President Barrack Obama achieved that exceptionally great feat not once but twice. The secret of his success is that he trained and prepared himself to be the best and become irresistible to the American voters.

How about the unbelievable feat of George Opong Weah, the Liberian footballer who dazzled the whole world and became the first person in the world to win African, European and World footballer of the year in the same year. In 1995 he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or. His achievements remain huge testimony for all of us that if you are the best in your field the world will celebrate you. Orison Swett Marden, author of ‘Pushing to the Front’ said “the world makes way for the determined man’

The Ghanaian International Diplomat extra ordinary, Kofi Atta Annan served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. For Ten years, he was the number one citizen in the world as United Nation Secretary General and also a Noble Peace prize winner in 2001. He is one the great sons of Africa in a world people talked about racial discrimination.

Agbani Darego, a Nigerian model, on November 16, 2001 became the first black African to win the Miss World crown. Ninety Three other contestants from all over the world competed for the title with her. She came from a little town in Calabar in Nigeria but by absolute brilliance she took the world by storm.

This should tell us that it is not issue of race or colour or the region or continent where you are from that determines your placement in the world but your resolution to be the best.  Oprah Gail Winfrey the popular America talk show host said that ‘Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.’

Some people think that ‘mediocre’ is better than ‘best.’ They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. The simple reason for this line of thinking is because they don’t know there is a different between good and great.

To be excellent you must do what Abraham Lincoln gave as his own secret of amazing success. He was one of the best American Presidents ever. He said “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”  I think that is what makes competition to be irrelevant in any contest.

What is excellence?

Let’s look at this simple quote by Pearl S. Buck. He said “The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”  To make it clearer, when you look at the synonyms of excellence you will get the true meaning of the word.  Fineness, brilliance, superiority, quality or distinction. There is no other word that can capture the word excellence than these synonyms. Not even the definition of the word brings it home more succinctly. Excellence is a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity, being front runner in terms of products or services provided that are reliable and safe for the intended users. Excellence is being the best. In a world of competition being the best wins the game.  How do you win the game?

A Little about Blue Ocean Strategy and Competition

How can we make competition irrelevant in our business, politics, sports, religion and family? We can all adopt the principle of Blue Ocean Strategy, a book published in 2005 by the duo of W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.  They argue that companies can succeed not by battling competitors, but rather by creating blue oceans of uncontested market space. They assert that these strategic moves create a leap in value for the company, its buyers, and its employees, while unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant.

The four principles blue ocean strategy is preaching is (a) how to create uncontested market space by reconstructing market boundaries, (b) focusing on the big picture, (c) reaching beyond existing demand and (d) Getting the strategic sequence right.

The four action framework of how to overcome the competition focuses on what you do and how to do it well or better than anyone else.  You will have to eliminate, reduce, raise and create certain things within your constituent that can give you that edge.  The four key questions are

• Raise: What factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard? What are those things must we do better than competition. This may include your service standard, product quality, processing time, core values, quality of people, perception, systems and procedures.

• Eliminate: Which factors that the industry has long competed on that should be eliminated? Are there things that are militating against our ability to contest at the highest level that we must identify and remove?

• Reduce: Which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard?

• Create: Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?

Since answering these questions can be a difficult task, Kim and Mauborgne said these key factors will drive companies to scrutinize every factor the industry competes on, it will enable you discover the range of hidden facts that you must look at continuously to be able to ward off competition.

I don’t like too much grammar when I am explaining things to an African man, because if you are not totally careful you may end up confusing him more than he was before the discussion started. This is a person that is not comfortable with reading in the first place, asking him to look for the meaning of any technical word in the dictionary; you are inviting too much trouble for yourself.  You may end up not able to pass your message across.

Let me break it down in order not to misplace the import of this interesting discussion.  Raise your game (Remember Guinness beer advert) or improve the standard of what you do means bring the best in you out on display. You cannot compete at the highest level if you are still operating at the amateur level.  You got to raise your game in order to get better result; you will discover that when you do that you have moved to the next level beyond where competition kept you before.

Let us use our typical family setting to explain this one, eliminate. If a wife can eliminate those vices that makes the man to go outside looking for other ‘competitors’ by adopting excellent virtues of a good woman, surely, the home will be peaceful and the woman will start commanding more attention from the husband and better patronage of her services in addition to retaining him at home and by so doing eliminate unwanted competition within or outside.

Same thing applies in politics or business. If we can eliminate those things our followers or customers complain about, you will discover that without struggling you would have succeeded in making them yours for life and cheaply win them over from the competition.


The Will to Win

A wise man said “You never win a game unless you beat the guy in front of you. The score on the board doesn’t mean a thing. That’s for the fans. You’ve got to win the war with the man in front of you. If you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.”

What’s the point of working so hard if you still can’t be as good as the other person? When it comes to peak performance, we want to avoid frustration at all cost. To avoid frustration in life, business or politics you must be able to measure the result of your effort. That comes from the desire to win, courage, determination; dedication and competitive drive you have got within that ignites the fire that says you can do it.

The only solution is to reach inside and measure against your own internal yardstick. There is no more accurate measure for comparison than what you were yesterday, last week or last decade, when you were at your best. Nothing useful ever comes from comparison to others. Either you see yourself as better than someone and you get lazy and perhaps arrogant, or you see someone else as better than you and you feel like all your hard work is for naught.

I think what you need is the will to continuously be your personal best. If you commit to a slightly higher standard of yourself every day, you will always be at the top of your game. And that game will only get better. But if for some reason you fall off your mark, you will always have the past image of your peak performance to show you what you’re capable of doing.

Robert Frost said that taking the road less travelled has made all the difference. It always has and it always will. The path of the crowd is one overflowing with the “who’s better” mentality. If you choose a career that is hyper-competitive and over-saturated where everyone steps on each others’ toes to get to the top, you are going to be forced to compare yourself to others as they will all be doing the same with you. Comparison will be all too easy.

The interesting thing about the road less travelled is that there is often no one else travelling your exact path. You will see people on similar or familiar looking roads but no one exactly over the top of yours. This provides you with limitless inspirations as you see other people’s journeys but makes comparison nearly impossible. If you’re going to play the game, pick your competitor wisely and set it up so you can win.

Let me conclude with this inspiration statement by Vince Lombardi “To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price. Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there. Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures.”