Tao Te Ching Day 55: The Spirit of Competition

The spirit of competition came to me as a radio interview while I was driving into work one day years ago. I had always been a competitive person; the need to prove myself against another was a strong motivating force for me as I was growing up. I had always competed to be better, to show that I was worth more than another. If I couldn’t do that, then it felt useless to compete at all.

Then came this interview with a former Olympic swimmer about why he competes, and his explanation blew me away.

He said, and I am paraphrasing, that competing for him was no longer about winning or losing. Competing for him was about being pushed to your absolute best by those you are competing with and giving your all so that you bring out the best in others.

Bringing out the best in others meant that when he competed, he had to show up and perform at his absolute best anything less would mean that those around him would be allowed to be smaller, less realized versions of themselves and, in so doing make him smaller. Back and forth, this would go until eventually a couple of dudes in motorized scooters show up and fall in the pool and drown.

Ok, sorry I may have gotten a bit carried away with that last part, but can you see the beauty of this incredible idea of how competition should work. Not for one’s self-worth or ego, but bringing the best out in everyone around you by you being your absolute best.

Amazing, right?

Chapter 7 embodies this idea as a way of service to all.

Heaven and Earth are everlasting

The reason Heaven and Earth can last forever

Is that they do not exist for themselves

Thus they can last forever.

TTC 7 (Lin)

When we do not simply exist for our glory, we transcend what is known as the finite game and move into the infinite game. We move beyond our own life and expand to the lives of everyone we encounter.

Lao Tzu, knew this.

Therefore the sages:

Place themselves last but end up in front

Are outside of themselves and yet survive

Is it not all due to their selflessness?

That is how they can achieve their own goals

TTC 7 (Lin)

The last line gets me and speaks volumes about the power of this methodology even in competition.

They achieve their own goals by putting themselves last.

That doesn’t mean the Sage never gets what they need; that means they remain humble and do the work necessary as if they were no better than the lowest person. They think only of how they can help people realize their most significant potential, and in so doing, the Sage reaches their own greatest potential because they teach by example and not by empty words.

What an absurdly radical idea. That I start with We instead of I.

Living a life where my decisions are not based on how I feel but the virtue of service to the world. How my every action may be in serving others to my fullest potential, thereby unlocking my greatest self.

Can you imagine a world where peoples thoughts didn’t immediately start with, “what can I get out of this,” but instead “what can I bring to this, what can I give to this person, this situation?”

Can you imagine the absolute shift, the quantum leap that would take place in the world if that kind of virtue were to grab people’s hearts.

It would change everything.

What if it I did it, though? Not worrying if anyone else was going to do it too. I bet my world would be transformed.

So, that’s where ill leave you today, in the place where I start, where We start.

Happy Day.


Published by Matthew Whiteside

I am a writer, a storyteller, a yarn-spinning freakazoid. My life is full of two things today, lessons and blessings. I write fiction mostly but I also love to write about my life and the things I go through on a daily basis. Writing it out inspires and motivates me and that's why I do it. Plus if it does that for me maybe it will for someone else too.

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