By Græme Gordon, executive director, Praxity
I used to think I was not very competitive. At school, I was in the third 15 for rugby, never made the cricket team, and truly sucked at football (‘soccer’ for those north west of the Atlantic). But then I never saw the point of football, except when Scotland played England. Then it was a matter of either Bannockburn or Culloden, depending on the final result.
True, I love certain sports – and always want my team to win.
True, when I was at university and lost about 40 pounds weight, I used to play rugby at quite a high level and didn’t like losing. But I distinctly remember not considering myself competitive.
However, thank goodness, I was so wrong. Don’t get me wrong – I do not believe in ‘winning at all costs’. I believe that is highly corrosive for relationships and very bad for the soul. I have come to believe, however, that a strong streak of the competitive spirit is essential to get on in this world.
And, correctly channelled, it can be good not only for yourself but for your family, environment and colleagues.
Consider a parent. They may not ‘want’ to be the top of their profession themselves, but I bet you they want the best for their child. By supporting their child in its endeavours, comforting them when things go wrong and helping them back on the metaphorical horse, they can not only ensure the child succeeds but also feel fulfilled themselves.
So it is with life in general.
I have been very fortunate to serve my country in the Royal Navy. However, in retrospect, I feel I received a greater benefit from my time in the service than I gave. It gave me not only self-belief but also what I now realise is a focus for my competitiveness.
This focus is what ‘allowed’ me to become a chartered accountant when I left the Navy, and drove me to succeed. It is what has driven me to complete the running I have done despite the pain, boredom and totally inappropriately-aligned physique.
It is also the drive which makes me try to ensure my colleagues and family receive the best possible support. If they succeed, I’ve succeeded.
And it has also ‘goaded’ me into raising money for charity by various means, always shooting for a greater sum each time. So far, I’ve managed fairly well. I’ve not always secured sponsorship or donations greater than on previous occasions, but I’ve never failed to raise a healthy amount. (Thank you to all those who have donated, by the way. You are real heroes.)
However, I may have to admit defeat this month in my dual attempt to raise money for charity, on account of the one key component of previous labours. My own body.
Having completed four of five arduous runs, and two weeks from the final one – the Verona Marathon – I have injured my back, which is causing real issues. No way do I want to back out of Verona, albeit doing so would be the lesser of two evils. But if I do run … then I’ll have to rely on painkillers and my bloody-minded Scots attitude to get through it one way or another.
However, being bloody-minded or determined ain’t gonna help the other issue at all.
It’s November, and I’ve been pressed into accepting the Movember Challenge.
So, what’s the issue? Well, if you could see the dirty smudge on my top lip that has formed over the first week of the month, you’d see clearly where the issue lies. My competitive spirit will not allow me to quit – I’ll keep on growing it, hoping I can will it to become at least a reasonable facsimile of a moustache. Do they have hair extensions for moustaches? I’m not going for a stick-on version, that’s for sure.
Anyway, I guess the moral this time is not about knowing your limits, as some might think. It’s “if you don’t try, you’ll never know”. Never leave yourself wondering “what if?”. If you don’t go for it, forget it. But if you do go for it, give it everything.