When I was 18, one of my high school friends took me to a car race. Not just any car race – the Indy 500. It was incredible. Amazing. There aren't enough words to tell you how amazing the race was. And now twenty five years later, I'll be heading back to Indianapolis this next year.
One of the things you realize when you're watching a race like that is that every racer is awesome. Not every one of them will win. But every one of them is doing an amazing thing.
One of my friends had an idea for the Olympics. His take was that we all look at the sprinters thinking that the guy in last sucks. But if we were to put a regular person (like me) in the race, that last place guy would look crazy fast!
Even the last place guy is fast when you realize you're watching serious competitors.
Competition drives greatness
In 1989 Fittipaldi had led most of the laps of the race. But in the last few laps he dropped back to second and third spots. Al Unser Jr stepped it up and I honestly thought he was going to take the race. But Fittipaldi made a move on one of the last turns. I'm sure he didn't mean for his and Unser Jr's wheels to touch, or for Unser Jr to spin out.
But it was the competition that drove him to go for it. And in the end, it was what led to his big win.
Want a better product?
I'm a product guy. I love designing software products. And I love launching them. But dealing with competition (with grace) wasn't something that came naturally.
See, our first inclination, I think, is to want winners and losers. To crown a victor and make sure that everyone knows it.
But when you watch a race like the Indy 500, you realize that every driver is pushing every other driver to their very best. And to take risks. Thought-out risks, but risks nonetheless.
And it makes for a better race. And faster times. And a more enjoyable finish.
So instead of trying to obliterate your competition, figure out how they'll help you build a better product.