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Do you compete with yourself or others?

by retirebyforty on December 23, 2013 · 36 comments

in goals and milestones

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compete with yourself or othersLast week, I was driving to the grocery store with RB40 Jr. and I heard a segment of This American Life. In this episode, they were at a Jeep dealership as they try to meet their monthly sale goal at the end of the month. Their corporate headquarters sends the dealer a goal each month (129 in October) and if they surpass it, they will receive a big bonus. That’s why it’s good to buy a new car at the end of the month. If the dealer is close to the goal, they would be willing to sell some cars at a loss so they can receive the bonus.

In the car business, the salesman also competes with each other. A sales consultant will get a bonus if they sell a certain number of cars a month and the top salesmen will also receive extra bonuses. Anyway, one guy on the show grabbed my attention – Jason Mascia. He’s the leading salesman at the dealership and he has his own goals. Everyone else at the dealership is competing with each other, but Jason is only competing with himself. Most everyone is shooting for 15-20 sales a month. Jason hit 30 a few times and his personal Olympic goal is to sell 40 cars in one month. That’s a lot of cars.

I think it’s great that Jason can think that way. He is holding himself above the fray and has his own goals to achieve. That’s quite difficult in a competitive environment. You have to be at the top or be oblivious to stay out of the melee. That’s one of the things I didn’t like in the corporate environment. In my old job, we had a ranking and rating process once a year and it was always stressful. If you want a good raise or a promotion, you’ll have to be competitive and be noticeable. At Yahoo!, they are doing this ranking process every quarter in an effort to cut the fat. If you’re ranked low twice in a row, then you’re gone. Yahoo! let go of over 600 people so far and it doesn’t sound like a healthy work environment to me.

Competing with myself

I’m not a very competitive person by nature and I’m very glad I’m out of the corporate environment. As a self employed person, I can work as hard as I want. I don’t have to compete with anyone and I can go at my own pace. I know if I work hard, then there is a better chance of making more money. Luckily, we don’t really need a lot of income, so I can prioritize my kid over work these days.

Instead of competing with my coworkers, I compete with myself. I don’t need anyone to motivate me to write new articles and it’s great to keep my own schedule. I raise the bar constantly for Retire By 40. In 2013, I had striven to break 100,000 pageviews per month. We came close, but didn’t make it. I’ll keep trying to surpass that goal next year.

Comparing yourself with others

Are you keeping up with the Joneses? This is the dark side of competition. Some of our friends drive expensive cars, live in a big house, and often take luxurious vacations. It’s hard not to feel envious when Facebook bombards us with pictures of those who are living it up. It’s getting more and more difficult in today’s connected society to stay above the fray.

Actually, it was more difficult to live frugally when I was working. Most of my coworkers enjoyed the consumerism lifestyle and it was difficult to avoid competing. These days I have an out. I tell myself that they still have to head into the office every day while I’m spending quality time with my kid. It’s worth it to sacrifice some luxuries to gain the time to do what I want.

What about you? Do you compete with yourself or others? 

Photo credit: flickr Damian Gadal

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

[email protected] December 23, 2013 at 12:28 am

Joe,
I’m surrounded by friends a lot more successful than I am and I wrote a post about it. I benchmark where we’re at against others in our age group. When I first started my career I worried about where I was career wise, living where I’m at now not so much.

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:41 am

It’s only natural to benchmark ourselves against other people, but it’s a big function of where we live. It’s probably good when you’re young. :)

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theFIREstarter December 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm

This is freaky, I started typing up a draft last night titled “Competitiveness vs Self-Improvement” which was very much along the lines of this – with competitiveness being equivalent to your “competing with others” and self-improvement being “competing with yourself”

I don’t have to write it now as you’ve pretty much said everything I wanted to say (but probably better than I would have done anyway)

Cheers :)

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retirebyforty December 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

You know, there are like 6 topics in personal finance. Just write from your own point of view and I’m sure you’ll add something new. :)

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Nate December 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I try to set a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) and compete against myself primarily. However, I am VERY competitive by nature. Not in the sense that I like to, “take other people out” and come out on top – on the contrary. I enjoy, “raising the overall bar” for everyone. I get great satisfaction in seeing someone else do well when I know I encouraged and prepared them to step their game up in the first place ;-)

I once negotiated a compensation deal for a friend of mine (who had a very unique skillset) that put his 6 figure salary OVER MINE. I think I wanted to raise the bar a little more so I had something to shoot for LOL!

I think it’s pretty healthy to compete with yourself – but it’s also a good practice to occasionally benchmark against other people who are trying to win as well.

Great article Joe.

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Maverick December 23, 2013 at 12:31 am

Joe, I’m glad I’m out of the corporate environment too for many of the same reasons. Also, I got tired of writing the mandatory weekly IOI’s (items of interest) to the managment chain to inform them what I did for them. Seemed like a waste of time compiling for managers who had their own agenda on how THEY could get recognized to their superiors. And then there are the “face-time” meetings. IMHO, managers need to get to know what their subordinates are doing by more walking around (engagement). But in my experience that didn’t seem to happen often in my Fortune 100 company.

BTW, don’t you think you are in competition for “eyeballs” with other personal finance blogs?

I would say we are all still in competition with others even after removing oneself from the corporate world to FI, it’s just in a different form. Wouldn’t you agree?

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

Oh yeah, I hated those 1 on 1 meetings too. I felt like it was such a waste of time. I could be doing something useful or exercising. I didn’t need anymore face time with the managers.
At this point, I don’t feel like I’m competing for eyeballs. The audience is huge and everyone can get a piece of the pie. I guess if the blog market gets more saturated, then it’ll be much more difficult.

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MrLonely December 23, 2013 at 2:46 am

i did compete myself with others

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101 Centavos December 23, 2013 at 3:21 am

If making plans and determining in advance what constitutes success is competing with yourself, then sure. A good way to get things done.

@ Maverick: the mention of IOIs made me smile. I’ve heard them termed to as “notables” or MAs, monthly achievements… and they are thoroughly detested by the rank and file.

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Fast Weekly December 23, 2013 at 3:33 am

Most corporations encourage a competitive culture. Some people say they have to be to encourage productivity and get high levels of work out of there employees. I’m not so sure. I am also a competitive person and it takes all the fun out of working in large corporations. There is always someone better and someone worse than you. Just like life…… which is also more fun if you can chill out and enjoy it. I have shrived for several years to only compete against myself. No dice so far, but maybe next year
-Bryan

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

Yeah, the corporate environment just sucked the life out of me. It’s not for the right fit for me. Some people likes it though.

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Melanie December 23, 2013 at 3:52 am

Competition is good because it encourages us to do better and to work harder. Competition also motivates us and leads us to great ideas. It goes bad if we don’t separate the act of competing from the result of the competition.

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

Sure, it works well for some people, but not everyone. Some of us works better by ourselves.

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Moneycone December 23, 2013 at 6:24 am

I think competing with yourself is more harder than competing with others! When you compete with yourself, you are more honest to yourself, when you compete with others you only see the glamorous side of their success, not what they put in to get there.

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

That’s interesting. I think you also have to be self motivated too. Some people needs competition and external forces to stay motivated.

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Andrew@LivingRichCheaply December 23, 2013 at 6:51 am

I try not to compete others and compare my financial situation with theirs…though it is hard as it is bit of human nature to compare yourself with others similar to you. It probably didn’t help that my mom often compared (and still compares) me with my cousins, other peers in the same age group. I used to feel the need to live up to that standard, but now have found some peace as I don’t feel like I have similar goals as everyone else. I don’t need the big house and fancy car.

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:50 am

The Asian parents can be hard on their kids that way. I’m pretty successful compare to my cousins so they don’t get on my case too much. They know it’s better to be happy and healthy than stressed out all the time.

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The Warrior December 23, 2013 at 7:06 am

Unfortunately, I have been engrained with the competitive spirit. I have, thankfully, been able to quell the majority of the negative side of competition. I have trained myself to compare myself as little as possible.

These days, I set my own goals and standards. This has helped me actually achieve goals rather than deflate my efforts.

One thing I have done to negate the distractions of competition is remove Facebook from my life. I always caught myself comparing my life to the experiences other people were having. Removing FB from my life brought a peace that can only be understood by someone who no longer uses FB.

The Warrior
NetWorthWarrior.com

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:51 am

Removing Facebook is a great idea. I’m not on there that often, but I still see occasional opulence. :)
Good tip.

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SuperChief December 23, 2013 at 7:18 am

While I truly appreciate the point being made here, some competition against others is inevitible and necessary because we are competing for scarce resources. In the Jeep example, salespeople are competing with one another to a large extent because customers will not come in and buy two Jeeps.

The same is true in many other aspects of life. The concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” may lead to an unhealthy, materialistic attitude when taken to extreme, but since houses, cars, health insurance, etc. are priced by the market it is important to benchmark yourself to others to determine whether and how these things will fit into your life.

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

Sure, I agree. If you’re in a competitive environment, then you have to do your best to beat your competitors. That episode is quite interesting.

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Justin @ RootofGood December 23, 2013 at 7:24 am

I don’t really “compete” in any traditional sense. My goal is to win in life, a game where there aren’t any clearly defined objective metrics of victory. Money, mind, health, family, friends, happiness? Check, check, check, check, check, and check, for now!

But any of those things could slip from my grasp if I don’t periodically focus some time and energy on maintaining each one.

I did set a few goals when I first retired early, and they were along the same lines of those six parameters I just listed. Spend more time with family, friends, cook more, exercise more, learn a foreign language, read more, play more games.

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 10:54 am

That’s great. I like your goals. Isn’t it great to enjoy life instead of competing with everyone constantly?

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Nate December 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Excellent insight Justin.

The process you engaged in is less “competition” and more “discovery of what makes a great life”. Once you have engaged in discovery — you can set about crafting the life (blueprint) you have imagined. The journey is the best part.

From reading your blog, it appears you have been pretty successful at doing that.

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Insourcelife December 23, 2013 at 8:06 am

I think I used to subconsciously compete with others until I woke up one day 10 years older with a lot more money and stuff, but not any happier than before. I don’t really care what other people think any more and try to eliminate that worry when making any personal decisions, especially in finances.

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 11:04 am

I think we all have that 10 years older moment. That’s why those landmark birthdays are so hard – 30, 40, 50…
It’s better to live life on our own term.

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davidmichael December 23, 2013 at 8:23 am

I have just completed 12 weeks of work as a seasonal Workamper (RVer) with Amazon. It was my first part-time job (50 hour weeks) (age 76) of working in a factory. It was an amazing experience. In our morning and afternoon stand-ups (dept meetings), besides reviewing safety and other topics of current interest, our morning numbers and three-day numbers would be posted on a bulletin board for all to see. All employees had to meet a quota daily and weekly. Otherwise, a notice would be handed out of poor numbers. With three notices, the employee was asked to leave. Fortunately, they were very supportive of the Workampers and gave us about a 30% leeway. But I would never be able to work under those conditions on a full-time basis. While I valued the entire experience as well as the extra money I earned, it made me appreciate retirement even more. No way am I ever going to give up my freedom again to the corporate world.

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retirebyforty December 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

Thanks for sharing. 12 weeks is a long time in that environment. I don’t know if I can operate under that kind of pressure anymore. I guess if I enjoy the work, then maybe…

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tired of being the sucker December 23, 2013 at 11:04 am

Hey there, I’ve still been reading even though I haven’t been commenting. Ever since I discovered my true personality, I have come to embrace my fierce independence and can not care less about ‘competing’ with other people. It’s liberating! Do you know your personality type? Try it:
http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

The types are surprisingly and scarily accurate and I’ve studied it to the point where I can determine a person’s type shortly after I meet them (or read their blog, hehe). I have a pretty good idea of how you would test. I’ll tell you my type if you tell me yours. :)

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Ryan December 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

I’m unfortunately super competetive, but not necessarily outwardly so. I use my competive side to motivate myself. I don’t feel the need to compete with the Joneses of the world, but I like to use people who are better at a task than I am, as motivation. But, I agree that too much competition can be damaging… it’s good you’ve find your way out of it!

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Done by Forty December 23, 2013 at 11:21 am

I listened to that podcast recently, Joe, and was immediately hooked. I love any insight into negotiations. That segment with the top performer was great. The man barely knew the word ‘pessimistic’ but understood how to set goals, how to motivate himself, and how to sell. Street smarts beats book smarts every time.

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retirebyforty December 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

This American Life is such a great show. Jason was a little edgy though. I don’t think I want to live like that. Seems like he is a little bipolar or something like that.

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Jon_Snow December 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I’ve mentioned it in other posts that my wife and I bring home about 12k monthly (10k work income, 2k dividends)… with this we could probably give the Joneses’ a bit of a beat down.

Instead we are saving about $9500 every month so we will be financially independent in our early 40′s.

But I would be lying if didn’t sometimes imagine what our life would look like if we spent every dime we brought in every month… like most people do. Thankfully, such feelings pass quickly, because I then imagine what it would be like to HAVE TO work into my 60′s…

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retirebyforty December 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm

It would be a lot of fun to spend every dollar, but not working for other people trumps all that. :)

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Bryce @ Save and Conquer December 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I never try to complete with anyone else at work. I always think of everyone as part of a team. I also don’t really try to compete with myself, although I am happy every time we either land a contract that I proposed or complete a delivery of space flight hardware that I was responsible for.

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Kurt @ Money Counselor December 23, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I don’t think I’m competitive, and I pay no attention to the Joneses. If I compare myself to anyone it would be a guy like Thoreau or Kerouac. :-)

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