There is room for all of us

One afternoon last week Grace was telling me about a conversation she had with a friend about being competitive.  They were discussing the pros and cons of that trait, and, Grace said, she told her friend, “Well, my mother is not competitive at all.”  I was equally taken aback, I think, by the fact that she had noticed that and that she’d offered it in a conversation with a friend.

This is true.  It’s also surprising to a lot of people.  But it’s absolutely true.  I’ve written before about my disinclination towards competition when it comes to sports and games.  And that remains true of me; I’m a total nightmare to play tennis or a board game with, since I just can’t get myself worked up about winning.

But what’s on my mind lately is competitiveness more generally.  We have all encountered people whose view of the world is predicated on an assumption that their success is linked to our failure.  The world that these people live in is a zero-sum one, in which there is a set amount of success; if we do well, that lessens their chances to do so.  So they have to be dismayed at our success, much as they try to hide it, because they fret it endangers their own.

I simply do not believe this.

It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me, as I get older, how firmly I believe that there is room for all of us.  Room for all of our success.  When a friend does well, that doesn’t mean I’m less likely to; in fact it enlarges the universe, and in no way detracts from me.  Success is not a zero-sum game.  It is the opposite.  I cannot adequately describe how deeply, and how fiercely, I believe this.

There is only one truly limited quantity in this life, one truly zero-sum thing, and that is our time.  I have written before about my belief that how we spend our time reflects what we value, shared my personal experience that drastically narrowing my life led to a startling, unexpected expansion.

That is simply not the case, in my opinion, with success.  This view allows me to entirely genuinely celebrate the accomplishments of friends and compatriots.  I do not feel lessened by their success.  I truly, honestly, do not.  There is room for all of us to blaze brightly, to shake the universe, to make our mark, to move people.

Once again, my ten year old daughter saw me better than I saw myself:  My mother is really not competitive.  And I’m not.

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  1. Posted February 14, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    How clearly your philosophy shone through this week with me. As I was reflecting on how you helped me succeed in my writing, those exact words, “Lindsey truly believes that there is room for all of us” rang in my head — and warmed my heart. I hope to pay it forward. Thank you.

    admin Reply:

    This makes me happy to read. Our actions truly tell the story, don’t they??

  2. Sweetcheryl
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I am also a noncompetative person when it comes to games. I play to enjoy the company and to have a few laughs. I married my alter-ego though, and he plays to win. He’s told me he can’t imagine playing a game without intending to win. I can! But, we’ve been together for over 31 years. Further proof that there really is room for us all.

    admin Reply:

    My husband is like that too. He finds playing with me infuriating, though!

  3. Ale
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. So many people would do well to heed your advice. I am fiercely competitive, but with myself – always saw it was testing myself – and am so happy to hear friends’ successes. So glad you are getting this message out there. Our light is only strengthened -!and our lives enriched -by the success of others.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much – I’m grateful to know that these words resonate. xo

  4. Posted February 14, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Such a thoughtful piece. We talk about competition in our house all the time. Ro is as competitive as I am not. And the girls seem to have bits and pieces of both of us. I can vividly remember losing tennis matches on purpose in high school (shh… don’t tell my teammates!) because the match had been going on for too long. Winning just was never all that important.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, I used to do cartwheels at the end of every cross country race. The coach would get mad, insisting I shouldn’t have that much left …!!

  5. Posted February 14, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    This is truly lovely, Lindsey. My Reiki Master often speaks of coming from a place of Abundance or a place of scarcity. Clearly you come from a wonderful place of Abundance. I wonder what the world would be like if we all did? I will carry your thoughts in my heart and mind throughout the days to come. Thank you, thank you.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much for these kind words. Yes, I definitely believe in abundance. I’m often taken aback by those whose mindset is so different, honestly. I appreciate your being so kind here. xoxo

  6. Posted February 14, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Something else we have in common. 🙂 And in terms of others in competition, I’m a peacemaker. If people are picketing, and there are “sides” involved, I’d be much more likely to make everyone sandwiches that to pick a side, make a sign (well, maybe there’d be a “free sandwiches” sign).

    admin Reply:

    Love that image!! xo

  7. Posted February 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh Lindsey! You have touched my heart again! You speak my language so, so well. I am so glad I found you. When you write about yourself and your thoughts you could be writing for me. It makes me feel understood. And that gives me such comfort. Much love.

    admin Reply:

    I am so glad to hear you say this. It’s so wonderful to hear of kindred spirits out there! xox

  8. Posted February 15, 2013 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    I so love knowing this about you, and it brings me to tears that Grace sees you so clearly.

    I am learning to believe this – room for us all – most of the time I do, with my whole heart, but every now and then, fear and scarcity rear their heads and tell me I’m too late, too old, not enough (etc) when one or two specific people experience success. Beautiful lessons always come from these moments of fear and I end up grateful for them.


  9. Posted February 15, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with you, Lindsey. Two summers ago my Tribe sister said, “The Universe has room for all of us,” which I remind myself of often. I firmly believe that, as you said, another’s success doesn’t diminish the chances of mine. In fact, I generally feel delighted to be surrounded by those people! A few years ago I had an acquaintance share a writing contact with me which led to good opportunity that she could have easily been jealous of –but wasn’t — and I found this to be such a great example of non competitiveness and generosity.

    admin Reply:

    Said that verbatim!? Wow!!! I’m wondering if I read that and it lodged in my unconscious as the perfect way to express my sense that we all can make our mark. I so agree with you, and her, and that entire philosophy. xox

  10. Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I swear, you’re my secret twin. My husband LOATHES playing any kind of board game or sport with me because I seriously don’t give a rip about winning! I even root for other people, which makes him crazy. Non-competitors, unite. There is room for all of us.

    admin Reply:

    I can think of few people I’d rather have as my twin. 🙂 xox

  11. Posted February 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Great minds think alike!

  12. Posted February 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I read this post yesterday and have thought of your words many times since. I love knowing about my friend’s inner workings–and it makes me think more about my own. These words, in particular, stayed with me: “There is room for all of us to blaze brightly, to shake the universe, to make our mark, to move people.”

    Beautiful. xoxo

  13. Posted February 16, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I used to be competitive but over the years it left me. This is mostly due to to an ex-boyfriend who was extremely competitive. I saw how it took up a huge chunk of energy and left a chip in his shoulder which I did not want for myself.

    There is room for all of us and we should all try our best cheer each other on rather than tear anyone down.

    admin Reply:

    Absolutely agree. xox

  14. Abbie
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I am a regular reader of your beautifully written, thought-provoking blog.

    In reading the comments of my fellow readers, I have come to the conclusion that your writing is a form of ministry.

    I wonder if you have ever thought of it in this way. I’m assuming that at least some of your readers would agree with me.

    admin Reply:

    Wow. I am so touched by this comment; I had never thought of my writing this way, and I’m hugely honored that you even suggest it. Thank you. xo

  15. Sally
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I would love to see you write more about this topic, as it is very important in this age of “all things competitive”. I mean you can’t turn on the tv without seeing some young kid, overcome with public grief, because he was voted off the Voice, etc, etc…

    I have also never really been interested in competing, at all. That doesn’t mean that I have not been successful in my career or led a group every now and then. But this constant “one-upmanship” that I see playing out all around us, is kind of heart-breaking. Beautiful and talented students are deciding to end their lives because they are not fitting the “perfect” mold.

    There is a lack of understanding, it seems, in people being honestly happy for someone else’s triumphs too. I see so much bitterness and hateful jealousy, even from those who believe that they are a friend of mine.

    There really is room for all of us, but how do we get there? The “me” generation is off to a rocky start in life, one that is sure to be full of disappointments in not always being “the best”. As sad as it can be for a parent to watch their child lose a game, or fail a test, disappointment is also one of the most valuable of lessons, which when experienced, makes life’s little triumphs all that much sweeter.

    Thanks for this posting. I whole-heartedly agree!
    Race you to that next corner! LOL

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much for this! I think about this particular topic all the time and, like you, confront and feel sad about visible jealousy from others, which I know comes from a zero-sum mindset. Letting my children fail and be disappointed is something that I struggle with, but I have done it and will do so again because I know how incredibly valuable the experience of picking oneself up is. xoxo