Compete Less. Encourage More.


“People depend on one another. When one does well, others are lifted. When one stumbles, others also are impacted.” —Jon Huntsman, Sr.

Recently, I ran my first marathon. Going in, the endeavor was about realizing a dream and proving to myself that I could do it. However, along the way, I experienced countless other benefits. I got into shape (just in time for summer), I made new friends, I enjoyed hours of quiet reflection on my life, and I learned some valuable lessons about life. In short, it became a true life-changing experience.

Of all the life-changing lessons I learned, perhaps the most significant was the importance of competing less and encouraging more. Marathon runners are notorious for offering encouragement to one another. They understand an important race principle: there is room at the finish line for all of us.

It isn’t all about winning or losing, it’s about the experience and being in it together. As a result, the entire 26.2 mile race was filled with encouragement from bystanders and competitors completely committed to helping the other racers finish strong.

Those of us seeking simplicity can learn a lot from marathon runners. Admittedly, I have spent most of my years on earth competing against others rather than encouraging them in the journey. It was so important for me to succeed that I often tore others down rather than building them up. Looking back, I owe them all an apology. I wish I had competed less and encouraged more.

I have come to realize that the mindset of competition is based on a faulty premise. It assumes there is a finite sized pie – that one more success in another’s life equals one less success in mine. But quite frankly, this thinking is incorrect. The size of the pie is not finite.

In reality, the pie keeps growing. Another’s success does not mean I have less shot at it. In fact, another’s success can actually be my success if I had an opportunity to encourage and promote them along the way!

This is a life-changing revelation and important key to experiencing simplicity in life.

To put this into practice, try some of these practical, mind-set changing ideas to encourage others:

  • Refuse to speak negatively of other people (publically or privately).
  • Send consumers to other competing businesses if they can better meet their individual needs.
  • Use cards, telephone calls, and emails to offer encouragement to those around you.
  • Publicly promote other people’s success stories.
  • Ask how you can come alongside to help.
  • Share your ideas with others. The free-flow of information will always come back around to you.
  • Attend local, community events and promote a “teammate mentality.”

This world has always been big enough for all of us. I just wish it hadn’t taken a 4½ hour run for me to figure that out.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Good post. There is a local business owner around here who runs a comedy club. He also teaches comedy and improv classes to general people in the area and businesses who want to learn positivity and team building.

    He’s become so popular because of his improv principle of “yes, and…” which means that you always want to be positive (yes) and you always want to add to the experience (and) if you intend to build community and foster growth.

    I keep this in mind whenever something seems tough and my positive outlook is threatened. And what you found out, one of the most important things, is that it’s rarely a situation that is truly what’s negative, it’s how we react.

  2. says

    There are a couple of things you mentioned here that I am guilty of myself. I will work on these traits and try to make myself a better person.

  3. says

    Hey you bring up some good points. As a sports-fanatic and former athlete, I have to respectfully say that I think there is 2 types of competition – healthy and non-healthy. Healthy competition is something great because it can help 2 or more people push themselves to limits they didn’t know they had and also help to get the most of each other. Healthy competition can also inspire others to bring out the best in their selves when they witness others doing the same.

    But I understand how easily it is to veer into unhealthy competition which is put-downs and lack of respect which I think you alluded to in your post.

  4. says

    As the owner of a small yoga studio, in a small town that has three studios I ofter recommended the “competition”. Each studio has a different take on yoga and I would rather someone have the kind of yoga that want, instead of o yoga.
    There are other areas of woke for me tho. *:)

  5. Gil says

    One thing I have learned in this minimalist journey is that coming in first doesn’t make you a winner and being last doesn’t make you a loser. Respect for each other makes us all winners.

  6. ART says

    Too bad these principles are not applied in Corporate America, it is all the opposite where competition is heavily encouraged and promoted via the annual ranking sessions where there can only be a Number one and there has to be someone at the bottom of the pile. Some people interprets this as a green light to back stab their co-workers in order to get ahead and get the largest piece of pie from raises and any bonuses.
    I work for a large corporation and annual ranking sessions are the most stressful time of the year for me and most everyone else.
    During the last two years of economic turmoils this has been accentuated even more to the point where last year the company that I work for demanded that managers rank 40% of the employees at the two lowest brackets of the curve.
    This has been one of my largest motivators to adopt a less materialist approach to life and find ways to get out of this situation and find a way to provide the income my family needs to live. I have a kids going to college this Fall and another one in two years and my plan is to fully adopt a full minimalist lifestyle once both are done to enjoy more life without being force to stab my fellow co-workers.

    • L. Baker says

      Wow, Art, I really feel for you, trying to deal with that kind of stress. Good luck to you on your road to changing things.

  7. says

    My step-son ran his first marathon in London this year. You’re so right about the attitude of long distance runners encouraging each other. He picked up a knee injury at around 12 miles but the runners around him kept him going and he made it to the end.

    We were looking for a quote for a card and found this:

    “If you want to win something run 100 meters. If you want to experience something run a marathon.”

    There is something special about sharing an experience with others. Everyone around you knows how hard it is for you because it is just as hard for them. None of you will ‘win’ because by the time you reach half way some guy will have finished but that doesn’t matter.

    There are so many lessons we can learn. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    • SRM says

      Hmmm…as someone who has been a competitive runner most of my life, I consider the road race (marathon) to be extremely competitive – most people I know who are attracted to it AND who are doing it at a higher level, are among the most individualistic, intense, Type A people I know. If at a recreational, I just want to finish it kind of thing, sure – but isn’t that true with everything else?

  8. says

    ‘competition’ has entered in every part of our life and with almost everyone – siblings, friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, etc.

    Though it is said that ‘competition’ brings the best out of an individual, I wonder if ‘encouragement’ could bring the best out of the human race.

    I guess it depends on the way we define ‘progress’ – our progress.

  9. Danique Williams says

    So true. Very refreshing article. I have experienced both competition and encouragement and encouragement is so much more gratifying. Good stuff!

  10. Gerald Landis says

    Vitamin “E” equates to “Encouragement.

    If we would yell less and encourage others more. Our lives and lives of other would
    be so much better.

    I believe one reason I enjoyed a conservative Bible church in Georgia over another
    conservative Bible church in Florida is that the leaders and members spoke softly and
    gently in Ga. Both churches were in the same circle of churches and were similiar. I enjoyed
    the gentle leaders much more. The Florida church was full of special loving people but some spoke there with a loud voice when trying to correct or help you.

    Gentle leaders are more effective than leaders with a loud mouth even though the big mouths met well.

    We need to be gentle with our speech and our actions.

    Be gentle with our “mouths” and “actions.”

  11. Sandra says

    I have limited endurance and envy my age peers who do so much more. I have my medical reasons for the limitation, but since it’s invisible, I look so much healthier than I am. I need to accept my limitations, while working gently to try to increase endurance. It’s frustrating.

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