At the Helm: Competition is cool

David Gee Annapolis
By David Gee

“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.”

Publius Ovidius Naso, known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus, about 2,000 years ago. But I think this sentiment about competition has stood the test of time.

In fact, as I am writing this, I am watching the Tour de France on the telly. It’s one of my favorite sporting events. Traditionally, the race is held primarily in the month of July but was delayed this year because of coronavirus concerns. While the route changes, the format stays the same with time trials, the mountains of the Pyrenees and the Alps, and the finish on the Champs-Élysées in Paris over 2,000 miles and 23 days later.

The Tour is generally regarded as the single hardest sporting event in the world from a physiological standpoint, because it amounts to not just a single race, but an all-out race for up to five hours a day, every day, for three weeks.

As an amateur cyclist myself, of course I enjoy watching the bike handling and the incredible physical attributes of the top riders in the world.

But I also love how many layers there are to the competition. The riders compete against each other, but also the clock, the elements, bad luck (one rider was forced to pull out three days from Paris, after he was stung in the mouth by a bee), their bikes, the road, the spectators on occasion, and of course, themselves.

Day after day these riders just pull each other over these long stages, propelled by sheer will and determination. There is no doubt though, that the group as a whole is able to achieve results no one individual could have on their own.

In business, it’s easy to fear competition, to run scared that someone else is going to beat you with a better product, or a cheaper price, or both.

Competition, however, is actually a good thing. In fact, it is essential, because it leads to innovation.  

Think of all the innovation that has occurred in the recreational boating industry the past few years with electronics and joysticks and audio and wake shaping devices and all sorts of other developments that have made boating easier – and more fun – for a wider range of people.

Competition is also an enemy of complacency. If you are constantly and consistently trying to build a better boat or provide a better customer experience, everybody benefits; the industry, your organization, your employees, and obviously boaters. 

So as this craziest of summer seasons dies down, good luck in your pursuit of excellence and finding new ways to beat the competition.

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