On competitions

Came back from Sampres vs. Hrbaty. Sampres is 6 years retired and he had beaten Dominik in two sets.

Got me thinking (yep, we had some champaigne on our table) about competitions again. About competitions and competing to be precise.

I remember one discussion with Hugo about people not being the elite having quite a hard time at university (we were talking about computer science related university, but it applies to different fields).

When I was on elementary school, there was a nation-wide programmer competition called Miniprog. Because of it, I found lots of friends, learned a lot and it was quite amazing time for me. I also won it several times (I don’t remember how many actually) and for me that was the worst part. There were usually something like 20, sometimes more programmers and when I got the price, I saw two who were not first standing next to me, quite sad and lots more around, who knew they probably never be standing and receiving the first three prices. I don’t know how they felt, but I felt quite bad, because I knew, I could learn a lot (even in programming) from each of them. I knew, that “best” was a mixture of “I had luck, because I did something similiar before” (some would call it experience, but hey, we were 10-15 years old!), I could be focused for a while, or something like that. I believe there is no fair way to find the “best” programmer. Someone solves the problem, but creates very ugly code, someone can do simple jobs like the one, but can not envision a broader architecture in large project. Someone is simply lazy to wake up and go to work (or whatever) to create something.

So basically, I believe marking someone as best is simply nonsense and it can motivate or highly demotivate the others.

I decided not to go to any more competitions on high school (I attended I think one when it was during schooltime, because I did not want to go to school).

That comes back to my question: does it matter if someone is best in something and someone else not? This world does not need best programmers, it needs many of them. If they are good, that’s a plus.

I hated sports where there’s a official competition, I started doing Tai Chi and one of the reasons I like it is, that you are not responsible for winning some competition, you can grow in many different aspects and the choice is yours. The tempo is yours. I also like swimming, just for the feeling and lately also paragliding. I know I will not ever be even close to best in any of these sports, but I like doing them. For endorphines, adrenaline.

Anyways, we’ve been playing squash with some colleagues. Playing is maybe too strong word, we’ve had some matches. Competition in this at this stage could be quite fun, because we are all on the same level of lameness ;).

Competitions tend to favour the better and on the “good ones” side of participants, they tend to grow, because they want to be “best” (at least in that competition). It can highly demotivate those, who are on the other side. So there’s some good and some bad to it.

But no one should be sad if he does not win the competition.

I like Dominik Hrbaty for how funny he can be (even during tennis match!)

What do you think? Are competitions good or bad?

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Written by Juraj Bednár //