Is Everything in Life a Competition?


Every weekend, during the winter at least, my gang of five drives up to our family country home in the Blue Mountains. It’s about a two-hour drive, which gives us ample time to engage in a wide variety of conversations. Some topics are mundane while others are too crazy to write about. The most interesting conversations happen between my husband, David, and our son, Matthew. The topic in the car for some of the drive Friday night: is everything in life a competition?

While David and Matthew did not dive too deep into this topic (they do get easily side-tracked and somehow often move over to discussions about war), it did get me thinking that competition really is a central piece of every part of our lives.

Think about how life begins. Millions of microscopic sperm swim around, moving as fast they can, competing to find and fertilize an egg. The one sperm that wins the competition and fertilizes the egg creates a new life. The millions of other sperm just disintegrate into nothing. In some ways, we begin life by winning our biggest competition – to create that life.

Once a baby is born, while he or she may not know it, the competition continues. If the baby has siblings, there is a competition for attention from the parents. The competitive nature of a human baby is quite limited, but what about animals in nature? Early on in life so many animals have to compete with the others to simply survive – to eat and sleep in a safe place.

As babies grow into children they learn the art of formal competition – how to win in an individual or team sport or beat an opponent at a game of cards or a board game. A driven student competes against his or her friends to achieve the highest grade on a test. There may be fierce competition to be accepted into the right high school and eventually the university of choice.

The older we get, the more competitions we must face. It may begin with a friendly wager between two friends about who can get the higher grade or be the first to snag a date to the prom, but as we grow up it gets more serious.

Who receives a scholarship or is accepted to one of the few spots available in an elite graduate school program? Does the girl pick you or the better-looking guy in the corner? Who will be the first person in your group of friends to get married?

When we enter the job market, either as a teenager looking for a part-time job or fresh out of high school, college or university seeking a full-time position, the real competition begins. We want to show off our best skills and be noticed. We need to convince a person or group of people to think, yes, she is the best choice. I want to hire her. The pool of applicants for one job can be enormous, and sometimes hundreds of people can be in competition for one position.

Once we have secured that great job, the competition does not end. We must compete to be noticed and work hard every day to move up in the world. And just when we think we have it all, it can come crumbling down. We may be forced to begin the competition again to find the next job. I know that I must never let my guard down and the next competition may be around the corner.

I believe that few things in life are just handed to us. It’s not just about hard work – it’s about the ability to compete and to try to be successful. How often do you hear about someone who “battled cancer” or “fought off an injury?” We compete with each other and sometimes even life itself.

And just because we don’t win every competition does not mean we are not successful. I understand that at the very beginning only one sperm can be successful to win the competition. But a baby will always get tons of attention from close family. 90% may not be the highest grade on the test but it’s still a good mark. We may not get an acceptance letter from our first choice for university but hard will work will bring us many other offers for an opportunity at an institution of higher education. It may take a while to find the perfect job, but with some patience and persistence we will get on the right career path. Competition is a part of life. And that’s okay.

That Anxious Jittery Feeling when your Team is Playing in that Key Game


It’s Sports Wednesday everyone, and today’s topic comes from a conversation I had last week with my son. If you are a sports fan in general or you are a fan of a specific team or teams you will understand exactly what I am talking about in today’s sports post. I don’t think I can find one word to describe the feelings, emotions and your general physical state when your team is playing that important game so I will describe it in various ways and provide examples of when I was in the state.

Let’s start by going back almost 25 years ago, to October 18, 1992.  It was the World Series, as the Toronto Blue Jays faced the Atlanta Braves. Game 6, bottom of the 11th inning, with the Blue Jays ahead 4-2. The Braves had one man on with two outs. A homerun would tie the game and an out would give the Blue Jays their first ever World Series win. My heart was racing and I could not sit still. I was so nervous that I couldn’t watch but I also couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. My mother and I were so fidgety that we started to dance around the room together. And then it happened – the player laid down a bunt to Mike Timlin the pitcher, who threw the ball to Joe Carter at first, and the Blue Jays won the World Series.

Race ahead to June 19, 2006, the day my Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. I remember watching that game, wearing my Hurricanes hat, surrounded by naysayers (did anyone else in Toronto support the Canes? I think not). I stood up and sat down. I shifted from foot to foot and paced around the room. I felt this strange mix of fear and excitement deep inside and was so nervous in those final minutes of the third period, in game 7, with Carolina leading 2-1. My body relaxed and anxiety was replaced with elation as Justin Williams shot the puck into an empty Oilers’ net to seal the win.

It doesn’t have to be the World Series or Stanley Cup Final; it can be a game against a division or league rival in the middle of the season as well. Take this past Monday night for example. The Blue Jays were down 6-5 in the top of the 9th versus the Texas Rangers. Ryan Goins led off with an incredible double. Kevin Pillar was next at the plate, and I stood in front of the TV talking to him, willing him to get a hit to at least tie the game. I felt my heart rate increase and that anxious feeling build in my chest. It didn’t work – he got out. Next was Josh Donaldson, and I was too nervous to watch, so I left the room and paced in the hallway. Well that worked because Donaldson singled to score Goins and tie the game. After Bautista walked, Morales came through with a single, scoring Donaldson, giving the Blue Jays a 7-6 win.

Is there a sport where this feeling is heightened the most? My son and I think that nothing makes the heart race more than hockey, in particular sudden death overtime hockey. How about sudden death overtime playoff hockey?  How about the dying seconds of a basketball game when a three-point basket can turn the whole game around? I even get this sensation when a Canadian athlete is competing at the Olympics. Will the skater land the triple Axel? Will the runner cross the finish line first? It’s just so stressful!

What sport, game or team gives you that anxious jittery feeling? Tell me how a sport can make your heart race and makes your stomach flutter. Comment here, post it to me on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.