Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another Thought on Competition

I posted some thoughts on competition a few months back, and some recent conversations have made me visit this topic again. One was a recurring conversation that I've had with my six year old son. He's very competitive (I wonder where he gets that trait, eh?) but hates to lose. I've been trying to explain to him for years that losing (and by extension, competing against someone better than yourself) is the only way to get better, and that getting better is the only way to win. It's taken a while, but the lesson is starting to stick.

But it doesn't stick everywhere.

I had a conversation a few weeks back with my friend and colleague Ted Malone. We were talking about team dynamics, and Ted came up with this great quote:
Tier one people always try to surround themselves with tier one people.
Tier two people always try to surround themselves with tier three people.

Wow, that's profound. I don't know if Ted gets credit for this quote (I think he said it was not his own, but my memory is poor for that type of thing) but he certainly gets my thanks for sharing it with me. In so many walks of life - and software development and architecture is certainly one of them - the people who shine the brightest[1] are the ones who try to surround themselves with the best and the brightest they can find. Any candle, no matter how dim, will look bright in a dark room; you never know how bright your light shines until you take it out in the sunlight.

So what's the moral of the story?

Good question. I always have trouble with that whole "wrapping up and making a point" thing. But if there is a moral, it is that we should always attempt to raise the bar against which we are being judged, and against which we are judging ourselves. Think of it as a process of continuous improvement for the individual. What better investment could we make?

[1] Please note that I'm not trying to say that I fall into this category! Although I like to think that I'm always learning, any time I start to think of myself as an "expert" in any given topic I meet someone whose knowledge puts mine to shame. So I try to hang out with them. :-)

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