21st Century One-Upmanship (December 17, 2014)

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Updated: December 17, 2014

One of the funniest things about 21st Century society is the one-upmanship that goes on.  You see it all the time in the world of sports.  The whole “anything you can do I can do better” approach.

I think back to a game in the Region IX Men’s Basketball Tournament last March.  The game was a blowout by about halfway through the second half.  Both teams were incredibly talented with several players who had Division 1 potential.  With the game in hand, the one-upmanship took over.

One team ran an alley-oop play.  Next time up the floor, the opposition set up an even crazier alley-oop play.  Then it was launching three-pointers from deeper and deeper behind the arc.  And finally it turned into a ridiculous fast break dunk contest.

It’s not contained just to the athletic arena in 2014, soon to be 2015.  I see it most prevalent on social media.  It’s who can take the most outrageous selfie, who can put up the craziest picture from some extravagant vacation, who can come up with the wildest hashtag.  For the most part, that’s harmless.

But it becomes harmful when the one-upmanship becomes part of our everyday lives.  Who can complain the loudest about the streets not being plowed?  Who can announce first on social media that school has been cancelled for tomorrow?  Who can come up with the most asinine conspiracy theory as to why something they want being done isn’t being done?

Has this hit a nerve yet?  Trust me, living in an athletic-based world as a sportscaster I catch myself doing this all the time.  I am constantly trying to be bigger, more outrageous, more “perfect” for what I do than my fellow broadcaster, whether it’s someone I work with or not.

And competition, or one-upmanship, is perfectly fine.  It’s perfectly fine as long as it’s not the driving force behind your being.  People say you need to “do things for the right reason” and the “right reason” is never to be better than someone else.

Want a classic example of why?  Washington, D.C.  The whole place is in gridlock.  Nothing of substance gets accomplished because it’s not about doing good, it’s about pointing out what the other guy is doing wrong.

Competition is good.  But when competition becomes the only factor, your focus turns off the goal and sideways to those trying to achieve the same, or possibly even different goal.  And that is the most commonly overlooked part of this.

You hear people saying all the time they wish others would be more positive.  That others would focus on the good.  Those who are around you may not even be shooting for the same goal as you.  They may not even be competition.  They just happen to be in the same place as you.

Taking it back to the first example, the basketball teams didn’t start playing their little game of one-upmanship until the first goal had been decided.  The game was in hand for the team that was going to win and out of hand for the team that was going to lose.

Nothing that happened in the final 10 minutes determined the outcome, except for the point totals.  It was a game within the game.  But Game #2 didn’t start until Game #1 was decided.  How many of us are playing Game #2 (one-upmanship) in our lives before Game #1 (life) is fully decided?

So instead of tailgating on icy roads, waiting for the lane to open up so you can get past those in your way, focus on what you are doing.  Be selfish.  Be self-absorbed.  Not in a bad way but in a good way.  Nobody else can be you, no matter how replaceable you think you might be, in job or in life.

Someone else may be able to do what you’re doing.  But they’re never going to do it like you.  The ultimate form of one-upmanship is to be the best you that you can be.