Stanford University received 34,200 applications in 2011; they admitted 2,394 students. The same year, 35,000 high school students applied to Harvard University; 2,450 were accepted. In the corporate world, Goldman Sachs received 150,000 applications (new grad and mid-career) and hired only 6,000. Whether we like it or not, the world is a competitive place. There are limited resources such as job openings at Goldman Sachs and the candidates who are better at doing the job, impressing the interviewer, networking or just lucky will get the job. The other 144,000 will have to look for something else.
I had a chance to play dodge ball with my son, his friends and their parents at a school event recently. It was great fun and all sorts of muscles I had forgotten about were hurting the next morning. During the game though, one of the other fathers kept trying to even out the sides to the detriment of our side which happened to be stronger and winning. I am not an ultra-competitive person myself but I would like my son to be more driven to win. If he is going to play, he should play to win. I don't want him holding back on the playing field because he thinks he needs to be "considerate" or "give other people a chance" to be first sometimes.
There are several games now out on the market under the category "cooperative games" such as Count Your Chickens. There are no losers and everyone works together to complete the game. Learning to work together is a great skill and one that employers value. However, cooperation in the real world may be more like my experience with Monoply as a kid when my siblings and I would team up to beat my Dad (we never did actually beat him).
I know it might look funny seeing a 40 year old playing all out against a bunch of 10 year olds with the dodge ball but our kids will see if we hold back and they will learn from that. If they watch Mom or Dad playing hard and playing to win (fairly of course), then our kids will feel that they too have permission to do the same. No, we are not really talking about dodge ball here. We are talking about our sons getting into college, we are talking about our daughters beating out the competition for a job or a promotion. We should encourage our kids to win. Interestingly, the word "encourage" means to inspire with courage, spirit or confidence. That is what we should be hoping for, that our actions and support are inspiring our children to reach for something more.
In the previous article, Focus on the strengths and "critical" weaknesses, forget the rest. I spoke about the need for our kids to be outstanding when applying for a job. The drive to win can supply some of the motivation and energy needed to get beyond mediocre. It can even help them to stand out in an interview and it could be the deciding factor on getting the job. I have had managers tell me that they chose a candidate because she seemed to want the job more than the others.
I know, winning isn't everything but it is definitely better than losing.