It’s Not a Race

Back in early 2006 I was planning my wedding. I had been out of college for awhile and I was taking a ballet class at a community college for fun. Before class one evening a classmate asked me if I had set a date for the wedding and I said that it would be in October. Mine is in August, she offered. I beat you! I forced a smile. Uh huh, nice! I replied and went back to pulling on my leg warmers.

I still remember that interaction because I thought it was a little strange. This happens all the time, I realize, but the “I beat you” mentality has shown up in my store and somehow caught me off guard.

A quick Google search on the subject led me to the goodtherapy.org blog. “Competition may be a natural result of evolution. All organisms must compete for a limited number of resources, such as food, shelter, or mating partners. Humans’ tendency to compete may be a natural outgrowth of this biological competition.”

It makes sense, right?

From an early age we are given prizes for being first and praised. It’s hard not to want to get things done before anyone else or be the youngest: professor, lawyer, doctor, CEO, whatever. “The Top 30 Under 30” always pops up in blogs and on TV in some form and we think, Wow, that’s so amazing. And yes, those people are impressive and hard work should be celebrated but does that mean if you accomplish your goals later in life that you are less successful or less worthy of congratulations? I don’t think so. But it took me awhile to get comfortable with that feeling.

In my twenties I wanted desperately to move up in the company I worked for. And I did. I was hired as an Assistant Manager, moved to Co-Manager in a year, and Store Manager the year after that. I hindsight that was fast but in the moment all I could think of was, I can’t believe I’m not a Store Manager yet, I’m 27!

I worked hard and moved to different locations whenever they asked me to. Over the course of my career I have stepped into ten different buildings to take a leadership position in one form or another. I was always trying to get to the next level, the next title. I did that for a long time and then one day I had to ask myself, What am I chasing? What is the end goal? What is the ultimate title or position? I couldn’t answer that question so I stopped chasing the next thing and began to focus on the role I was in and the people that surrounded me much more than I had before. I began to really invest in other people’s careers and show them how to move up and let me tell you, that is much more fulfilling. My motto basically became, Nothing I do is a secret. If you want to learn it, I will show you.

I currently have a Lead Sales position open in my store and a handful of people are training for it. Everyone that was interested was given a leadership training booklet to work on. Most of them finished very quickly and I realized later it’s because they were racing each other. There is no deadline. They just need to work at their own pace. The position doesn’t go to who is the fastest but yet it’s hard to turn off your DNA. What I really want them to learn is this… Good leaders are patient, kind, and honest. Good leaders care about the education and well being of their team. They listen to new ideas and give credit where credit is due. They roll up their sleeves and mop floors. Being a good leader is not about you, it’s about uplifting those around you.

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