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To succeed over long term, people, particularly for the benefit of collective society, need to cooperate more rather than compete.
Negative consequences of competition appears very early in everyone’s life. Start from my kindergarten days. Competition is striving against another, and my quest that day as a 5-year-old was to get the biggest and best blocks to play with before someone else did. My punishment for this behavior was to be taken into the bathroom, where I had to take a bite of Ivory soap and chew it. I quickly learned that sharing and cooperating with others offers a much more rewarding and enjoyable results, for everyone.
Cooperation benefits society more than competition because competition is primarily focused on the individual, not all people collectively. While competition does have a place in our lives, its benefits to society are small compared to that of a cooperative effort. Charles Darwin's theories of natural selection and survival of the fittest have attempted to explain why some species have survived and thrived while competing for limited resources. Some would argue this proves that competition is the natural way of life. However, as the Earth's resources become more depleted and our population continues to increase, survival of the fittest would dictate that only some of us will make it to the next stage of evolution. A world inhabited by only the most competitive and successful members of our species would be an unsatisfying place. Being on top, or winning, at the expense of others can be so lonely that it feels like losing.
One of the most competitive arenas is sports. I participated in several sports in the 9th grade, and my fondest memory is earning 1st place in the mile relay, an event that required total cooperation between me and three other runners to achieve the best result that day. There's a difference between trying to beat everyone else and trying to do your best. Shortly before his death, the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi retracted his famous words, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." He said, "I wish to hell I'd never said the damned thing. I meant having a goal."
The business world is also very competitive, yet many businesses have realized that they can increase their profits by cooperating with each other, as evidenced by food courts in shopping malls and the car dealership row found in many towns. Businesses have also discovered that employees cooperating in teams can unleash more creativity than people competing against one another. Some salespeople, many who are encouraged to be competitive, have come to realize the value of win-win relationships with their customers. As a young adult I gained experience in selling cars and insurance. Those jobs were highly competitive, and because the focus was on closing the deal instead of doing what was best for the consumer, I moved on to other careers that would benefit society more.
We have laws in this country that make it illegal to be too competitive. You can't kill someone or take something that doesn't belong to you just because you have the physical strength to do it. Our prisons are filled to capacity, and some of the inmates have decided that getting what they want is more important than behaving in ways that benefit society. Violence may serve those that can compete, but it doesn't compare to the good that can come from people working together.
War can be the most violent form of competition, and at the same time one of the best examples of cooperation. Adolf Hitler said, "It must never be forgotten that nothing that is really great in this world has ever been achieved by coalitions." I've twice had the privilege of visiting the northern coast of France where the D-Day invasions occurred. While I stood among the crosses at the American Cemetery, looking out over Omaha beach, it was very clear that Hitler's words were incorrect. It was a coalition, the cooperative forces of many, which achieved something great on June 6, 1944.
Competition brings out the beast in us; cooperation brings out the best. The Golden Rule suggests that we consider the needs of others in our own actions, which doesn't work in a competitive environment. I learned back in kindergarten that not following The Golden Rule has undesirable consequences. I still use Ivory soap to this day, but for a different purpose. Its sweet smell reminds me that cooperation benefits society more than the bitter taste of competition.