Extra Points: Do Your Competitors Inspire You? As the National Spelling Bee Co-champions Proved, Sometimes They Can


Christopher Schobert
Director of Communications
June 7, 2019
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Pointman’s Extra Points series highlights lessons in leadership inspired by today’s headlines.

TAKEAWAY: Looking at your competitors less as enemies and more as colleagues might help you sleep a little easier — and be more successful.

“We all wanted to win together,” said 13-year-old Christopher Serrao following the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 30. “We were competing together.”

It was a historic ending to the wildly popular event, the first time in the 94-year-old competition in which more than two co-champions were named. Serrao was one of eight — yes, eight — to share the title.

And when the event organizers announced that the competition would end with an eight-way-tie, the participants reacted in a way that might surprise you: they cheered. It was a downright heartwarming display of camaraderie and maturity, the type of behavior that children often display without even thinking. Adults, well, not so much.

It was also one of those perfect how-would-I-have-reacted moments. As a business owner, you know these moments well. You read an article on a blog or hear a speaker at a trade show and then you ask yourself: “How would I have responded in that situation?”

In the case of the National Spelling Bee, the “octochamps” found themselves pulling for their competitors. Yes, after years of training, coaching and studying, the young teens were mature enough to see their fellow contestants not as enemies or threats, but as colleagues.

The 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned eight co-champions for the first time. (Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

So … how do you look at your competitors?

There is no wrong answer to that question, really. But think about the time you spend worrying about your competition, criticizing them and allowing their success to upset you. It’s human to have these feelings, of course. But perhaps your business is better served by a different approach:

  • What can you learn from your competitors?
  • What do they do that’s worth celebrating?
  • How can you take advantage of the successes of others in your field?
  • Can the successes of others help you be even better?

The National Spelling Bee co-champs were genuinely inspired by each other. But that does not mean they lost their individual swagger. “I think most of us knew most of each other’s words,” said 13-year-old Saketh Sundar, “because we’re, like, pretty good.” Admiring the efforts of others, after all, does not mean downplaying your own abilities.

It’s been said that a rising tide lifts all boats. Look at your competitors less as enemies and more as colleagues and you might just sleep a little easier — and be more successful.

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