“I want to be mediocre,” Said No One Ever.


With the 2016 Rio Olympics going on, I’ve found myself enraptured by the determination of the athletes. These people are worldwide outliers. The best of the best at what they do. The ones who challenge status quo. But how do they get there? Were they born that way?

Heck no. They got there through:

  1. Hard work
  2. Practice and persistence
  3. Open-mindedness and willingness to adapt
  4. Ability to accept criticism because of their ambition to get better
  5. Knowing their competition
  6. Desire to win

While I admire each and every one of these athletes, there were two that particularly stood out even farther to me. There was something different with two of these Olympians. Something more… They had a rivalry with another person who fit all of the same characteristics that they themselves possessed from the list above. Their rivalry sparked a newfound level of determination. Would they have given that extra push to not only win the gold but break records, without that competitive fire to drive them?


Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos had a rivalry because le Clos beat Phelps in the 2012 Olympics 200m butterfly. It didn’t stop there though, le Clos went on to taunt him by saying he’d done a time that Phelps hadn’t done in four years, “…so he can keep quiet now.” 

Phelps told the New York Times, “Chad liked me, and then he didn’t like me. He said I was his hero, and then he was calling me out…. The comments were interesting. It just fuels me. If you want to do it, go for it. I welcome it.” 


Lilly King and Yulia Efimova had a rivalry of their own when Efimova had initially been suspended due to the use of performance-enhancing drugs but was let back in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games to compete. Prior to the 100m breaststroke finals, Lilly King and Yulia Efimova antagonized one another, each with a “I’m #1 finger waive”. King set out not only to beat her, but to prove that she could do it clean. That’s when King claimed the gold for the women’s 100m breaststroke.

“I am a little bit (happy),” King said. “It always increases the comp and the pressure and I’m always up for the challenge.”


In business, we all need to find our fire. Without competition, we wouldn’t be the absolute best we can be. Competition fosters innovation and creativity.

Customers get better products, prices and customer service.

For companies, it helps validate to the market that there is a need for your product or service, because you don’t have to do it alone.

It motivates employees to learn from the competition; both what to- and what not to do.

Competition makes us all more self-aware. It forces us to ask ourselves what we do better than our competitors and what do they do better than us. It forces us to focus on the needs of our core business so we can best serve our customers.

A little competition is healthy in that it forces you out of your comfort zone. And when you win, you feel a real sense of accomplishment.