Escape Competition Forever With These 5 Mindset Shifts
Tl;dr: thinking for yourself, asking yourself why, striving for difficulty, doing what nobody else does, and going where nobody else goes help you escape competition.
I have never liked competition because I have never won any.
Don’t worry, I am fine.
But this was a huge problem when I was a kid, then a teenager.
I hated losing on one hand, and I couldn’t win on the other. This disgust for competition got me on a path to seek a way to live and get what I wanted regardless. A way without competing. My way.
Even if drawing my own path would end up being harder than competing – that’s the path I have always desired.
Find below 5 tricks to decrease competition in your life and escape it forever.
1. Think for Yourself and Be a Contrarian if You Have to
A contrarian is a person who thinks and does the opposite of the majority.
In finance, a contrarian will short stocks that rise in value and buy stocks that decrease in value. Since the stock market represents the estimated future value of the market at instant t, the contrarian will buy what everyone sells and sells what everyone buys.
Statistically speaking, it’s a great strategy because society’s performances are organized like a normal distribution.
The vertical axis Y measures the number of people while the horizontal axis X measures someone’s success. Point a indicates that most people experience average success. Point c expresses the fact that very few people fail completely. Finally, point b illustrates that the very successful people are few as well.
This graph outlines how by simply doing the opposite of everyone else, you avoid standing in a. However, while you may get to b, you may as well fail and end up at c.
If you bet a stock is going to rise while everyone thinks it will go down and you end up being right, you’ll move towards b. If you end up being wrong, you’ll move towards c.
Merely being a contrarian is therefore not enough.
You need to know when it’s best to follow the crowd, and when it’s best to follow your instinct.
One of the most famous contrarians may be Peter Thiel. He bet on Trump winning and was right. He bet on Facebook, Tesla, SpaceX, and a myriad of other startups and was right.
He considers monopolies as more beneficial for societies than companies in perfect competition and he is once again, probably right.
He sees universities as delivering little value to society while students pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend them, a phenomenon he named “the higher education bubble” which, while not being mainstream, really looks like a bubble.
And yet, not many people think like Peter Thiel, which may be why he is one of the 2 825 billionaires that exist in the world.
Statistically speaking, he’s part of a group whose only 0,00003766% of the population are part of.
What we can learn from Peter Thiel is that the first thing you need to do to escape competition is to escape the crowd, and that includes escaping the model everybody uses to think.
The first step to escape competition is to think for yourself. It is to think about what nobody else is thinking about.
And that includes thinking why.
2. Ask Yourself Why
People are social creatures. We tend to desire what everyone has and to say what everyone says. Imitation and resemblance enable us to bond and establish relationships.
However, imitation-caused action only leads to doing what everyone else is doing, which itself only leads to competition since by doing like everyone else, you become like everyone else.
If you want to escape competition, you have to start to think like yourself, not like everyone else.
A good starting point to avoid such a fate is to ask yourself why.
Nobody is asking themselves why, which is illustrated by the consumption of drugs, anti-depressants, and alcohol in our society. Most people don’t know why they’re doing what they do, and that makes them miserable.
Why matters because why motivates your action and helps you figure out your own path. Doing so, you avoid thinking like everyone else (or at least, you become aware of it).
Asking why enables you to escape competition by doing things that you only want to do, the way you want to do them.
3. Strive for Difficulty
Some years ago, Australia organized the competition for “the best job in the world”, which entailed watching over and taking care of a paradise island. Millions of people participated because the job sounded nice and easy.
Similarly, billions of people play the lottery each Wednesday because it represents an easy way to become rich. Not nearly as many people start companies despite the fact it is a much “concrete” way to make money…but it is also much harder.
As you strive for more challenging things to do, you simultaneously decrease the competition you face and the other way around.
Try to get a job with no diploma and no experience and you’ll face enormous competition – because it is easier to have no diploma and no experience.
Try to get a job as a software engineer – it will be very easy because studying computer code is very hard.
When you strive for difficulty, you decrease competition.
Want to sell a bestselling book?
It is quite easy.
Step 1: Do something very hard not many people have done.
Step 2: Write about it.
This strategy was used by Richard Branson to promote Virgin. He took a boat trip across the Atlantic Ocean, flew a balloon around the world (several times), and sent a Virgin plane to help European hostages in the Middle-East.
4. Go Where Nobody Goes
When I graduated in June 2020, I ended up looking for a job amidamid the worst economic slump since the Second World War.
And yet, I found one in less than 10 days.
How did I do it?
I went where nobody goes.
I’m from Brussels, Belgium and it is safe to say that everyone is looking for jobs in Brussels because Belgium is a very welcoming country towards immigrants and the salary is, in comparison to the rest of the world, much better.
As such, I was not only competing against Belgians for jobs. I was also competing against French, Germans, Dutch, Indians, Ukrainians, Spanish, Polish, Italians, Turkish, and the rest of the world.
An unpaid internship offer on Linkedin would, within 24 hours, receive more than 200 applications.
Faced with reality, I decided to change my strategy.
Instead of uselessly fighting for unpaid positions, I took myself out of the rat race and moved to…Poland.
While many Polish people have moved abroad to find better living conditions, I moved to Poland to find a job and effectively found one after looking (not very hard) for 10 days. And you know why is that?
Because no Belgians are moving to Poland to work.
In fact, there aren’t many people moving to Poland to work at all because the salary is not as attractive as in France or Belgium for example.
And while there aren’t that many positions suited for me because I don’t speak Polish, the few positions that there are are more than enough because I am not competing against anyone.
No Belgians are looking for jobs in Poland!
If you want to escape competition, go where nobody goes.
5. Do What Nobody Does
The success behind Elon Musk is that he does what nobody else did before him.
After he sold PayPal, Musk thought about the fact we’d need to leave Earth at some point. When he looked, he saw no one was building spaceships, so he decided to do it himself.
The idea behind doing what nobody does is to effectively build a monopoly.
When you do what nobody else does, you naturally eliminate all competition.
Whether we speak of art (Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Marcel Duchamp), fashion (Chanel), tech (Apple), furniture (Ikea), supermarkets (Walmart), coffee (Starbucks), or cars (Telsa), innovators create new markets that competitors take time to subsequently enter.
Tesla has no competition, Apple neither.
Hell, everyone thought both companies would fail.
But they didn’t.
They succeeded when they did what nobody else was doing.
This lesson also applies to jobs and services nobody wants to do, such as cleaning crime scenes, funeral services, wastewater treatment management, or oil-rig work.
When you do what nobody else does, you remove yourself from the competition.
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.Mark Twain
Ever since I was a kid, I have hated being part of the majority. When I was at the cinema, I didn’t want to be in the audience as I felt like an idiot – I wanted to be on the screen.
This has led me to pursue a 12-year career as a comedian. And believe me, the competition in the cinema industry is not that high…when you manage to remove yourself from it.
I have subsequently kept this rule of avoiding to do like everyone else if there was a better alternative (and most of the time, there is).
For example, while every HR consultant is going to tell you to specialize in a skill, all of my degrees are in different fields – and I keep on acquiring new knowledge, persuaded that specialization is in fact a very bad idea (which it is).
While everyone is becoming vegan, I have adopted a carnivore diet after I looked at objective evidence, results, and hard data.
Everyone loved New Zealand. So I went there, expecting to have a good time. Unfortunately, I ended up hating it. Similarly, everyone prefers Melbourne. I prefer Sidney.
However, everyone loves chocolate, and to be fair, I love it too.
The most difficult habit to develop if you want to escape competition is thinking for yourself. Merely being a contrarian won’t get you far, as you’ll be the reflection of the crowd’s idiocy.
And the reflection of an idiot, even opposite, is still an idiot.
For example, if the building you are in is on fire, you better not be a contrarian. Do like everyone else – run away.
The key to escape competition is to objectively assess the chances of you being right or wrong with your own thoughts – disregarding what the majority is thinking.
It is to be a contrarian because you’re not following everyone. Whatever else you elect to achieve though, you need to weigh the risk and success intelligently.
As Peter Thiel once said, “the most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.“