How to be competitive?

Today (20180423), is the 30th birthday of a beautiful junior who has studied economics in both Peking University (北大) and late my graduate school almamater, where she ranked first. I remember clearly how she humbly admitted that she did not even make into the top 10 in Beida. I cherished the moment when she attempted to beautify me by curling my hair. For sure, she is very competitive as she started to prepare for GRE early!

On 20180422, upon returning from the recycling fashion show at his school, Little Prince shared that he was unhappy as his Japanese classmate won a gold medal for his fashion made of recycling materials, whereas Little Prince has not won [1]. I taught him that it’s perfectly fine for him to feel envious, he may perhaps convert it into a driving force to design better fashion for himself and his beloved sister. Simultaneously, I taught him that it’s better for him not to show his envy to others, but to congratulate others and learn to be happy for the success of others. I also consoled him that his mother does not have to work, hence would have more time to assist his classmate, whereas I have been fighting fires due to some difficult/uncooperative colleagues. Help!

Recently, in Spring 2018 (or the beginning of his Summer 2018 term), I observed that Little Prince could be very perfectionist. He dislikes making mistakes, so I reminded him on a beautiful advice by his hero Gaudi: everyone makes mistake, it’s more important to learn from it and not to repeat the same mistake.

Is competitiveness an intrinsic (natural) or extrinsic (nurtured) attribute?

After listening to what his father said about the primary school, in Spring 2018, the very young Little Prince declared that he wanted to pursue his primary school education at one of the most competitive countries, so that he could put his efforts in studying to realize his dream of becoming a pilot.

I am thankful that Little Prince has been a risk taker (for the right risks) in his first year of school in the desert. He has always been keen to perform on stage, from singing to dancing, bringing joy and laughter to many audience.

Nevertheless, we still have many aspects to learn in order to be gracefully competitive.


Be gritty & put in the work

Believe in ourselves and our projects. Persevere!

I love how Little Prince (L) repeats the mantra that I coined for him: “Today L is better than the yesterday L. Tomorrow L will be better than today L.” For example, Little Prince believes that he will draw better tomorrow as he has practiced until today.

The most predictable route to winning  is frequent and focused practice on what we can improve and what we can’t yet do [3].

To practice 10k hours, one needs four hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for seven years!

While we need to put in blood, sweat, and tears for the long haul, always consider alternative and smarter ways of practicing and doing things.


Be unique + innovative.

Luxury brands can carry premium prices because they are unique and of certain quality. Degrees from top universities matter.

Focus on growth, evolution, and innovation. Don’t be complacent.


Be resourceful.

Know how to do more with less. Out of our available (and limited) time, energy, money and talent, we can still optimize and leverage them.

Stand on the shoulders of giants.


Nurture relationships and connection capitals.

Learn what people care about and what needs they have.


Be polite and show respect.

  1. To be courteous, say “please“, “thank you“, and “sorry“.
  2. Take turns.
  3. Shake one another’s hands before a match.
  4. be humble when we win/succeed/achieve a goal: don’t be too self-congratulatory.
  5. Listen as we might learn something from what others say, including those who dislike us, look down on us, or view us as an enemy.
  6. Acknowledge: give credit to the original source, even if they are our biggest competitor.


Learn to wisely handle wins and losses.

Compete only for things that truly mater for us, such as a soul mate, life-changing scholarships, once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Pick our battles. “Some people become obnoxious because they have to win everything, including every argument.”

To handle wins:

  1. Define winning [2] i.e. determine our goal medal as Jacqueline Depaul did.
  2. Acknowledge the contributions of our teammates.
  3. Debrief on victories:
    1. what did we do well?
    2. what can be better?
  4. Authentically compliment the efforts of our opponents/competitors.

To handle losses:

  1. Nurture inner strength.
  2. Accept that we won’t always win, but we can do our best to increase the ratio of wins over losses.
  3. Learn from our mistakes.
  4. Congratulate and applaud for the winner.
  5. Do not complain.


Play fairly while being aware that others may not do so.

Follow the established standards in our activity or line of work.

Play fair and we will earn other’s respect and admiration.


Be careful of destructive competitors!

Sadly, some people adopt the “dog eat dog” mentality. They do not hesitate to spread rumors, cheat, and harm others.

Be calm when  an opponent who immediately starts trash-talking us.


[1] We just got a part of the idea for his fashion when we bought his new oversized red beret hat on 20180421. The bright yellow plastic bag reminded me on traffic controllers at night, hence I told him that it could be a uniform worn by important people at the airport. He was excited for the idea, thinking that it’s a pilot uniform. Then, he worn a paper-made pilot hat that he colored when I had to switch to a seat to pump breast milk at high altitude, while he spent time with the air stewardesses. These two items set his minimalist fashion for the recycling fashion show.

[2] For example, in Spring 2018, I have shared with Little Prince about the real wins of play dates are not winning the games played during the play dates, but receiving an invitation for a play date, receiving a Yes for our proposal of a play date, being invited again for a play date, and more importantly making our play date happy.

[3] On 20180622, Little Prince attended a Chinese Mandarin tuition class for 2 hours. It was meant for children born a year earlier than him to prepare themselves for primary school. After the class ended at 9pm, Little Prince saw his father who just returned from home and cried. Teacher Tang informed me that Little Prince behaved well but he was slow in writing and did not recommend him to continue with the batch.

After I saw the exercises that Little Prince did, it was over 10 pages in 2 hours, I was impressed by the depth of the materials. The birth country of Little Prince and Little Princess are very competitive, I just hope that they could happily play and have a happy childhood.

Teacher Shao was kind enough not to charge any fee for the trial class. The materials given for the 2 hours of class, can be revision materials and starting points on what Little Prince needs to learn more.

At home, Honey Panda consoled Little Prince by sharing that Honey Panda got the second last rank when he was in secondary school (it’s because Honey Panda was too playful). I shared again the story about the tortoise and the hare. We must remember not to be afraid of being slow. 不怕慢,就怕站 (站,”停”的意思).

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