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Howto Ruin a Saturday Hike
The Trouble With Being Too Competitive
W e’ve all heard the term “competitive edge.” From a very early age, I’ve been told that I am a very competitive person. But what is the competitive edge? Is it a good thing? As a child, I always tried hard at both sports and school. I really enjoyed activities where the goal was to compete against others at something, whether it be a sport, a board game, a bike race, or, as you’ll read later, a friendly hike. It was just in my DNA to try to win. I hate losing, which happened in sports more frequently than I would like to admit. Even now, I realize that I’ve always been attracted to others who shared my love of competition. My wife of 25 years is even more competitive than I am. Not surprisingly, we have two super competitive kids. While many people view that “competitive edge” as valuable, I’ve begun to question whether being super competitive is actually a good thing. Having standards and wanting to be the best version of yourself is ultimately a good trait, one that can lead you to personal and professional fulfillment. However, I realize that being too competitive in the wrong situation can be detrimental to you and others. For example, being too competitive in a personal or business relationship can sour the relationship, especially if the other person does not view the situation appropriate for a competition.
a very difficult trail to the peak of Mount Osceola in New Hampshire, I found myself wanting to be the first one up the trail. This was a group of people who got together to enjoy a Saturday hike in the beautiful White Mountains, and there I was, turning this peaceful activity into a competition. On some level, I was upset with myself for acting this way. Why did I feel the need to compete with the others in an activity that was in no way a competition? Yes, I did make it to the peak first. And yes, I got some weird pleasure out of that fact. But I consider that level of competitiveness to be detrimental, and I wish I could temper it and only apply it in appropriate circumstances. There are many ways in which my competitive nature has been beneficial in my life. I loved being in the courtroom as an Assistant District Attorney in Boston. I was able to exercise my competitive nature in a one-on- one adversarial proceeding against another lawyer in court, trying to persuade jurors that a defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I can honestly say that was more exhilarating than any athletic event I had ever participated in, and I loved it. For the last 20 years, I have been able to remain competitive professionally as a personal injury attorney, helping injured victims stand up to the bureaucracy and stinginess of large insurance companies. In doing so, I go up against very skilled lawyers hired by the insurance companies and advocate on behalf of the underdog: the victim. I recognize this level of competition
is what keeps me engaged in my work and motivated to be my best.
Bringing my competitiveness to my work is a good thing for myself and my clients. However, bringing that same competitive edge to friendly hikes leaves me looking like a fool. Some people are competitive inwardly, meaning they do not feel the need to compete against others but try to be the best version of themselves. I believe this version of competitiveness is the better version, and it is the version I wish I had more of. That said, I am a work in progress on that aspect of my life, and I don’t suspect I will be getting significantly better anytime soon, especially living in my ultra-competitive household. -Len Spada
Recently, I was on a hike with an over-50 hiking group. As we worked our way up
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