basketball guys7/24/2024–Who are you competing against?


Most of the time, whether in business, entertainment, or romance, we misidentify who the opponent is.

Let’s start with romance. Take the hypothetical of a high school guy trying to win over a high school girl. He believes the girl of his dreams is sizing him up next to the starting quarterback, the drum major, or the lead in the school production of How To Succeed In Business.


His rival for the girl’s affection is the girl’s solitude. In her calculation, does this guy offer enough interest, engagement, or diversion to cause her to want to spend time with him rather than stay home alone?

This reframe is game-changing. Suddenly, the lonely guy does not need to worry about measuring up to the ideals of the other men in his class. He only has to work on being more interesting, more engaging, and more entertaining. This is something within the wheelhouse of even the most insecure, acne-riddled, black glasses wearing nerd on campus. Apropos of nothing, I wish I’d known this in high school.

The same criteria apply to entertainment options we face today. On any given weekend in the Hill Country, the casual critic can attend one of an amazing number of plays, concerts, movies, and parties. The question is which event to attend, right?


The question, as I tell those looking to promote their events, is how do we get that potential guest off the couch? Sure, he could attend your scintillating, thought-provoking, exhilarating play/concert/fun run/roadside trash pickup. Or, he could stay home, snuggle under a blanket in the recliner, pop some corn, and watch reruns of M*A*S*H. In this scenario, Radar is hard to beat.

Dining Out
Fastfood restaurants understand this equation. The leaders in the industry know you are not trying to decide between the golden arches, the creepy king, or the clown in a box. Their mission is to get you to turn your back on leftover meatloaf and wilted kale to pull on your pants, shuffle to the car, drive to town, and pick up a What-A-Whopper. If this weren’t true, then why does every major intersection boast a burger joint on each corner?

Sports are the ultimate competition. Competing is the whole reason they exist. But the best players in every sport are not the best because they compete with other players; they are best because they compete with themselves. They started in driveways, shooting baskets over and over trying to make just one more free throw in a row than the day before. They concoct entire games in their minds, pitching to themselves, fielding their own batted balls, and running bases that include the neighbor’s garden gnome. After hundreds of days being better than they were the day before, there is no other person they are worried about beating.

While working on a school bond issue I learned an important lesson from a highly-paid political consultant. She told us, all you need is one vote more than the other side. This changed the entire focus of our campaign, from trying to argue against the “No” voters to encouraging one more potential “Yes” voter to get to the polls. That single goal drove all of our decisions going forward. The issue passed, the first time in history that a major bond issue passed on the first ballot in this district. (Several years later another district ignored this advice, and required a second vote to pass.)

You can look around at any competitive arena and come up with your own examples. For example, in space travel, Elon Musk isn’t competing against Blue Origin. He’s fighting gravity.

Ask yourself: who are you competing against? Odds are, it is not who you think.