kartWe all have bad days where even little things like someone cutting you off on the way to work can make it difficult to get through the day. You know what increases the severity and frequency of these days? Having the mindset that each moment is a competition — and each person around us is a competitor — for the top spot.

Why do we assume that in order for us to do well at our jobs, other people must lose? It’s a sad — and sadly common — state of affairs to think of life as a zero-sum game.

When you’re having a bad day, the thing you need most is a helping hand. If you haven’t given a hand to anyone else in the past — which you’re not conditioned to do when you view others as competition — you’re unlikely to get the help you need.

Alternatively, if you’ve spent time helping others over the years, those around you are likely to do all they can for you.

I heard a similar idea last year at the Podcast Movement conference. A speaker talked about how we, as podcasters, look at one another as competition. We each want to be No. 1 on iTunes. We don’t want to help each other for fear that we’ll lose listeners.

Then, the speaker asked: What would happen if we assumed there was room for everyone? What would happen if we assumed that we could all succeed in some way?

If we changed our assumptions, it’s likely that we would help each other more. We would talk to each other more. We’d share ideas and suggestions. We would all be more successful — together.

There’s a strong temptation to be “the best.” We are taught to think this way as early as elementary school, where teachers rank us according to reading level or other distinctions. In continues into high school, where we fight to become the valedictorian or the best athlete. In college, there are scholarships and internships and letters of recommendation to be won. There’s always a ranking, and nobody wants to lose.

But things don’t really work this way. Life isn’t about your solo struggle against the rest of the world. In life and business, we don’t actually get ahead on our strength alone. We get ahead because of the people on our teams. We get ahead when we share our talents with others and lean on those whose strengths complement our own.

Even if you could get ahead on your own, what would the prize be at the end of the journey? With whom could you share your winnings? All alone is a pretty lonely place to be.

Remember: There’s room for everyone at the top, and the best way to get there is together.

A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.



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