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Mindsets of Competitive Success: Bestism

Updated: May 6, 2023

There are numerous examples that can be used for this mindset. MLB great, Derek Jeter, once said that, “There may be others who have more talent than you, but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you”. NFL Hall of Famer, Jerry Rice, has been quoted saying, “Today I will do what others won’t so that tomorrow I will accomplish things that others can’t”. Even Indian badminton player, Pusarla Venkata Sindu, understood that “the greatest asset is a strong mind. If I know someone else is working harder than me, I have no excuses”.

What is the one thing that all of these have in common? It is the goal to not let anyone work harder than them. These athletes want to do and be what others cannot or will not. I saw a perfect example of this personally. When I was a freshman in high school, I was the goalie for the soccer team. There was a senior who would have, and should have, been the better fit. In fact, I had just helped train him the year before and knew for a fact that he was better than me. However, he did not want it. The passion was not there and so when it came time for drills, or execution in the game, I had earned the spot and performed better. This was despite a 6″ difference and me having just my one hand. There difference was this bestism mindset. He was content with just being good enough because he preferred to be elsewhere. Meanwhile, I worked my butt off because I wanted to be the best despite my limitations.

Bestism can be an incredible asset for an athlete. An athlete with this mindset often works harder, are more focused on the goal, gets creative with how they train, and frequently perform better than someone who is content with not being the best (even if they do want to be good or great). Referencing another of our prior posts, The Nitty Gritty, someone with a bestism mindset is likely going to score extremely high on the grit scale because they are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best. There is a strong drive and intrinsic motivation behind this mindset.

Have you ever met someone who you say is a perfectionist? Did they ever deny it? Maybe they told you that they just wanted to do it the best way possible. This could be an indication that they are not necessarily a perfectionist but actually have that bestism mindset. These people know that they will never be perfect and can accept that. However, that is in no way going to stop them from trying. After all, is not perfection simply the absolute best? I believe that this is where those mindsets start to merge and can become difficult to differentiate between.

This is the style of conversation that happened with myself and a friend. They asked if I was a perfectionist and I told them no. I know and understand that I am going to make mistakes and I am never going to be perfect. However, when I do something, I give it 200% and want to do it the best. I hate the mistakes and do everything I can to avoid them or try to prepare for them. But at the end of the day, I can live with those mistakes if I am still the best. I also see mistakes as necessary. This is another way to differentiate the bestism and perfectionism mindsets.

A perfectionist expects everything to be perfect and NEEDS it to be perfect. Some with a bestism mindset WANTS things to be perfect because that is the ultimate expression of best but understands that goal is unattainable. They also understand that in order to be the best, they have to make mistakes and correct them. Bestism is not just about being the best in ideal settings. It is about being the best in all settings. Overcoming the struggles, challenges, and mistakes and being able to adapt to them. Part of being the best means being adaptable.

Unfortunately, as with both mastery and perfectionism, there are downsides to this mindset as well. The first comes in that difficulty of differentiating between bestism and perfectionism. This requires some really difficult conversations with yourself about your reasoning for being the best and how far you are willing to take that. Being open and honest with ourselves is extremely difficult to do. First, because it hurts. As humans, we do not like to see our own faults and some of them can be very personal. This creates the second reason that those conversations are hard. We are biased toward ourselves. This can be a positive or a negative bias.

A bestism mindset can also cause us to shut out those around us. In our pursuit to be the best, we end up pushing others away. Family, friends, even teammates and coaches. Bestism is where we start to see that task orientation vs ego orientation that we talked about earlier in this series. While a mastery mindset is more often task oriented, a bestism mindset is where that task orientation more often starts becoming the ego orientation (which is the orientation we see most of in perfectionism). This ego orientation happens when you start to compare yourself to others and the end goals are the focus over the process of learning.

Comparing ourselves to others as a measurement of success adds a whole different layer of stress. This is especially true for athletes. Their pay is largely based not only on what they do, but how what they do compares to others. Think about the recent contract negotiation struggles between the Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott. What was the main thing that almost everyone did when trying to argue whether Dak deserved a certain amount of money or not? They compared what he did with what others who make that same amount did. Who had more wins, who had more turnovers, who spent less time injured, and what they each had to work with from coaches and teammates were all thrown into the argument.

For athletes, not only do they have to be concerned with how they are doing, but they also have to be concerned with how their counterparts are doing. When your salary could be affected solely because someone else had a couple great years and got a certain amount, that increases the pressure on you. It also, fosters both bestism and perfectionism mindsets. You have to be the best, or you have to be perfect. This is a great thing for competition in many ways.

I want to leave you with a couple final thoughts and a question about this bestism mindset. In my opinion, if you want to be in the top levels of competition, this is the mindset that you should have. You just need to be able to put aside the ego at times. Finally, take care of the people that you know who have this mindset, whether it is yourself or someone else. Athletes with a bestism mindset put a lot of pressure on themselves and need that strong support system to help keep them from crossing into perfectionism. Do not be afraid to try and be the best. Simply make sure that you are aware of the pitfalls so that you can use your bestism mindset to its best. As for the question, do you believe that striving to have a bestism is inherently a bad thing or risky enough that it should be avoided? Let me know your thoughts, I would love to engage more on this topic.

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