The Face of Competition

As I encounter more and more of the amazing variety of women who make up this world, I have seen something, over and over again that bears mentioning here.

That face.  The look on the face of a business owner who just discovered their idea, their creative work, being used by someone else.   Entire essays plagiarized with a few words changed. The same portrait pose, in the same place, with the same lighting.  The same business, two doors down.  Product concepts copied.  Blog design stolen.  Hard fought ideas. Truly new creative content.  Taken in the blink of an eye… by someone who said, “Wow, that’s a great idea! I should do that too.”

If you make something.  If you sell something. If you write something. If you are creative at all, you’ve felt that sinking feeling and then thought the next thought.

“How dare she…”

Maybe you’ve typed the words.  Maybe you’ve been told.

“Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.”

You’ve encountered the beast of Competition.

Sometimes Competition is a fair beast.  She’s always thinking. She never seems to go away. She creates new things. She’s inconvenient, but you know when she was right.  She competes well.

Sometimes Competition is an innocent, sweet beast. She doesn’t know the playing field yet. She’s a good person. She was just trying to get started. She had an idea and wanted to try something.  She’s learning the importance of research, sometimes the hard way.

Sometimes Competition is a bold, vindictive beast.  She doesn’t care. At all.  She’s going to do whatever she wants to do and she dares you to stop her with veiled threats about what happens if you try. She might not care about laws. Trademark, copyright, patent, intellectual property? What’s that? Isn’t everything free? No law governs her. Anarchy is her rule.

Behind that face, no matter what form she takes, is a person.  And that person is what I want to write about today.

As we encounter the face of Competition, we forget that she’s a behavior.  She’s an action. She’s the result of knowledge – or the lack of it.  She’s isn’t, however, the definition of a woman.  She doesn’t describe the future of the woman. And most importantly, she can’t define you. It’s easy to identify the beast across the street.  It’s not quite so easy to realize, or even acknowledge, that the same beast you see in her… lives in you too.

Competition can be beautiful.  She creates amazing things.  She rockets cultures and societies forward.  She innovates.  She pushes.  She chases.  The process is hard. It creates stories out of long fought battles. It’s inconvenient pressure. Without it, we might be free of one type of distraction, but we’d never grow as people or as businesses.  True economic productivity happens when we learn from Competition.  She forces us (as individuals and businesses) to move forward at a faster pace than those who will always follow.

Behind every competitive act is something or someone who wants to succeed.  She has wins.  She has losses. She progresses. She has to abide by the law. Sometimes what she does (or doesn’t do) catches up with her. Maybe she is part of your growth process.  Maybe you’re part of hers.  She may not be destined to be your friend.  But even when she isn’t your friend, she is first a person.  And Competition second.

I hope you’ll choose to think of the real person she is and, with that in mind, let your next move reflect and further define who you are, instead of what you think about what she just did to you.  I hope you’ll press on. I hope you’ll let it make you better… not bitter.  Most of all, I hope you’ll promote peace, be it through your words or through your silence.

None of us are perfect.  But we are all the same. Human.

Jenn is the Founder and CEO of Cotton Babies. She holds an Executive MBA from Washington University. She was awarded Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Emerging Category for the Central Midwest Region in 2011. Among many other awards, she recently received a 2017 YWCA Leader of Distinction Award for Entrepreneurship. Jenn holds many patents on various inventions in a number of different countries and is listed as one of 50 Missourians You Should Know. She is particularly fascinated by languages, chickens, and children (she has four) when she’s not reading economics journals. Jenn offers mentorship to product developers at any stage in the journey from idea to shelf.

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