Non-Compete Agreement

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.
 – Lao-tzu
Have you ever started a new job and had to sign a non-compete agreement?  As a member of CrossFit Kent Island, or an athlete reading from afar, I’d like you to sign one now.
Denee’s parents have been visiting for the past week, and a few days ago my father-in-law gave me a copy of Lao-tzu’s timeless book of philosophy, Tao Te Ching, which translates to English as The Book of the Way.  If you want to learn to live your life simply and peacefully, and at the same time read some profound statements that you might not necessarily agree with but will conjure up much thought, this book will bring it.  It’s not a religious book per se, but I’ve noticed that many of the ways that the Tao are referred to could also be referring to God, as in, “The Tao is infinite, eternal. Why is it eternal? It was never born; thus it can never die.”
As I was paging through the first few chapters, I landed on 33, which is quoted above, and haven’t been able to get beyond it for the last day.
At first, the positive aspects of the first two lines spoke to me:
     Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
     … mastering yourself is true power.
I have felt for some time now that my purpose in life is to first understand myself, then master myself, then serve others by helping them to master themselves.  So this passage halted my reading as I reinforced that gut feeling.  My purpose is something that I have found is iterative, meaning at different times in my life I might have more focus on knowing, then mastering myself, and then serving, then go back to knowing, but I know that when I am focused on those purpose-driven things I feel grounded and more certain of my contribution to the world and my family.  When I am not focused on those things, I feel anxious and unsure of myself.  I can feel myself backsliding to a negative mental state.
I feel that when Lao-tzu speaks of “Knowing others is intelligence,” and “mastering others is strength,” he is inferring that Intelligence and Strength are negative words, or at least lesser degrees of what we should strive to attain in Wisdom and Power (power in the ability to be effective, not power over other people which he writes about being a wrong aim).
Pair that with his follow-on verse of “If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich,” and I find myself called to embody the virtues of Generosity and Abundance.  I have everything that I need, and in fact I don’t need everything that I have.  Also, there is more than enough to go around in this world, it’s OK for others to be successful as well!
If you’ve read this far and thought, “I thought this was supposed to be about CrossFit…”, thanks for reading, I’m getting there!  When my inner competitive athlete flares up and I find myself competing in a negative way with my fellow classmates, or creating stories in my head of how someone must have cheated or not followed the standards if they beat me in a random daily workout, I feel the same anxious, unsure feeling that happens when I’m not focused on my purpose.  When my competition with others lingers into the minutes or hours after the actual competition, I am being negative.  And if you find yourself doing the same thing, you are too.
I’m not saying that challenging yourself to stay with or overtake your workout buddy is inherently a bad thing, as this spirit of camaraderie in the moment is a major part of what makes CrossFit or other group training so effective.  But when this competition bleeds into your unspoken relationships with others – when you resent others for what they are doing in the gym, you are also breaking down your character and making yourself feel little.
Going forward, let’s agree to use friendly competition as fuel for those intense workouts when we really need it, but then be happy for others when they do well, genuinely encourage them and build them up so that we can all continue to improve.  Let’s work to know and master ourselves, and leave others to do the same!

Previous Post:


Next Post: