This may seem like a very simple question. Is competition good or bad? Now I’m talking about ‘competition’ in general. It might be with an actual competitor or it might be against yourself. See as as photographer and a member of the Professional Photographers of America; we have an International print competition each year. And I’m an example of what not to do. In the early years of my career; I entered and got a few mid-70′s and a couple 79′s. In our competitions, 80 is merit and then there are several classifications above that such as excellent and superior all the way up to 100 points. Prints are judged on a 12 point system, with some of the points being: impact, creativity, style, composition, lighting, print quality, color balance, etc. Basically enough to show you have a good knowledge of your equipment and photography basics and then your ‘artistic’ side takes over on the other elements. So after being let down with my 79′s I dropped competitions for almost 20 years. When I came back in; I had not only watched many a judging session; but had also been on the print crews and served as a print chairman so I knew what the process was, and I thought I had figured out this competition thing. Because as I saw it; my images were just as good as all those I was seeing in the competitions. So coming back; I now had something new on my side…..the computer! See prior to that, everything was film based. The image was captured on film, then processed, retouched, enhanced and printed on photographic paper. Even though our rules said you should have a hand in every part of the printing process for your print; that usually wasn’t the case. We just sent our negatives off and had the prints made by our instructions. So this new computer thing, both taking the image digitally and then printing it out on my own controlling all aspects was what I was waiting for. And I was rewarded for that. It took only 5 years for me to receive enough merits for my Masters Degree and since then I have racked up a couple PPA Photographer of the Year awards and 3 North Dakota Photographer of the Year awards during this process. But the last 2 years I have only gotten 2 prints of my 4 to hang or get merited. While to some it may seem that I am greedy and possibly mad; but in all honesty, it makes me more competitive. And that brings me to this writing today. See, we all have a competitiveness inside of us. Competition IS GOOD! It drives us forward. It helps us be CREATIVE! It feeds our need to succeed. If for some reason there is no competitiveness inside an individual; that individual is usually not a good contributor to either him or herself, to his or her family or to society in general. And we all know people like that. So with that being said; can competitiveness be fueled, nurtured or inspired? I believe so. But it’s not as easy as making somebody eat that’s hungry. Some people are lacking either chemistry or the hardware to effectively see what competition does for them. They would rather just sit back or lazily mope along, letting each day take them wherever it deems fit. Obviously not the best route, but they probably don’t know any better. Only by showing, cheering on or actually pushing can these individuals be FORCED to see why competition can help them. And remember my opening story; we’re not necessarily talking about competition with other individuals or companies. Although that in itself is very good as well. For some THAT can be a source of stress. I’m talking about the competition within. Make an evaluation of where you’re at. Kind of like using a GPS device. It needs to know where you call home; then it can give you directions to where you want to go. You need to evaluate all the areas of your life and find your location. Mark down things like career, family, physical and spiritual, financial, friends, education, etc. Then take a long hard look at where you might want to be in a year, two years, five years or even ten years from now. They don’t have to be solid, concrete goals; just some possibilities as you’re looking ahead in your life. That gives you a map. You can see where you are and where you’d like to be. Some of the maps will be very simple; probably just an item or two to get to your destination. Others may be more complex; requiring you to break the journey into pieces, sometimes even going backwards or sideways before going forward to the final destination. That’s life. Always have a plan B ready; because the best laid plans usually go astray. Now with that in mind, here’s the connection with my goals. To be a better photographer, (which is my profession); I chose to compete in print competitions to gauge myself against my competition, but more importantly; to compete with myself. In the years since I started competing again, I’ve only had one year that I was aced and didn’t get any merits. I’ve also had years where I not only merited on all 4 of my prints; but I also had 2 of them go loan: which is the highest award possible. I continually strive to get all 4 merited and ultimately, all 4 in the loan collection. The results for this years judging were just released yesterday; 2 merited and 1 loan. No, it’s not the greatest; but it gives me a pinpoint of where I am on my journey. I will work hard to correct, learn and adjust what I need to get better next year. Remember, this is me against me. There are no losers when you compete against yourself. ONLY WINNERS!! So my challenge to you is to take a hard look at where you are and where you want to be. Start small. Start now. Look at your roadmap daily and weekly adjust it. You’ll be surprised at how fast you will improve because of this competitiveness and by seeing your goals in a whole new light!
Competition….Good or Bad?
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