Who’s Your Toughest Competitor?

There’s always someone else who wants what you want. Another sales rep who’s working the same territory wants the same capital equipment deal you’re pursuing. A competitor company wants to provide the same services you’re promoting. A personal matter is competing for the same time that your professional life requires. Whether in business or in personal life, we’re always making trade-off choices. Do I make sales calls or support my existing clients? Should I spend quality time with my family, or do chores? Do something for me or something for others? Grow my business, or “give back” through public service?

Do you ever think about how you actually make those choices? How do you decide who or what wins and who or what loses in the battle for your time and energy? In every moment, we are blessed with the incredible opportunity to choose what to think, how to feel and what to do. The cumulative impact of these decisions, of course, shapes who we become and the impact we’ll have in the world. Every choice moves us closer to – what?

Our toughest competitor is the set of beliefs we hold about how the world works, who we are, and what we’re capable of. These stories we tell ourselves directly influence how we feel and, therefore, what we do. More often than not for most, they hold us back. They influence every choice we make! How would your life be different if you were totally on top of your head game, made the myriad choices you make with complete clarity, and then carried them out with deft efficiency? You’d be pinching yourself, wondering how all the abundance and joy happened for you – as if by magic! That is what Energy Leadership™ is all about.

Energy Leadership and Our Potential

This is the first of a series of posts about how mindset influences our potential. Because we view the world through the lens of our own experience, we perceive every situation differently than the way someone else perceives it. That lens influences how we react to it or, ideally, how we choose to respond. Being aware of that lens – that mindset – gives us an incredible advantage. It gives us the ability to change it at will, allowing us to choose the most powerful path toward becoming the person (the leader, the colleague, the partner, the successful business person, etc.) we wish to be.

I’ll be offering this series within the Energy Leadership™ framework shown briefly in this table. I’ll also do my best to make it relevant to those who work driving revenue – sales and marketing professionals, executive leaders, and business owners. Energy Leadership is an approach to life and work that positively influences not only yourself, but also those with whom you work and interact and your organization as a whole.  The Energy Leadership framework describes 7 mindsets or “levels of energy.” Levels 1 and 2 are “catabolic energy.” They have important advantages, but are not sustainable in the long term because they drain us. Levels 3-7 are “anabolic energy.” These mindsets help us create our potential, tap into our intuition and allow us to see opportunities that are invisible with a lower-level mindset. You’ll find a little more information and a link to download a free summary of the 7 Levels here. There’s also a beautifully-told story of how its creator, Bruce Schneider, implemented the Energy Leadership approach when coaching the owner of a medium-sized privately-held company. Check it out

Level 2: “The Fighter”

We’ll start not at the bottom, but at Level 2, because so many of us think this way. If you look at it through Level 2 eyes, you’ll see that life is a constant struggle, a series of competitions – choices – where someone or something always “wins” and someone or something else “loses.” In each of the choices you make, a competitor will live or die. Most of us who are successful driving sales are all-in for battle, and we bring all our energy to winning it! That’s what Level 2 is all about: Winning at all cost in a zero-sum game world. It’s the most predominant mindset in corporate America.

Work as a sales driver is competitive. It can be a zero-sum game if you choose to see it that way. Many people do, and most companies do. That Level 2 mindset is a wonderful way to blast through Level 1 apathy to get things done in the short term. In the long term, though, it is unsustainable. It takes more than it gives, leaving people and companies drained.

The lure of attaching to this win/lose, “me first” way of seeing work, life, and relationships is strong. Western culture values victory. We were taught this as children. Our education system constantly reminds us of our place on the bell curve. Most company cultures pit “winners” against “losers” every day. The need for public companies to report quarterly earnings drives toward tactics that feed the short term, sometimes at the expense of long-term growth. There’s no judgement here. It’s a system that has worked well driving economic growth for centuries! Instead, I suggest we just notice it, then decide how to respond to what we notice.

What to Do When Level 2 Isn’t Serving You

Consider how much Level 2 energy you create on a typical day or how prevalent this mindset may be where you work. Appreciate how a Level 2 mindset is serving you or your business. Be curious about how sustainable that is. Does a win/lose mindset result in happy, loyal customers? If your competitor were hired by your company as your new boss, how would your Level 2 approach to her as your former competitor affect the nascent relationship with her as your manager? Ask how engaged you and your employees are. Gallup’s extensive work in this area reveals that, globally, only 13% of employees are engaged at work. The other 87% are just showing up for a paycheck. The economic implications of this are staggering. Much of this disengagement happens when people feel used a tools to help others win, the result of a Level 2 approach.

If Level 2 isn’t serving you, you can choose to adopt a different mindset whenever you wish. Viewed through a Level 3 lens, for example, we accept responsibility for our thoughts and behaviors, recognizing how they affect others. We are still focused on addressing our own needs, but are willing to help others if that won’t stand in the way of getting what we want. Just opening the door to acknowledge others’ stakes in the game can change relationships for the better, creating the foundation for a more sustainable, trusting, collaborative relationship.

We’ll cover other potential approaches in subsequent posts. But the point is this: Take the time to understand how you view the world. What’s your mindset, and how does that affect what you see, feel, and do?  You can directly take an online Energy Leadership Index assessment and receive a 1-hour debrief of your results with your coach. It’s a powerful first step toward taking control of your leadership potential.

How Mastering Your Energy Changes Everything

While no Gallup-like study exists evaluating how engaged people are in shaping their own lives, I suspect the numbers are similarly low. Are you one of the many people who just “show up” and accept how things are? I was for years. It was easy because things were really, really good! But I never questioned whether they could have been better, whether I could have been even more engaged in my life, or whether I was serving the world to the best of my ability. That’s all changed now. I just hope that you catch on a little earlier than I did.

 If we’re paying attention, every moment reminds us to re-discover who we really are through what we choose to create. The choices we make, whether big or small, chip away at the stone around us to reveal a perfect sculpture hiding within. What would it be like if you viewed life not as a battle but instead as the slow revelation of a masterpiece? What would it be like if you viewed each choice, each business deal, each sale won or lost as a chance to better understand your and our collective humanity? And what if you shared that perspective with your boss? Would you be fired as a head-in-the-clouds crazy person? It would depend on the results you were delivering, right?

Here’s the thing: People who see the world from a higher-energy perspective are more satisfied across 14 specific areas of work and life. Click here if you’d like to read the complete study. There’s also a ton of literature supporting the notion that happy, satisfied people sell more and make better leaders. So do the math. Better yet, take the Energy Leadership Index assessment. Figure out where you are today, and start planning to move that up a notch -- or five!

Take a minute to imagine any aspect of your life as Level 2 hand-to-hand combat. You against the world, striving to win. Now imagine doing that for 40 years or more. How will you feel at the end of the line? What will you have created?

Now imagine your ability to see every moment as an opportunity to choose how you’ll see it. Imagine more often than not seeing our connectedness, our similarities, and our inherent desire to do what’s best for everyone. Imagine having this ability for 40 years. At the end of the line, how will your relationships be different? How might your approach to sales and leadership have been different? What will you have created?


If you’d like to dig deeper, apply this kind of work to a specific situation or bring it to a team you’re supporting, let me know. We’re already connected, right?

Pete Colgan works with sales and marketing professionals who want strategies to handle the stresses of their profession so they can create successful, happy lives. Consider investing in yourself to truly understand what brings you joy and how you can use that awareness to increase revenue and kick your life and career into high gear. Whether through one-on-one coaching, or a cost-effective group coaching program, what you discover will help the work you do feel effortless! Click here to learn more.