Discover more from Tomorrow's Ancestors by Zelda Poem
How to win: buildspace and the chase for $100K
Thoughts on competition & developing a joyful warrior mindset
Buildspace is a school for ideas. Over the course of 6 weeks, you work on the project you’re most passionate about, learning to get users or revenue. If you demonstrate great motivation and progress, you have the chance to win $100K and/or get into their schools in San Francisco or Dubai, where you’ll spend more time developing your project.
There are multiple benefits to being part of a program like buildspace. Personally, by learning to create my own podcast, dropUp, I’m developing my video editing skills, understanding how to record better quality sound, and becoming exceptional at having insightful conversations.
And beyond those project-specific lessons, the beauty of such an experience really lies in how much you learn about yourself.
One specific topic I’ve been reflecting on since joining buildspace is competition. I’ve been paying attention to my desire to “be the best” and dealing with how that affects me. That’s letting me optimize my mindset to build something great, while also learning to enjoy the overall process.
Competition, a survival mechanism
Competition is a central element to human life. We compete in all kinds of settings, intentionally or not: we want the best grades to get into the best schools or the best job, or we try to maximize our chances of finding the most attractive romantic partner. Thankfully, we’ve moved beyond the days when our ancestors competed over meals in life-or-death fights for survival.
Competition is a key part of what makes humanity progress: this can be clearly seen when, for example, a new sports record is set, as then other athletes are suddenly also able to exceed the previous record (think of the four-minute mile). Competition pushes us to create a better frame of reference to reach for.
Unfortunately, competition isn’t always a healthy urge. It can also easily become a vector for loss of motivation or energy. It all depends on the framework of the competition itself and, of course, how you’re built and your relationship to yourself.
When competition crushes you
I’ve had a varied relationship with competition. I’ve always been very self-driven to create and give my best, no matter my competitors. I might be wrong, but I’ve long considered competition to be a masculine trait, one that I didn’t believe I had.
For instance, when at school I was never affected by any potential competition. No wonder I dropped out of high school, right?
But my experience since joining buildspace has led to quite a discovery about myself: I’ve been feeling anxious about losing, which has threatened my self-confidence, something that’s otherwise been pretty stable for a long time.
All in all, the fact of knowing that I’m in a competition with others had a negative impact on my performance instead of a positive one.
Take a recent example: I made a trailer for my podcast last weekend. It was such an anxiety-inducing process! I was trying to be funny because most successful people at buildspace had made funny demos. I was very rough on myself and my editing ability. But those really aren’t me at all! If I’d had that mindset over the past years, I probably would not have been able to publish a book, build a school and generally create lots of content.
Share this with a peer who shouldn’t give up because of competition:
So what’s going on with my brain and how can I hack those chemicals to help me win joyfully?
In trying to better understand, I found this interesting research about the N-effect: the bigger the group of competitors, the less motivated you feel to win. But when you’re in a smaller group with your opponents, you perceive your chances of winning to be higher, and therefore you feel more excited about the competition.
#hack: Find 5 people with whom you intentionally decide to compete. Ignore the others. But don’t choose just anyone…
Choose peers at a similar level as you, who you can befriend. Competing against someone way below your level is boring. Trying to be better than someone with way more experience than you will drag you down. And why choose people you like? This is something I learned while building a similar school to buildspace: being friends with your competitors means that even if you’re competing for a scarce good, you will still help each other, which creates a win-win situation no matter the outcome.
#hack: Be a winner no matter the result. Who do you want the buildspace experience to help you become?
Maybe you won’t win the $100K this time. Most people won’t! Now, then, how can you make this experience fruitful and take away valuable lessons that can help you win next time? What does “winning” look like for you?
IFS (Internal Family System) framework can be very helpful to become the winning version of yourself. The concept is based on getting to know the different versions of yourself in order to consciously choose which ones you’ll use while experiencing life. This, in return, helps you to be at the top of your abilities.
There’s a version of yourself that’s stressed about losing, and already feels like a loser. What are the underlying beliefs held by that part of you? When did this part of you first appear?
But there’s also a version of yourself that’s a joyful warrior. Someone who’s resilient, has grit and stays optimistic, even in the hardest of times. What does that version of you look like, what does that version do and think?
Once you’ve developed genuine empathy and curiosity into your different parts, you can decide which will receive most of your attention. With time, you’ll transform the patterns that were binding you to the loser version, letting you become your preferred version of yourself.
For me, a winning version of myself feels excited about working on my projects, creating meaningful relationships with others, and feeling useful to my community. Funnily enough, the $100K doesn't even cross my mind when I envision that version of myself.
The ultimate #hack
I had the chance to be surrounded with mentors early, all the way back when I dropped out at 16 years old. Respected entrepreneurs, hackers and renegade thinkers taught me more about succeeding than school or any self-help book.
They know in their bones what they’re talking about – they’ve experienced the highs and the lows of a uniquely carved path.
I know that not everyone has the chance to hang out with awesome people. Whether you’re stuck in a small village somewhere or because your parents force you to stay in school, there are plenty of reasons why you might not be in an environment that’s good for your growth.
That’s why I decided to build my podcast: dropUp
I record conversations with my favorite, most successful renegade role models to share them with the world and help youngsters like me find their path and stop doubting.
You will still have to walk your own path, but at least you’ll have great stories to look up to as motivation. Not bad, huh?
May the best win, feel free to reach out on Twitter if you want to compete with me!
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