When you’re the best in the world at something, there’s nobody left to beat.
If you’re Usain Bolt, you’re (literally) the fastest human being on earth and in all of history (world record holder for 100-meter dash). With whom do you compete?
If you’re Michael Phelps and have more Olympic medals than anyone in history (by an enormous margin), with whom do you compete?
If you’re Google, with whom do you compete in the search engine industry when your market share is 13 times greater than all of your competitors combined?
When you’re the best of the best, you end up competing with... yourself.
Today, can you outperform what you achieved yesterday?
That becomes the focal point of competition... becoming an even better version of yourself.
It turns out the same mentality works really well even when you’re not the best of the best.
It’s internally focused.
Whether you compete for Olympic medals, job offers, or promotions, you don’t directly control whether you will ever achieve those outcomes.
Whether you "win" depends on judges, recruiters, and bosses. You don’t control what they do or don’t do.
Whether you “win” also depends on what other athletes, job applicants, and peers do. You also can’t control what they do or don’t do.
You can not control people and factors external to you.
What you can control is yourself.
You can control whether you practice, prepare, or persevere in chasing your personal best performance.
Why bother with this distinction?
After all, the two are very correlated. A byproduct of becoming the best version of yourself is you do maximize chances for external “success.”
The difference is emotional well-being.
There is enormous empirical research that the happiest and most emotionally stable people have an internally focused locus of control.
Locus of Control = What You Try to Control
Happy people focus on controlling themselves.
Depressed people focus or over-focus on controlling things that aren’t inherently controllable by them.
Given this data, it makes no sense trying to be “The Best.”
Instead, just focus on achieving your personal best.
You’ll be much happier, and the external success will take care of itself.