Get All Access for $5/mo

How You Compete Matters More Than Winning Or Losing Do you operate on faith, or fear? When you play dirty and smear the competition, you can end up shutting down future opportunities.

By John Brubaker Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's important to remember that while election season is over, we are still campaigning and running our own entrepreneurial race in life.

Public regard for politicians has reached an all-time low and voter turnout has dropped. Your job isn't all that different than a political candidate in that regard. There's a lot of mistrust and apathy towards salespeople as well and entrepreneurs are all in sales in some capacity.

Gallup releases a study each year of the most and least trusted professions. Sales, specifically of cars, is low on the list and has been for a long time. Politicians are not far behind. I attribute both rankings to the fact that there is more and more negative or attack advertising in both professions.

Related: Earn Customer Trust and the Rest Will Follow

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been sunk in political ads the past few weeks. Many of the campaigns were overwhelmingly negative against the opposition instead of positive in favor of the candidate running them. Whether it's business or politics, negative advertising is done out of fear. Fear that your competition will cast the first stone and fear that you will look weak if you don't retaliate strongly.

Researchers Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar found that the single most accurate predictor of campaign tone is the closeness of the race. The tighter the competition, the more negative the campaign. I don't think that's just the case in politics, I've seen the same thing play out in sports and business. The closer the competition, the more negativity and fear creep in.

This is where you come into the picture. How you perform today is an audition for your next opportunity. Are you performing based on fear or faith?

When I was coaching I would ask my athletes "What motivates you?" Too often their response was that fear was the best motivator. Fear of losing a game, fear of losing their job, fear of getting passed in the depth chart, fear of the competition outworking them. Hearing that made me cringe because I knew their fear-of-failure mindset was the wrong motivation. Fear is a lousy motivator.

Political ads attacking candidates are done out of fear of failure. Yet when we value outcomes more than our principles we've lost before the race has even started. Fear redirects our focus away from what we can control to comparisons. Comparisons can lead to your demise.

Related: 3 Ways to Overcome Fear Immediately

As a college coach, I saw fear lead athletes to cheat by taking steroids, for fear of someone getting ahead of them. I also saw fear lead coaches to cheat by breaking NCAA rules for fear of losing a recruit. Now as an executive coach, I see entrepreneurs do the same thing. Like the coach and the politician, many entrepreneurs are afraid their track record, resume, product or service doesn't stack up well vs. the competition. So, out of fear, they opt to cheat or make disparaging comments about the competition.

Here's the blind spot for so many people. Fear doesn't help you win -- faith does. Fear drives people to compromise their values to get what they perceive are better results. While cheating may help you gain something short term in one area, you are setting yourself up for a devastating long-term loss in many other areas of your life.

Often we "mourn" the loss of a prospect and client, or in a politician's case, an election. We wonder what could we or should we have done differently. It's perfectly natural to do, but I might offer a healthier perspective: How you compete matters more than winning or losing. I would rather lose with integrity than win by compromising my principles. Furthermore, sometimes you win by losing.

I've lost out on opportunities and shortly after mourning that loss, invariably a better or more meaningful opportunity arrived. Have you ever considered that maybe you "lost" a job or client because you were meant for a higher purpose? Not winning the business gives you an opportunity to have a far greater impact elsewhere. Now consider this: Had you cheated to win, that opportunity to serve a higher purpose never would have arrived. This is how we often win by losing. Losses can indeed be wins in disguise.

Leaders who are guided by faith, not fear, demonstrate through their actions, not mere words, what their core values are as a human being. Run your race based on faith, not fear.

Related: How to Deal With the Fear of Being Unqualified

John Brubaker

Executive Coach, Speaker & Award-Winning Author

John Brubaker is a nationally renowned performance consultant, speaker and award-winning author. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, Coach Bru helps organizations and individuals turn their potential into performance.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business News

How Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang Transformed a Graphics Card Company Into an AI Giant: 'One of the Most Remarkable Business Pivots in History'

Here's how Nvidia pivoted its business to explore an emerging technology a decade in advance.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Want to Start a Business? Skip the MBA, Says Bestselling Author

Entrepreneur Josh Kaufman says that the average person with an idea can go from working a job to earning $10,000 a month running their own business — no MBA required.

Starting a Business

How to Find the Right Programmers: A Brief Guideline for Startup Founders

For startup founders under a plethora of challenges like timing, investors and changing market demand, it is extremely hard to hire programmers who can deliver.


Why Hearing a 'No' is the Best 'Yes' for an Entrepreneur

Throughout the years, I have discovered that rejection is an inevitable part of entrepreneurship, and learning to embrace it is crucial for achieving success.