Lesson 106: The only one with whom we must compete
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 1/19 ('Coming of Age')


When Wesley Crusher fails in his first attempt to enter Starfleet Academy as a cadet, he feels he has failed Capt. Picard and everyone on board the Enterprise that supported him.

Capt. Picard asks Wesley if he tried his absolute best in the tests. Wesley replies that he did. Capt. Picard then asks Wesley if he expects to improve in his tests next year. Wesley replies yes.

Capt. Picard then advises Wesley that the only person you are truly ever competing with is yourself; you have to measure your own successes and failures from within and not from how others feel or think you did.


Too many people gauge their own success by comparison to others.

Keeping up with the Jones next door or seeking a higher promotion at your job just because your friend got one are but only two small examples of a person who is truly shallow.

This person will forever be dissatisfied with their life. This person is convinced that there is always someone else doing better than them, which ends up making the person feel inferior about them self.

By continually trying to compete with peers, friends and family, the individual is condemned to fail as all of their successes will always turn to failure as soon as the next comparatively better person or better situation comes along.

The absolute truth is that there is only one person with whom we must always compete - that is, ourselves.

No matter what state of knowledge or skill we have reached on any topic, we must always strive to do better next time.

If we have done and tried our best, then there is no need to feel any self-doubt or apprehension in the results. No matter what the results, if there is absolutely nothing more that we could have done, then we must accept the conclusions.

If failure is the result, then we learn from the mistakes made, if any, and are prepared to do better next time.

Our true tests are always within ourselves first.

We can always make ourselves feel superior by comparing ourselves to some one lesser than us, or make ourselves feel inferior by comparing ourselves to someone better than us. Regardless of the direction of the comparison, the end result is irrelevant as the basis for the comparison is from without and not within.

In the classic movie, The Big Country (1958), the main character of Jim McKay, as portrayed by Gregory Peck, is an Easterner, former sea-captain, recently moved to the old West. He is confronted by many instances where others try to provoke him into situations for their own benefit and amusement. However, McKay always walks away from those situations, even at the cost appearing cowardly.

McKay does so because he has nothing to prove to others.

He is firmly confident in himself and chooses to tackle those situations only when they help him to improve himself, or to get his point across. Whether it's trying to ride a wild unbroken horse or fighting hand-to-hand with the irritant ranch foreman, McKay does so without attracting attention and glory to him self.

He exemplifies Capt. Picard's statement of measuring your own successes and failures from within and not from how others feel or think you did.

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