Are you a contribution or a competition?

Most of us accept that the game of life is a competition. We accept that it is played according to a certain set of rules that are not necessarily observed by everyone playing in the competition. We accept that it is by competing against others that we improve ourselves. Competition, we believe, is the natural way of the universe – the survival of the fittest idea surely means that if you’re not good enough you’re going to get beaten to the finish by someone who is faster, smarter or fitter than you are.

We accept that business is about competition. We compete with other suppliers of similar products or services to ours to ensure that we sell more than they do so that we can be bigger, better, more successful.

Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, in his book The Art of Possibility suggests that there is another way to view our participation in the game of life other than to see it as a competition.

He says that when we treat it as a competition, we are confronted with success or failure like the two sides of one coin. Our defining purpose is then motivated by a drive to be successful and a fear of failure, both of which are a major cause of anxiety, stress and tension in one’s life.

Zander suggests that we invent another game to play which doesn’t have someone winning and someone losing. That game he calls “I am a contribution”. In this game, we see ourselves in terms of possibility and look at life in terms of what we can contribute rather than compete with others.

When we do this, Zander points out, we discover that we have more than enough energy to give of ourselves to the world. He says it’s like plugging into an electricity socket which continues to deliver power while we are plugged in.

How do you view your life? Do you see yourself as needing to compete with others for what you believe is an ever decreasing piece of the pie, or do you consider yourself to be a unique contribution to the world?

When we start to live as a contribution, we start to think in terms of what we’ve got to give rather than in terms of what we want to get.

If you ask most people if they see themselves as givers or grabbers, 99% of people will answer that they see themselves as givers. That may be so in terms of what they say but in terms of what they do – how they act – nothing could be further from the truth. Do a test on yourself. As honestly as possible, try to assess your actions throughout the course of a day in terms of giving or grabbing.

If you find that it’s been more about you getting than giving, that answers your question. You are more of a competition than a contribution. In a competition, someone has to win and someone has to lose. That means, if I have something, you don’t have it, and vice versa.

When you live as a contribution, you’re quite happy to give to others of your time, love, expertise, skill, money or whatever it is you wish to contribute. Remember, though, you only need to give of what you have, not of something you don’t have.

When more people start to be a contribution rather than a competition, the potential to change the world for the better increases exponentially.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.

What does money tell you about people?

We all have a love/hate relationship with money – we love to have it and hate to have to do without it.

Because of what it can do for us, it has power of its own and this power is not confined just to what it can buy the person who possesses it.

People have very complicated relationships with money which evolved from experiences and lessons they encountered about money from very young. Depending on how you were brought up, the way your parents or caregivers handled money and what they said about it has influenced the way you think about and handle money.

For this reason, some people are extremely cautious with money. They hang onto every bit they get and part with it very reluctantly because they are not sure if they will get any more. Others, in turn, spend it like there’s no tomorrow because they are either very confident that more is coming from where the last lot came from or they’re simply irresponsible and don’t understand the need to plan for the future and imminent responsibilities.

But money has another power – the power to reveal character and very few people realise this. There’s nothing wrong with having money. We need more people to have more money. But watch what happens to people who acquire a lot of money over a short period of time or who are trying very hard to acquire lots of money. The money they acquire, or want to acquire, very soon reveals their character. When they’ve got the money or they’re trying to get more, they show you what they’re really like inside. If they’re greedy, their money or need for money will reveal that. If they’re selfish, money will reveal that. If they’re dishonest, money will reveal that.

What people are prepared to do to get money also merely reveals their character. Again, watch how people conduct themselves when there’s a possibility of their acquiring a lot of money.

If this all sounds a bit farfetched, think of all the corruption that bedevils our government, our society and our business community. It doesn’t matter whether a person is at the head of a large organisation, making multiple millions or living from hand to mouth. Their actions in response to money will reveal their character. Not all people who have nothing are dishonest. There are many scrupulously honest people who have very little of this world’s goods. Then there are those who have more than enough money to last a few lifetimes but who feel the need to be dishonest to get more.

A recent case study in this regard concerns Vodacom’s former CEO, Alan Knott-Craig who, according to a recent Constitutional Court ruling, lied when he claimed that he had invented the popular “please call me” feature that made much money for Vodacom. Why did he lie? He didn’t want to pay the real inventor, Kenneth Nkosana Makate. Why didn’t he want to pay Makate? Because he wanted to make more money for his company and for himself.

Clearly, Knott-Craig has contributed greatly to the mobile phone industry in South Africa. He made much money from his contribution, and so he should have. But money has revealed his character. By the way, another lesson he has also failed to understand, for all his intelligence and business acumen, is that the truth always comes out. Always. It may not be today, this week, this month or this year, but it will come out.

What does money reveal about your character? When you are faced with a decision as to what to do about either getting or keeping money, how do your act? It’s not about what you say – talk is easy. It’s about what you do. Your actions reveal how you really feel about things.

During the course of my business career, I have been done in by a number of people, all for the same reason – money. They wanted to make more than they were entitled to or didn’t want to pay for services they had received. The interesting thing is that they all regarded themselves as very honest, upright people who lived in complete denial of their true character. But their actions spoke for themselves.

Don’t let yourself down when it comes to money. If you consider yourself to be ethical, honest and upright, act like it!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.

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