How competition is slowly killing us

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Healthy competition is at the heart of economic development. Ever since the idea was put forward by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations, it led to innovations, great technological improvements and lower prices for the consumers.

On the other side, too much competition can have damaging effects on the economy and on individuals, in the long term. In a highly competitive market, companies and people are pushed to constantly lower their prices while delivering more and more value. This is good for the consumer but for the companies it quickly becomes unsustainable because it leads to lower margins, and budget cuts especially in research and employees salaries.

Take for example the car industry, a highly competitive market, where some of the top companies resorted to unethical practices, or lower quality materials in an effort to keep up with the increasing expectations of the markets and governments, in terms of profit, innovation and prices. Or the construction industry which saw a massive drop in 2008, due to high competition and the ridiculously low prices that had to be accepted by the companies wanting to remain in business at all cost. And, probably, for one of the best examples on how extreme competition is bad for business, we can have a look at one of the most competitive markets in the world: the bar’s and restaurants sector. More than 80% of the business in this sector fail in the first 3 years, competition is fierce and a lot of the newcomers drive the price down while serving bigger portions. That means somewhere expenses have to be cut: either on personnel, food quality or health & safety regulations. I’m not saying all restaurants are like this, in fact some owners manage to maintain a good quality of service and a high morale among employees, even when pushed by competition, and they are usually the 20% that remain in business. However, most of the times, extreme competition in the long term can lead to profit loss, reducing cost on R&D and personnel, less innovation, lower quality and at the end businesses closing down and people losing their jobs.

On a personal side, we are always competing with our rivals, our peers, our neighbors or the status quo, and usually this competition makes us achieve more, be more and have more. But when we take competition too serious, it leads also to unethical behavior like lying, cheating, bullying, bribing and all the other nasty things people due in the effort to get in front of others. Another effect of the pressure competition puts on us is overworking, which leads to stress and exhaustion and in a more severe case even to death.

So why do we value competition at all costs? Why, in a time when we talk about moving towards a society of abundance, are we still competing heavily with everyone else, until the point of collapse? I am not suggesting that we should not have any competition, I am simply implying that we would be maybe better off if we follow Aristotle’s advice and strive to achieve the Golden mean, especially in the most important competition of all: our life. If you go to bed 1% better every day, in the long term you will become a great person; If you are always in a rush and want 200% improvements every day, like many of the investors wish for, it might work for a short while but there is a high chance that you will collapse with exhaustion, and lose everything you gained, just like the stock market crashes every 5 to 10 years.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject: What are the areas in your life where you are or have been maybe over competitive, and what was the impact of this competition on your health, happiness, family and friends? Where was your tipping point, between healthy and unhealthy competition? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Recommended reading:

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations

Peter Thiel – Zero to One

 

Carul rasturnat

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Cand eram mic, de fiecare data cand ma plangeam de o sarcina aparent imposibila, mi se spunea:
‘Nu sti? Te invatam! Nu poti? Te ajutam! Nu vrei? Te motivam!’
Citind povestea de mai jos mi-am reamintit de aceasta zicala si am realizat ca poate fi transformata usor intr-o reteta foarte buna pentru a-ti indeplini obiectivele.
‘Nu stiu? Voi invata! Nu pot? Voi cere ajutor! Nu vreau? Voi regasi motivatia! Si imi voi aminti mereu ca totul se intimpla cu un motiv.’

Martin Buber a istorisit, in Gog si Magog, povestea unui om care s-a pomenit, pe cand mergea undeva, in fata unui car rasturnat de-a curmezisul drumului. Taranul care mana calul l-a rugat sa-l ajute sa-l ridice.
Cum oare ar putea doi oameni sa ridice o greutate atat de mare? s-a intrebat calatorul. A raspuns, asadar:
-N-are nici un rost. Nu pot.
Taranul s-a maniat si i-a zis:
-Poti dar nu vrei! asta-i adevarul: nu vrei!
Miscat calatorul s-a pus pe treaba. A gasit niste scanduri si l-a ajutat pe carutas sa le vare sub roti. Apoi cei doi barbati au incropit o parghie si au impins cu toate puterile. Carul s-a clatinat, s-a miscat si, pina la urma, cei doi au izbutit sa il ridice.
Carul cu boi a pornit indata la drum.
Calatorul i-a spus taranului:
-Ingaduie-mi sa merg o bucata de drum alaturi de tine.
-Cu draga inima. Pofteste si ma insoteste.
Au pornit, unul linga altul. Dupa o clipa de tacere calatorul intreaba:
-Cum de te-ai putut gandi ca nu vreau sa te ajut?
-M-am gandit fiindca mi-ai spus ca nu poti. Nimeni nu stie ca nu poate sa faca ceva daca nu incearca.
-Dar cum te-ai gandit ca te pot ajuta?
-Uite-asa!
-Ce inseamna uite-asa?
-Ce pisalog esti! Vrei sa sti cu tot dinadinsul? Ei bine, mi-a trecut prin cap cand am vazut ca mi-ai fost trimis in intimpinare.
-Prin urmare, crezi ca ti s-a rasturnat carul tocmai pentru ca eu sa te pot ajuta?
-Dar pentru ce altceva, frate? a raspuns taranul.

Poveste e extrasa din cartea: ‘Cercul Mincinosilor’- de Jean-Claude Carriere
Daca povestea nu va motiveaza suficient sa renuntati la scuze, puteti incerca metoda promovata de Tim Ferris pe blog-ul personal: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2007/09/18/real-mind-control-the-21-day-no-complaint-experiment/

Imaginea: lindquist.cul.columbia.edu

Cultivate your mind

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I would add that we are what we repeatedly Think and Do…

“As you believe so shall it be done to you. If you have fait you can move mountains.”

It is said from ancient times that our mind contains riches beyond our wildest dreams and will return anything that we will plant in it. We can choose if we plant anxiety or courage, wealth or poverty, happiness or sadness, health or sickness. But it can’t be so easy. It has to be more complex. And even if that is true why don’t people just use their minds more?

Our mind is a standard equipment on birth and things that are given to us for nothing we place very little value on them, on the other hand things that we pay money for or have to work hard for we value more.
The paradox is that the opposite is true. Everything that is really worthwhile in life came to us free: our minds, our souls, our body, our hopes, our dreams, our intelligence, our love of friends, family and children all this priceless possessions are free. But the things that cost us money are cheap and can be replaced or lost at any time. A good man can become completely broke and regain his fortune several times. Even our home can be rebuilt if it burns down. But the things we got for nothing we can never replace. The human mind is not used because we take it for granted. We use our mind on little jobs instead of big ones because we take it for granted and we do not have goals that mean something for us. Not for someone else but for us.
A mind without goals is like a ship without a steer. It will drift endlessly without reaching anywhere.

Everyone is the sum total of his thoughts. He is where he is because this is where he really wants to be, even if he admits it or not. So before moving on ask yourself:

What do you value more?

What are you often thinking about?

What do you really want?

And what do you do to achieve it?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments bellow.

FMB
reconstructromania@gmail.com

And for some mind boggling thoughts check out the video bellow.

Reconstructing our foundation

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Even in today’s tough times, I still believe in people’s ability to change and develop. I believe that anyone can become great in time if he or she has a true desire to improve, and I believe that only with the help and enthusiasm of these great people we can one day reconstruct our world.

If we look closely there are many similarities between building a house and building a personality.

For instance when driving in the countryside if we take a look at the houses, we will see that, a lot of times, when reconstructing something we tend to start from the outside. The first thing we change is the envelope: we put a new layer of insulation, we paint the walls, we put new windows and although these are all good changes, without a good foundation the first cracks appear in no-time revealing the old building.

We do the same with ourselves, we start by changing our clothes, our cars or our jewelry but we rarely think of changing our thoughts or our values.  You might say that any improvement is better than no improvement, which could be true, the only problem with improving only on the outside is that it doesn’t last.

So next time you start renovating your home, check first if you have a strong foundation. The most obvious signs that the answer is no are cracks in the plaster, walls, and at corners of the doors or windows. Curling and tearing of new repairs or doors and windows that don’t close properly can also be a sign of a weak foundation.

Traditional methods of improving a building foundation include over-excavation or additional concrete but a good solution is also the use of mechanically stabilized earth or MSE, composed of cohesionless soil and Geosynthetics, components that interlock in order to create a stiff platform over weak, compressible soils creating a structure that distributes loads widely and uniformly over underlying soils. This solution can be used also for stabilizing unstable slopes instead of concrete walls. The main advantages of MSE walls is their ease of installation and quick construction. Of Course the best solution depends on the specific soil conditions that is way it is very important to get an expert opinion before doing any repairs.

In building a personality we can look at our values as our foundation. Without strong values it is hard to build a good personality, however we should never stop evaluating if our values are helping or hurting us. They define the way we think and that defines the way we speak and the way we look. How can we pass something to the next generation if our foundations are weak? If our values change every time someone offers us a 10% raise, if we only want the easy fix to our problems, if working hard for something scares us, if we don’t care about the environment and the people around us, how can we hope that our children will behave in a different way? It is in our power to change not only our future but also the future of others.

The same goes for buildings, if we want to pass something sustainable to our children then we need to start building better houses, that are friendly to nature, consume less energy and have a strong foundation. This will ensure they will withstand the test of time, the same as great personalities do, long after they have passed away.

So next time you want to build something ask yourself this question: Do I want to make something for a moment or for a lifetime? The decision is only yours!

With best regards,
F.M.B.
reconstructromania@gmail.com