Redefining the concept of rival: strive, and thrive!

If you look around in dictionaries for a definition of the noun “rival”, more often than not there are a few recurring themes:

1) A person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity;
2) A person or thing that is in a position to dispute another’s preeminence or superiority;
3) A companion in duty (an obsolete definition)

Except for the third entry, it is implied that one of the parties is in a superior position, which is why there exists a rivalry in the first place; at least one party wants what the other/s already have.

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While I was watching Iron Chef Japan one day, the main character Chairman Kaga suddenly came up with this definition:

A rival is someone who makes you strive for better.

As a writer, using the definition above, in a way I consider as rivals other writers, not only those here at Get Real Post, as well as the commentators who come here. Why? Because they make me strive for better. Yet do I feel some urge to see them defeated or humbled, especially by my own hand? Absolutely not.

There goes a tricky question: does having a rival or rivals necessarily mean that I have to defeat that/those person/s?

I think there is a key word to define a rivalry that helps self-development: healthy. For me, a healthy rivalry is one that doesn’t let ego or obsession with victory get in the way of self-improvement. The focus shifts from defeating one’s opponent to improving one’s own strategies, personality, skills, etc. The scorecard would then be an added bonus.

The way I see it, there are three (3) main obstacles to making self-improvement the whole point of a healthy rivalry:

The ego

With Filipinos, it seems that their ego is one of their greatest enemies. We are an excessively proud people, yet we have rarely taken the time to build something to be proud about. A consistent observation about Filipinos is encapsulated in the expression “Basta Pinoy da best!” The Filipino ego is unable to swallow criticism, and drives the Filipino people to keep thinking that they are already perfect. They don’t need to improve, to learn anything more, basta Pinoy da best! However, when someone/something better does come along, they are unable to learn from it and incorporate any improvements into themselves.

The need to defeat someone/something

A disturbing observation I carry of us Filipinos is that we take competitions/rivalries very personally, usually unnecessarily. In addition, there is this mentality that abounds that if Filipinos lose, then it means that they were cheated. Despite living my whole life here in the Philippines, I’ve never understood why Filipinos think they are a victim who is oppressed or even marginalized one way or another. I understand that face or hiya is such a strong social motivator here in the Philippines, but, again, just because someone defeats you or is preferred over you doesn’t mean that you lose face. What it should mean is that one must take time to understand what he/she can do better for next time.

The mediocre mindset

Of course, as Filipinos we are notorious for the pwede-na-yan or mindset of mediocrity. It is also a common misconception that just because you won a competition, it means that you don’t need to improve anything for the next. No! If a previous engagement revealed that your strategies, skills, and character traits have a lot of weaknesses and holes, then you must find ways to plug them up. Otherwise, you run the risk of them being exposed for other people to see later on.

To relate all this to being a writer here at GRP, I never saw the “need” to be better than the other writers. What I did see, was a need to avoid falling into ruts or dependence on a particular pattern of thinking. What I saw were chances to incorporate well-thought and constructive suggestions/comments from both commentators and other writers into my succeeding write-ups What I did see was that every writer and commentator out there brings his/her own experiences to the table, and that diversity is not something to be condemned, it is something to learn from. Finally, what I did see is that having a healthy rivalry is not something that will adversely affect the quality of the collective output, but will rather contribute to its overall improvement.


There’s a saying that cousins are the first friends you’ll ever make. There’s one cousin of mine whom I particularly like and have learned quite a bit from. He has shared with me some stuff which relates to the topic of self-improvement that I haven’t forgotten to this day:

Cousin: Dad, when I grow up, I want to be like you.
Dad (my uncle): Why? You can be better.

In the context of learning guitar from an instructional video:

Cousin: For now, start with aiming even just for 0.01% of what he knows. It may seem like a small percentage but you will soon realize it actually is a lot. Then gradually aim for 0.1%, 1%, and so on.

9 Replies to “Redefining the concept of rival: strive, and thrive!”

  1. Amen Amen Amen Amen Brother,

    I forgot which GRP contribution I had which said the same thing and mentioned you by name. That you guys set the bar and I have something to shoot for when I write. There was a Visa commercial on local ESPN a few years ago which more or less said that the opponent’s excellence pushes me to excel. I made the same points in my Noynoy Vampire Hunter blog and my Olympic blog that the typical pinoy voter could not care less about competition when they selected Noynoy and others. You want a leader who has been forged out of competition. Youy want someone who learned. What did we get instead is someone whose mother died just as campaign season started. It’s people like you that I am glad to write here.

    1. It’s precisely when you mentioned me here, Ed, that I got the spark to conceptualize this one. 😉

      The Pinoy voter is but only one manifestation of an entire people that are, for the most part, still struggling with the concept of competition. It’s not hard to notice that the oligarchs themselves are afraid of it. These influential groups of people used their position in society to convince the others that they had a “choice” when in fact all that they had was to choose among the same crap coated differently and given different names. Media, politicians, products, you name it.

      Pinoy society is risk-averse, in not so many words. Yet risk-taking is necessary for self-improvement, and success comes after learning lessons from many other failures. And Pinoy society is afraid of failing because of the restriction of hiya and face.

      There’s another quote by one of my favorite guitarists which also fit this theme:

      “If you don’t advance creatively, then all you have left is playing Vegas.”

  2. FallenAngel,
    Your Blog reads like a Deja Vu. I experienced this my self (but it was related to my partner) as what you wrote here from A to Z.

    Taking risks is not easy especially if the chance of getting empty handed (no more money, no more possessions) is possible as result. Then its easier to play safe. The effect of playing safe is that nothing will change. Staying in the comfort zone?

  3. @ Fallen Angel

    Subjects like this would be more interesting if it were on a seminar type dialogue. In a blog or any news item, you need “trigger words” that would elicit aggressive negative or positive responses to make an audience. I don’t see that happening on this article.

  4. These are great tips, the principles of true inspiration. Problem is, when they lose or fail, some Filipinos don’t believe they should do better. Instead, they complain about being cheated. As if the Filipino is already perfect and can do wrong. No wonder we’re still a poor country, and all the great mistakes of the world are here.

  5. Rivalry is not good. It produces : envy, strife, intrigues, etc…To just better yourself is one way to improve. Not comparing yourself to others. You are created unique; with skills and talents of your own as a gift, from your creator.

    1. Hi Hyden,

      Speaking from experience. Yes our talents are gifts from the Creator. We were meant to maximize them in our time here since we will be asked to be accountable. Sloth is one of the deadly sins and I am all too familiar with that. Without an opponent like a competitor or a standard, sloth will be more real. A rival encourages innovation and efficiency. So far everything I said assumes all this is done in good will and good spirit. Yes people and organizations will cheat. Not all but some. We see it here all the time. Does not mean we should outlaw competition.

      Noynoy cheats for all to see and very few call him out on it. Padaca or Congress or or whatever declaration of innocence or guilt. The guy has no idea what a fair fight is, having never been in one.

      Yes our talents are unique. My interpretation of that is that there are arenas in life that are more appropriate for our gifts than others. One day when the time is right I will revisit competition in another blog. With the concept that getting A’s or 4.0’s in itself is not competition. Anything worth having will have to be fought for. I personally feel your rival helps you access your gifts more than no threat at all.

  6. Great post. I agree with the obstacles for self-improvement that you have enumerated and I think they are spot on. The word “conscious” has been used as a negative connotation implied by most of our fellow Filipinos that depicts anxiety and disgrace as a result from losing to someone or going against the social norm. Also, there are those who lavishly enjoy insulting the shortcoming of other people and add up that most Filipinos are not good in dealing with losing in any form of competition and being ridiculed, a.k.a. “sore loser / onion skinned,” what you get is the kind of society that you have observed. Learning from your mistakes should encourage you to strive further and if you are still suffering from onion skin syndrome, learn from the mistakes of other people to save yourself from being ridiculed, not by doing nothing but realising what is the mistake, why is it a mistake and how to correct it.

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