We live in a competitive world. In the military, people get promoted based on how they compare to their peers. The very people with whom they work, sleep and eat – their friends, colleagues and teammates who hold their lives in their hands – are the competition.


And it isn’t confined to the lifelines. Competition between commands is just as intense, since Commanding Officers are ranked against other Commanding Officers too.


The competitive undercurrent is enough to cause people to do strange things. Some work harder. Some become tyrants. Some resort to less respectable methods to get the upper hand.


When I retired, I thought I was done with all that. With no more fitness reports to worry about, it was time to focus on the family and enjoy watching my daughter grow up.

But tonight I saw her race. It wasn’t a big deal, really, just a bunch of kids running around a small church gym. In today’s world of “everyone gets a trophy” I was content to smile and clap for everyone, regardless of how it turned out.

She won.

I was not prepared for that. She smiled at my wife and me, and I gave her a “Kirk- Gibson-hitting-a-walk-off-homerun fist pump” before remembering where I was. I got ahold of myself and gave her a discreet thumbs up.

Then she won the next race.

It was almost impossible to hold back the urge to stand up and start a one man wave, or point at her and say, “BOOM! Who’s the girl? WHO’S THE GIRL!”


It must be in our DNA. Maybe the competitive spirit has always been there inside of me, or maybe two or three decades of competition in the Navy planted it there. I don’t know, but it is something I will probably have to wrestle with forever. I need to relax, see the joy in every day, and take up activities that help me calm down.

Like golf.



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