Came across this rumination on life working as a tour guide in Florence, a small city with numerous tour operators jostling for a very finite market. There is no travel advice in here, but may provide insight for any tour operators operating in similar conditions.
“Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man’s values, it has to be earned.” -Ayn Rand
Easily my favorite quote, and most relevant to my current life, from my current favorite book Atlas Shrugged, which centered around individualism of a world content on destroying the individual in favor of the better whole.
I will take a step back to explain the situation in more detail that has brought me to the following realization. During a tour that I was leading in Athens, I opted to organize our group’s dinner at a restaurant we typically used for lunch, but is a far better dinner establishment. Upon arrival we discovered in the restaurant across the way was the primary competitor of the company I was working for at that time. Our rivalry was unusually heated mainly because we provided exactly the same itineraries, and often overlapped on the same trips. Beyond that, we all lived in Florence and would be out selling our trips to the exact same people.
After having already spent 6 days in a row overlapping our trips in Corfu, and traveling down to Athens together on the same bus, we were all on edge. I Let’s just say when we showed up to the bar, they had some choice words for me showing up to what they called “their restaurant”. It is not necessary at this point to discuss the sheer insanity it was to get angry over such an occurrence considering we were not technically at the same restaurant and my group needed to eat. It was almost saddening, because up until that point I felt we had made incredible strides in bridging the gap caused by the competitive hatred we so discreetly held towards each other. It was not until reflecting back on this conversation I learned the true existential significance of this choice encounter.
It suddenly dawned on me in the middle of our heated battle over friendly competition, playing fair, choosing against copycat tactics in order to better your business (even in off hand ways that were not intended to slander the opposition), that in the end, you truly do like your sworn enemy. You hate them because they live for the same ideals as yourself. You loathe them when they accomplish something you could not, not because they are succeeding, but you are seeing in yourself something you were shortsighted on and could have accomplished first. You rejoice and brag to them when you succeed because you know that you have suddenly stoned their ego to death, that you were the one to live up to your ideals, your goals on this day. Most of all, you hate each other because you are prideful in what you do, as they are prideful about performing the exact same endeavor. Like in Ayn Rand’s quote, you feel you have earned the highest recognition of yourself, and it is a shot to this high form of being to see someone earning the exact same recognition of themselves as you are. But this is why we must embrace the competition because they are us as we are them. I do not mean this in the we are all happy as one way, I mean this in that we truly understand each other because we understand the efforts we needed to put in to succeed. When one goes and trashes his opposition, or brags to them about their own personal victory that they could not achieve, all they are doing is masking their respect for their enemy. Why else would we do it? Why do we put people down? Only to put ourselves up. But surely there must be a reason we need to put ourselves up over someone and it is clearly not because we already consider them a low person. We put others down because we respect them, and most of all because we see them as a threat to our own personal ideas and our own personal pride. It is the exact reason why Kobe and Shaq, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Caeser and Brutus, McCain and Obama made it seem like they so utterly disliked each other so much. Without the other, they would not work towards their absolute goal and would be doing themselves an injustice. Competition is a necessity because it pushes us to exceed our best, create a better product and a better self. Without competition we would still be in a cave somewhere, grabbing our balls when we want to hit on a girl (much like the Italian men), trying to move a cart using square wheels, having light only when lightning cracks the earth, and dying a seemingly meaningless death after having lived a seemingly meaningless life. Competition is what sets us apart from each other. So don’t hate your competitor because you are only hating yourself and appreciate that you have someone who cares enough to push you to your limit, that pushes you towards your highest recognition of yourself, and yourself alone. They say pride is a deadly sin. I saw take pride in yourself for having commit this sin, because it might be deadly, but when we are experiencing a sense of pride, it are these moments you truly feel alive.