The maladaptive variety is what gives competitiveness its bad name

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing draws a distinction between adaptive competitiveness and maladaptive competitiveness:

Adaptive competitiveness is characterized by perseverance and determination to rise to the challenge, but it’s bounded by an abiding respect for the rules. It’s the ability to feel genuine satisfaction at having put in a worthy effort, even if you lose. People with adaptive competitiveness don’t have to be the best at everything—they only strive to be the best in the domain they train for. They might be perfectionists at work, but they don’t care if they’re the worst at tennis and shuffleboard. They are able to defer gratification, meaning they accept that it can take a long time to improve. Healthy competitiveness is marked by constant striving for excellence, but not desperate concerns over rank. It’s adaptive competitiveness that leads to the great, heroic performances that inspire us all.

The maladaptive variety is what gives competitiveness its bad name. Maladaptive competitiveness is characterized by psychological insecurity and displaced urges. It’s the individual who can’t accept that losing is part of competing; it’s the person who competes when others around him are not competing. He has to be the best at everything, and he can’t stop comparing himself to others even when the competition is over. He doesn’t stop when the whistle blows. He drags others into competitions they don’t want to be in, by provoking them. And he will resort to cheating when he can’t win.


  1. VXXC says:

    What about present day when the maladaptive set the rules and whine and shriek when others don’t follow them? Or do follow them and win?

    On the surface they are on top. Only on top.

    Meanwhile the adaptive rule players always play defense, perhaps they’re not so adaptive? They do adapt well to losing. Everything.

  2. Harry Jones says:

    I used to be a loser who tried to play by the rules, wondering why those who broke the rules got ahead, then it dawned on me…

    The rules are fake. They’re for suckers.

    There are real rules, but no one tells you what they are. Half of the game is sussing out the real rules.

  3. X-Ray says:

    My first job, denoted by having to submit a SSN, was with Top Dog, Inc., in Jacksonville, Florida, a fast food emporium. I know it is off topic, but I couldn’t resist.

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