Winning – The Competitive Gene for Better or Worse

We have all met people in our lives who seem to excel at everything they try – the coworker who pushed through the ranks of the company until they reached the highest position also turns out to be great at sports, or cooking. In fact, some people seem to not know how to not be good at something, and this type of seemingly successful people have been the subject of researchers and scientists for many years. In fact, research into genes and behavior has led to the conclusion that there is a gene inside us which makes us competitive and successful if it dominates. So does this mean that having a competitive gene will make us successful at everything?

The perks of the gene

According to some scientists, you can be born to be successful. In fact, some of them believe in the competitive gene and believe that it can turn us into worriers or warriors. The main difference between worriers and warriors is not only in the presence of the competitive gene, but also in the way the competitive gene works. The competitive gene is largely responsible for how dopamine is released in the brain. The presence of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex is key here, as the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that focuses on thinking, memory, adaptation and planning. The competitive gene has an enzyme that determines how dopamine is released and how it affects the prefrontal cortex. In other words, constant flow of optimal releases of dopamine ensures that worriers constantly perform well, if not particularly great. On the other hand, warriors get that surge only when faced with pressure or a great reward, meaning that their competitive gene acts out when they need it the most. This has led to some scientists’ conclusion that successful athletes have the warrior gene – during the game, it makes sure they perform well.

The importance of drive and willpower

Just because you are a worrier rather than a warrior doesn’t meant that you shouldn’t be able to be successful. The competitive gene only ensures that some people feel competitive more naturally, while others have to consciously become competitive in order to improve their skills and become better and better at what they do. This puts an emphasis on the importance of drive and willpower – without it, even the best genes wouldn’t do anything for the person. And of course, having a drive to succeed and strong willpower also come naturally to the person and depend on both nature and nurture, they are still traits that a person can adopt during their lifetime despite the presence or lack of presence of the competitive gene.

Competitive gene versus nature

We have all met people who dislike to be put under the limelight, who seem to have no aspirations towards a better position or a win. We have all met people who simply do not want to compete in anything – which should be impossible if the competitive gene is present in us all. However, this assumption disregards one very important factor – nature. We all believe, to some extent, that the drive to succeed together with competitiveness, gene directed or not, means that we need to be strict cutthroats to eliminate anyone standing in our paths. It has been shoved down our throats by society, and many of us tend to believe that to be competitive is to be focused only on succeeding while not caring how many other people we hurt in the process.

Competitiveness from the inside – truly winning

The truth is a bit different. One doesn’t have to be a cutthroat and hurt others in order to be highly successful. For example, an athlete who breaks world records did not do that by hurting the other players – only by running faster than anyone ever has before. This example is very good in pointing out that people who are naturally competitive and don’t want to lose work on becoming better, not on eliminating competition. The true nature of competitiveness means that competitive people always focus on others, how well they perform at the task, and try to beat them. In fact, some scientists believe that if you don’t know what you need to beat, you wouldn’t be able to beat it. To go back to our previous example, if the athlete who wanted to break the world record did not know the time of the previous world record, wouldn’t be able to break it, because they do not know how far they need to push themselves in order to obtain the success.

In addition, many people become more and more successful over time in their field because they always strive to win over their past selves. If they completed a task for a certain amount of time with a certain amount of success yesterday, today, they will strive to do the task better and faster. These two facts are enough to clear the miscomprehension that to be successful, you need to be constantly on your toes and focus on eliminating competition by harming other people. In fact, the most successful people who win at everything work on themselves, and not on others. The only thing the competitive gene does is ensuring that this trait and understanding comes naturally and is not affected by the way society tends to view competitiveness and winning.

A dark side of winning

There are situations in life where a desire to win might lead people to their ruin. A very good example of this is gambling. Having a drive to win, having a desire to always win combined with gambling can lead to ruin. Gambling means playing games of chance which you will definitely lose at least half the time. But the presence of the competitive gene and the drive to win will make the player continue playing until they win. And, as we mentioned before, competitive people like to win over their past accomplishments – so the next big win becomes more important than the current big win. So they don’t stop, despite saying that they will. The athlete who works on becoming better than his or her past self, of beating his own record, will show the same tendencies in gambling, for example. It comes as no surprise that some sport stars have developed gambling problems. Many successful people in their fields succumb this way to online gambling, which is available at the tips of our fingertips, and plenty of them offer various different ways of winning and getting bonuses on their website. This can lead to many problems, as people with the competitive gene will want to win – beat the house, win the bonus, etc. In conclusion, being born with success in your genes might not be beneficial in every area of life, despite the perks.