If You Can’t Be Better (Be First)

If you can’t beat them, own your own category.

Often, when we think about success, we think about beating the competition, trying to win a race to the top of our chosen fields, above or ahead of others in that field. If the competition has a head-start, however, whether in timing, in resources, or in reputation, if the imaginary race we are getting into has already started, we begin in a deficit that may, in fact, be insurmountable.

Instead of focusing on beating others at their own game, start a new game, create a new playing field, and own a category that has never before existed. Being new or unique makes the idea of competition obsolete. By being different, we can be first.

The essence of creativity is in combining two things that have never been combined before, in a useful, innovative way. If we can do this in a way that others want, even if they did not know they wanted it before, we have a product, an audience, and a category all our own. If our focus is on being the best at something useful that no one else has ever tried before, there is no competition.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as a founding member of the Severna Park and Baltimore Holistic Chamber of Commerce.

Artwork by Ana, except where otherwise noted.

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