Are You Competing with Others or with Yourself?

When my son Thomas was in middle and high school, one of our favorite programs to watch together was “American Ninja Warrior,” (ANW).


Think of the world’s craziest carnival-style obstacle course, where contestants take turns watching each other try to get to the end of each run and hit the buzzer, or more commonly fall into the pool of water below despite best efforts, in hopes of someday getting to the legendary Mount Midoriyama and the million-dollar prize.


What I loved best about the show was that unlike other competitive “reality shows” with their villains, sabotage and melodrama, on ANW, the contestants rooted for each other, hoping to see what was possible and what they could learn from each other, forming friendships along the way.


And as they came back season after season, their main shared goal was the same: to get further this season than they did last time.


Although they were technically each other’s competition, each contestant was mainly competing against him- or herself.


We all have our own versions of “Mount Midoriyama” we need to climb, where we would be 100x better off if we strove to be the best version of ourselves, instead of trying to be like someone else. It could be


  • Presenting more confidently at the next quarterly meeting
  • Eating better in order to drop our blood pressure or cholesterol, and increase our energy
  • Being more patient with others instead of losing our temper when we get frustrated
  • Taking 5 minutes at the start of the day to commit to the one main thing we absolutely must get done; or
  • Remembering to thank people for little things, even if you think it shouldn’t be necessary, simply because an ounce of acknowledgement is often worth its weight in gold.


Going even deeper into the theme of challenging ourselves to achieve personal bests and climbing Mount Midoriyama both figuratively and literally, my guest this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast is Matt Iseman, cohost of American Ninja Warrior.



Matt shared lessons he has learned from a whopping 16 seasons of hosting ANW, and how they all focus around being our personal best, leading and communicating with others and ourselves alike.


Side note – just in case you think Matt’s life lessons are only from watching others, you might be surprised to know he has overcome a number of obstacles of his own:

  • He’s a board-certified physician
  • He left his medical career to become a (successful!) stand-up comedian
  • He survived cancer, and
  • He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, addressing the very topics he’ll be sharing with us in this episode!


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.