As a young swimmer, Dani Golden found it hard to grapple with the intense feelings of elation and frustration that her favorite sport evoked.
Decades later – still swimming regularly – she began to write about her experiences with competition, in order to sort out the positive and negative aspects of her competitive nature.
The result was a book, “Life. Game On! A Competitor’s Guide,” that looked at how the phenomena plays out in sports, the workplace, and personal life.
Golden, 36, of Encinitas, explored the distinctions between healthy and unhealthy competition, and offered tips on harnessing the power of the former to spur progress. The book grew into motivational speaking engagements, and Golden found herself making a career of competition.
Q: How did you become interested in writing about competition?
A: I grew up swimming competitively and believe that I was born competitive. I have not always made peace with my competitive nature. I never intended to write, “Life. Game On! A Competitor’s Guide.” I was simply trying to figure out my relationship with competition.
Q: Please tell us about your background as a competitive swimmer.
A: Swimming has always been my passion. I joined my first swim team when I was 5 years old and continue to swim to this day. Throughout my competitive career there have been successes and setbacks. I learned a lot about myself by engaging in competition.
Q: What lessons about competition did you learn from that?
A: I learned how competitive I was and that I didn’t like losing. I think competition can bring out the best and worst in us and saw that happen with me.
Q: How do you define healthy versus unhealthy competition?
A: Healthy competition brings out the best in us. When we inspire and motivate others through our actions, we are engaging in healthy competition. When we wish others to fail so that we can succeed, we are engaging in unhealthy competition. Healthy competition puts the focus back on you. It keeps you from becoming distracted. When we compete in an unhealthy way, we find ourselves more consumed with what others are doing. This prevents us from being able to pursue our dreams and achieve our goals.
Q: How does healthy competition help us grow and progress?
A: I swim masters now and learn something new every day as it relates to healthy competition. I genuinely believe that I become a better person as a result of it. When people are secure and not threatened by others they are not afraid to be someone else’s cheerleader even if that someone else happens to be their competitor. I think that shows strength and personal growth. Healthy competition continues to challenge you to be your best while being able to bring out the best in others. That’s progress.
Q: What do you see as the effects of unhealthy competition on our lives and work?
A: Unfortunately I see unhealthy competition more often than I’d like to, which is why I am so adamant about promoting healthy competition. Unhealthy competition in the workplace can negatively affect a business’ bottom line. Employees need to feel inspired, encouraged and valued. A business prospers when its employees are motivated and feel as though their contributions are making a positive difference. Unhealthy competition in life negatively impacts a person the same way it does a business. It distracts people from what’s important and keeps them from fulfilling their potential.
Q: How did you turn these ideas into a book, and then a motivational speaking business?
A: My experiences in business, sports and life helped contribute to many of the insights I discuss in my book. Whenever people asked me about my book, there seemed to not only be a need to discuss the topic of competition further, but also to help others by taking my message offline and speaking publicly about it.
Q: How do you hope to help other people?
A: I hope to help both businesses and individuals reach their potential by encouraging a healthy competitive environment. I believe that everyone can succeed and gain their competitive edge by learning how to maintain their focus, keep motivated and have fun.
Q: You blog about your love/hate feelings toward technology, social media and online dating. What role does competition play in those realms?
A: It’s everywhere. Social media is a mecca for competition and online dating is a competition. The objective is to post the best pictures and have the most interesting profile so that you can attract the right people. As someone who has a background in marketing and advertising, when it comes to dating, I would prefer not to have to create a profile just to market myself.
Q: What is the next step for your writing and speaking?
A: I honestly do not know. I am having so much fun and am learning from every new experience that I guess I’ll just see where this takes me. For every door that opens, I am willing to walk through it.
Q: What’s the best advice you ever received?
A: When people show you who they are, believe them.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I officiated at my brother’s wedding. His friend liked how personal the ceremony was, and asked if I would officiate at his wedding as well. I was beyond honored to be asked to be part of such special days.
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: I truly believe that I live in paradise. The first thing I would do would be to walk outside and take in the day. I’d then go swim masters or surf with a friend and come home and take my dog for a walk. The afternoon would be filled with family and friends. In the evening, my friends and I would then check out a new restaurant.
What I love most about Encinitas?
I feel like Encinitas is an extension of my personality. I can’t imagine not living near the ocean. I enjoy being walking distance from downtown and the Coaster. My favorite thing about Encinitas, though, is the people.
BY DEBORAH SULLIVAN BRENNAN | SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE