Now, bear with me for a quick literary history lesson.

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy is arguably one of the greatest authors of fiction from the last 200 years. His works War and Peace and Anna Karenina  still remain deeply important works in contemporary literature. He was and is beloved by millions across the world and while in his own time he was well revered, he still found himself only the third greatest Russian writer. The second greatest Russian writer in Tolstoy’s view was Fyodor Dostoevsky, the brilliant but deeply troubled author of Crime and Punishment and Notes form Underground. Dostoyevsky’s influence on authors and philosophers across the globe is immeasurable yet he continually found himself woefully incompetent when compared to Russia’s greatest writer, Alexander Pushkin.

Now Pushkin, to this day is held in almost saint like regard throughout Russia, he poetic prose and prophetic poetry clearly distinguished him as a genius not only in his own era, but in any era. Dostoevsky himself was quick to recognize this brilliance and at times referred to him with almost messiah like reverence.

And as great as Alexander Pushkin was, he knew he was no Mozart. Mozart no Shakespeare. Shakespeare no Da Vinci. Da Vinci no Plato.

All great people, have always chased those the viewed as greater then themselves.

In contemporary athletics there is perhaps no better example of this concept than Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers. Bryant will without a doubt be a first ballot entrant into the Basketball Hall of Fame; 5 time NBA champ, 2 time Finals MVP, 15 time all-star, and 1 time league MVP, quite a resume. ESPN writer Bill Simons listed Bryant as number 15 on the ALL-Time NBA players list, above Dr. J, Charles Barkley, and Lebron James.  And yet, though he may never admit it, Kobe Bryant is still chasing Jordan. And is infinitely better for it.

Bryant’s determination to be not only equal to, but better than Jordan has led him to develop a more balanced and dangerous game in his older age. He is a constant competitor and fosters that culture around himself, winning is not AN option, it is the ONLY option. Even years after Jordan left the NBA, Bryant still found ways to compete with his legend and emulate his legacy.

The same can be done in the gym.

By competing against someone who is stronger, faster, or more technically gifted than yourself, both by pushing yourself to beat there times and records but also by learning how to emulate their successful traits, you become a better athlete. Just as each great author looked to learn from and hopefully surpass there predecessors, in the gym we can examine good habits and implement them in our own lives to make us better.

As a challenge, find someone who is better than you at a certain element, be it running, a clean and jerk, stringing together pull ups, or wall balls. Ask them how they do each movement, figure out little tricks you might not have thought even asking the coaches about. Watch and listen, then when the right WOD presents itself, place yourself right next to your mentor, and get ready to try and kick their ass. You might not win, but you’ll surely leave the old you in the dust.

We all have some kind of a chip on our shoulders, its what we do about that chip that makes the difference.