I was reminded yesterday of how much I dislike people who are competitive in a bad way. Whether you realize it or not, there is more than one kind of competitiveness - a good kind that is internally focused (i.e., how well can I do?) and a bad kind that is externally focused (i.e., how bad will everybody else do?). I know this because, well, I'm a pretty competitive person. And I think that is a good thing. In fact, it is one of my favorite aspects of my personality, even if it does get me in trouble sometimes.
When Paul went to my father to get his permission to marry me (which I thought was unnecessary but still a very sweet gesture), rather than asking Paul things you would expect of a father like, "Do you love her?", "How are you going to provide for her?", or "What makes you think you are good enough for my daughter?", my dad instead only had two pieces of advice for Paul. Based on double hearsay, i.e., what Paul said my dad said, the conversation went something like this:
Paul: "Russ, I'd like permission to marry your daughter." (There might have been more lead-in than this, but I'm trying to move this story along here).
My father: "Well sure Paul, but you should know two things about Amy first. First is that she thinks she is always right. And she usually is."
Paul: "Um, okay."
My father: "The second is that Amy is the most competitive person I have ever known. You have to be able to live with that."
I would like to add that I think the way my father uses the word "competitive" is just a tidy way of summing up all of the other positive adjectives that describe me like ambitious, hard-working, determined, beautiful, etc. Thanks, dad.
So I guess its no surprise that I ended up at the law school that is consistently ranked as one of the most competitive law schools in the country. Before starting at BYU law school, I heard all sorts of stories intended to scare incoming 1Ls about how students were so competitive with each other that they would hide books that others needed in order to improve their chances at doing better in the class. Or that if you missed a day of class nobody would share their notes with you. And on and on.
But I never saw this kind of "bad" competitiveness in action until yesterday in my Barbri class when one of the students (who shall remain nameless) was talking with me and Paul about our plans for the Fourth of July. When Paul mentioned that we had been thinking about front-loading our study schedule to get some studying done in advance and then taking a day or two off to go to Jackson Hole, this other student got an evil gleam in his eye and with the tips of his fingers malevolently pressed together and eyebrows raised in mock encouragement, said "That sounds like an excellent idea. You should definitely do that."
It was like a fourteen year old girl who tells her friend to eat another cookie knowing the friend is already susceptible to the idea and that it will make her fat so that the other girl can be the skinnier one. Or when one girl tells another to "definitely go ahead and cut all your hair off - short hair would like so cute on you", (or "no way, those pants aren't too tight at all, you should buy them") all the while thinking that there is no way the other girl will look good with short hair but now the first girl will be the only one with long hair. Don't hate me for telling the truth. I know this happens all the time. Fortunately I was too naive during junior high and high school to pay much attention to this thinly veiled malice. And I never really had a need for developing this kind of approach to social interactions because I never had social standing to protect in the first place. Now that I am older, I just think this kind of destructive competitiveness is just immature.
Anyway, the issue I have with this guy in my class is that his motivation is so messed up. As if my taking one day off of studying which I plan to make up for in advance will have any effect on his performance on the bar. I mean, seriously, this guy needs to get a grip. It is one thing to respond positively and say sincerely, "Sounds like a fun trip. Besides, everybody else is taking the Fourth off. It will help you avoid getting burned out." It is another thing entirely when someone says this while thinking "Do it and meanwhile I will stay at home, study like a crazy-person, neglecting my wife and children and the rest of humanity, and absolutely slaughter you on the exam." Sheesh that's creepy. Has anybody told him that it doesn't matter whether you have the highest pass or the lowest pass, you either pass the bar or you don't? At this point I contemplated adding a joke about people who did Law Review, but Paul did so I won't.
I really, sincerely hope this guy passes the bar. Heck, I hope we all pass the bar. If the state of California wants to put all bar applicants through the horror that is bar-prep, it seems the least they can do to pass us all, right? But I get the feeling that there are a significant number of people out there who don't want others to pass - who actually like the elitist notion that they are better than others just because they passed a test where others failed. People who derive their self-worth off the failures of others are just sad.