Story: What I learned after 35+ competitions

Disclaimer: The story is quite long, so please bear with me 🙏

While writing this, I’ve thought about what droves me to this competition journey back then. Hm… What was it?

Ah, I know. Actually, it’s quite simple. I was raised in a middle-class family, so I never really have an opportunity to travel. I believe it was what droves me to always work hard. To at least tried what my friend has always been talking about: riding an airplane. It was 11 years ago. And little did I know, this pure dream of mine is what brought me to travel to more than 10 cities (and riding an airplane, of course!) for free.

I achieved this little dream of mine at the age of 16 when I got a competition in Maluku. But, what interesting is the thought I have after this: I have achieved what I want, do I need to join another one? The reason I thought about this is that I won the competition and got some pocket money to buy my first laptop. I became eager to explore and compete more. Now, I was already 22, graduated from college, and have joined a total of 35+ competitions.

Story in what makes me start this competition journey
Lomba Debat Bahasa Indonesia (LDBI), 2015

So, here’s what I learned along the way and why it’s an amazing experience that I want to share.

An opportunity to give my everything in things I love

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Photo by Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash

Since childhood, I was always amazed by cartoon’s protagonist. Like Naruto and Luffy. They spent all their time doing things they love and enjoy it so much without worrying about anything. I also want that. So, I joined my first competition in elementary school: soccer. Turned out, I sucked. Then, I try a math competition in middle school. I got quite good results but decided to quit after losing once.

At this time, I felt like maybe I was not cut out to be in a competition. Everyone is much better than me. I always have this thought until I met Ms. Tanti, my high school teacher (thanks a lot, Bu!). Without any warning, she asked me to join her debate team. Wow, I never even once speak in front of the public at that time. Then she said something which I still remember to this day:

If you suck, then just put more effort into it.

– Ms. Tanti

It opened my mind. Do I lose because everyone is born much better, or it is me who does not put enough effort into it? This is what started me to compete and worked hard on any competition I join. Is it enjoyable?

Not really.

It is tiring. I worked more than 3 hours a day and skipped a lot of class at that time. I also spent money on online courses and extra meals at school. So, why did I do that?

Honestly, I also do not know. I just loved the routine I have when I got better every time I got to enter the debate room and do public speaking. It just feels great as my hard work pays off. And it feels much better when I put everything I have in a competition and won. I guess this thrill is what keeps me going on this road for the next 6 years. And I don’t regret it.

An opportunity to work and compete with a like-minded and hard-working people

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Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

In a competition, everyone has the same goals: I want to win. Well, there is always someone who says: No, I just want to learn. Yeah, ok, but if you’re able to win, you want it too, right?

When all these like-minded people gave their all, the real competition starts. I always love this feeling when I know just how much works everyone put into this to be able to win.

This exact situation is also what makes me grow, both as a person and a competitor. In my first debate competition, I was amazed by my senior’s public speaking skills. And without realizing it, I want to be like that too. It makes me put more effort into my speaking skills for 2 years. This simple wish, later on, made me the 2nd best speaker in Banten and make me qualified for my province debate team.

As a person, I also grow a lot. I was shy, not really outgoing, and immature. I’m also bad at socializing with my team, to the point I was once scolding my teammate when they make a mistake. But, I joined a team competition. It doesn’t matter how good I am if my team can’t perform well. So, little by little, egoistic little me is also changing. Now, I’m able to communicate better, inside, and outside competition.

I believe hard times will bring people together. And competition is one of the hardest environments I know. So, it’s a good place to grow. 😆

How to cope with failure, and losing.

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Photo by Ben Stern on Unsplash

The first time I felt really down after losing is when I lose at the national debate competition semi-final round. I’ve given my all for more than 7 months. And I lose. It hurts. I remember crying after the result is decided that my team does not qualify for the final with a score of 3–2. It was a close call. But we can’t continue.

I felt like cursing, I’ve skipped class, going to another city for training, spend money for online courses and hours of public speaking every day. But I still lose. Is it fair?

Yes, it is. First of all, I believe everyone coming to the competition has a goal for themselves and it’s normal to work hard for it. My whining means nothing. But well, I’ve only realized this years later, and the old me is really salty about losing the competition. It’s ok though, it means I’m learning, right? lol.

This experience does not end here though, there are more losses I will be facing in the future. But, this exact experience works as a great foundation as I know that no matter how perfectly done the preparation is, there is still a chance for failure. I start a book rental and it went bankrupt (I even lost some of my books 😢) and also losing more than 15 other competitions. But, who cares? Win or lose, I could still learn something and continue. And this is why I felt like experiencing a loss is really important, as it can’t be taught in any classes.

And if you’re now decided to at least try to compete, I have a little secret key for you.

My little secret key in competition: Adaptability and chemistry are really important!

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Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

When joining a competition, especially a high school/college one, it’s natural for someone to switch team. Well, when there are other teams that offer a higher chance of winning, who doesn’t want to take it, right?

There are a lot of ways to build teams, from the most popular 3H method (Hipster, Hustler, Hacker) for IT-related competition or building a team composed of different background (finance, tech, or marketing). It’s the right way, but not always the right one.

My secret key is: Comfort over skillsChemistry over knowledge.

Competition is exhausting, in a business case, it’s normal for a team to solve certain cases on lockdown from 12 to 24 hours. In this situation, psychology plays an important role. When our team failed to found a feasible solution or ended up with an impossible project plan, the team tend to break down. And this is where comfort comes to play.

I’ve been with a lot of seemingly perfect teams. One time, I’ve joined a team with incredibly talented people, someone who has won 3 competitions and the other one is the owner of a 3.8 GPA. Amazing, right? On top of the paper, we should have easily won as it’s not a big competition with only 20+ participants. But, the result? We lost. When the time for submission comes, we still debate on whose solution is better and can’t come up with a single solution. We also argue on every single thing, from timeline to cost. It’s stressful.

The other thing is peer pressure. It… happens, whether we want it or not. When we’re on a so-called elite team, friends, mentors, and teachers put big expectations. It’s vexing. We’ll be afraid of what others would talk if, let’s say, we lost. Whoa, it consists of the smartest people, yet still, lose. For myself, it’s not easy to be indifferent about this, and when the worst really comes, it feels really, really, bad. I guess this is also the reason why it’s harder to stay on top rather than getting to the top itself.

Learning from this experience, I’m trying to try something different in my last college year. A big competition with close friends, but zero competition experience. I’m simply want to know what result I would get. I got nothing to lose. Crazy enough, we passed the preliminary round and then comes the stressful time: lockdown case solving. The difference is, I don’t have any pressure, I’m not forced to give an outstanding performance (we’re the underdog and I’m with my close friends). And no one would care even if we lose. It’s relaxing.

What I realize later is these differences makes me (and my team) handle stressful times much better. Before, in lockdown case-solving, we would fully talk about the solution and how to deliver it perfectly. That’s it. But with my close friends, we talk about anything we want, and not solely on competition. We even order a Kokumi and Popmie (after begging the committee, lol) in the middle of it. Dang, we even slept and talks about the newest PlayStation games. But, it ended up becoming the reason we could give our all. With no pressure, we could experiment all we want without fear of its consequence. Let’s gave the craziest idea we could found, and deliver it in our way.

The result? We won. Yeah, even to this day, I’m still questioning whether we really deserve the prize, as, on top of the paper, we are completely no one to our competitors. But, I guess that’s life is all about? It’s mysterious. And sometimes, intangible things are the ones that matter the most.

Last but not least… for me, competition is like Dunning-Kruger Graphs

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Competition Dunning-Kruger

I was quite lucky to experience competition at a young age. My first debate competition is miraculous. One month of training, then became the first winner, second-best speaker, and also chosen as the regional representative. Wow. Is it good? Yeah, of course, but at the same time, I got cocky.

After that one competition, as the announcement of my winning got published (I still remember there’s a big poster of my face in front of the school 😆), more teachers recruit me to their team. I ended up joining a PAI debate team and winning first place at both district and regional levels. My confidence level soared to its peak. But, disaster always comes at the most unpredictable time, right?

With my confidence at its peak, the national debate competition schedule comes. I felt like it’s the most perfect time to challenge higher competition (this competition is the biggest one in Indonesia, with participants from all 34 provinces). And the result? Yup! It’s my first loss I’ve told before and my confidence is all gone.

The next one is the province-level PAI debate. It happens after that competition and I felt like, well, maybe I’m actually not that good? I’m not confident. With my confidence gone, I also lose this one. At this time, I felt like maybe public speaking and problem solving are really not my things and the early win is only a fluke.

I decided to try again, though. I’m now at college and I would like to redo it. It’s not a debate competition (I was an information system major) though, but business competition. In a sense, the two are quite close as we got a problem to solve and deliver a solution. The difference is that the judges play the opposing team part.

Do I win? Yes, and no. There are times that I win, and times that I lose.

What important is I know that I could be a winner, and also the loser. It’s good to win, but it’s also good to lose. Both teach me something and for me, it’s all that matters.

Whoa, my story is already quite long, so I believe it’s a good time to stop. If you make it to this point, I would like to say thank you very much. And I hope you learn something from it. There are still things I’d like to share, if you’re interested to know or have any question, don’t hesitate to let me know!

Shout out to my team mates!

IT Fest USU, JaTangSol, 2018
Information System Case Competition (ISCC), Mammamia, 2019
Compfest XI Startup Academy, EndorseGo, 2019
Project Management Challenge (PMC), Athena, 2019

Lastly, I want to give my thanks to God, family, friends, and of course, my special teammates: SMAN 2 Debate Team (Indonesia, Law, PAI), Banten’s Debate Team, SMAN 2 IPB Team, EndorseGo, Matcha, Luc(k)y, SpeakMotion, Found IT, Mammamia, Athena, JeniusTroopers, PowerRangers, Hummingbird, and JaTangSol! See you again at some other time, guys!

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