In Celebration of Academic Rivalry
By Adrian Moreno
“How much do you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight? How much can you know about yourself if you've never had a nemesis? You have a person who's your opposite, some one to go with, someone who wants to see you fall.” —The Smash Brothers DocumentaryA rivalry is a very important factor that can greatly enhance your academic performance, even in things outside academics. We know this to be true from CV's rivalry with Indio in the annual competition for the bell in the Bell Game. The key factor that makes rivalries such a great motivation is the urge you feel inside to prove your rival wrong. When I've had a rival, I find they take me out of my comfort zone because they specifically want to see me fail, and they're pushing, even advocating it. This, at least to me, has been a great motivator. Over the years I have come across many different forms of rivalries, some lighthearted, while others much more hostile and antagonistic, yet both have equally pushed me beyond my boundaries.
Today I have friendly rivalries with my fellow AP students. There is this type of pseudo-competition going on regarding the top ten of our class. It's a nice thing to be in the top ten of your class, regardless of how much you care about the title and recognition. I myself am trying to "compete" to be in the top ten, and I use quotations around the word because it really isn't an official competition. Nonetheless, I have a weird relationship regarding this "competition." On one hand I want to crush them, but the problem is I know the people that make up my competition, and they are really good people. How can I crush the people I know and like? Well, these are the people who make me strive to become better academically. An added benefit in a friendly rivalry is in the fact that your rivals are your friends, so you can look to them for help and vice-versa. You and your rivals help each other, and you all improve and become better people as a result.
I remember a time in elementary when I joined a school competition against one of my friends to see who was the smarter one between us. There was a math competition where the classrooms were competing against each other for the chance to win an ice cream party. Well, this friend of mine was going to participate so I decided to join the competition in order to test my intelligence against his. I, at least at that age, wasn't very outgoing and wouldn't have participated in a school competition by my own motivation, but in this case I was given an outside motivation to compete with my friend and prove my superiority. In the process, I left my comfort zone and did a positive thing for myself, all thanks to a rivalry I had with a friend about who was smarter.
The other more prevalent and interesting form of rivalry is between you and your adversary. The rivalry that I'm speaking of is the Batman vs. Joker kind, the good vs. evil archetype…the rivalry between you and your enemy. When you have a rival who is very much different from you in personality and opinion, you just want to beat them at their own game. I have been pushed to greater heights to prove these rivals wrong. At some point in your lives, I'm sure many of you have encountered someone who doesn't believe in you, and you just have this overwhelming feeling of wanting to prove them wrong. For example, there's a guy named James in my junior class; he's a smart kid, but God forbid I allow him to be smarter than me without a fight. Over the years we've actually had competitions outside of academics, from arm wrestling that started since middle school, to games of Smash Bros. in high school (he's pretty terrible by the way). As long as the rivalry between you two doesn't get out of hand, it can be a positive thing. I'll argue that a rivalry between opposites is what drives innovation. Look at Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs, Coca Cola vs. Pepsi, Michelangelo vs. Leonardo da Vinci. These rivalries pushed each other to create bigger and better things.
One of my more antagonistic rivalries occurred again in elementary school and left a significant mark on my dedication towards education. There was another very smart kid that was considered one of the smartest kids in our grade, and this time he wasn't my friend. I really didn't like the guy. He made fun of me a lot and was really just a jerk to me. Well I just couldn't let him be the smartest kid, so I worked really really hard in my class to be able to compete with him academically. In elementary there wasn't a letter grading system to compare our intelligence, but our grades on tests and quizzes was what I used to compare our skills in English and math. From what I can remember, we were about equal intelligence by the end of 6th grade year. My antagonistic rivalry with this person may be credited with the dedication I have towards my education. Since then I have always pushed for my best in order to compete with the smartest in my grade.
I think a rivalry or at least the concept of a rivalry is a great thing, exceeding what the other person expects of you, and changing yourself for the better in the process. Keep in mind that a rivalry isn't necessarily a destructive thing if you treat it as a motivation for your goals. I will always push for people to find friendly rivalries instead of the antagonistic rivalry because they're a more positive form of rivalry, but sometimes it's the antagonistic rivalry that will make the most significant impact towards becoming better and accomplishing the impossible.
Adrian Moreno is a junior at Coachella Valley High School. He plans to pursue business, law, or politics as a profession. When he is not focusing on his education or trying to get his classmates to do the same, he is playing video games. His favorites are Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, and Legend of Zelda…and he always welcomes a challenge (especially with the first two).