Competition is misunderstood by virtually everyone. People think of competition as a fight among competitors. They think that the opposite of competition is cooperation. This view of competition almost instantly dooms them to failure.
Competition is simply comparison. Before any choice is made, people compare alternatives. This comparison is what we call "competition." All alternatives in every human decision can be said to be in competition with each other. This is true in large matters, such as choosing careers and life partners, and, in small matters, such as choosing a TV show to watch or what to eat for lunch. All these competitions have winners and losers. Even cooperation requires competition because we must choose who we cooperate with and how. This competition must take place before there is an cooperation. The true opposite of competition is having no choice. If there are no alternatives, there is no competition among them.
The better our choices, the better we are at making comparisons, the more skilled we are in competition. The problem is that most people have no organized approach to this type of competitive decision-making. They do not know what decisions they should focus upon at any given point in time. They lack the skills for seeing all possible options. They have no method for choosing the best alternative among those that present themselves. The result is that most competitive success appears as though it is largely a matter of luck.
But the situation is even worse than that. All competition and our choices are time sensitive. All situations favor those who can make the right decisions quickly. But many choices involve more information than we have time to process. The result is that most decisions must be made with very limited information. Our success is not just a matter of managing our own choices, but the choices of others: our rivals and our allies. Meanwhile, complete strangers make choices that create events that affect us, but for which we completely are unprepared.