The Olympics recently provided a new way of thinking that applies to school districts and other organizations. What if we competed with our industry peers instead of against them?

Here’s the origin of that thinking.

After clearing every height on their first attempts all the way up to 7’9.25” inches, 2020 Olympians Mutaz Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi were tied for the lead in the high jump. They both failed to clear 7’10” three times in a row, meaning the deadlock still stood.

Who was going to win the Olympic gold? As they ended the competition tied, the referee approached to discuss a jump-off to decide the winner. In the sort of high-jump, a jump-off occurs via dropping the height 1 cm every jump until a winner emerges. As the referee begins to ask about a jump-off, Barshim asks, “Can we have two golds?” The referee replies, “It’s possible.”

At that moment, Tamberi and Barshim erupt in celebration. You can see the emotional weight lift and the two fierce competitors pure joy and elation come out, writes Steve Magness on his blog, The Growth Equation.

Two athletes who have competed against each other for a long time chose to share gold. They put their egos aside, not needing to be the sole king of the mountain. And instead shared the victory.

This is the essence of what sport is all about. Competition that lifts one another up. Too often, we see competition as a zero-sum game, a clear winner and loser is a must. But what occurred in the high jump points to something far greater. If we can put our ego aside, we actually free ourselves up to perform to our best ability.

Our ego often pushes us to perform out of a place of fear, of needing to show the world that I’m good enough. When we can let go of that noise and realize that competition is about getting the most out of ourselves, we can fulfill our potential. In a paradoxical twist, the research suggests that the less we think about ourselves, the better we become.

When we have someone to physically or psychologically share the load, everything seems a bit more manageable, a bit more doable. When we feel secure and supported, the way in which we see the world changes. The world looks a little less threatening and a little more conquerable when we have others in our corner.

There’s one more lesson that Barshim and Tamberi showed us: Often, we mythologize athletes with a “killer instinct,” athletes who will do almost anything to win. Here’s an instance of doing everything you can to try to win during the competition, but immediately flipping the humanity switch back on once the competition is over. Two of the best in the world — and one of the best in history at his sport — showing that you don’t need to walk around with some misguided chip on your shoulder to be extraordinary. You can be the best in the world, a fierce competitor and a human with care for your competitors at the same time.