As your high school gym teacher probably drilled into your head, competition is often just the fuel you need to reach your goals. You might have mocked him at the time, but that failed drill sergeant probably had a good point.

Just take a look at the following examples:

Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs

Every platform you could be viewing this article on right now exists primarily because of these two men. Their desire to one-up each other in the realm of personal computing resulted in a revolution that has unlocked our creativity, linked the world, and thoroughly confused our grandparents.

Though Gates and Jobs could get along when it benefited both of them (or on the rare occasion that they agreed to appear on camera together), the rivalry between these two never fully cooled. As late as 2005, they were still taking aim at each other, with Jobs using his Stanford commencement address as an opportunity to claim that Windows was merely a rip-off of the Mac.

Thankfully, this feud gave us world-changing technology. And those “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials.

John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney

True, they were technically on the same side, but even during their years as fellow Beatles, the creative competition between Lennon and McCartney spurred two of pop music’s most prolific songwriters to stretch their abilities and redefine rock ‘n roll on a regular basis.

As McCartney explained, their individual songwriting processes frequently involved an unspoken conversation. Lennon would bring in a new song to the studio, and McCartney would head home to try and do something similar, but better.

And people wonder why solo John and Paul were so much worse.

Ferruccio Lamborghini vs. Enzo Ferrari

Though his last name is now synonymous with luxury cars and the subject of most of your dreams, Ferruccio Lamborghini did not start out making automobiles. Nope, he was more into the considerably less sexy art of tractor production. However, he was so good at that gig that he could afford a Ferrari of his own. Not impressed with its mechanical prowess, Lamborghini tried to get Enzo Ferrari to address the problems, who promptly blew him off with an insult.

Naturally, this inspired Lamborghini to make a superior vehicle. The debate between who came out on top is still going on—and thankfully will never end.

United States vs. Soviet Union

The Cold War produced some scary results. The decades-long conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States resulted in both sides owning the kind of arsenal that could unleash a sci-fi-level of apocalyptic devastation across the entire planet at the push of a red button.

On the flip side, the Space Race not only put a man on the moon, it inspired an entire generation to get interested in engineering, science, and whatever else it might take to defeat the Commies. More than anything else in the past century, it paved the way for major technological achievements—even if some of those achievements are terrifying.

Plus, those bombs never went off, but those sci-fi movies did get made. So there’s that.

James Hunt vs. Niki Lauda

Racing rivalries aren’t always well-publicized, but when your job involves pushing a death machine to its limits, things probably get a little intense.

During the 1976 Formula One season, these two drivers decided they would make it their personal missions to beat one another. Although Lauda suffered a near-fatal crash that left him permanently scarred, his desire to embarrass Hunt inspired him to push through the recovery process as quickly as possible, in order to get back to the job that almost killed him.

Though, anyone who’s prone to road rage knows full well that a guy’s desire to outdrive another guy is a powerful motivating force.

Nikola Tesla vs. Thomas Edison

Though Edison would go on to be the more well-known of the two, we’re now aware of the fact that some of his practices (shocking an elephant to death to scare people away from Tesla’s alternating current products and essentially stealing work from desperate inventors) don’t make him the admirable figure he’s often portrayed as.

It was his feud with Tesla, one of his former employees, that helped drive him to create the types of inventions we take for granted these days, as both men worked to revolutionize the availability and efficiency of electric energy and its applications. In a twist, though, Edison’s ability to crush the competition via propaganda (and, again, electrocuting an elephant) kept Tesla, who arguably had the more revolutionary ideas, from making the type of impact he otherwise could have made. And elephant-killing technology never really did take off.

Ernest Hemingway vs. William Faulkner

These two titans of American literature began as friends and mutual admirers, but the media’s desire to create a rift between the two resulted in a feud that would last the remainder of their lives.

Of course, neither one was the type to simply let a rivalry slide. These were writers who prioritized masculinity. In other words, they wanted to win and in their case, winning just happened to involve writing all the books you were forced to read in high school. Whether or not you’re happy about that depends a lot on whether or not you enjoyed The Old Man and the Sea.

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier

As far too many inspirational dramas have reminded us, no sport involves a greater degree of pure competition than boxing. The action in the ring, as we all know, is just an extension of the story outside of it.

In this case, that was the truth. The bad blood between the fighters began during their first major match in 1971, and followed with a string of media appearances in which Ali tossed out the kind of insults that we normally associate with rap battles. It all culminated in Ali’s hard-won victory over Frazier at the famous “Thrilla in Manila” fight that nearly killed Ali, left Frazier begging for another shot, and gave lazy sports writers an easy way to hype the inevitably disappointing Mayweather/Pacquiao bout.

Sadly there’s no footage of their epic training montages set to “Eye of the Tiger.”

Marvel vs. DC

These days, not a summer goes by without an onslaught of costumed heroes dominating the box office and inspiring annoying Halloween costumes four months later. Superheroes are a powerful force in pop culture, and the friendly rivalry between the two major comic book companies, Spiderman’s Marvel and Batman’s DC, is the main reason. While both were creative hubs to begin with, that competitive edge pushed them further than either would have gone if they were the only group of people writing stories about superpowered humans who dress up like animals.



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