I'm reading a little ways back and enjoyed this thread on piano playing.
I agree that competition takes something out of the joy of playing the piano. But that joy has to be found by each individual on their own.
I started learning piano at 8 years old, my mom was a piano teacher. But then I discovered I could pick things up by ear, and quite well. Then I listened and played music for most of my life.
I could read some notes, mostly the ones actually ON the staffs, struggled with the ones too far above and below (still do, actually). But I didn't know what a chord was, really, just that I could play it. And I didn't know the difference between a half step and a whole step.
Then, ironically, on Mother's Day 2009, I got some books (the kinds for dummies and idiots) on piano and theory, and just like that, I finally read something that clicked and knew what a chord was and how to build it. I finally got the step process as well.
I was so excited, wanting to use this newfound knowledge, but as you may or may not remember, the day after Mother's Day that year, I fell and broke the turning bone in my elbow. So much for piano at that point.
Fortunately, the desire to know more stuck, and my arm was finally completely healed by 2011. (Although I can still overdo it when playing for 3 hours straight). I revisited this new concept of chords and steps, and a whole new world opened up for me regarding music.
I already had a job playing for the church, (listened and learned), but now I had notes and chords and could read the music better than ever before. So slowly, baby steps, I took that journey towards getting to understand it more.
I learned dynamics, I learned expression, I even learned alternate rhythm some. There are still many things I can't understand or get, but each new thing I discover makes it more rewarding every single day.
So the contest isn't about competing with someone else. For me, the contest was about competing with myself...i.e. getting better and better, learning a little more each day. And that contest isn't about how good you are, it's about how much you put into the music. How much of your heart and soul you put in, how much expression, how much emphasis.
After understanding that, I realized that all along, before I knew all this, I just "played" the piano. Now, I can P---L---A---Y the piano. And there's a huge difference.
For the record, Mom tried hard to force me to learn it when I was younger and started struggling...but I wasn't ready. Now I am.