a series of
and large defeats
and I am as
as any other
I have gotten
from there to
An us versus them, win or be a loser, “if you aren’t getting something it is because someone else <most likely less deserving> is getting it” type world.
This is a dangerous slippery slope way of approaching Life.
Personally, I balk at viewing Life, the world, and pretty much anything we do in Life as a zero sum game.
It just seems so “I” when we should at least acknowledge it is a “we” world, society & culture.
It just seems so empty of anything but ‘the win’.
I am not opposed to putting an emphasis on the fact winning is good and that winning is a viable objective <which takes some determination, persistence and focus to achieve>. In fact … I fully endorse this type of thinking.
And I certainly understand the whole “if you are not committed to winning that means you are already accepting a loss.”
But I have a little secret for everyone that kind of throws a wrench into the whole zero sum world thought — not every day has to ‘count.’
The truth is that some days your sole purpose is to make it to the next day.
I could even argue that actually counts. I could even argue that it is a victory <small, medium or large>.
What do I mean?
Everyday there are people who go into work, hunker down and not only understand how to translate ideas into action but actually figure out a way to make it happen.
Just make progress.
It’s OK to have setbacks … It’s OK to draw a line in the sand and start over again – and again. Just make sure you’re moving the line forward … Take baby steps, but at least take steps that stop you from being stuck. Then change will come. And it will be good.
Some would call that “progress” and not “victories.” Which means people who believe in a zero sum world view those people as “on the loser slippery slope.”
It does drive me a little nuts that we want to always rush to label something a victory or a defeat or a winner or a loser … and, I would point out, all a zero sum Life view does is exacerbate that discussion.
To be clear … while you will find gobs of well written articles online stating that Life, and business, is not a zero sum game … you will find several “supposed harsh truth tellers” who will tell you otherwise:
Angel investor Jason Calacanis—a Silicon Valley veteran who has invested in more than 60 startups—has some pointed advice for young people who are just starting their careers: Success is a zero-sum game. He writes in a blog post:
“Many folks will tell you that the world is not a zero sum game, with one person not having to lose at the expense of another winning. This is simply not true, as in most startups there is a very limited number of seats and they go to the people who work the hardest and who have the most skill. In your career you will find that life is a zero sum game: the winners get the prime positions and the person who comes in second place for that position is the first loser—not the second winner.”
I can’t argue with some of the thoughts good ole Jason has to offer … but I don’t have to like it. And I don’t agree that Life, or a business, offers you a limited amount of seats. That is where , to me, the zero sum Life all falls apart.
That’s beauty of America at least <in many other countries also> is that if I am somewhere with a limited number of seats and I am willing to work hard, play fair and constantly improve my skills … well … there are seats elsewhere.
I could argue that there are more than enough seats for hard workers, play fairers and skilled workers in the business world.
Which makes me think I need to remind everyone … a zero sum game is a game in which when one person gains, you lose, and when another person loses, you gain.
That may be so … but if it is … it is more like the ‘butterfly affect’ than it is direct cause-affect within your finite environment.
I will say it again <and will do so until the end of time> that I just do not believe that most of life is a zero sum game and that measuring your Life by victories and defeats is a fool’s errand.
It is too easy to say “if this, then this” or that there is a finite amount of opportunities which we wrestle over.
I am not suggesting working hard doesn’t matter <because it does … you need to work fucking hard and long hours to move up a ladder if that is what you want to do>.
I am not suggesting honing skills and learning new skills doesn’t matter <because it does … you need to learn more … constantly … and get better … all the time>.
It really does seem like we make all of this hard on ourselves. Far too often we compare our situation with the situation of someone else and, using some pretzel logic, we can view them from afar and think that because something good happened to someone else that it is either no longer available to us, taken from us or … if viewed positively … has delayed what will be due us.
That is really nuts-type thinking. Crazy thinking.
Good things can happen to us … and others … at exactly the same time.
I imagine we get caught in our pretzel logic because when we see someone else succeed it is kind of a gut-punch reminder that we have not yet succeeded. That’s nuts. Comparing the success <however you define it> of another person to your own is silly and, frankly, a losing gambit.
But here is the thing when someone tries to convince you that Life is a zero sum game.
This belief that we are all competing with each other for scarce resources completely ignores the fact that … well … we are humans. We like being with other people, we like coexisting and … yikes … we like having friends and having social spheres to enjoy Life.
So even though competition and scarcity exist and, sure, we would much prefer victories over defeats … we have an inherent human need, and desire, to exist in a social support system in which we share some mutual respect <of which is not earned by ‘winning’ but more by ‘how you play the game’>.
I imagine the point on this is ‘zero sum’ suggests a very one dimensional view of victory & defeat when the reality is a little more complex and multi-dimensional <sort of like ‘victory in defeat’ as a concept>.
In other words … I can be part of a team … we train hard, compete hard and work seamlessly together … and lose the race/game … and, yet, we have improved … learned that ‘defeat’, while still a defeat, has been ‘halved’ in sharing with others … and we learn victory is partially progress & moving on to the next competition.
But let me end on competition & ‘the game.’
While we pound away on competition between businesses, competition for career promotions, competition for bonuses … and they are all real … life itself is less a competition or a race but rather a journey.
If you look at it that way … well … my victory may look nothing like your victory because I am on a different fucking journey.
The same with defeats. My big defeat may look incredibly small to you.
You may view me as lost and I may smile and say “I am exploring.” So instead of viewing everything as having some starting gate and a specific track & lane Life starts looking like one big fucking map and instead of you being a sprinter <or hurdler> you are actually more like an ‘orienteer.’ Maybe we should have degrees and classes in orienteering instead of how to navigate some rat race.
I will not argue with anyone who wants to suggest business & career is more like a race because, yeah, that part of our Life can take on many characteristics of a race <depending on your vocation>.
But almost everything else in our life is less a race and more a journey.
We choose where we start, where we go, what we do and where we think a good destination would be.
We choose when and where we stop and say “I am home.”
In the end.
And, of course, if you want to know why an obsession with winning can steer you off course I will always remind everyone of winning & Charlie Sheen.