“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” is a well-known sports mantra. It exemplifies a form of unfettered competitiveness that has permeated American sports. Its assertion about the importance of winning has been touted as a basic tenet of the American sports creed and, at the same time, singled out as encapsulating what is purportedly right with competitive sports.
We learn at a very early age about winning and losing. It starts on the 4-square or dodge-ball courts. There has to be a winner; and ultimately a loser. You hear preachers speak of “winning souls;” on the news we’ve become immune to the phrase “winning the war on terror,” in politics we often hear, “may the best man win,” and sometimes you’ll even quip, “what really matters is how you play the game.” Yeah right!
Is winning only what happens when someone else loses?
I attended a seminar in 1997 where the facilitator asked the question, “does someone have to win in order for them to be right?” This got everyone thinking. Then he asked, “if someone has to get hurt for you to be right, is it worth it?” Sadly, it was a split response from the crowd. He then drilled a little deeper to ask, “could you go through life being right, without forcing someone to acknowledge that fact?” It took a while, but again a split audience. Then he concluded, “what do you stand to gain by making someone else wrong?” The answers ranged from ego to power to satisfaction and then everyone, as if simultaneously enlightened, seemed to “get it” …winning isn’t everything. And to quote Road House, one of my favorite cliché movies chock full of corny lines, “nobody ever wins a fight.” But how true that is in life and in business.
Society has taught us that being right is most important, but I’ve recently tried (and failed and tried yet again) an exercise in not making people wrong so that I can be right. I call it an exercise, but really, it’s an ongoing work-in-process because I forget, I get self-righteous then I begin again.
I first started by trying to catch myself sooner in the digression. Then I began counting to 10 before I opened my trap…it helped, but the urge was still there…it still is. One of the antonyms of winning is the word unattractive…which is exactly how I have to picture myself: making someone admit that I am right and they are wrong is not a pretty sight.
One day I hope to be rid of my need for superiority and righteousness, but until then I’ll just keep practicing. Until I get it mastered, I’m adding a constant question to my vernacular; “who wins by me being right?”