The Danger of Winning
Win: be successful or victorious in (a contest or conflict).
Lose: be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something).
Look around, you’ll notice that so much of American life, politics, dialog, work, relationship, entertainment, hobby, and naturally thinking revolves around those two words- win, lose. To be more precise, American culture is wrapped up with winning so much so that we don’t pay attention to loss.
Have you ever seen a documentary on the losers in American politics? Imagine a Netflix show with these titles:
John McCain: the pain of coming close
Charles Barkley: the identity of a dominant loser
An Ex’s guide to her Ex’s wedding day
The story of the loser is like the story of a homeless man. Nobody cares until they find themselves talking to one. It’s like the story of how the earth is decaying. Nobody cares until their city’s in a drought.
How did we get so good at turning everything in life to a binary existence. A right or wrong, a winner or loser, a man or a chicken, a sexy woman or a “not enough”, a rich person or a poor person, a powerful leader or a weak puppet.
By definition, a desire to win is a desire to take away, to create loss. Because winning is often the climax of a contest or a conflict. So if this is the lens we see the world then issues that have no backdrop of contest or conflict will have one manufactured or doctored because of the innate desire to win.
The more I look at the definition of losing, the more I question what our obsession is with winning because stated another way, to win is to create a feeling of loss in others. Why would I seek to make someone else be deprived of, cease to have or retain something they deeply desire. Why is competition such an entertainment draw?
I must admit, I struggled to find a practical alternative to a competitive lens. Maybe none exists, however, the obvious fact that this lens has also permeated social issues, social dialog is a glaring miss that we give such little attention.
Racism, Xenophobia, Tribalism, Sexism. The list goes on but the underbelly continues to hide – “humanism.” The irrational premise that there can be only one winner. There needs to be a best, a superior. The unfounded but innate belief that to not fight for your elevation is to lose – to not retain, to be deprived of and to have something taken.
In contrast, engineering has taught us the opposite of winning. The unspoken definition of design is when the concatenation of “must haves” meet the possibility that accounts for every need.
We don’t design chairs that hold us up but are uncomfortable, we don’t design cars that are good for transportation but disrepute. We do not return to websites that artisticas aesthetic but difficult to navigate. The list goes on but the point is the same.
We are no longer living in a society that has been intentionally designed to meet the needs, the requirements of all of her citizens. We have a choice and a chance to not resort to dialogs about winning and losing but about seeking to learn more “must haves” existing out of our purview.
It starts with me as an individual putting down my sword of combat, checking in my desire to win, to inflict loss, to close, to protect my ego. It takes an inviting heart, a gentle tongue, a kind look. It takes an intentionally personal accountability to avoid a binary lens. I commit to elevating the needs, foreign to my life’s journey, that define the participation of others.
Imagine yourself as a general in a war about to begin, it’s natural to expect a binary outcome. A winner and a loser. The conventional wisdom would be on your side but there are the rare times when leaders emerge that count winning no matter the price insatiable to the loss. To the humane leaders, they create a third option- a truce. A truce will never emerge if it’s not designed with the ”&” principle. A solution that accounts for every need especially the ”must haves.”
In our own way, we get to be humane leaders when we find the truce.