Posts Tagged 'Competition'

Infinite Game

infiniteseries

Short term thinking sometimes causes us to betray ourselves in the long run. It could be from making a bad, if convenient or safe decision. Often it’s from making no decision. How long is the long run? It’s hard to know, and seems to depend a lot on context. Some people tend to measure the world in flashes, and they’re happy to do something they call generous for a few seconds, as long as they get a payback before a few minutes up. More common and more celebrated are people who play a longer game. They build an asset, earn trust, give before getting, and then, after paying their dues, win.

There’s something else available, though, something called an infinite game.

In finite games (short and long) there are players, there are rules and there are winners. The game is based on an outcome and is designed to end. In the infinite game something completely different is going on. The point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is. And so, players in an infinite game never stop giving so they can take. Players in this game throw a slower pitch so the batter can hit it, because a no-hitter shutout has no real upside.

A good mom, of course, always plays the infinite game. But it’s possible to build an organization or even a society that does this as well. Build hospitals and schools instead of forts and barricades…

You probably know people who play this game. You may well have been touched by them, inspired by them and taught by them. The wrong question to ask is, “but how do they win?” The right way to understand it is, “is it worth playing?”

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Choosing Battle

battleeyelens

I enjoy playing and watching sports, particularly basketball and football. I enjoy the skill and competition, though I could live without the macho testosterone driven parts. Nevertheless those moments when things really heat up can be revealing.

I remember watching an NBA game one night where the Timberwolves’ player Kevin Garnett, whom I love, and is a respected battler on the court, found himself facing off against a player on another team (I don’t even remember who it was anymore). Kevin’s unintentional body language in that moment revealed even through a wild swinging punch he threw that he did not want to be engaged in that fight. It was so obvious to anyone tuned in to that sort of thing. But of course he had a reputation and pride to uphold, so he went through the motions.

Character is revealed in the heat of battle. Do we really want to be there, or would a quiet escape suit? Do we push through and do our duty, in spite of the risk and fear?

Examine your internal monolog as you read and think about this. My guess is it’s probably coming from a moral orientation. You see failure to step up to the plate as morally wrong, and a shortcoming.

That can be true, but if we get off of our moral high-horse for a moment, we can also understand that everyone has certain things worth fighting for. We just don’t all have the same ones. Sure, some have a higher predisposition toward fighting, but every man can be a coward if he doesn’t believe in either the cause or his chances of winning, or at least saving face.

It’s too simplistic to view character through the polarized lens of black and white, of you have it or you don’t. Character is more nuanced. What is a person’s character telling him or her is the right thing to do? Amazingly, someone could be doing a thing that we feel is immoral, but is actually consistent with that person’s character and view of the world or situation, and not wrong.

Oh, but it is so hard for us to accept this, because we’re so programmed. And we have our own agenda.

 

Work Hard

plantsw

A seed lying on the surface, never knowing the challenge of pushing through the soil, will blow away and not take root.

A diamond, crushed under unthinkable weight for countless years, shines brighter and holds together longer than the untested stone that forms at the bottom of a gentle river.

Work hard. No pain, no gain. Accept the challenges, and the good they make us forge.

Why We Need Show Business

bballglove

Some time ago I had an occasion to visit a practice session with the Indiana University basketball team. It had a very unusual element I had never seen or heard about before. They were working on the usual things: mostly executing their designed plays. The defensive team had twice as many players on the court, all of whom had on boxing gloves and were punching the offensive players in their bodies and arms. Not roundabout punches, but hard enough to knock them off balance.

In life most of the war is in our own minds. The chasm between what we know we can and can’t do is occupied by a battle with perception of ourselves. Everyone who makes it to the other side looks back and tells us it’s mostly mental. If you believe, and really try as if you’ve burned your ships, you can do it.

So what does this boxing-ball match really do? It doesn’t teach a basketball skill we would normally associate with the game. Basketball is supposedly a non-contact sport. Ha, ha, the joke is on you if you believe that! There is lots of contact in basketball, but any kind of punching is out of the question, or is at least called a foul. Some teams do play a very physical brand of ball, with a lot of various kinds of contact. Invariably, if your team is not ready for this, it will throw your game off. You won’t be able to get to spots on the court you want, you won’t be able to be in balance like you are used to, etc. It gets in your head, and soon nothing is working. You lose, even though your team may be better. It’s almost all mental.

So you practice with boxing gloves to learn to handle these physical teams. Totally makes sense. But here is the non-obvious part. This is a sales job. The boxing gloves game isn’t that much like a real game. Conventional wisdom would tell you to line up a physical team to play in the way it will actually happen on the court? First, it’s not that easy to make such a team. The opponents you will face already have the best players who can do this. Second…you need to practice under worse conditions, so that actual game conditions are more tolerable. But do you need boxing gloves to do this? What is the point of big, red, boxing gloves? Here is the kicker, the third and big reason for it: by having played under these worse conditions in a very demonstrative, show business way that’s visually memorable, you have actually become sold yourself that you can work through it and handle it. The purpose is not so much to give you the skill and toughness, but to help you believe you have it. You have the visual mnemonic of all of those guys in red gloves punching you, and you learning to deal with it. You have become sold.

What have you sold yourself on in life? That’s the key to unlocking doors.What are you drifting towards as a result of accepting the sales job that has been done to you, whether by yourself or others?

Reminds me of a great line from an interesting movie about sales.

“There is no such thing as a no-sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way, a sale is made; the only question is who is gonna close? You or him?” – Jim Young (Ben Affleck), Boiler Room

The real “him” is your alter ego. That quiet voice of doubt that comes from your lizard brain wanting to keep risk low, and keep things comfortable. Sounds good enough, but as I have written before, comfort in the now belies the bigger discomfort of the future if you don’t act.

There aren’t many more ways I can think of to say it. Take the shot. You can probably get somewhere good, and you have rebounders around you in case you miss.

 

 

 

 

Bad Guys and Castles

musclemanprotectscastle

People, men especially, seem preoccupied with protection centered around having something to protect. It’s as if guarding the castle is somehow what makes them men. There are primitive systems at work within us here. Though most would claim otherwise, and point to all sorts of evidence to rationalize it, the truth is we engage in this way not (usually) because it’s legitimately necessary, but because it gives us a means to validate ourselves and satisfies a need, even chemically.

It parallels our tendency to gravitate toward outrage, or choosing to get offended. Yes, it is often a choice. It’s bottled with so much righteous indignation, judgment, and in extreme cases even hate. It’s also often bottled with baggage of our own. Things we’re hiding from and want to protect. We build things, ideas, beliefs, and lives that are sacred to us, then spend a lot of time and energy protecting them from any kind of affront. We become territorial. It’s us and them. We’re trained that this gives us power, makes us feel like men, protecting the helpless. Meanwhile, we sometimes want what they have, which then reinforces our belief that it’s a danger. We’re easy prey for this because of our ancestral instincts.

Man, it is just not as hard as we make it. The proverbial boogie-man isn’t outside your door. Yes, terrible things happen sometimes, but most of it is so overblown by the fear-inducing media that it’s skewed in our minds. We’ve been trained to look for discord, to protect from nearly any possible threat; to worry. By the way, we must remember that this day and age, the function of news organizations is to attract an audience so ads can be sold. Drama, controversy, and fear compels people to engage. It’s a simple formula. Hollywood uses it, too. Our value and contribution is as consumers. If we happen to overreact along the way, no big deal (to them).

We don’t really need the media to take us there. It simply reinforces and capitalizes on primitive stuff that already exists within.

A man wants to feel like he is the king of his domain, the protector of his castle. That’s part of what validates him. Simple as that. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It doesn’t help that women often validate this behavior.

Mankind, on the other hand, needs harmony. Sure there are legitimate threats, and we do need to be mindful of them and take appropriate actions. But we feel threatened by things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t ultimately matter that much. We feel threatened when people do things we don’t approve of, or understand, even though they may not seriously affect our ability to live a life. Our way of life may be challenged at times, and we hate that. We recoil at the idea of someone taking something away from us, whether it be a perceived bit of freedom, a possession, or the time and heart of another. It’s all perfectly understandable, but taken to the extremes we’re fighting what becomes an impossible war, and we’re caught in the crossfire of it at the same time. Any semblance of control over others is a dangerous illusion. See the writing on the wall. Be, and, this is really important, let others be.

Your validation and happiness as a human isn’t going to ultimately be found in what you protect and hold on to. Let go. Let the chips fall where they may. Let others make their decisions about what they care about.

Humans — Good or Evil?

There’s a lot of evidence to support either answer. But…fundamentally what is our human nature? I don’t think we can really know, though there are sometimes clues.

Take a look at the photograph below and pay attention to your thoughts as you do.

 

 

blackwhitechild

 

 

 

What popped into your brain as you looked at this? What was your knee-jerk reaction?

 

 

 

That will tell you a lot about how you’re wired. I showed it to my friend and she said that it’s a lovely picture – a cute black child is playing with another cute white child. Many adults in our society have a similar reaction, even if they don’t quite verbalize it as such.

For the babies in the picture, there is no race, no judgement, no intolerance, no division and no barrier. For each of them the other is a curiosity. A fellow human being they are happy to greet with open arms. This is what a human is born into, this is inherit in our nature. What do you think, is it good or evil?

Once we divide up: resources, allegiances, teams, territories, etc. it all starts to change. Competition is the root of all that evil. I love competition. It’s thrilling and often validating. It hones us, making us able to achieve more. But ‘more’ is relative. It invites comparison. Without competition there would be a lot more harmony in the world. Imagine what that would be like. By the time we are old enough to consider it we’re already programmed.



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