Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Winning, Losing, or Not Playing

In success-oriented media, there is a lot of talk of winning and losing. I agree that organizational systems should seek to be "win-win" as opposed to "win-lose". In a win-win structure, there is some form of transaction whereupon two sides agree to a mutual exchange of value. In a win-lose structure, the goal is to use some form of force or exploitation (however subtle) to "get the better" of the other side.

Strangely, many performance leaders who teach win-win principles still tend to speak in sports analogies, which are always win-lose. By necessity, one team must win and one team must lose. Even a discussion of self-mastery in the individual as a key to team victory goes by way of one team winning and one team losing.

But how can both teams win? They can't. It is an artificial system of scarcity (there being only one trophy) which is designed to force a display of performance. It neither promotes nor rewards the different ways in which the teams are valuable, it merely applauds the victor. This may be fine for performers, but it is damaging to the psyche of creators.

All this success talk using the words "winners" and "losers" implies that to succeed is to play a game well. This is not the case.

To succeed as a creator, one must master his ability to learn about the world, then subsequently compose an expression of its truths. He cannot lose so long as he does not abandon the learning process. He cannot win, because he is not playing a game. His success cannot be called a "win" any more than exploring a jungle and drafting a map can be called such.

His art is a valuable artifact, measured in quality by a group of people who seek its usefulness. A different group may value a different map—say a topographical rather than geographical one—and would therefore require the efforts of a different creator. These two creators are not in competition, they are not playing. They are merely offering a composition of a truthful perspective to those who seek it.

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