I’ve written on the topic of win/win versus win/lose quite a bit. Every time I write a post on the topic friends of mine push back really hard. After thinking about their comments I’ve realized there’s another piece to win/win or don’t play. You have to be in the world of an expanding universe for a win/win attitude to make sense.
There are two types of worlds we live in.
I’ve realized there are two worlds we live in. First, there is the zero sum world. This is where the amount of wins and losses equal zero. For example if you’re running for Congress and there is one opponent there will be one winner and one loser. If we give the winner a +1 and the loser a −1 the total is zero. If you’re in this world you will act in a certain way.
The second world is where the sum of wins and losses can be either higher or lower than zero. If we cooperate we get a sum that exceeds zero. If we don’t cooperate our sum will be less than zero. In this world you can have win/win, win/lose or lose/win. The choice is yours.
What to do in a zero sum world.
In this world you need to go for the win. You might decide your moral structure is that you aren’t going to cheat, but if you don’t win, then you don’t get to keep playing. A sports league is a great example of this. At the end of the season if you’ve won enough games you get to keep playing. If not, you wait for next season.
In a zero sum world this is a payoff for cheating. You get to keep playing, that is unless you get caught. Even if you get caught, the penalty might not be big enough to play it honestly. Look at professional athletes and their use of performance enhancement drugs (read steroids.)
What to do in a world that can have an expanding universe.
The second world is where we can both win and the pie gets bigger. Just look at what has happened over the past fifty years in the living standards of those in the world. More than a billion people have joined the middle class in just over twenty years. We are on the cusp on having everyone getting a better standard of living. We do this by cooperating and not by destroying.
On the other hand, there is a scenario where the world could implode. This could happen if instead of cooperating, we decide that we need to win and you need to lose. Eventually everyone loses under that scenario.
In a world where an expanding universe is possible we have a choice about how our actions will affect those around us for a very long time.
Why you need to know what world you’re living in.
It’s important for you to know how to act in situations you’re in. There are times where trusting others can be to your benefit. If they take advantage, just don’t play again.
There are other situations where if you don’t go for the win, you won’t be able to play again. You don’t want to cheat, and at the same time you will want to do whatever you can to make sure you win. It’s where competition is good and healthy.
Knowing what situation you’re in helps you not get taken advantage of. Going for win/win where there can only be one winner will not serve you well. Going for win/lose or lose/win when both can win not only serves you poorly, but society as well.
You get to choose how you behave in each situation. I hope you make wise choices and understand what world you are in at any particular time in your life.
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