“Win-win” is the only way to live successfully

In one way, I love the Winter Olympics; and it was a mountain-top experience going to Nagano, Japan at the end of every day last month for an incredible show of athletic skill.
But in another way, I hate those competitions.
Somehow, I just can’t stand all that loss and pain. I have nightmares about being carried over the tall Japanese mountains, dangling head-down by a tenuous thread from a helicopter, all the while hurting physically and suffering dreadful disappointment.
I wince at trying to win the gold with a pulled groin muscle, or a high temperature and the ‘flu. I weep inside when a flowing, impeccable skating routine collapses in an exhausted fall at the end. Or a tangled mass of bodies on the ice results in howling pain.
It just seems too much somehow to stretch the human body beyond its limits and to keep breaking unbreakable world records–no matter the cost. Nor does it seem right that the making or breaking of a lifetime dream should rest on a 100th of a second.
Of course, it gives us goose bumps when the deserving skiers get the gold and their national anthem plays, especially if it’s our national anthem. But to truly enjoy it, you have to harden your heart and close your eyes to the hundreds of well-trained, fabulous athletes who walk away downcast and disappointed.
For the most part, externally controlled and dignified, but inside smarting from the pain of being losers.
And that’s the way it always has to be with competition. For one person to be the adored winner, dozens or even hundreds have to be labelled as losers.
Theologian Karl Barth spoke of the “fiendishness of business competition,” and we could just as well speak of the fiendishness of social competition. Or athletic competition. Or music competition. Or academic competition.
People weren’t meant to 1win by destroying each other. And real winning never happens that way.
Take Lillehammer’s stars, for example. A recent issue of “Time” ran an article called “Life After the Glory,” featuring those women skaters we couldn’t get enough of in 1994. We knew who the winners were then. Now, it’s hard to tell.
Certainly, it isn’t the desperate young woman, who seeing her dream slip away, was willing to stoop to incredible meanness to drive her competition off the ice. Herself coming in eighth.
But, on the other hand, neither is it the little Russian orphan, so fragile and beautiful as she fingered the gold. “Time” reports that overwhelmed by all her winning, the world-class skater turned to vodka.
And that’s always the real irony of competition. It destroys the winners, as well a the losers. Maybe even more so.
There has to be a reason why Stephen Covey’s books just refuse to get off the best-seller lists after months–and even years–of popularity. And I think it has something to do with our gut-level feeling that you really can’t succeed by destroying other people.
In both “7 Habits of Highway Effective People” and “First Things First,” Covey focuses on what it takes to live successfully. One of his primary rules is “win-win.”
Have an abundance mentality, says Covey. There’s room enough for all. Seek solutions and ways of doing things that benefit everyone. Always think “win-win.”
Maybe they can’t run the Olympics without competition. But you can run a life that way. And what’s more, you can learn from the Olympics the incredible dangers of a “win-lose” mentality.

Posted in Uncategorized