In sports and competitions, there are always winners and losers. We accept this and cheer for our favorites, sometimes the underdog and sometimes the most likely to succeed. We love it because it’s an unfolding story about strategy, skill, patience, persistence, and hard work.
Except when it’s not. When the games are rigged, the athletes are doped, the officials lie, and the judges are paid off.
Just one example of sport’s fallen heroes, Lance Armstrong, with his can-do attitude. He was our Golden Boy, an American - no, a human success story! His narrative was so compelling: cancer survivor, seven time Tour de France winner, an entrepreneur creating from his own struggles and successes an amazing cancer survivor foundation and movement, LiveStrong. What a winner! Until we discovered he wasn't. Armstrong’s inflated ego and anything-to-win instincts had made him feel invincible, untouchable, and above the rules. In wanting so badly to be a winner he had became a loser, and we all fell from Grace.
Unfortunately, comparison is always part of competition. They have that thing, so I need that thing too, or I need an edge on what they've got. It’s the “killer instinct” and “the strongest survive” mentality - and this is the same stuff bullies are made of. We see them at games, outbreaks in the stands and on the playing field; fighting, screaming, whining. We didn’t win, it’s not fair! Why you, why not us, why not me? We also see them in everyday life, in our neighborhoods, classrooms, tv's, school hallways, on the internet. They play their games and use words and threats to neutralize their victims - the weaker among us. This mentality doesn’t sow acceptance or compassion, it leads to a narrowed eye and closed heart, and has ruined many a life.
Every day we see this truth in our society. The poor, or the weak, will always be with us. They’re on our corners selling newspapers, crowding homeless shelters, coming to our front doors and sleeping on bus stop benches. What are we to do? The strong ones in our culture, the “winners” might not be empathetic. With narrow eyes, what is perceived as weak is often declared unworthy and unlovable, a "failure" to be avoided. During our last great financial crisis, it was Wall Street vs. Main Street, and the "Occupiers" were called slothful, unemployed nuisances and bums. Pride, greed, fear and nearly causing another Great Depression were totally acceptable (and evidently non-prosecutable), but Main Street's hopelessness and anger at the concentration of power in the hands of very few, and the underlying economic disparity, were treated with disdain. It was obvious to all that the game was rigged and the criminals got away with it.
Making friends and having healthy relationships is really hard, pretty much impossible, when you’re caught up in the comparison and competition game. To try to overcome or even keep up requires so much emotional energy that there’s not enough left to just BE YOU, and let others just BE THEMSELVES. To be real and present in a relationship, one has to be vulnerable enough to take the winner-at-all-cost mantle off to even out the playing field. This is how we remain open to the very real possibility that we're on this earth not to compete or always be right, but to encourage, support, and comfort each other. To help each other climb the mountain, and then to celebrate the wind at our backs that helps us fly down the other side!
Sports are competitive, and that won't change. Unfortunately, today it’s been tainted with so much money and ego that it hardly resembles a game. But out here in the real world, beyond the arena, the halls of congress and the spotlights, it should me more about community and collaboration as a way to support and lift each other, to create momentum to reach our highest good and potential.
Maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift. Instead of Winners and Losers, how about Collaborators?
How about creating a new habit of asking someone “What can I do for you today to help you be your best?” and in humility, asking yourself “What do I need in this moment from someone else that can help me be my best?” That’s vulnerability, not competitiveness or self-sufficiency. Together we become stronger and more effective than if alone.
How about trusting people again instead of being suspicious? Being honest instead of avoiding others? Seeing beyond someone's skin and lot in life to really see their hearts, to realize we are more alike than not. Believing that mutual respect and kind communication can work things out, so everyone feels that they are valuable, instead of dishonored and demoted, in other words, a “loser”.
It can be tough out here on the road, especially when you’re struggling and there seems to be no end in sight. But open your eyes, you’re not alone - can you see your Collaborators around and ahead of you? Just draft off their back wheel, and have faith: your up-and-over is coming. And to those of us at the front of the line? I believe we need to be willing to make a shift today; provide a smile, a respite, and a hand-up to those who are struggling. We’re all in this together, and together we’ll make it. The only way this works smoothly is if everyone joins in and shifts together.
Excuse me, if you will, my idealism, my holistic view of a better life. But, why not?
Why not shift?
If you need a Collaborator and Coach to help you overcome obstacles to be your healthiest and strongest, contact me!