This is another post based on the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture: The Paradox”. This one will be about our obsession with winning and competition.
No doubt competition has produced for the United States some of the best professionals, the best products, and the best business practices in the world. Nevertheless, there is a downside to Americans’ emphasis on winning at any cost. The pressure to win can be overwhelming in America, where only winners are cheered and remembered and the winner takes all, including multimillion-dollar advertising contracts. Tonya Harding, the figure skater who arranged to have her Olympic competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, injured, is an extreme example of the pressure to win… The overemphasis on competition also contributes to a hostile workplace. Employees constantly compete against their peers and lose sleep over who gets credit for a new sales plan or for having the best ideas; this discourages teamwork and strains human relations. At school, cheating has become a serious concern when even the top students do it regularly.
Asians believe that it is neither necessary nor beneficial to be obsessed with winning. Although they set goals for surpassing their previous achievements and emphasize doing their personal best, when it comes to competing with others, Asians choose their battles carefully. They consider the cost of winning, not materially but emotionally and socially. In human relations, many Asians believe that it is better to promote peace and harmony than to win at any cost. It is dangerous to think that if one is not a winner, one must be a loser. Some may look like losers at first, but they may turn out to be winners in the long run. As Lao Tzu said in Tao Te Ching, “In natural law, some lose and yet profit along the way. Some profit and yet lose along their way.” Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 656-668). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.
This is one of those areas where Yin wins out for me. I think we Americans are just too obsessed with winning. I am a competitive person but it is introverted rather than pointed at defeating others. I don’t see the point in making everyone else losers so I can be a winner.
Our fanaticism with sports in this country epitomizes our obsession with winning. It is all about defeating the other team. I was never much of a team player in my early years and for the last 25 years or so I have not watched any sporting event other than in passing. Vince Lombardi’s famous quote “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing” turns me off. I just don’t see the point in sports.
I spent the first 25 years of my work life in the Midwest. It was not until I spent the last five years in the East Coast (NY/NJ) that I was really faced with the overemphasis of competition which inevitably creates a hostile work environment. The backstabbing and emphasis for getting the credit, whether deserved or not, totally turned me off! I left that environment as soon as possible after becoming fully pension eligible.
Defeating the other guy has never been very important to me but I do strive to get better at what I do everyday. I sometimes set outrageous goals for myself in order to insure that I keep progressing in both my personal and spiritual life. Helping to promote peace is one of my primary focuses in life. We don’t need to hate or even fear others simply because they are different from us. To me winning is only winning when others benefit as well as ourselves. I just don’t buy into the idea that if you are not a winner then you are a loser….