Thursday, January 16, 2014

Life is Not a Zero-Sum Game

I've been following New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's "Bridgegate" fallout since the story broke over a week ago. I find it fascinating that Christie is catching so much heat for something he allegedly had no knowledge of. And now, according to Business Insider, his administration has hired a dynamite legal team to investigate the Fort Lee, NJ lane closures as he faces state and federal inquiries.

Here's the thing: Like many other Americans, I don't believe for a second that Christie, a rising star in the Republican party, would allow his Deputy Chief of Staff --- or any of his minions --- to wield that kind of power without his consent or approval. Though charismatic and likable, he is too controlling to allow something like this to happen. Too hungry for power. Too determined to win. So I'm calling bullshit on this disavowal of knowledge Christie is trying to sell the American public. I think his thinly-veiled control issues are finally catching up with him. 

I liken Christie to so many others for whom life and power consist of a series of zero-sum games. In order to win, someone else must lose. And for someone else to win, they must lose. What exactly are they winning when their currency of choice consists of lies, denial and corruption? 

Huh, Bernie Madoff? Please speak into the mic, we can't hear you. 
What were you saying, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? 

This kind of dirty politics and bad behavior eventually catches up with said offenders. I see it all the time. Politicians, fund managers, CEOs, Hollywood elite and everyday people lie and deceive, free-falling into the zero-sum game. They ultimately unravel when they don't get their way because they are consumed with the idea of winning. 

But winning what? Against whom? 

You've seen them too. They kick, scream and often have very public meltdowns. They slowly implode.

Enter Kanye West. 

While West is no politician, he is certainly a talented artist who has overdosed on his own power. His public rants, self-declared genius status and physical attacks on the always ridiculous paparazzi (who are not without fault) demonstrate his psychosis. West, too, is caught up in this zero-sum game of winning at all costs. He cries that as an artist, his intentions and business acumen are misunderstood.

I appreciate West's hunger. I applaud his drive because we all need some of this to succeed in our own lives. But he exhausts me. I get so tired of seeing him posture and pretend in front of anyone with a camera and a mic. Stop it, Kanye. Stop believing you're the only one who can ascend to greatness. Stop playing the victim. Stop being fixated on winning for winning's sake. Stop buying into the idea that in order to win, you have to take others down. 

Of course we can't all be politicians, musicians or public figures and thankfully, not everyone wants to be. But we can all win at something. I wake up every day thinking about how I should approach a subject I'm writing about, how I should develop pitch angles for my clients, or how I can overcome my own fears and inadequacies to face an upcoming triathlon I'm participating in. Every day I try to be deliberate in my thinking. I try to slow myself down long enough to plot and strategize about how to win in my own life, not how to covertly plot against someone who doesn't support me. I honestly don't have the time to think about other peoples' agendas. Screw the editor who doesn't respond to my pitches (that are all fabulous, by the way!) For every editor who doesn't like my ideas or my writing style, there are others who respect me, see my value and appreciate my voice. I tell myself that I must keep climbing to be the best possible writer and entrepreneur I can be. 

For me, life is absolutely not a zero-sum game. And like most people I know, I am in it to win. But someone else doesn't have to lose in order for that to happen. We can all win.