One of the biggest mistakes people make these days is to assume that life has winners and losers, and that to win, other people have to lose.
Life is no zero-sum game.
If we all treat each other with basic respect and dignity, the everyone gets to win.
Losing is something that happens in games, and sports, and every loss is both a reason to try again, and a lesson on what we could do better.
The same is true of failure. If you fall short of a goal and lose a few resources or time, then you have an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and succeed on later try.
In a free and open culture, every trade, every deal, bargain, and contract happens because everyone involved believes they are getting more than they gave up. For example, if I have a fine pen, and sell it to you for a dollar, then its pretty clear I valued the dollar more than the pen. Meanwhile, you valued being able to use that pen a lot more than the dollar you had in your pocket. We both gave up something, but got something we wanted a lot more.
We are in hundred of standing agreements: we spend our time with our loved ones because we value our relationship with them more than the other things we could do with that time. We follow the laws and contribute taxes and time to our country, because we see the laws and the infrastructure that our country give us the right balance of safety, stability, justice, and freedom to its citizens. In a job, your boss values your skills, ability, and insight more than the money he pays you, and you value the things that the money buys you enough that you feel it is worth the time and energy you spend doing your job.
Everything is a deal, and everything ought to be open to negotiation. If you don’t like the bargain you’re getting, its up to you to let people know you need or want more… or to walk away and get a better deal somewhere else.
When we forget this, that’s when conflict and problems start really occuring. A person who thinks he has to make other people lose in order to win tries to get all the value he can out of other people without giving anything back. He might be able to cheat and steal for awhile, and he might be able to hurt a few people along the way, but he eventually ends up alone, because nobody stays around a predator for very long if they can help it.
Some of them develop a victim mentality, and convince themselves that not only do there have to be winners and losers, but that they are the losers. They see the world around them as full of bullies who are keeping them down… even when they are getting exactly the bargain they agreed to.
A common example today is the radical Marxist crowd here in Canada: they are convinced that all businesspeople are greedy predators, and are happy to shout it from the rooftops. They dress and act in a way that often makes them unpleasant to be around. Of course, no businessperson wants to have one of these people working for them, they can’t be trusted not to commit sabotage or drive off customers. So these people end up getting lousy jobs, and usually wind up poor (unless they have a rich family that is willing to support them.) Which just keeps them convinced that businesspeople are evil. Which means the best way to get out of poverty for them, starting a business is just not accaptable. They keep themselves down, no real oppressors needed.
Knowing that the world runs on win-win deals is the key to keeping out of the victim mentality. It is also how to make sure that you are successful in almost every social situation:
If you take an interest in what other people want, if you use empathy to understand ther motives, then you have the power to make sure every deal you make of them is one in which both you and they win.
It is also important to having good boundaries. After all, if you don’t accept deals where you get something you want more than the time, energy, or money you are putting in to it, then it is hard for people to take advantage of- or manipulate you.