What About Winning?

I have not yet watched the documentary The Last Dance about Michael Jordan and the great farewell season of the Bulls as coached by Phil Jackson.  It seems like I will get a chance to watch a good bit of it but not all. I like winners and winning pretty well. But I am not a person who can say I like it in an uncomplicated way.


When Donald Trump was running for President he said that if he could be elected he would make his listeners or supporters or the United States  tired of winning.  As I type this on my laptop wearing two braces and with a walking cane in my car in case I need it I am reminded that I was never a great athlete. The kind of winning most genuinely admired by the greatest portion of my countrymen and many other people was never mine. I played a lot of sports and I did some winning and some losing but there was nobody keeping long term track of the percentages. I have done a little coaching as well and because it was so little I do know my record and it was extraordinarily good. But it was too small of a sample to mean a lot. I actually have had some very high percentages of wins in some online games where I took on players from around the world.  But that too probably does not mean all that much. I don’t much feel like a winner on an average day in my life.

The truth is that there are a lot of differences in how winning is perceived and some seem to have an ethnic root and a tie to national  history. There is a proliferation of very good works by Americans on military strategy and a willingness to learn from the whole world but I am not sure there is a master work on strategy that towers over the rest. American heroes from Jackson, to John Paul Jones, to Patton and MacArthur really seem pretty heterogenous and none of them particularly resemble George Washington — at least so ir seems to me. Sun Tzu’s   Art of War however does find resonance in Mao’s Little Red Book or The Sayings of Chairman Mao. Principals of not surrendering, engaging across a variety of means of waging war, not seeking glory, keeping losses low when possible and being able to bear horrific losses — these all seem sort of Chinese. Carl Von Clausewitz’s work On War seems deeply connected to the part of Adolph Hitler’s military ideas in that smaller portion of Mein Kampf . Discipline, preparation, aggression and a focus on decisive battles also seems pretty German to me. For me the greatest book on British strategy is The Strategy of Indirect Approach (1941, reprinted in 1942 under the title: The Way to Win Wars)  by B. H. Liddel Hart. That book seems to me to hold a certain grasp of the British genius of war. I could go on with  the French, Jews, Greeks, Spaniards and the Japanese connection to The Book of Five Rings. But I will not do that it is not my purpose. I simply want to say that in my own life I have developed a view of winning and a strategy of winning that suits me and my past, resources and strengths even by that standard I have not won that much.  I do think that I have come to accept that some of my biggest weaknesses have caused me to seek out something close to a minimum survival on the one hand and  to work towards rather high yield and extremely difficult objectives on the other hand. As I pas through this present time of change, uncertainty and trouble I have a part of me that is devoted to win-win thinking and avoiding zero-sum games. There is another part of me that values competition, struggle and keeping score. The last part realizes that in the bigger picture even those of us playing to win will not all be playing the same game in the fave of such a large and complex crisis as that of the current era.

Thank you for commenting if your comment does not appear in five days contact me by e-mail or Twitter

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s