Cooperation v. Individual Achievement
Not long ago I was writing a report on a 7 year old boy in his attitude toward sport. After I wrote the report I started thinking that he just might represent the sort of problems that a great many leaders in the world have. This boy is excellent on the climbing wall in that he can see a goal that he wants to achieve, keep it in his mind for long periods of time, and then work diligently until he accomplishes it. In every sport that he plays, his work ethic on skill building is second to none. He spends time outside of structured practices and sessions so that he can improve his performance.
The problem he has is with other people. Somehow he has learned that his life goal is in being first. If he is in a race where he doesn’t have a lot of skill as in the pool, he will just give up after one lap and fake an injury or pretend like he is really tired. If he is in a running race, he might try to push others away to get an advantage. In a game if his team goes behind by a couple of goals, he might walk off the field or throw a crying fit at his teammates. Doesn’t this sound like corporate behavior? Could it be that we have a culture of men psychologically stuck at age 7?
I think that somehow a great many young men believe that, from a very early age, the goal is to beat others at all costs so that they can be number one. The very thing that they are naturally gifted in, goal setting and achievement, is directed at other human beings rather than worthwhile goals. If we are teaching boys that the goal is be number one at all costs, we create war-like scenarios that make them into combatants, boy soldiers. It overrides their natural tendency which is to be cooperative with others, to care for others, and to work harmoniously in groups.
It is the nature of the true self to grow and achieve, to improve each day, which is why goal setting and determination are such important processes. Being able to set a goal and stay with it is fundamental to human beings. It is part of the ego, the lower nature, however, when goal setting is turned against others in order to raise oneself up. We just see example after example in the world of business and government of people whose ambition it is to defeat others. Defeating another person is not a worthwhile goal which is why campaigning and party-based elections are just so ludicrous.
It is part of human nature, the true self, to work cooperatively with others to achieve worthwhile goals. We have a built-in desire to be with others and achieve together, but young boys seemed to be trained to have their true natures distorted by being taught that defeating others and advancing over them is the goal. When advancement to a position is the goal, then young men will seek to prove themselves in ways that are detrimental to others. They do not care about their relationships only the position they are seeking and who they have to impress. Young women are not excluded from this phenomenon and when they get into the mode that a lot of boys are in, they are actually worse, but normally when girls play sport and something happens to a player from the other team, most girls instinctively apologize and seek to help the opponent.
To me the war in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein is a pretty good example of distortion of boys’ natures. The American government backed by the military was very effective at the goal of defeating the dictatorship who they saw as a threat, but they were not very good at dealing with the mess after the defeat. You can see the aftermath of the Iraq played out all over the world at recess time with boys. The goal is always to defeat others and the aftermath is always a mess with lots of arguments. Maybe the goal of defeating others is just really so inappropriate that it should be thrown out of our lexicon of possibilities. The ironic part of the Vietnam War was that communism died on its own. It didn’t need America to fight against it to try to defeat it. Parts of Laos are still littered today with unexploded bombs dropped by American B-52s in a war that the American government denied to their own people. The aftermath of trying to defeat someone is always a mess.
The shift for the 7 year old boy CEOs/world leaders is to learn how to value other human beings, to see them as precious companions in the journey of life rather than as enemies to defeat. The goal is not to defeat the Taliban or fundamentalist fanatics. It would be nice if they didn’t act so badly. The goal is to promote the equality of men and women and the uplifting of people.
I don’t think the goal is to end competition or to see cooperation as being against a competitive spirit. Maybe the running community has got it right in terms of competition. When you enter a race and participate, everyone is rewarded. You go home with a medal and a t-shirt and you glory in your personal records. A few people at the top get special awards for their efforts and gifts. When you start getting a million dollars for showing up at a tournament or race, then you know that the “7 year old boys defeating boys” syndrome is alive and well.
The real key to integrating a competitive spirit of achievement into the world community is the shift toward honoring everyone rather than a few at the top. Defeating everyone and being at the top has just too much of the front page. If you watch a 6 year old play, they often do not know what the score is of a game. They will keep stopping and asking someone if they know the score because to their spirits being involved in the mix of the play is much more thrilling.
But somewhere between 6 and 7 the distortion happens when numbers being fixed in their heads is consolidated as a mental process. If defeating becomes the goal at this stage, then the child’s true self is distorted. The goal of the competitive spirit should be to improve one’s performance, to stay involved in the midst of positive action, and to honor each others efforts. How do I get better? How do I stay involved? How do value and encourage others?
When 7 year old boys begin to see and validate the performances of others, they become so dynamic as to be able to change the world. When their spirits are distorted by having the goal of defeating others, then they become destructive forces that created huge messes in the world.
Affirmation: Today I let go of all of my goals of defeating others.
Transformation questions: Who am I trying to defeat? What is my true goal that I am after?