Here’s a good one, Musical Chairs. Have you ever played? Do you remember the feeling? The feeling of being the winner?
Probably not, because there’s only one winner. How many times, if ever, were you the winner? If you did win, what did you have to do? Out-maneuver your friend? Push your rival? Take advantage of the slow and weak? Get lucky?
Like most of us, you lost most of the time. Perhaps it taught us to be good losers and to appreciate the fact that you don’t have to be a winner to be in the majority. For a young child the lessons of Musical Chairs may have hit much deeper. It gave me an early glimpse into what it takes to succeed in a dog-eat-dog world.
I remember feeling like a total loser when I failed to secure a chair early in the game and would go to relatively excessive lengths (Musical Chairs can get pretty physical) to win.
Does anyone remember the music? I can only remember the stress trying to anticipate when the music would stop and then the mad scramble for an empty seat.
Does it ever feel to you like you’re still playing that game? Everywhere you look people are racing, pushing, and plotting to secure their seat at the table.
For you to get one, someone else must not.
Now I’m all for hustle, but for the right things. A fumble in football, a job opportunity in NYC, a friend in need on the other side of the country. I’m not for hustling each other or the planet.
Musical Chairs is a simple summation of the Zero-Sum Gain rules, a scarcity-based model of the world. The rules of this game state that there is no gain without loss. Under these rules, for you to win others must lose and if you’ve lost others must have won. Winners and Losers. This model does not allow for Win-Win, nor Lose-Lose scenarios. Musical Chairs teaches nothing about the benefits, nor necessity, of collaboration in the real world. I’m having trouble thinking of any childhood games that do.
A big part of our view of reality is formed in early childhood.
If we’ve grown to believe that to win others must lose, our actions diverge from what our hearts know to be true. Successful people come to believe they are better than others. Those that haven’t accomplished the same level of success feel like losers. Of course someone always has more, so it is likely that even the very successful feel like losers most of the time. Still, those with more have more to lose. Meanwhile unsuccessful people see other’s victories as their defeats blaming the rich, the powerful, the system, the past… very passionate but leading nowhere.
The truth is that there are only win-win or lose-lose scenarios. We are in this together.
The current system doesn’t honor this truth. It’s built on the wrong foundation. It’s built on money, not love. It thrives in the exploitation of resources. It takes more than it gives.
There are some working within the existing system attempting to give more than they take. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, was a good example. He was all about treating employees fairly and stocking items “Made in America”. After he gave up control and passed away, the profiteers took over and now Walmart is a shining example of exploitation in the name of profits.
Bill and Linda Gates have done amazing things with their fortune. That said, they still have very large bank accounts and one could argue have taken more than they’ve given. This is not an economics discussion and I appreciate the possibility of seeing their personal wealth accumulation as a by-product of vast sums of wealth made for others and lasting benefits to our economy, but the fact remains that he and other Microsoft executives are incredibly wealthy in the face of great poverty around the world.
Non-profits and other organizations have shown another way of doing business, but too often they are starved for cash and unable to make the impact desired.
Money is not the root of the problem. It is simply a means to exchange goods and services.
The problem is the individual’s perception of money and priorities in the choices we make. We cannot expect someone to make a choice against their beliefs. We can expect to do a better job telling the whole story and letting people decide what to believe.
Musical Chairs is just one example of how we teach our children the rules of the game. Look around and you’ll see endless examples of the scarcity-based model that our social and economic culture is built upon.