Playing to Win in the Real World

Returning to a mundane topic: how competitive people think. Businessmen, particularly high-end salesmen, are my go-to examples based on personal experience, but the same thinking applies to elite athletes and bureaucrats. To sum up: while many, maybe most, people are competitive on some level, the sort of competitive drive which motivates ‘highly successful’ people is different in kind. Such people have so internalized the question: ‘what do I need to do to win?’ that it drives their every action without so much needing to be asked.

An LBJ or a Bill Russel (to take examples that date me!) both had to win. LBJ famously had to get to know every cub reporter who made it to the Capital, and to impress on such a one that he, LBJ, knew who they were. He was their best buddy, at least early on, who would address them by name, slap them on the back, pal around for the required minimum time – and then move on to the next thing he needed to do. LBJ had an amazing memory for faces and names, and knew what role each person played and what he needed out of them to succeed. Bill Russell remembered every play from every game he had been in back through college and beyond, and could instantly recall decisions, tendencies, and outcomes in order to identify what he should do to maximize success. (I could use LeBron and, I don’t know, Rahm Emmanuel? as more current examples. Athletes are more willing to talk about their insane obsessions than politicians, who realize that such talk is a key part of the game they trying to win, and so what you get from them is pure marketing.)

And so on. Current superstar athletes and politicians have the same insane memories and focus – cause or effect? Coaches and, I would imagine, political chiefs of staffs, cannot do, so they teach. They systematize this: ‘watching film’ or ‘charting tendencies’ are the ways the hypercompetitive try to bring the merely normally competitive up to level.

Such coaches and political operatives do not usually see themselves as using people. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie seems baffled by the questions: are you doing all these things just to win? Are you using people? He thinks he is counseling mere thoughtful decency, and that success comes from treating people right. Maybe he is pure in his motivations, but the same approach applied by the sociopaths who are wildly overrepresented in ‘leadership positions’ is not so much malignant as indifferent. The concerns of the people being used is only of interest if it figures into the next goal. People are means, not ends.

Hyper competitive people are obsessed with their goals. They see EVERYTHING in terms of moving them closer or farther from winning. Yet, psychologically, goals are secondary to winning. Such people choose and even change goals, but the need to win is permanent.

Imagine such personality types liberally sprinkled throughout a representative democracy. Here’s the leap: you’ll end up with what looks like a ‘conspiracy’. It may in fact be a conspiracy, but that isn’t strictly necessary: for the hypercompetitive, everything and everyone else are pieces to be used. What those pieces think about being used is irrelevant. If it works to bring them in on the plan – to welcome them into an inner circle – then, do that. If it works to lie – by omission or commission makes no difference – do that.

Like coaches, the immediate goal is to get the team on same page, to get as many people as possible pulling toward the big goal. It’s not important, and may be undesirable, that the team knows what the ultimate goal is. In fact, the creation and promulgation of whatever goal the team would be willing to pull together to achieve is an early part of the game plan.

The first step is to make sure there is a team. Sports and politics are essentially indistinguishable here. I support my team because it’s my team. The other team is evil. Yay, team! It’s a matter of identity, not logic. I was a big Laker and Dodger fan when I was a kid, because… they were the closest teams. No reasoning was involved. It’s delusional to imagine politics is much different. Some people change sports teams when they move; some people change political allegiance, but it’s rare and often traumatic now days.

In the more advanced, evolved state we’re in now, the team members have been trained to pull toward whatever the announced goal is, which can change on a dime. No more consistency is required than in sports: used to hate that guy when he was on he Celtics, now love him because he’s on the Lakers. Today, we’re against the war, because we’ve decided it’s the other team’s fault. Tomorrow, we forget all about it, because now our team is in charge.

Much of this is, of course, basic tribal behavior. I’m here pointing out that such behavior is useful and encouraged by the hypercompetitive. They are not in the least interested in enlightening the masses – they just need the masses to do as they are told.

Young lions will sometimes team up to unseat the current head of pride, two against one. Later, they will try to drive out or kill each other. But step 1 is getting the established leader out. In just such a way, but more complicated as people are more complicated than lions, you don’t need a single leader. A bunch of hypercompetitive people can, while competing with and even despising each other, agree on the next step, the next intermediate goal. Then, promulgate a goal – justice, say – that the team can be made to get behind. Vilify anyone who dares question the goal – he’s a Celtic fan! He’s eeeevil!

Maybe I’ll write next about the middle management. Your career hack doesn’t so much follow orders as he knows his life depends on figuring out what the next level up wants him to do. For the last year and a half, those who have figured out that the top echelon wants a plague, wants a terrified population, have prospered. Those who point out how stupid these claims and steps are have their lives destroyed. They are simply playing the wrong game.

Sociopathic hypercompetitive people might well choose, as the most interesting goal, destroying the current culture. Maybe so that they can lead, or maybe just to watch the world burn. They might take Gramsci as a means to their end. They might even believe in what Gramsci believed, but that hardly matters. What matters is that such people will turn their attention to the destruction of family, village, and church as mere intermediate goals. They would create and promulgate ‘goals’ for the team that achieve their almost certainly unstated personal goals. Thus, all the mores and traditions that uphold the family must be destroyed – you announce to the team that ‘justice’ or ‘fairness’ demands some action, making no reference to the ultimate goal.

Recap: the world is full of hypercompetitive people. For such people, psychopathy is not only not a hinderance, but a plus. Thus, the big winners in our world tend to have absolutely no concern for the effects their winning has on other people. Further, at the top levels of any social system, such as our system of representative democracy (RIP) these sociopathic hypercompetitive people will find themselves working ‘together’ at least as a short-term expedient. They will need to get the others to act in ways that further their goals. Because of toady middle management and well-trained team members, this ad-hoc agreement on shorter-term goals will have the appearances of a conspiracy. The ‘leaders’ know what they want; middle management makes an easy guess about what that is and shapes their behaviors and messages accordingly, and the desired behavior is promulgated down to the obedient sheep. No smoke-filled room with thousands of conspirators signing onto an evil master-plan is required.

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

8 thoughts on “Playing to Win in the Real World”

    1. With great power comes great responsibility. Since I would forget my own name, and probably will as I age, I am blissfully free from worry here.

      It’s not for nothing that Dante puts the River Lethe in the earthly Paradise as the gateway to eternal joy.

    1. When things he has written are widely quoted in Mundania. Or when some spiteful, envuious fifth-rater stumbles across his blog and thinks she can use Mr. Moore’s virtual crucifixion as a sacrifice to the SocJus godlings. Or when someone who is close enough to care for his well-being fits either of these categories.

      Whichever comes first.

      1. I’m using Briggs as my bellweather – when they silence him, I will seek alternative routes. I’m such a small fry, I’ll only get caught up in some sort of automated badthink sweep – unless, as you say, somebody has something against me.

    2. I’m microscopically small small fry. So, either when somebody decides I’m eeevil or, more likely, when a badthink sweeper is deployed on the net, that just looks for keywords.

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