Winning addiction

Addictions are the hot topic lately, what with famous figures populating rehab facilities like some of us take vacations, the psychological community debating what is and what is not an addiction, and the question of whether behavior is by choice or by nature. I would like to add a category that in my opinion is the most problematic of all — the American addiction to win.

Whereas it was once a part of our culture to say, even if not to always follow, the adage “It isn’t about winning, it’s how you play that counts”, but today that perspective is seen as the wail of a loser. Not only have sports at all levels become infested with an addiction to winning, but nearly every aspect of our culture has been overtaken by it. Sometimes it hides as the claim in business that “it’s all about the bottom line” or in politics by the tactics we see on the part of both parties and within parties to win votes no matter the cost.

In sports, we see parents shout at referees, boo opposing children’s teammates and harshly criticize their own child for any failure or “slacking off.” Colleges which once emphasized the benefits of teamwork and character building in the sports programs are now adjuncts to their professional brethren and rely upon winning for the big bucks and prestige it brings.

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong in a commitment to win. Winning is fun, it feels good and produces admirable results. But when the need to win supersedes all other values and goals, it is, like any other addiction, harmful and difficult to manage. Winning is for many the only worthy goal. One must win in relationships, in arguments, in sports, in business, in how many Facebook friends one has, in short, one must be at the top of every heap and “take no prisoners.”

In my opinion, this overwhelming need to dominate, to be number one, to excel has a tremendous cost to our culture. It replaces civility, sportsmanship and the common good far too often. In business it leads to excesses such as that seen in our current financial markets. Businesses are not allowed to look at the impact of their actions on the public except to the extent it produces the highest return for investors and management. In sports it ruins lives and even causes death because one must not look like a “wimp”. In politics it means compromise is a weakness and for politicians only winning elections matters.

From a larger perspective, the addiction to win has led to the veneration of image over substance, to form over function and to what one “can get away with” over telling the truth. The addiction to win is ruining our country, our culture and distorting our children’s lives. It is molding them to be slaves to marketing and fashion. This is an issue that will not be solved by some mass movement, right or left. It is an issue for each of us and our families and friends to address with humility, honesty and persistence.

Really, winning is not everything.

8 Responses to "Winning addiction"

  1. Jonathan  March 9, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Competition seems especially harmful in winner-take-all systems. How meaningful is “victory” if the reward doesn’t respond proportionately to effort or merit?

  2. b mcclellan  March 9, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    And where doth artistry override sense of the drug save her name the Constitution ?
    If It matters not second place for the willing to be led, third for honorable mention, when the bottom becomes up?
    Can neither mankind or you present selves/slaves deportment to be the first or the last stand to lose?.
    Surely this is the basis of our nation of law,

    Second place not only sucks, but continues to push the assholes off the edge so that may clearer heads prevail !

  3. woody188  March 9, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Perhaps it is easier to see it as pride. According to St. Augustine: “the love of one’s own excellence” and described by others as vanity or vainglory.

  4. b mcclellan  March 9, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Grace times Pride can cancel vainglory ? Berkley ..

    • Phil Hoskins  March 11, 2010 at 8:21 pm

      What I had intended to touch upon is the absolute need for at least some people to gain advantage over others at every opportunity, whether that be in traffic, in discussions, at work, or any other place involving another human being.

      • griff  March 11, 2010 at 9:28 pm

        I spend my days mostly driving, and nine times out of ten when I get cut off or otherwise harassed in traffic, it’s some one in an Escalade.

        • Carl Nemo  March 11, 2010 at 11:19 pm

          It’s interesting you should make the Escalade observation Griff. In my almost 50 years behind the wheel I can say without a doubt some of my worst, close call, irresponsible other driver experiences have been from people driving Cadillacs even in the pre-Escalade era. Whether driving through ghetto’s or upscale areas, it’s always been some cretin in a caddy that caused me some grief. I’ve learned to follow them at a safe distance or if I see them in the rear view mirror to slow down so they can aggressively blow me away as they pass. / : |

          Is their driving activity linked to their self-imagined “I’m a winner” syndrome or what?

          Disclaimer: My apologies go out to the responsible Escalade/Cadillac drivers on this site. : )

          Carl Nemo **==

  5. Grace  March 17, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I agree with this 100 %. We have become a nation that must be first, must excell in everything, must, at all costs win. WIN! That’s the name of the game. Ane we need to stop and question just what it is we are doing. Right on Phil. Keep on truckin.

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