Tug of War (and Peace)

Imagine the following situation:

You are in a game of tug of war

Your opponent is of exactly equal strength, and because of that…

You will win 50% of the time

What can you do to win 100% of the time?

Like in any game, there are two main reasons that you may drive yourself to compete:

First, you may want to test your ability and do as many things right to be the best and thus, as a byproduct, win. Investors think this way when competing against the stock market as a whole; the S&P 500 is a quantity that they can compete against, but there is no person running the S&P 500 they can gain superiority over—it’s just a measure of their skill.

On the other hand, and more dangerously, you may want to beat somebody else for no other reason than to have bragging rights” and experience the dopamine rush of victory. Whether or not you are actually skilled matters not, only whether you beat somebody else and establish your superiority. This is pure ego, and only motivates you to compete until you are better than everyone else, but not to be the best that you can be.

The latter, an egotistical tug-of-war is the game we play when we get into arguments and conflicts with our family, friends, and coworkers. Once an argument has begun, there can be no tie. There must be a winner and a loser, and I’ll be damned if I’m not the clear victor. Why? Because I can’t stand to lose! That’s not a good reason to be disputatious: that’s a problem.

Far too often we fall into disputes and conflicts without ever asking ourselves if the entire ordeal is even worth it. Best case scenario, by the end of your next petty argument you will be the winner, but what have you won? Congratulations! Has your life changed fundamentally? Have you become a better person? Most importantly, do you now live a more peaceful life? No, you gave in to the temptation of ego to draw yourself into conflict that only served to disrupt what might have been serene.

Returning to the game of tug-of-war, how do you win 100% of the time?

Control your impulses that tell you to win at all costs, and release yourself from the burden of needless conflict.

Let go of the rope.

We can apply this directly to our schooling and our unconventional approach to life and success. We cannot and will not win” every time someone questions us about the way we do things. We won’t be able to prove every single person wrong. We won’t win every argument about whether or not school is useful.

So what? None of that matters. We should focus on doing what’s right and making our meaningful and positive change rather than worrying about what everyone else thinks or says about how we do things.

Even if you did go down a conventional path, at some point there would be questions posed to you. You will still be questioned as to why you did this instead of that. You will be told that there is one right way and that you have failed to go that one right way. You may fight and you may argue with that, but there’s only one way to win every time.

You guessed it, let go of the rope.