Keeping Score

By Ken Wells - 03/04/2022


Series Three: Blog Eleven

For many life is a game and keeping score is important. People come together in community and function as a system. In every system there are spoken or unspoken rules. Understanding the rules and how the game is played is important. Usually when you begin a new job you are told what the rules are, your description of what you do, who you are accountable to, when to start and stop, etc. However, there are unspoken rules that you need to learn. If you don’t get these rules you will feel confused and bewildered. Every human system has unspoken rules and understanding about how to keep score and what is important. You might call it a game. Not to understand the way the game is played and the score that matters can be very frustrating. Throughout my career I have noticed colleagues baffled and exasperated because they couldn’t figure out the difference between the rules and procedures that were stated and the way procedures really played out in the course of their work. They couldn’t figure out how to play the game or keep score.

Keeping score is important in life. Knowing where you have been and what you have accomplished matters to marking progress and establishing personal identification. People learn to identify who they are by what they do. When you achieve a certain goal in life you want to measure yourself by comparison to the accomplishments of others. The rules of the game of life become about competition and comparison. You are either a winner or a loser. Winners have certain things that determine success—big house, nice car, second house, adult toys, etc. The game of life becomes about achieving more to keep from being less. People who keep score in life this way resemble hamsters on a wheel. Running as hard as they can, they discover there is never enough possessions, accolades, etc. The lifespan of a hamster is about 18 to 36 months. The hamster wheel of materialism and rules of life that dominate so many don’t last much longer in terms of life fulfillment either.

Keeping the score by identifying winners and losers cultivates a zero sum mentality. It reduces the value of life to success or failure. There are the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Winners are determined as those who are willing to work hard enough and want to win bad enough. Losers are everybody else. Vladimir Putin has determined that he is the winner and the Ukraine people are the losers. To his way of keeping score, he dominates others to have what he wants and the Ukraine people are the losers who don’t matter. Politicians and world leaders, current and former, who enthusiastically support Putin’s way of keeping score have also embraced a zero sum mentality.  When being a winner makes someone else a loser, life becomes “us” versus “them”. It fuels a crab mentality which is a kind of selfish, short-sighted thinking that concludes, “If I can’t have it, neither can you”.

We can absolutize the world into winners and losers; good guys and the bad guys—and we’re always the good guys. With this perspective, it becomes easy to lose sight of our inner brilliance. Focusing on winning and losing becomes a barrier to understanding that each person is an unrepeatable miracle of the universe. Within each of us is this unknown creative energy identified as inner brilliance that is unpredictable and immeasurable.

When we lose our sense of being in all that we do, we become more vulnerable to living our lives with a zero-sum mentality. This breeds a rule-breaking mindset. This outlook suggests that it is okay for you to break the rules because you think you are a special exception and the rules do not apply to you. This attitude of entitlement is pervasive throughout the world and is currently threatening the Ukraine people and others in the world who are dominated by a surge of ruthless dictators with a zero sum mentality.

There is an obsession about winning in our culture. There is a difference from being a scoreboard champion and what I identify as a heart champion. Achievement and accomplishment is valued and should be. However, a scoreboard champion is only concerned about the results. Trained to be champions in their field of endeavor, they know a lot about successful outcomes but very little about the value of everyday living. More can be learned about the meaningfulness in life from mistakes, failures and losses than from our successes and achievements.

For many who are scoreboard champions, there is no boundary to what must be done to be declared number one. In the world of sports, unbelievable stories are told about people who compete with broken bones, damaged bodies, and mangled mental conditions—all for the sake of being lionized. The inference suggests that real champions ignore human limitations. That’s what makes them champions.

In truth, scoreboard champions learn to depend on this kind of adrenaline to perform. It’s no wonder the line gets blurred around performance enhancement drugs when champions are to monomaniacal about winning and avoiding losing. Being number one becomes an identity. As a result, life becomes imbalanced. Other aspects of life are often neglected. Relationships, spirituality, community values, and sensitivity to anything other than personal ambition suffer.

Heart champions are a different breed and are spawned from a different ilk. There is so much more than the score at the end of the game. Self-definition comes from a deeper source. It’s about the preparation, the sacrifice, the sweat, and engagement of uncertainty. Whether you win or lose on the scoreboard, a heart champion’s life is determined within—before the game is ever played and independent of the score at the end of the game. It has to do with connecting congruency with values of the heart. A heart champion is more concerned about being true to one’s heart and not just winning or losing. Becoming true to your heart takes a willingness to go deeper and find meaningfulness in all of life’s endeavors, including failure.

It’s not like heart champions condition themselves to lose. Rather, they are carved from a deeper place down deep inside. A heart champion knows that losing is a part of the ebb and flow of life. She determines to never let an outcome define who she is. Instead, definition is determined by the vision of destiny from within which supersedes any result. Her priority is knowing that she is connected to herself, embracing all of herself–the good, the bad and the ugly. She understands that life is a tapestry weaving together the bitter and the sweet, success and failure, triumph and tragedy. Positive results are fine and desired, but fundamentally, a heart champion already has determined that they are “an unrepeatable miracle of the universe.” Heart champions understand that no victory will add to this reality and no defeat will take away from it. It is already etched into the stone of destiny that exists in their heart.

Keeping score matters. It is important to understand the rules for the game of life you create. Meaningfulness is discovered around rules that value being versus doing. Only when one is centered with being will the results of doing take its proper place in the game of life.

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