Original post on Medium.
Why do you love winning so much? Is it a survival trait, hard wired into your brains? Is it the feeling of becoming better at something you care about?
Maybe it’s the motivation that helps us feel you can do harder & harder things, leading to an overall sense of accomplishment?
The feeling of winning is so important to each & every one of us that it forms the basis of everything you do. It’s a mixture of survival, motivation & actual tangible benefits.
The only reason you exist is because you won the race to the egg. You were born to win.
1. Winning is survival
When Havard University psychologist Walter Cannon coined “fight or flight”in 1915, he was rationalising our decisions when we face fear & danger. When we make the decision to either “fight” or “fly”, our body performs very specific actions to activate & boost energy levels.
Our bodies physically reject losing
These natural reactions are for extreme situations where we stand to lose our lives. It proves that winning itself is hardwired into our brains. The fear of losing is so strong that our body physically reacts to it.
That fear of losing is what fundamentally drives our addiction of winning & ultimately most of our decision making. When Argentina lost the Copa America final against Chile for example, Lionel Messi chose “flight” & announced his retirement. He rejects losing so much that he decided to run from it.
So why did he rejoin the national team months later? Was his retirement announcement in that moment driven by his primitive “flight” instincts? Was his decision to come back a “fight”, in a more symbolic way, for his career?
Both decisions seem driven by a fear of losing.
To be a winner is to fear losing
2. Winning forms productive habits
If we’re so scared of losing, why don’t we just stay neutral? What is the urge to take conscious decisions to actually go out there and win?
Think about your morning routine. How many “small wins” do you have to get in the morning before you’re confident it’s going to be a good day? Every day you make your bed, stretch for 10 minutes, have a 30 minute shower, drink a coffee & catch the 8.02 am train, exactly. You’ve set yourself up to win the day.
Small wins build confidence
What if you miss the 8.02 am train? What if you run out of coffee beans at home? What if the shower goes cold 10 minutes in?
Do you feel thrown off? Do you feel frustrated, like you’re losing control before the day has even begun?
“Winning is the motivator that allows us to strive for harder tasks” says thisQuora writer. Those morning routines are easy to do. They’re low-hanging fruit. If you achieve them all, it’s a snowball effect that gives you confidence to roll into the office & get cracking on that big project.
“Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach,” Charles Duhigg
Have you ever noticed that when one small thing goes wrong at the start of the day, it feels like more & more go wrong? You’re just having “one of those days?”
If we didn’t feel good when we won, if we didn’t get those small dopamine hits, we wouldn’t appreciate progress. This impacts our productive habits & slows down development as individuals and as a collective.
Alan Krueger, head of Barack Obama’s economics team, found that prolonged periods of unemployment lead to unproductive habits. It seems obvious, but it’s because when small losses accumulate people become less motivated to try.
3. Winning brings us together
We can’t win alone though.
When we bind together, we’re stronger. We survive. The new generation Italian immigrants in Roseto, Pennsylvania stuck together & took care of each other for a generation. They had nearly no heart attacks & men over 65 in the clan lived longer than the rest of the country.
The close knit clan of Roseto gave birth to the “Roseto Effect”
Why? No one was alone in Roseto. The Power of the Clan gave the Rosetans superpowers. At it’s purist form, survival is winning. We survive together by being part of the right tribe.
Take football. Football is tribal warfare. Teams are coalitions with defences & attacks. As former Dutch football coach Rinus Michels says:
What binds football fans together? As a Chelsea supporter, why do I care so much about my team? Why do I identify with other Chelsea fans who are total strangers? Strangers with different political views, come from different economic & social backgrounds, different cultures & different personal interests?
When we win, we feel right. We feel we’re better than others & make better decisions. We feel safer. If the pitch was a battlefield, we chose the right army & survived another day.
Tribal flags, battle grounds, warriors & a higher power on their side
That’s why when Chelsea win, I talk in the first person: “WE” won!
I had nothing to do with the result…
When we we’re primitive, winning was surviving.
We used this feeling as a productivity hack for our lives. Achieving small wins motivate us to overcome bigger challenges.
As a society, we’ve developed at a fast rate because we’ve formed clans & joined tribes that protect and better us. These clans are formed to chase a common goal of winning at some activity or achieving some goal.
Simply being alive is a win. To win at what you care about is to live.
Note: Speaking from the gaming & gambling industry, modern products are designed in a way that limits winning. This is to create the feeling of “near misses” & control our dopamine hits. The idea is that a moderate frequency of “near-misses” drives prolonged addictive behaviour, such as gambling.
At Dribble we believe players’ skills should always be rewarded with winning. In the long-run, limiting winning drives people away from you. DraftKings & FanDuel are examples where only 1% of players win 90% of the prizes.
This initially creates a sense of excitement & obsession with winning the big prize. But the majority of players grow tired of never winning and leave. We see that players who win more, stay for longer. Over
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