The Need To Win

The Need To Win
When an archer is shooting for nothing
He has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind
Or sees two targets-
He is out of his mind!
His skill has not changed. But the prize
Divides him. He cares.
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting-
And the need to win
Drains him of power.
-Selections, Chuang Tzu

72 thoughts on “The Need To Win”

  1. I like it.
    This poem illustrates the workforce principle. If no one got a paycheck, no one would be working. If you want a higher paycheck, do better work.
    That is my interpretation anyway.
    I’ll stop talking now.

  2. WOW! Thats deep!
    One other quote that has always confused me is the “If a tree falls in a deserted forest, does it make a sound?” I have NEVER fully understood that quote. Can anyone shed some light on it for me?
    cheers medears

  3. The pressure we put on ourselves OVER money is what corrupts. Some can handle it and still focus, some (hell, most) can not.
    I shoot a decent game of 8-Ball. That is until money’s on the table, then I can’t shoot worth a hill of beans. I know how to play. I am decent, but the idea of losing/winning money makes me unable to focus as I could with no money on the table.
    The point is money corrupts all. Brilliant poem, Wil.

  4. What I get from this is a great Lesson.
    Doing something for the joy of doing it almost always leads to great success, since our perception of success is based only on the act of doing.
    When our perception of success or failure is based on wealth, or some other “prize,” we lose the joy of just doing.

  5. Referring to the “tree in the forest question,” that has much to do with the concept of sound and the presence of human perception in our grand concept of what is “real.” The tree makes no sound; the air compressions it causes would have, but there been no human ear around to translate them into the noise our brain registers. Just like how everything we see is essentially because of the way light affects it.

  6. Nothing makes your neurons fire incorrectly like the thought of something you really want within your grasp, but you need to perform well to achieve it. It takes a great deal of control to allow your mind to ignore the carrot and let your body do what it knows how to do. Those that can are masters, those that can’t are the rest of us.
    Great post Wil!

  7. You’ll find also, that the most enjoyable things you can do will cost you nothing. Spending time with those you love, going for a walk along the beach, things that give us so much pleasure are priceless. Money doesn’t come into it, which is why we receive joy from it.
    However – I don’t believe money is the root of all evil. Try living without it.

  8. quoth Everclear:
    “I hate those people who love to tell you
    They is the root of all that kills
    They have never been poor
    They have never had the joy
    Of a welfare Christmas.”
    Ever notice that if you say “Yeeeahhhh” in any song, you can make it sound like Everclear?
    Try it…
    “Oops! I did it again…Yeeeeahhhhh”
    “Grey matter, grey matter….Yeeeeaahhhh….oh oh oh oh…”

  9. Thank you, Wil.
    This is a perfect reminder that I
    (for one) need to get back to properly
    concentrating on the Important Things.
    (Which is not what I’ve been doing
    in the last couple weeks.)
    You are a wise man, Wil.
    Chaung Tzu would be proud.
    Now, about my being a butterfly…

  10. The concept of a prize, or goal, in this lesson is much akin to the process of tempering steel. For some the goal, be it money or fame breaks them, for others it tempers them and makes them stronger. Most often it breaks people when they focus on something like that, for the elite and lucky few, it’s a lens into which they can pour their energy, focussing their abilities into laser like sharpness.
    But that’s just my Metaphysical meanerings…

  11. Wil,
    That poem is very thought provoking. I have always thought that that Everclear song is very true. I know from experience that while money can’t buy you happiness or love (pick a cliche), but the lack of it is a definite source of unhappiness. However, I don’t think that I would strive to sound like Everclear :-).

  12. I said: “I know from experience that while money can’t buy you happiness or love (pick a cliche), but the lack of it is a definite source of unhappiness.”
    Let’s just pretend that the “but” in that sentence isn’t there…note to self…preview posts.

  13. Mondae, I second that emotion! Which is why I am quitting my well paying job to become a happier person. If that makes sense. Damn Corporate America for turning me into a rat in this rat race!

  14. Very thought provoking indeed. I didn’t see it as necessarily discussing money though as much as personal performance on any given thing.
    For instance, if someone were to put a plank of wood down on the ground, you’d be able to relax and walk across it. Put it 300 ft up in the air (even with still air) and it’s a whole nuther ballgame.

  15. It does indeed make sense, Karona.
    Life is for living.
    There is no Bonus Round for
    accumulating more Prizes at the end.
    In the spirit of Wil’s original post,
    I’ll toss a little Lao Tzu into the mix:

    As for your name and your body,
    which is the dearer?
    As for your body and your wealth,
    which is the more to be prized?
    As for gain and loss,
    which is the more painful?
    Thus, an excessive love for anything
    will cost you dear in the end.
    The storing up of too much goods
    will entail a heavy loss.
    To know when you have enough is to be
    immune from disgrace.
    To know when to stop is to be
    preserved from perils.
    Only thus can you endure long.

  16. There’s another invention the Chinese don’t get credit for…
    The motivational poster.
    And the Hallmark greeting card.

  17. Okay, one last note. My own contribution:
    The man who knows others is wise.
    The man who knows himself is enlightened.
    (don’t know the author)

  18. Sure, if I focus on the success (or more importantly for me, the failure) of an endeavor rather than on the endeavor itself, I always screw it up one way or another.
    That’s why I’m such a major procrastinator.

  19. Hey Wil!
    I think that this is very true. Thanks for putting stuff on here that makes us think a little.

  20. It’s just like taking a class or a test in school. All your after is the grade and you miss the point on the class to begin with. The learning has become secondary to the grade. That’s bad. If you didn’t know, in Japan you don’t even have grades the first two years of school. Food for thought !! Truth is the message.

  21. It is not money that is (according to St Paul, at least) the root of all evil, but the *love* of money. That makes all the difference.
    Sorry, a pedantic little point, but I’m like that. I’ll shut up now.

  22. I think that the poem is about pressure and success. If a talent that you can do is only being used because you love to do it and not for profit, then you are more likely to succeed because of less pressure. But when you have to use those talents to recieve rewards and riches the task becomes overwhelmingly harder because of the pressure you put on yourself, and you therefore stand a greater chance of failure.
    At the moment i have just started rehearsing for a college play i am doing, i think my audition went well because i had no pressure on me saying i had to get a part to survive, because there is no pay for it. However if we were getting paid for the play and i needed the money i would feel a lot more pressure to get a part.
    Oh what the hell do i know. sorry!

  23. “So you think that money is the root of all evil. Have you ever asked what is the root of all money?” -Ayn Rand

  24. This is a basic truth about anything from target shooting to music to falling asleep. You need to be totally focused to do it well, and if you’re focused on being totally focused, that’s a part of you that isn’t focused on the task. You can’t THINK about doing, you just DO.

  25. Well I agree and disagree with this quote. As I do with most Zen quotes. I will use the 8-ball analogy that someone else used. I am a pretty good player, when there isn’t any pressure I can play decent. But when I get a very good opponent and money is on the table I freeze up, sometimes trying to hard to be technical instead of just sinking the ball. Other times if someone insults me and says cuz I am a chick I can’t play pool. Well then I have something to prove and I usually dazzle and knock the pants off them. It just depends on the type of pressure I guess.

  26. I can also relate this to a job interview I had once. I went into the place to give my resume and the manager interviewed me on the spot. I was in a real job slump and every interview up until then I had bombed big time. Well I totally wasn’t prepared for this interview so I wasn’t nervous at all. I used my instincts instead of text book answers I had memorized. I was calm, we shared a few laughs. I got called the next week to start what has turned out to be the best job I have ever had!

  27. Thanks for this post, Wil. It helped put some things into perspective for me.
    I left my last job (general manager for a major hotel chain) where I made REALLY decent $$$ about 3 years ago.
    I now work in the social services field with kids and make about 50 % less…..but I love the work infinitely more and thus the $$$ doesn’t really matter.
    I’m doing what I am good at and love without the worry of the materialistic payoff.
    Hmmm….does that fall into what your poem/quote was about on some level? Ah, well, that’s what I took from it.
    Cheers! :)

  28. it is interesting how our motivation clouds our perceptions. one of the key principles of taoism is: “if one has nothing to do, nothing is left undone. if one desires nothing, one is never unfulfilled.” some people think that means that you should be lazy and boring. they miss the point. as sheryl crow sings in her latest single Soak Up the Sun: “it’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”. now THAT’S philosophy, man! who woulda thunk that a pop song could be deep! i wonder if she reads lao tzu?

  29. That was pretty profound. I may be way off the mark, but what I got from it was, if you lose your passion and let greed take over, all sorts of crappy stuff happens.

  30. Love the post. The more that I think about it,
    the more it is truth in my mind. Another thought provoking moment. :)

  31. I don’t see this as a validation for “Money Corrupts, Power Corrupts” kind of thing.
    I know exactly what it means, to me. When you have nothing to lose, you can just relax and have fun with life. The minute you place a perceived value on something, you must fight to keep it. It becomes a struggle to hold onto what is yours.
    I had nothing to lose before I made something worth holding onto. Now everyday I must work harder and harder to hold onto it and the power it affords me.
    I am not corrupted by power and money in any way though.
    I just have something that is more easily lost than if I had nothing all.
    The funny thing is I could have lost freedom, the ability to play and have fun with the process of trying to keep it.
    I know that money doesn’t make a person happy, but try living without it.
    At least with money you know the bills are paid. The kids are fed and clothed; there is always a fire in your hearth to keep you warm and safe.
    Security has a price. It’s called accepting RESPONSIBILITY. Holy shit that is some scary ass stuff. Eeeeek everyone hide!!!
    This all reminds me of a play I was in as a high school student called. “Bag of Gold”.
    It was about these two bumbling burglars who found a Big Heavy Bag of Gold. They could not really use it and it was too heavy for them to do much with it. They stumbled upon an inn, with an inn keeper who wanted nothing more than to steal it from them. They couldn’t sleep or eat for fear of taking their eyes off the bag for even one moment. They caught the inn keeper trying to steal it and made him an offer for a trade. He offered trash for the Gold. But they said no, as trash is smelly and would still be heavy. So the inn keeper offers them EMPTY PAPER SACKS. Well the bumbling friends thought that was great as it would be neither smelly nor heavy. They were so much happier with their empty sacks of air.
    No worries or responsibilities.
    Here is a song that was sung by Frank during his Capital years. It is one of my favorites. Read the words carefully.
    Frank Sinatra – I got plenty of nothing.
    I got plenty of nothing. And nothing’s plenty for me.
    I got no car, got no mule. I got no misery.
    Folks with plenty of plenty they got a lock on the door.
    Afraid somebody’s gonna rob ’em while they’re out a maken’ more.
    What for?
    I got no lock on the door. That’s no way to be.
    They can steal the rug from the floor that’s okay with me cause the things that I prize like the stars and the sky’s are all free.
    Say I got plenty of nothing, and nothings plenty for me.
    I got my gal, got my song, got heaven the whole day long.
    Got my gal…got my long…got my song.
    Got my gal…got my long…got my song.
    He means day by long. He has all the time in the world to enjoy those things that he would spend time on.
    Pretty cool.

  32. Here’s a different perspective if you will, in that I think that Chuang Tzu is very much talking about winning. What he seems to be saying is that by concentrating on perfection within the task at hand and ignoring the percieved goal you will succeed. And then by stringing these minor successes together you will eventually garner the prize as well.
    An example of this process is Tiger Woods. I think that Tiger’s motivation is to perform each golf shot as close to perfection as possible and that on some level winning every tournament is secondary because when he does achieve former the latter often happens as well. To that end I suspect that Tiger pretty much knows exactly which shots he will attempt and which clubs he will play and only varies his plan of attack when the environment intervenes.
    John McGregor
    John McGregor

  33. I’m more with John here. I see it as the idea of keep your mind on what you have, and not what’s at the finish line. This is something I have trouble with, I’m always looking to the next level, when I get my new job…., when I have this much money…. and have a hard time focusing on life where I am right now.
    A modern perspective from a TV junkie…those last 4 boneheads voted off Survivor…they were so busy running with the ball to the end zone, screaming “We won! We won!” that they failed to see that guy coming up beside them….whammo! Gave over man!!
    Keep your mind in the here and now, not on the prize.
    I myself live in S. Korea, was thinking about the above note someone wrote about Japan. Here, your elementary school determines your middle school, determines your high school, determines your university. Your whole life is decided when you’re 5 years old…how’s that for pressure!!

  34. I concur, nice post wil. Made me dig up some old books that I used to read when I was young and trying to figure things out (I have since given up on that).
    Here are a few passages that I always liked:
    –the first one is not right on target with wil’s post, but it shares the whole “fuzzy mind/external motivation” link.
    “In Yao’s reign, the people did right without inducement or reward, and they avoided the path of evil without threat of punishment Now you have started promotions and punishments and the people have lost their natural humanity. Henceforth, man’s character declines and punishments are instituted. This is going to be the beginning of world chaos.”
    –the next one is also not exactly on topic
    “Skill is that which lends art to ability”
    –and for kandor (who asked about these first two lines above) Chapter 33 book of Tao:
    “He who know others is learned
    He who knows himself is wise.
    He who conquers others has power of muscles
    He who conquers himself is strong
    He who is contented is rich.
    He who is determined has strength of will (wil?)
    He who does not lose is center endures
    He who dies yet (his power) remains has long life.”

  35. Frank Herbert (author of Dune) once said: “Wealth is a tool of freedom, but the pursuit of wealth is the way to slavery.”

  36. This can be completely understood within the context of the 2002 Winter Olympics women’s figure skating finals.
    Specifically, Michelle Kwan vs. Sarah Hughes.
    Kwan had all the pressure on her. She had to win. Gold or nothing. So, she choked.
    Hughes had nothing to lose. There were no expectations on her. So she just skated for fun. It showed, she nailed it, she won.
    Pressure kills.

  37. Wil,
    Can you tell us what GP unit you are using and how well it works? That is…be our guinea pig?
    Pretty please? I don’t have a lot of money to spend and am curious if the less expensive ones are worth it.
    Thanks :o)

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