“Winning an Oscar is an honor, but, between you and me, it does not make things easier.” — Robin Williams
You don’t have to wait until you are 55.
You can begin as late as whatever age you are today.
You can start right now to teach your children.
I’m talking about winning ... and not winning, which doesn’t necessarily mean losing. In our society, though, and perhaps it has always been this way, people generally equate winning with being superior, with life being easier, and with being happier.
It isn’t true, though, and Williams’ words are a haunting reminder. He died because winning might have been an honor, but it didn’t make his life easier. Maybe you and I can take some lessons from him that will not only make life easier, but will make it richer and more pleasant for everyone in our circles.
This morning, I noticed that my husband was right about something, and very cutely I commented, “Sometimes he is right.” It’s another form of a sentence I use more frequently which is “You may be right.” Those words can magically diffuse disagreements and conflict.
When I say someone else may be right, or when I acknowledge that, in fact, they are right, I am in no way negating the fact that I might also be right. You can be right and I can be right, too. Just because you are right doesn’t mean I am wrong. How does that look in everyday life, though?
Typically, we want to be right. It just feels good, doesn’t it? Your friend told you not to take that route on the way to the meeting, but you went your way anyway. They were right, and you had to sit in some traffic. You were not wrong, you arrived at your destination before your deadline. it might have even felt really gratifying to have arrived before your friend. But would “winning” have made your life better? Probably not.
All this winning we think we’re doing is getting us nowhere quickly. Have you bought a lottery ticket recently? Maybe you buy one every time you’re at the store. It’s a good time to stop, and here’s why I’ve decided the experts are probably right.
I played a Powerball simulator — with pretend money. I input my lucky numbers and a quick pick number. I spent $128 and won $28. They offered me another go, and I ended up $200 in the hole after spending $244 to win $44. Every single source I viewed said you will almost never win back the dollars spent in purchasing lottery tickets. That is not winning. By admitting that the professionals are right, I can hang on to my money, and that is winning.
What about in conversations, though? How does it work to admit that the other person “may be right”? It’s an interesting thing that happens, especially when you feel there could be conflict, and I hope you’ll try it.
Maybe your child says to you, “You know, Dad, what they told us in school about _____ wasn’t true.”
You reply, quite certain of the adult wisdom that was imparted to your child, “Son/Daughter, it most certainly was true!”
That’s probably the end of any possible conversation.
Your child will be angry that you didn’t listen, and most likely they will stomp off, sure that talking to you is a waste of their time, and possibly feeling like their thoughts don’t matter to you.
Did you win? Yes, you won in a way, and just like Robin Williams said, it didn’t make life easier. What if you had, instead, responded with, “Really? What have you learned differently than what they taught you?”
Did you win? Yes, you did, but only because you allowed for the possibility that your child may be right.
The conversation can continue. Life will definitely be easier for that day.
There are times your choices feel like they must be right; after all, you won $28 and have a huge stack of tickets to show for it (not winning, folks). There are times you allow someone else the opportunity to have an opinion that is different than yours without putting them down (definitely winning), and then we have the moments when you know the other person isn’t wrong, but they aren’t the only right either, and you just want to declare to them how right you are.
Don’t do it. Don’t knock someone else down because you have an equally right answer. It’s a choice you get to make, and I’m going to tell you that after a few times of giving someone else the win, you might find you really like how you feel.
If you do a little research, you’ll find that great people in history lost before they could become winners (Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan), and it was only because they lost that they were able to eventually win. Most notable in my mind, after watching a documentary of his rise to the presidency, would be George Washington. His early losses were humiliating, but they propelled him to learn to become a winning leader. (side note: none of it felt like winning to this viewer with the way people were treated back then.)
It’s a scary thing to let go of the power we think we think we have in order to allow someone else the possibility of being right. It doesn’t mean you are wrong, though.
Here’s a little secret: if you want to try to get someone to think YOU may be right (your beliefs about any number of issues in life, for instance), it’s more likely to happen if you have backed down and listened to their point of view first. And in the end, you might both be right, and being able to admit and respect that is the greatest win of all.
And when you come away with this new way of winning, you just might find that life is easier as you’ve won a different kind of Oscar.
Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others.