L2-MHG #07 Making a living


The purpose of life is to make a living.

Successful life forms appear ‘clever’ because they exemplify how the rich extravaganza of life has adapted to an amazingly wide range of particular environments. Life has found ways to ‘make a living’ from freezing polar ice caps to hellish equatorial deserts.

As you would expect, if you need to make a living, it pays to be selfish. But being selfish means in the strategic sense not in the moralistic sense.

Sometimes, the most selfish strategy of all is to play ‘nice’. At first, this seems strategically counter-intuitive or even morally contradictory.

For many people winning is everything. These people take the approach to life that they are better off being highly competitive in the situations that come their way. Kill or be killed. It’s a dog-eat-dog world we live in. Get the other guy before he gets you etc etc.

But, a great deal of scientific research show that this is not the way life really works. Even at the molecular level of life, as well as the organism and community level, competition is usually a counter-productive way of trying to make a living. Co-operation very often turns out to be the more successful selfish strategy.

In life in general, but not always, it pays off to be co-operative rather than competitive. In the next few lessons we’ll explore why this is so.

DFQ #07:

We all learn valuable lessons in life. In less than 100 words, give an example of such a lesson.

Describe a life situation you were in where you behaved competitively. However, you later realised that, for selfish reasons of your own, you would have had a much better payoff had you co-operated rather than competed.

7 thoughts on “L2-MHG #07 Making a living

  1. As a young boy I used to give my best friend a ride on my large heavy one speed bicycle. It was a little more difficult to ride with two of us on the bike but we were able to ride to the beach or on adventures together. Then there were those times when I thought this is too much work and I am not in the mood to share. I want to go my own way. A few of those times, I stopped the bike and told my friend this is the end of the ride, ‘get off and walk home’.

    This in retrospect was quite selfish. One of those times of selfishness I had a breakdown with the bike and was left to hall the bike home on my own. I sure could of used the help of a friend who appreciated a more cooperative buddy.

  2. A recent work restructre which was drawn out over a number of months took a heavy toll on myself and my other significant competition. Both pushing for a position which was far to demanding than either of us could have handled. The end result after eight months was a compromise which allowed both of us to have more enior positions and have a more influencial role within the company. If we had have put our heads togther instead of duking it out, we would have been 6-8 months ahead in our current roles.

  3. I ran a department of people a while back and felt that I always needed to be the one who got the highest sales so as to ‘lead by example.’

    Eventually, I realised that by cooperating with my co-workers on sales, they got more motivated and the overall results of the team increased. This meant my management performance was also seen in a better light by my superiors.

  4. My lesson is from my daughter – whenever she gets overtired or hungry she gets upset. The competition used to see me getting as upset at her for being upset. Now when this happens I give her a big hug or food (or both!) and am able to distract her. Haven’t learned to catch myself everytime but I can say I do it most times and the payoff is a much happier child 🙂

  5. Mine was actually in an exercise to prove this point. We were asked to engage in an arm wrestle position, and advised that we would earn $10 for each time we got the other person’s hand down to the table. We strained and stressed with occasional success, until the other guy suggested we take it in turns to both let each other “win” – and he let me go first to build the trust (I already trusted him). In this way we rapidly increased our “productivity” and it was a good lesson learned. The trainer did not pay up the $10 per hit though (he probably argued that the lesson was worth more than that!)

  6. When i had salespeople working for me I found that by being non competitive with them and assisting them to make a better wage resulted in me having more time and energy to PTO in the areas that really made a diffenence that is managing the direction of the business.

    So whilst I may have been denied a short term financial benefit by competing my co-operation resulted in a much better pay off.

    We had happy long term employees {the best advocates for any business) Good business plans being implemented and a healthy bottom line in the end of year accounts

  7. Project completed for “used car salesman” was a real turnoff and although the job was finished timely and accurately, all involved in working on it were complaining about the delivery of such subject matter (selling cars). We all spent a great deal of energy “yucking” it up. Subsequently, we were denied payment for over 60 days! Upon realizing the negativity being generated, as the leader of this group I worked on sending positive thoughts to the client and within two weeks, received payment in full. (Competition=who’s right, cooperation=doesn’t matter; T4T=threatened to sue and viola, payment is here).

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