Comments 5

Playing to Tie: An Orange County Almanac

An Orange County Almanac

Relating back to the notion of winning at all cost in last week’s post, I thought of an essay I submitted to a contest a year or so ago. Titled Playing to Tie: Adopting a Sustainable Mindset, the piece was shortlisted by the Web of Life Foundation, an organization focused bringing fresh thinking and new perspectives to socio-environmental issues. It has subsequently been published as part of an essay collection titled An Orange County Almanac and other essays.

We are our own harshest critic. I read the piece now and wonder why it was ever selected. I see it as overly long and disjointed, suffering from my strange phase of rampant semicolonization. Rereading it evokes a strong urge to cleave it apart for major editing and revision. Yet, there are bits and pieces that I am still proud of, and I would like to share the ideas in several of the passages:

On winning at all costs:

“We have become so enamored with our successes and accomplishments that we do not see or wish to see that we are winning at the expense of the other, which we wholly rely upon. We win at the price of the oceans polluted and emptied. We win at the cost of the forests logged and lost. We win while the indigenous cultures and languages that embody alternative ways of what it means to be human continue to vanish and become extinct. Our mindset to win and our drive to succeed blinds us to all else. The division and isolation we have utilized to guard against the other has made it easier to head down the road of exploitation, alienation, and domination.

It is possible to continue along the same path, to continue winning at life. Indeed, we as a global species are closer to “winning”, of ending the game in victory in our favour, than ever before. But the price of winning is our diminishment. Our livelihood. Our diversity. Our relationships with the vast, immeasurably complex tapestry that is the life that clothes our world.

A pyrrhic victory of this nature is no victory at all.”

Playing to tie:

“Instead of playing the game of life to win, we seek a tie. We go nowhere and seek no victory. We do not want the game to end. From this mindset, a different approach to life and living emerges. Getting too far ahead or lagging too far behind against the other becomes undesirable, for both courses of action lead to an unwelcome end. We begin to stay behind to get ahead; we start to get ahead by staying behind. Equilibrium is struck. Homeostasis is attained.

Playing to tie is the first and most important step towards the development of a sustainable mindset; one cannot hope to articulate or recognize the vision of a genuinely enduring and prosperous future without it. When we play to tie, when we perceive life and living as exercises in resilience and endurance, we can begin to appreciate thinking that considers the long haul over the short term; a slow burn is preferred over the scorched earth.”

You can read the rest of the piece, along with other, better written essays in the collection, by downloading a free electronic copy HERE. A Kindle or a print version is also available from Amazon (I don’t get anything from the sales, so no obligations there). Would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. War says

    A very Taoist type of idea, playing to tie. For without balance, what do we really have? Just a winner and a loser…

    • Hey Warren, good to hear from you.
      I came across the concept of polarity management several weeks ago, which states that many complex systems often operate best when they are in dynamic tension between two extremes. I think the idea of playing to tie is a good way to achieve that dynamic tension.

  2. Just the notion of playing to a tie is such a foreign concept for most Americans. I tried explaining to a friend that this is what I liked about soccer…that the game could have been extremely well played and yet resulted in no winner or loser and not having a definitive result did not diminish the beautiful game.

    • I like that you pointed to the beauty of the game beyond the winning and losing aspect. I am reminded of the expression “for the love of the game”, that there is more to sport than just the thrills of competition.

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