Welcome to our new website!
June 12, 2019

Life Is Not A Zero Sum Game (EP.138)

Life Is Not A Zero Sum Game (EP.138)


In politics and life, we are all-too-often taught that we live in a world with a fixed amount of resources, a pie for example, and that if we want some it must come from someone else’s portion, leaving them with less. Even worse, we are told that if someone else, Jeff Bezos at Amazon or Sam Walton’s heirs at Walmart want more, that it must come from us, leaving us with less.

That deliberately false and dangerous thinking is the subject of today’s 10-minute podcast.


There are parts of life where the resources, the prizes, are a fixed size. If you want yours, then someone else gets shorted. But those are the exceptions, not the way life is designed to be lived. Sports is an example of an exception. If you win, get the pie if you will, the other person or team must lose. That’s called a Zero Sum Game. Overall, this means that if you are going to win, someone else must lose. Like in sports or gambling. If you or your team is going to win, for example, a basketball game, the other person or team must lose. You go +1, they go -1; the sum of the two is zero. Same with gambling: if you are going to win $100, someone else needs to lose $100. Again, a zero sum game.

Unlike sports or poker, life is not a Zero Sum Game. If we have a good job and get a raise, the amount of the raise does not come from our spouse. It adds to the wealth in our family. The pie just got bigger. And that’s the secret. Depending upon how we run our personal lives, and how we handle our politics, all of the pies, personal, governmental and global, can either get a whole lot bigger–or kinda stay the same size, eventually, perhaps, even shrink. Even without being eaten.

With capitalism, the pie has a strong tendency to get bigger; there’s more for everyone. The question that always comes up is whether the expanding pie is distributed fairly. Okay, Will, what does “fairly” mean? Does it mean that everyone gets the same rewards? Does it mean that you get only what you earn? Or does there need to be a governmental policy that mandates a certain level of redistribution of capitalist profits? That’s what we have now, and that’s called taxes. And we redistribute those in a variety of ways. All societies that tax also redistribute wealth and income. Some do it more than others. The only question is how much and to whom.

Capitalism is the best wealth producing engine the world has ever seen. And we must have a moral compass to steer it. All economic systems are amoral at best, and need a human-driven moral compass. How capitalist-driven income and wealth are redistributed is clearly important, but not the subject of today’s blog/podcast. By the way, the Scandanavian countries are capitalist economies, with heavy taxes, including on the middle classes, and heavy redistribution. Those countries are not socialist.

Today’s Key Point: Politicians and other sources are telling us two self-serving, dangerous lies: 1. If Sam Walton’s company, Walmart, which he started on a shoestring, makes money, they got it from you.  2. If you want to improve your life, money must come to you from the “1%” via taxes for you to have a fair shot. These lies are yet another way to pit us against each other to their advantage. This kind of class warfare, along with identity politics and intersectionality (teaming up certain identity groups against others) are designed to force us to choose sides. And the ones pushing these dangerous lies are betting that more people will buy into their falsehoods and vote for them than not.

Let’s take lie 1 first. On the rare times that I shop at Walmart, I get a fair deal. And as the saying goes, “A fair exchange is no robbery.” The same thing is true when I use electronics to buy from Amazon. I get a fair deal, so I buy. Walmart and Amazon both win when I buy, as do I.

Onto no lie 2. I don’t need to go get anything from the so-called 1% to get what I want, to achieve my goals; I need to know what I am doing, then work hard over time. And I certainly don’t need or want to tax them additionally, with the intention of simply giving the cash to me. Or whatever money is left over when the government takes its slice out for simply collecting the cash and handing it out.

The opposite of a zero sum game, where you or I win and the other must lose, is win-win or no deal game. Outside of areas like sports or gambling, win-win or no deal is the gold standard. And that’s true in relationships, business, government and internationally.

Imagine trying to win in a relationship by “beating” the other person. In the business world, can you win by beating a “good deal” out of your suppliers or employees? Of course not. And unlike poker, where the total amount of money on the table does not grow–it simply changes hands–in business the whole pot can grow. That is one of the reasons that more than one person can win at the same time. In life, it is not +1 and -1 equalling zero; it is 1 + 1 = 3–or more. Much more.

The lessons we can learn from the world of zero sum games are important, and carry over into the world of win-win. Learning how to win, how to work hard and commit to a goal over time, will help to create a successful life. And you can’t learn how to win if there is no such thing as losing. Without experiencing the sting of losing, no one will make the sacrifices necessary to earn the joy of winning.

It is dead wrong to claim that in order to win, someone else must lose. BTW, if someone else does lose, that is not a guarantee that you will win. Taking a zero sum game approach to life might cause both of you to lose. Remember: It is a win-win or no deal.

Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
  2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.

And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.

If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.

The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. I am inviting you, recruiting you, to join Revolution 2.0™ today. Join with me in using what we know how to do–what we know we must do–to everyone’s advantage. Let’s practice thinking well of others as we seek common goals, research the facts that apply to those goals, and use non agenda-based reasoning to achieve those goals together. Practice personal responsibility and be your brother’s keeper.

Let’s continue to build on the revolutionary vision that we inherited. Read the blog, listen to the podcast, subscribe, recruit, act. Here’s what I mean by “acting.”

  • Read the blogs and/or listen to the podcasts.
  • Comment in the blogs. Let others know what you are thinking.
  • Subscribe and recommend that others subscribe as well.
  • Attach links from blogs into your social media feeds. Share your thoughts about the link.
  • From time-to-time, attach links to blogs in emails that mention related subjects. Or just send the links to family and friends.

Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.

Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.

And visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.

Links and References

Quality of Life or Comparison of Lives? (EP. 126)


Economics Definitions (EP. 57)


As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.

Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.

Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.