Winning gets a bad rap these days — mostly because it implies that we’re doing something evil or that we’re out to get somebody. People think that we’re only able to win because we’re more deceiving or cunning than our opponent, so therefore winning is bad.
SunTzu disagrees. He says that you should always be trying to win at what you’re doing. If you choose to play, then you must put the effort into figuring out how to be successful.
If you’re in the game and relying on good luck and fortunate events happening to you, then you might as well give up — because you’re probably more likely to lose than gain.
But wanting to win is okay. Because wanting to win is not what makes us a bad person. There are some truly bad people out there, and you have to know how to protect yourself! We can’t pretend that altruistic alone will help protect us.
MengHuo is captured and released seven times (七縱七擒)
During the period of the Three Kingdoms, ZhugeLiang (諸葛亮) was on a crusade to conquer the regions to the south. He defeated his enemies swiftly, until he came across a barbarian leader called MengHuo (孟獲) who refused to surrender. Although MengHuo was extremely fierce, he wasn’t a match for ZhugeLiang and was captured after the first battle.
MengHuo thought that it was over. But shockingly, ZhugeLiang came to personally release him from his bonds. ZhugeLiang tried to convince MengHuo to defect, as he valued his skills and talent, but MengHuo rejected the offer saying, “I’m looking around and all I see are weak and old troops! If I had one more chance to fight, I would surely defeat you next time!” ZhugeLiang laughed at his response and let him go.
That night, MengHuo was filled with confidence based on what he saw at the enemy camp. He took a small bad of soldiers and tried to ambush the enemy camp. But ZhugeLiang was already waiting for him and captured MengHuo again.
ZhugeLiang once again offered him a chance to defect, but MengHuo replied, “If only I had one more chance, I’ll surely win!” Surprisingly, ZhugeLiang laughed at him again and let him go.
This time MengHuo would not be so rash. He took his army to a smaller city and waited. But ZhugeLiang saw the movement and attacked. He split his soldiers into two groups and surrounded the city, taking MengHuo captive once more.
MengHuo had nothing else but pride at this point and refused to surrender out of pure stubbornness. ZhugeLiang was graceful and let him leave and return with his army.
MengHuo went back to the city, but what was he to do now? At this point, his army and people were low on supplies and about to starve.
It was MengHuo this time who had to swallow his pride and ask ZhugeLiang, the enemy, for assistance. ZhugeLiang replied, “I’ve enjoyed our time together, so I’ll make a deal with you. If you can beat my captains in hand-to-hand combat, then I’ll give you what you need”.
MengHuo fought bravely and defeated a couple of the captains, but in the end, he could not pull through all the way. But despite MengHuo’s defeat, ZhugeLiang sent him back to town with the supplies he wanted.
MengHuo could not believe it. He admiration for ZhugeLiang grew like springing bamboo from the bottom of his heart, and he finally agreed to defect.
Choose to both win and be a good person
ZhugeLiang was famous for being a nice guy, but he was also famous for being a smart guy. He was wise and strategic. He knew what it would take to win battles and the hearts of the people around him.
Winning didn’t make you a good or bad person — it was choosing what you did with that wisdom. Did you choose to use your skills and knowledge to benefit people, or did you use them to harm and take advantage of others?
Our decisions are what makes the difference.