GETTING BEYOND THE ZERO-SUM GAME

Our meeting this weekend was inspired by the Girls Leadership blog post - Williams sisters get beyond the zero-sum game.  So for our meeting this weekend, I wanted to expand on this idea, as it's very relevant in our lives... how to foster, instead of a win-lose attitude, a mindset of enjoying and exploring that space in between. Since watching a few University of Michigan women's gymnastics meets, many of our nights entail gymnastics competitions in our basement between the 4 girls. As my husband, Jonathan, judges each apparatus, the final winner is then pronounced at the end, at which point both happiness (by the winner) and sadness (by the losers) ensue.

The Williams sisters are an awesome inspiration, how you can both compete and push each other's limits, but at the same time keep the love and admiration for one other. And this isn't just about bettering sisterly/sibling competition, but as the Girls Leadership blog post explains, it's also about how you look at any other competition in your life:

"Competing against one another in sports, running for office against friends, or trying out for the same part in a play doesn’t have to be about winning or losing. We tend to think of our achievements as a zero-sum game when we are most insecure, or when we are scared. What if we push past our insecurity and explore the possibility that we can compete against each other, respect each other, and make each other better in the process? Even if the situation is, like tennis, one where someone needs to win and someone needs to lose, we will only get better, have more fun, and discover our potential if we take the risk to get beyond zero-sum."

-Simone Marean, Executive Director of Girls Leadership

 

So let's introduce this concept to our Courageous Girls:

(This lesson is about 10 minutes long + game)

1. Introduce who the Williams Sisters are. (If you are not into tennis, you may not know that Serena, the younger sister, actually has more Grand Slam Women's Single titles than her big sister, Venus. 23 vs. 7. This in itself should be fun to explore with siblings.) I might also show some videos of them playing tennis. 

2. We will then discuss that they've competed against each other for many years, and yet they are the best of sisters off court. Here is Serena's recent victory speech after winning the Australian Open against Venus, praising her sister. And here is Venus' graceful speech as well, "your win has always been my win," says big sister to little sister. This real-life sisterly bond is so much better than Frozen... 

             Possible questions to help with exploring this issue: 

1. What did you think of the videos? What did Serena/Venus say?

2. What does it mean when Venus says: "your win has always been my win?"

3. How would you feel if your younger/older/twin sibling (or best friend, neighbor, etc.) beat you at your favorite sport on many occasions? 

4. How do you think Venus felt immediately after she lost? (Discuss how feeling disappointed and sad about losing is completely normal. However, at some point Venus made room for other emotions as well, once she was ready to recover from the loss.)

4. What are some things that you enjoy about competing?

5. How can we demonstrate good sportsmanship, whether it's in sports or trying out for a theater part, science olympiad, etc?

 

ACTIVITY: The journey to the end of the game

Write "Start a Competition" on one side of the board, and "Win/Lose" on the other. Draw a curvy path between these two. Ask: What are some things that happen from the moment you start playing/competing against each other, until the end, when you either win or lose? 

Let Courageous Girls come up with the words for the space in between, and write them in on the path (such as they have fun, they push each other's limits, they improve, they laugh, they make mistakes, they learn new things, etc.) Each time they compete, whether against a sibling or schoolmates, they gain from that experience, and ultimately get better with each game. So instead of looking at something as successful if won, and failure if we lose, looking at all the things we have gained in the process is a better way to view it.  

In fact, "we always learn more from the losing than the winning," (Yani Tseng) because it can make you introspective and go through the things you may need to work on. Plus, you also learn how to dust yourself off and keep going.   

ACTIVITY #2: Play a game!

Any game! (Board game, card game, sports, karaoke, etc.) And practice competing hard, and losing/winning gracefully. At the end, explore how the winner feels, as well as how the people who lost feel, and how the journey in between went!