Sometimes winning in this world means losing in the bigger scheme of things. Sometimes you just have to lose.
Every war and every fight is a Pyrrhic victory. The term comes from King Pyrrhus, the Epicurean who fought a series of battles with the Romans in the third century BC.
He is quoted as saying
“If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined”.
It sounds an odd statement for a winning General to make. But what happened was that even though they killed more of the Roman soldiers than the Roman’s killed of them, they suffered huge losses. And whilst the Roman’s had a vast pool of new recruits eager to avenge their Countrymen’s loss, the Epicurean’s army was rapidly dwindling.
The truth is that every war is in reality a Pyrrhical victory. It creates nothing, but only seeks to destroy. So whatever gain comes from the spoils of war, is about an individual or a country obtaining control of a bigger slice of the pie. However from the bigger picture, the pie gets smaller and smaller.
So war and fighting are only about a battle of self interest. It’s about wanting a bigger personal share at the detriment of everyone else.
Whereas collaboration and co-operation are about making the pie bigger. When the pie is big enough everyone gets their share and so there is less jealousy and bitterness.
Greed Just Makes Enemies. Enemies Means Problems In The Future.
As I write this, there has recently been an event in the news that highlights this.
Sir Fred Goodwin was head of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He oversaw the bank’s gamble on taking risky loans and eventually got caught out. To prevent a crisis of confidence, the Government bailed them out, only to find that he was due a huge bonus.
They then asked him to forgo this in view of the fact that his Stewardship would have, but for the bailout, led to bankruptcy. He refused, despite pressure and the weight of public opinion. So in the way that the world judges success, he won. He got the money over which they fought.
However in doing so, he has now become a figure of hate. When people talk of greed, for a while, his will be the face that springs to mind. When people look for a scapegoat for their financial hardship, he will be it.
A recession or depression is a stage in the economic cycle. It is really an indicator of people’s confidence with regard to material wealth. So right now, people feel threatened and insecure. Many people are going through turmoil and are hurt and angry. In times such as these people often look to take out their anger on who or what they feel have put them in such a situation. Hitler’s rise to power happened because he was able to absolve his Constituents of any responsibility for their plight and instead focused blame for it on the Jews.
As we face the deepest, darkest days in economic and social terms, the weak minded will desperately look for anyone to blame rather than look inside for answers. And in their desperate attempts to displace the emotional discomfort they feel, there will be acts of aggression. Racism and hatred will be at it’s peak in the next couple of years.
And Sir Fred with his single minded pursuit of self interest has put himself and his family right in the cross hairs of those who blame the banks for their predicament. A couple of days ago a vigilantee group calling itself ‘Bank Bosses Are Criminals’ vandalised his house and fleet of cars and have threatened further action.
Sir Fred won. But his victory may come at a price greater than money.
A Personal Example Of What Could Have Been A Pyrrhic Victory
Last week I encountered a situation with the Mechanic from hell, where I had to lose. Let me explain the whole saga, so that you can see the whole process.
My wife’s car’s MOT was due. So I called a mobile mechanic and asked him to service it and get it through it’s MOT.
He took the car away and called me at 2pm and told me that the car had failed it’s MOT and needed four new brake pads. The price he quoted seemed unreasonably high for the work and service, so he gave me a lower price to get through the MOT and change the oil. I said, ‘Is that’s what’s needed to get through the MOT’ and he confirmed.
The next day he called and said it was all finished and had got through the MOT on it’s second go. However the price had gone up by about £50 as he said they quoted him the wrong price for brake pads.
By this time, having checked out the price of the work being done, it was clear that he was trying to rip me off. So when he brought the car back I checked his invoice and asked him for the failure sheet from the MOT. He tried to palm me off saying he’d only got a red slip. But fortunately I had agreed to pay him by card, which he couldn’t process in person. So I had time to check the invoice before paying.
The first thing I checked was the MOT online. It showed no failure notice, but not knowing too much about the motor trade, it was possible that they had told him what needed doing. So I rang the MOT station. I asked what the advisory notes were, since I didn’t have them and also what the car had failed on. The person sounded a little irritated and baffled and I heard him say ‘the only volvo we’ve had in this week was the blue one and that passed.’ Anyway he looked it up and told me there was no failure. They printed off the details for me.
When my wife picked it up and mentioned that the Mechanic was wanting to charge £400 for repairs, his jaw fell to the ground.
So now I had his invoice stating MOT retest and also proof that the car had passed the test at 12.30, 90 minutes before he had told me the car had failed.
I took some advice to get the car checked out to find what work had actually been done and would then renegotiate based on those facts. However that evening I got a call from him asking where his money was. I replied that there was a bit of a problem, since he had lied to me and that the facts would need to be determined before there was a settlement.
He then started ranting and raving that I was putting him out of business and that he’d paid out for my MOT and parts. He was getting the police to come and take my car away and arrest me for defaming his good name. He couldn’t wait for a couple of days to get his money. And so on.
Like most desperate and dishonest people he veered from threatening me, my family and my car, to begging sympathy for how no-one would give him a job and how business was bad, to righteousness and how he had done nothing wrong. He hadn’t lied about the MOT failure, apparently, he’d explained it was an advisory to then taking a moral and legal stand for not letting the car go in case the brakes failed. Without giving me the choice to make that decision for myself.
Anyway we went back and forth with him and then his wife on the phone and clearly they were desperate for the money.
Now I held all the cards. I had the car back. I had the proof. And I had the money. If I had really wanted to ‘win’ the economic transaction I could have done. To get his money he would need to pay out more money and after a long delay the court would award him far less than he was asking for.
However I knew that it would be more hassle than it would be worth. What would I win? A couple of hundred pounds. It had already wasted me a couple of days of interrupted work and peace of mind. This had the potential to drag on for some time.
Yet I was angry at him. Both for trying to take advantage of me and for trying to intimidate me. But even as I considered all my options, though it wasn’t fair, I knew I needed to resolve this in a way that I felt comfortable with and brought an end to the whole saga.
They were clearly in a desperate state. And a small part of me felt sorry for them. Despite my anger, I didn’t want to leave them in a worse condition. And for my own wellbeing I wanted the matter to be over. I didn’t want to have to waste any more time or attention on it.
So I decided to make them an offer provided it was done with there and then. Sensing their desperation, plus holding all the cards, I know I could have made a minimal offer.
But it is always dangerous to make enemies. You never know what is around the corner. So I decided to take a gamble that he had done the work and offer a fair price rather than drag this out forever. So I came straight in with about what the work would have cost from another mechanic. It covered the inflated costs he had set out.
Of course, he agreed, though still aggrieved that he was losing his ‘labour cost’.
Later as I thought about it, I realised I couldn’t send money without some form of written agreement from them that the transaction was settled. He’d veered from accepting the agreement as settlement to a payment for now.
So I rang and explained I needed some acceptance of this offer. Every request they refused saying these were my terms and they’d send an acceptance after getting payment. I almost gave up and let them sing for their money. But I wanted settlement because I knew the cost to my peace of mind would be more than I was willing to pay.
Eventually they agreed to reply to an email agreeing their terms and the matter was settled.
Winning The War Can Be More Costly
Now the point of me relating this saga was to explain that you can win and still lose.
Sir Fred ‘won’, but lost by now living in fear of attack. I could have ‘won’, but the money I saved could easily be more than outweighed in acts of vandalism.
I could have gone around to his house and punched the daylights out of him and ‘won’, but lost my legal freedom. I could have plotted many ways to hurt him, but what would I have gained. I would have become an instrument of hatred and vengeance that would have wrecked my peace of mind.
You have to keep the big picture in perspective. Having lots of money is only worthwhile when you also have the health and freedom to enjoy it. Being right is worthless if it alienates everyone around you.
If your ultimate goal is happiness, which I believe it is for all of us, then sometimes you have to lose the smaller battles in order to maintain a balance.
Often people forget this and they get so fixated on their careers or a particular relationship that they lose sight of the big picture and though they may succeed in this particular goal, they find they are still unhappy because they got bent out of shape to win a pyrrhic victory. Sometimes you just have to lose the worldly battle, so that you can win in the bigger scheme of things.
Power is not measured in what you can do, but in what you won’t do.
Advanced Stress Management Guide Contents
What Is Stress?
What Are The Costs of Stress?
What Are The Effects of Stress?
What Are The Causes of Stress?
How Do People Generally Cope With Stress?
The Mindset Shift: It’s Ok To Be Stressed, But Get Over It Quickly
The Secret To Emotional Stress Management
Reduce Stress And Avoid The Stress Tax
How To Deal With Stress
The Way To Relieve Stress
The Law Of Fairness
Pyrrhic Victory And The Value Of Losing