The Toybox Paradigm: competition vs. collaboration

I spent the day today at the 2014 Temech conference. Temech is an organization in Israel dedicated to assisting religious Jewish women in obtaining jobs either through skills training or helping them to establish their own companies. (I am sure they do a whole lot of other stuff, but that’s what I know them for). Every year they host a conference for Israeli religious women in business, to help them gain inspiration, new business skills and networking. There is an English speaking track and a Hebrew speaking track and it is very well put together.

As a speaker who primarily speaks outside of Israel, the Temech conference rarely offers me networking opportunities that will result in more speaking invitations. I would love to say that the networking at least helps me gain coaching clients, but since it appears that about 80% (maybe an exaggeration?) of the women there are Life Coaches, it doesn’t really offer that either.

But what I gained today from the “networking” was far more valuable than any of that anyway and it has to do with what I call the “Toybox Paradigm”.
I believe that this is one of the most important keys to not only having success in life, but in having wellbeing and living a life of Joy. It requires a paradigm shift in how we see others and it takes intentional practice, but I guarantee that this one shift will change your life.

Ever since we became self-aware as little children, we have viewed others as competition. If Johnny has the red truck then I can’t have the red truck and so if I want the red truck, Johnny can’t have it. Life was always a win-lose proposition, a zero-sum game, what I call the toybox paradigm.

And so, armed with this truth, we began to see the entire world through this paradigm. If I win, someone else loses and conversely, if someone else wins then I lose. This view of life causes us to feel discontent, jealousy and even anger when others succeed, and the negativity in the end becomes self-defeating.

But life is not a toybox and we are not in a zero-sum game. If we want to be successful and have joy in our lives we need to stop thinking in the toybox paradigm, we have to learn to see others not as competitors but as collaborators.

Have you ever played the Chinese finger puzzle game? It’s a woven tube about the size of your pointer finger. Two people put their finger into the tube and then try to pull it back out. But the more you pull the tighter the tube gets making it even harder to get your finger out. The key, of course, is for both players to work together and push in, which is seems a bit counter-intuitive, but expands the tube and then both players can easily remove their fingers. But most of use spend our lives expending so much energy pushing against other people for fear that if we work together the other person might gain some advantage against me and win, and since I see the world through the toybox paradigm, if they win, I’ve gotta lose and since I don’t want to lose, I need to make sure that they don’t win.

But in truth, the toybox paradigm often results in no winner at all because in expending all that energy in making sure the other doesn’t win, we frequently create an environment where we can’t win either. Life is not a toybox but it is like a match.

When you use a match to light a candle, what happens? Does the flame from the match jump over to the candle wick and put out the match? No, of course not. Assuming the match is big enough, it not only doesn’t go out by lighting the candle, it momentarily burns brighter and the end result is that in the end we have two flames instead of one. By igniting the candle, the match has doubled the amount of light in the room.

And when we can create the paradigm shift necessary to stop seeing others as collaborators rather than competitors, we often find that the combining of our wisdom, insight and talents means that we have access to twice as much and both of us can win.

When we understand that all of the wealth in the world comes from above and is unlimited in its potential, we can realize that there is more than enough wealth in the world for all of us. And when we join forces with others – collaborate – we don’t halve the amount of prosperity, or light, we double it.

This principle comes directly from the Jewish bible – the Tanach.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:18 tells us that we are to love our fellow as ourselves. That means that if we want the best for ourselves, we must also want the best for our fellow, and of course in doing so we ignite a second flame.

And in Mishlei (Ecclesiastes) 4:9-10 we read – Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.

Now it’s not easy, we have been trained to see the world through the Toybox paradigm from a very young age and old habits are hard to break, but this is a practice we must engage if we want to be successful and have well-being and joy in life.