Yeah, there’s some really tough competition out there. There are a few scenarios where people or organizations want others to lose as much as they want to win. But let’s be honest, these zero-sum situations are rare.
So rare, in fact, that humans invent artificial ones to satiate our desire to play them. Many forms of entertainment and leisure are artificial zero-sum games like athletics, gaming, politics, and reality TV (some harmless, some dangerous). But in the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas, it’s a lot more messy and a lot less hostile.
There’s this idea that consumers must always be wary of unscrupulous producers who are trying to dupe them into making a losing choice, and that producers must take care not to get beat into a pulp by the demanding consumer. It’s true, both parties want something. But it’s almost never the case that what they want is the other to fail. In fact, they want the other to succeed and continue succeeding so as to create more opportunity for beneficial exchange. Remember, you are simultaneously a consumer and a producer, so you should see the benefit of win-wins.
People aren’t looking to destroy you, they’re looking to solve problems and fulfill desires. Most of these problems are best solved with the help of others, and most of these others can best achieve their own ends if they can find ways to help you. The real problem everyone faces is not other people trying to crush them, but barriers to coordination, and asymmetrical information. It’s not about brow-beating or convincing people to do or buy things they really don’t want. It’s a puzzle wherein you’ve got to figure out what’s keeping people from getting what they want, and break down or work around those obstacles.
Think about what people want. (It’s not always easy, because sometimes people don’t know how to describe it.) Think about how to help them get it. Whether it’s an employer you want to work for, and investor you want to pitch, a customer you want to land, or even a competitor you want to keep from reducing your revenue. Don’t approach it as a battle of wills with a single victor at the end. Don’t approach it as if you’re facing an evil foe bent on your destruction. Approach it as a puzzle that springs from the nature of reality itself, as amoral as the fact that water flows downhill.
The market is a giant maze of people who want to solve problems and have problems solved. You’re surrounded by potential allies and opportunities. Master new combinations or better execution. Enjoy it.