I did not know about the concept of a zero sum game until the mid-nineties when I ran entrepreneurial workshops in Malawi. After the first session, one of the participants told me that I might be wasting my time using concepts like potential, abundance, growth and creating value because most Malawians had a fixed pie mentality. He explained that if one person in a community became successful others would conclude they had less or even no chance as the opportunity and resources had been “used up”.
I have subsequently learnt that this a called a zero sum game. It means that if one person gains an advantage from “the game” others involved suffer an equalizing disadvantage because everyone competes for finite resources.
Clearly, there are instances when a fixed pie (zero-sum) mentality applies. Poker and gambling are popular examples of zero sum games since the sum of the amounts won by some players equals the combined losses of the others.
Our mental toughness challenge, particularly within our teams, is not to default to this mentality and always try to create context and new resources where we have an expanding pie, where we participate in a positive sum game.