I have a favorite old saying that has many different forms, which is usually attributed to Somerset Maugham*. It reads, “It’s not enough to succeed; everyone else must fail.” It is one of my favorites because it reveals so much about the personality of the person who is described by it.

I ran across it first as a description of Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle Corporation. I heard it during the eighteen-month period in 2003 and 2004 when Oracle and Peoplesoft (the company I worked for) were battling a takeover battle. Ellison was described this way because he didn’t have any interest in continuing Peoplesoft products, and by extension, the people who produced and supported them. Obviously, this was a threat to my livelihood, so I decided to understand the personality dynamics of this mindset.

I found that this personality type is rooted in a world view that is opposed to my base beliefs – that life is a zero-sum game. Not only that, but an extreme form of this view that they are the rulers, and all competitors are not worthy to compete. My beliefs include the idea that everyone has a right to come up with a better mousetrap, and benefits are multiplied when people learn from each other – all boats rise with the tide.

I’m not here to say that either system is right or wrong – I’ll leave that to philosophers and pundits. I will, however, leave you with another quote from a popular science-fiction franchise that encapsulates my thoughts exactly:

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” – Spock, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”


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