Let’s start off with something quick; I’m a nerd. This post is centered around a story from a TV show. Star Trek. Are you done rolling your eyes yet? I hope so or you may miss a really good point. If I had a better example to share, I would. But some of my examples may come at the cost of making some others look bad and I have no desire to do that. So, I’ll use this fictional story that will share the point just as purposefully.
The guy above is named Data. He’s an android. Artificial life form. He is basically a robot, but he is programmed to interact, engage, and do things to be just as human as anyone else. He doesn’t have emotions (although let’s face it, if you watch the show, he DOES have emotions, he just doesn’t really understand them – boy, there’s a post right there… but I digress). He’s a super computer with super fast inner workings and his brain is capable of doing things at a rate we couldn’t even fathom.
This is a character named Sirna Kolrami. This guy is a jerk. He’s a military strategist that is sent aboard the ship to do some training exercises. He’s the guy that walk in and knows everything. He’s smug. He’s arrogant. He is so sure of himself that he thinks everyone else doesn’t have any business questioning him on the stuff he knows. We all know that type of guy, don’t we? We have all probably been that type of guy at some point in time too. I know I have. But that’s not the point.
At some point during the episode, Data and Kolrami are playing a game called Strategema. I won’t pretend to tell you what the game is really about. Chances are some super geek fan has created a version of the game you can play. But in the show, the game is about strategy. Kolrami has allowed members of the crew to play him if for no other reason than to embarrass them and prove he’s the ultimate master of strategy. But there’s an android on this ship. Surely the super fast computational brain of a super computer can’t be outdone by a mere mortal, even someone like Kolrami. Can it? Well, they convince Data to play him and the first time they play, Kolrami beats him. And that’s when Data has the robot equivalent of a nervous breakdown. And it’s a mess.
How could this have happened? Well, Data is so beside himself because he can’t imagine it either. He gets so ruffled by what happened that he has lost all confidence in himself. He thinks that surely something must be wrong with him. He goes so far as to ask the captain to be relieved of duty because he thinks he’s faulty or broken and he may mess up at some critical part of their mission and he doesn’t want to be responsible for that failure. All this over a game. But to Data, this insignificant little game has done two things. It has revealed he’s not as perfect as he thought. It has also revealed that even this incredible machine can be handicapped by a perceived failure. But, did he fail? Yes and no.
I’m going to skip the rest of the episode details and share the end result. Eventually, Data plays Kolrami again at the end of the show. Kolrami in his smug arrogance assumes the outcome won’t be any different, so why not. This time as they play, Kolrami is not so easily the victor. So much so that he finally slams his playing apparatus on the table and essentially forfeits. Data has won by default since Kolrami quit. But what happened? What was the difference? How did he fail the first time and not fail the second time?
Well, the first time Data played, he was playing to win. His approach, his strategy, the reason behind his moves was in order to beat Kolrami at the game. As a computer, Data lacks some of the nuance of intuition and spontaneity. Regardless, he should have been able to hold his own. But he couldn’t. On the second attempt, Data changes his approach. He changes his strategy to merely keep his opponent from advancing. To stalemate the game. With the change of his strategy, he is not necessarily able to beat his opponent, but he could effectively play him forever. But, this time, Data being a machine, he wins because his non-machine opponent gets frustrated and gives up.
So what’s the lesson? Data technically didn’t do anything wrong the first time. Not by any standards that you would fault someone or call them wrong. And certainly not by any standards that would make someone question themselves at every turn. No, he did what was correct from his point of view. Throughout the process of still losing, he learned that he needed to change his approach. That’s why he was able to effectively win against his opponent the second time. He changed his strategy.
There are two lessons here that I take away from this wandering down Nerdville Road. There’s a great meme of Captain Picard (above) that has been a tremendous life lesson for me. You can make no mistakes and still lose. Yes, Jean Luc, that IS life. But we forget it too often. We strive and strive and just keep trying to be the best or to be perfect or to be the most error-less version of ourselves that we can. We do it in relationships, in social engagements, at work, in church. It’s not worthless to be the most Christ-like and best version of yourself you can be. You should do that. But, even doing that whole-heartedly, you can still run into situations where you still lose. But that doesn’t define you. I’ll save jumping into the failures and losses not defining you in another post. That’s way too much to unravel here.
The second lesson for me is that sometimes you just need to change your strategy. Sometimes you need to take a different approach. I tend to be very analytical, yet highly emotional. It’s a rough combination for me, not to mention those that have to deal with me. HA. But I recognize it and try to work hard at maintaining a balance. I also pay attention to a lot of the details on everything so I can probably often, more than I’d like to admit, come off like Kolrami; smug, arrogant, and a know it all. Again, not intentional. And I may very well know 100% what I’m talking about and have all the right answers related to something. But still people won’t listen. Why?
I heard this very thing described at a conference a few years ago. It was a very eye-opening moment for me. This person stood on the stage talking. I knew her from a church that I followed closely. They had great success in community connection and presence. If there was anyone I wanted to model my ministry after in this arena, it was that church. And she was the top person in her department, my counterpart. I wanted to learn from her. And she stood there and described how people reacted to her sometimes and I was just shouting YES YES YES inside as she talked. Then she hit me with her confession; the other people weren’t the problem, she was. Yes, she WAS right but yes they WEREN’T listening to her. She was right but was still losing.
She went on to describe how her failure, even though she was right, wasn’t about what she was bringing to the table. It was about how she was doing it. It was about her approach, her strategy. When she changed her strategy, she started to see results and started seeing victories instead of failures. So that circles back to our pale friend Data from the tv show. He also had no fault in his first attempt and still failed. But when he changed his strategy, then he succeeded.
I don’t succeed every time. I don’t succeed most of the time if I’m honest. I get in the way too much. But, I try. I try to remember that sometimes, no matter what I do, I’m still going to lose. No matter how hard I try, it won’t matter. And I have to be ok with that. It isn’t a defeatist mindset. It isn’t a reason to give up either. It’s just life. I also try to remember that my approach matters. And while I may be prone to being non-fluffy, direct, and blunt, I have to remember that doesn’t come across great on the other end. So my strategy and approach has to change if I ever want to see more victories than losses.