Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Who’s Keeping Score?

Who keeps the score in your life? Come on…none of that “I just live day-to-day” nonsense…we ALL keep score. Money, house size, free time, successes of the progeny, number of followers, all simply proxies for hits, runs and ERA. I guess the better, more actionable question is really “who do you allow to keep score?” Let me explain.

It’s my contention that the score is ALWAYS kept. It’s inescapable. Not only that, but many people keep a running scorecard going on you. Your parents, siblings, children. Co-workers and neighbors. Friends. Everybody is paying attention and everybody is keeping score. It’s not all bad, of course, because many times folks are only counting the goals, runs, and touchdowns and ignoring the flubs and errors. It’s OK to be consciously unconscious of these particular scorekeepers because for the most part these people are engaged in a “non-zero sum” game in which victory for all is the goal, for all. They are probably cheering for you in some way, shape, or form.

It’s the OTHER scorekeepers who use the score as a weapon, who compare the scores, compete to win in a “zero sum” game, who may or may not have your permission to even be IN the game, let alone keep score, who can wreak havoc and render destruction on the playing field. These people insist on a game in which someone must lose in order that someone may win. +1 -1 = 0. They always see the game, every game, in these terms, and they want you to see it that way, too. They insist, demand, that you not only keep score in this manner, but that you also accept them as the scorekeeper.

Here’s where you get to choose, where I think you should exert your right to choose. You may seek, as I do, to convert as many of the games in your life into “non-zero sum” games, ones in which EVERYONE may triumph, as you can. Or, you can decide that this is pollyana-ish folly and view the world always through the “zero-sum” prism. Or some combination of the two. Your call. When you have a choice, though, what I DON’T think is optional is to allow anyone else to wield the pencil that keeps the score on your particular game but you, or maybe a very, very small subset of players intimately close to you. Think about it…how could you ever win, or even tie, if it’s “zero-sum” and someone else is keeping score? Why is that? Because the scorekeeper also makes the rules. Always. Why allow that to be imposed on you if you could choose otherwise?

In many ways letting someone else anoint themselves your scorekeeper is to hand over to them the right to determine what makes you a success or not. Heck, they’ll even chime in on whether or not your “score” should make you happy. Scorekeeper is just another word for “judge”, and scorekeepers seem to love to pass judgement. Should your success, your happiness, be defined by someone who seeks to impose their right to make that call?

I re-learn this lesson, slowly and painfully, again and again, over and over. My advice, offered freely and without condition, is that you should try to be smarter than I am, learn it once, and refuse to give up the pencil. Don’t let someone else decide that they get to choose the rules and keep the score on you.



2 Responses to “Who’s Keeping Score?”

  1. July 10th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Rob says:

    I am a bit late in responding but this is a good one. I think at our age we are entitled to tell whoever wants to be our scorekeeper that we rule and we can keep our own score. Actually, it is liberating. =Rob

  2. July 10th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    darrellwhite says:

    Aye Rob, at least for those of us who learn that lesson before it’s too late.

Leave a Reply