Winning Isn’t Everything, Donald

Donald Trump as a boy.

Donald Trump as a boy.

When Donald Trump was a little boy his dad told him – on a regular basis – that the world is divided into winners and losers, and the Trumps were winners.

Little Donald seems to have taken the lesson to heart. He has striven to prove his winning ways to himself and to everyone else all his life.

But does winning bring happiness?

Winning. But are you happy?

Even when he’s winning he doesn’t seem to be especially happy.

Donald Trump has been rich. He has been famous. He has bedded beautiful women. He has moved the levers of power in business and politics.

And yet he spent pretty much his entire campaign sounding pretty angry.

He was angry at Hillary and Bill, Megyn Kelly, Rosie O’Donnell, Miss Universe, the Chinese, Mexicans, Muslims… He’s sounded suspicious and angry that President Obama might secretly be Kenyan… I could go on.

But you can’t get enough of what doesn’t really satisfy. Apparently, power and wealth aren’t satisfying in and of themselves.

Partnership, domination and happiness 

What is satisfying? Relationships are, say psychologists who have studied the matter. And those are about healthy partnerships. Not dominating and winning.

But Donald displays symptoms of narcissistic alexithymia, which makes understanding and describing one’s emotions difficult, says New York Times columnist David Brooks:

Unable to know themselves, sufferers are unable to understand, relate or attach to others.

To prove their own existence, they hunger for endless attention from outside. Lacking internal measures of their own worth, they rely on external but insecure criteria like wealth, beauty, fame and others’ submission.

But this blocks relationship and intimacy, two of the most satisfying experiences available to humankind.

Brooks continues,

Trump’s emotional makeup means he can hit only a few notes: fury and aggression… Bullies only experience peace when they are cruel. Their blood pressure drops the moment they beat the kid on the playground.

None of us would want to live in the howling wilderness of his own solitude, no matter how thick the gilding.

I’m sorry about the life-long pressure that Donald has been under to “win.” His life-so-far suggests that winning does not necessarily bring happiness. Maybe we can all take a lesson in that.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 18, 2016, in politics/class inequality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. It kind of makes sense based on how he is, based on how he treats people, some are better than others. But I think winning doesn’t bring happiness because when you live your whole life believing there are winners and losers, you kinda miss out on great people who aren’t “winners.” If he has to prove constantly he is a winner than he isn’t going to be ever satisfied with himself. I think that’s the problem with people believing there are winners and proving to everyone they are too, it usually because no matter how famous or wealthy they are, they have an emptiness inside they try to fill by proving they aren’t losers.

  2. Winners versus losers… That is Such a common leitmotif in american films and culture…. Being linked to the dichotomy popular vs nerd in many films and taking many other different shapes such as the ones you have mentioned…
    🇺🇸💸 Power and wealth, for instance as a symbol of status and winner crown…. Hey Georgia: have you watched Chomsky ‘s documentary “Requiem for the american dream” … I recommend it to you in case you haven’t…
    Sending best wishes ⭐️🌞

  3. This article makes sense of Donald Trump’s tendencies to say things that disregard certain groups and demographics. Like you said, he was taught by his father that winning is everything, no matter who is in the way or becomes collateral damage. For example, Trump was pro-Dakota Access Pipeline because even though it would displace an entire tribe of Native Americans and financially affect many individuals, it would benefit him and his business. If it is a win for Trump, it is a win for “all.” I think this is why he mentions winning in many of his speeches, despite being grammatically incorrect when he uses terms like “we are going to win so hard.”

  4. IMO does winning bring happiness? Or along those lines does wealth, beauty, fame bring happiness? I honestly think it can in that if utilized properly to one’s advantage, in a positive way, then yes it can bring about an unequalled amount of happiness, more than could be achieved without. That’s IMO of course.

    If you were implying the instructional method of insisting one be a winner is wrong, well I’d need to disagree again. I could only wish I’d have had such a positive instruction growing up, it beats negligence, or abuse; that said, I’m fairly certain this has little to do with any reason people might today be in disagreement with “Mr. Trump”. I’m more inclined to believe narcissism is a genetic defect than it is a result of child rearing; just try and say that narcissism is the result of parenting to any mother of the typical adolescent monster, I think you get my point. Though it’s a little ironic that the narcissistic parent would often blame the child for their own behavior as a parent, but that’s another situation all together.

    I do think a certain amount of self esteem, and walking the walk, in virtue and in deed (so to speak) go hand in hand with winning, in it’s realest sense. Obnoxious people may not ever truly win. (But I’m not %100 sure winning can be split into different categories, in life it seems, and though it may suck, it may be you either win or you don’t.) (The whole fixation on winning and losing seems a little shallow, though at the same time vital.)

    • There is nothing inherently wrong with winning and it can be helpful. But it won’t necessarily make you happy, as is very clear with Donald Trump. What you don’t really need won’t satisfy.

      • It’s hard for me to see how winning doesn’t help with happiness too, but unlike poster above, I also see the flaws of trying to win too. That’s why I see how conflicted a person can be with the balance of trying to succeed and you know climbing the corporate ladder or make great gains. It’s probably good for a person to not ‘need” to win to feel happy and it just being a bonus. Because there are so many twists and turns in life and nothing is concrete. If you’re happiness is like black and white like how it is for trump. Then that means should you get knocked off the top of the mountain you’ve worked so hard to climb or someone younger and better knocks you off the totem pole. Are you going to be miserable, depressed? Maybe spiteful and where you see egomaniacs do corrupt things to knock off their competition. The danger of it is because ego is so much to do with winning, therefore, if the ego is not in check and a person with not the best morals. He or she can use that lust and greed of success to be spiteful or corrupt.

        Or even if they aren’t and have morals, it can make that person not happy, miserable or even depressed. The problem is I obviously don’t see myself anything like trump as he’s a sexist, narcisscist d bag and kind of crazy with his winning obsession as well as not an ego maniac. But I think the term is correct, I believe he’s a megalomaniac. But I being a proud person and having a pretty big ego, do find the great desire to win and be better than people. It’s a bad thing to say, nobody wants to admit it, because nobody likes hearing others want to be better than others or think they are. But people maybe by culture or inherently have a desire I think to feel a sense of accomplishment and have achievments right? But for me unfortunately I don’t like and don’t feel much satisfaction if the achievement is simply me doing better at something or a project than I did before. It’s a well meaning saying, but I always hated the saying, “don’t worry about others, but being or beat your previous record or accomplishment” Or something like that, I don’t remember how it’s worded. I see the value in it, but unfortunately I don’t get much satisfaction from it and it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment.

      • Nice discussion of the complexities.

        I think that I desire to win can create positive things, if you don’t hurt others in the process. But it doesn’t seem to lead to happiness, in itself.

        People who desire to win might do a lot of things that are helpful for society, For instance. But even then I suspect that helping others — feeling like you are making a contribution — is likely to ultimately be more fulfilling than merely winning.

      • I think dan should check out the mike posner blog post

  5. Personally, I do not support Donald Trump because of how he has outwardly treated women horribly. Yet, interestingly enough I do relate to the way that he experienced pressure to succeed throughout his whole life. Sometimes, I think it is hard to generate enough intrinsic compassion for yourself to sustain a happy life, and in turn one may seek external motivation and external accolades to bandage the internal wounds that never healed. I have found this to be true in my own life as I have striven to be “the best” or successful in sports and in academics. I was not able to sustain this high level of achievement, or I guess you could call it “winning” as the blog post did, and as a result I burned out and experienced a dibilitating depression.

    Where Donald Trump and I differ is that he seems to have not burned out in the slightest and instead has developed an outrageous sense of pride. Where I felt shame, he feels pride and enlightenment. Both of these are adaptive ways to handle the pressure (or to not handle the pressure) that this “winning” lifestyle brings. Overall, I can relate to how Donald Trump felt he needed to succeed to have any worth, however, when he extends this pattern to degrading minority groups that he does not fit into I cannot get behind him in the slightest.

  6. This is a really interesting article and the background information about Donald Trump really makes sense, considering the way he will make people feel bad in order to feel powerful. He will never be truly happy because his privilege as a white man makes him feel as though he has to continuously prove his manhood. The words of his father (to be a winner) made him extremely ambitious and driven, but this is regardless of what he does or what it takes to get there. Though his ambition has somehow led him to win the presidency, nobody can win everything, including Donald Trump.

  7. Such a simple message. Yet one that needs to be repeated time and time again. It seems that it doesn’t matter if we believe this in our minds or not. Surely most people agree that in theory winning does not bring happiness. But in living our lives we too often tend to keep our eyes only on the small point that is in focus of the large picture in front of us. The scary part of someone like Trump being president is for this very reason. He does not have the ability to think of things not as winning-losing, but as comprise-development.

  8. This article is spot on in terms of the type of person that Donald Trump is. Everyone has this false sense that winning is the key to happiness and success. However, according to studies, real happiness is in fact derived from the relationships we make and sustain with loved ones around us. If one is always focused on winning and nothing else just like Donald Trump is, they won’t achieve the level of internal fulfillment that one would achieve if they had a large amount of close relationships with their friends, family, etc. That is not to say that Donald Trump does not have that. I have no idea what his personal life is like or who he is close with (if anyone). But one thing is for certain that in most senses being a tyrannical and fierce business man can at times be mutually exclusive with being an enjoyable person that others want to surround themselves with. If he is always concerned over his own advancement and starting controversy, it is only evident that people might not want to be around him causing him to lose that sense of closeness with people.

  9. Some moments I feel bad for him. But then fear and loathing for what he’s doing to our nation and its most vulnerable overtake me and I lose my compassion. Maybe afterwards. In the meantime this is an important lesson to teach our kids and ourselves. Thank you for the reminder!

  10. Very well said. Winning is not synonymous with happiness. Never. Period.

    In Trump’s case, I think, he is under tremendous pressure. Here also, majority is unhappy about his win.

  11. Great article! I think many of us can relate to a time, where we used to be super anxious on being the top person, but likely we know, when we have crossed the line! If psychologist say and confirm the problem, such as identifying what Trump is suffering from, I think that’s where Trump needs to take precautions and start thinking for himself. No matter how Trump was raised when he was a toddler, now he is an older adult, and he needs to make decisions of his own. As a person that was taught and raised to be a champion most of the time, I think Trump hates to admit it, and that isn’t healthy, at least from my point of view.

    • Another worrisome – yet expected – Turn of events: Trump is meeting with people who can help his business, using the presidency to make money.

      Historically Trump has always acted in his own self-interest. So using the presidency to make money is not a surprise. But it’s very, very bad for the country.

  12. This post seems a bit baffling to me…not saying it’s not correct – Trump was probably indeed raised to be a “winner” – but a lot of people are, it’s just not Trump so I fail to see the sudden relevance now? It’s not like a lot of americans aren’t inbred with attitudes like his 😉
    Not that different here in Europe though, but I think we often see americans search of success at all costs as a sign of that higly regarded individual freedom, going all the way back to the times of the colonies. I.e – americans seeking freedom and prosperity is certainly not a new phenomena.

    • If this were only true of Trump I wouldn’t bother writing about it. I agree that is true a lot of people. I can experience it sometimes, myself. After all, we live in a domination culture that divides people into winners and losers. I prefer a partnership culture where we work together and value everyone.

      And I wrote about it now because I was struck by how successful DJT has been, yet also noticing how angry he has been throughout the campaign. And I was reminded that what you don’t need won’t satisfy — a philosophy I try to live by.

  13. I am so happy reading this, maybe because I didn’t want him to win in the first place! The observations are very right nonetheless!

  14. This post was really insightful. Throughout this election, I have heard so many negative things about Donald Trump. Even before the election he was a well-known whiner. There were references to people hating him in multiple songs. I think the best word to describe Trump is insatiable. No matter how much money he makes, how many beautiful women he is with, how famous he is, it’s never enough. He is the perfect example of, “money can’t buy you happiness.” He is constantly tearing others down and coming up with ways to banish anyone who isn’t like him from this country. The worst part is that he doesn’t see what is wrong with this because this is how he was raised. I don’t think this is going to change in the coming years and I am truly nervous about him being our next president. I feel like he ran for president because he was chasing his next big “win”.

  15. Donald Trump is said to be a “successful” man, with his own business, his fame, fortune, and now the title of President of our United States. How did we let a monster like this gain the power to control our very lives and our future? Trump had no politcal experience whatsoever before running for president, whereas other delegates such as Hillary Clinton has experienced almost first hand what it’s like to run a country after her husband won President and ran for a total of 8 years. She has seen the strain and struggles a President may face, and she was a lot less sexist and did not put down and insult her fellow people.
    Each delegate had their issues, but Trump was just a rich man who went to college and studied economics. He didn’t have nearly as much experience in politics as someone such as Hillary or Bernie Sanders, yet the ignorance of people made it so that he would be able to control us and use tactics such as racism and sexism to overpower many of us minorities. Since he has been elected, African Americans have been threatened (one was forced into a coffin by two white men just recently), Muslims have been threatened, women have been ridiculed, Mexicans have been threatened, even in our school districts where videos of elementary school teachers tell off their students and tell them that their parents should be deported or have been called derogatory terms such as “apes” or “mutts”. Why must we live in a world of fear? The white man is not superior, yet many think thay with Trump as president, they can do whatever they want to minorities, as if they weren’t humans with a soul.

  16. I think this blog is interesting. I find the quote relating to bullies is awesome too because I truly believe he is a bully. I feel like this run for president was all about him winning and not about him really looking out for the U.S. and its people. I feel like most of the stuff he said was for publicity and too get lots of people on his side. This did work for him but it also brought out many of the ugly in America. It brought out so much hate and so many people that now think it is okay to pull a stunt like his in his presidency which isn’t right. Who totally turned a leaf when they actually got elected? TRUMP! His acceptance speech was a totally different person.

    in the end, he is not even more rich then he has already been and I think he got himself into something he can’t handle. He doesn’t seem like a happy person and taking over America isn’t going to add to that. It just going to make him act in ways he shouldn’t.

  17. This is an interesting perspective on Donald Trump. The diagnosis of narcissistic alexithymia is not a surprising one based on many of his behaviors. The concept of winning has always been a hot topic for me since I work with children eventually at some point in the school year competition becomes a theme and girls versus boys comes along with that. I hear things like boys are faster and strong then girls and I have to help the kids navigate through these different misconceptions and stereotypes without seeming judgemental or biased. I wonder if Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote impacted Donald Trump in a negative way. He “won” the presidential election but he did not win the vote of the majority of Americans and since he thrives on winning, beating people, and knocking down the competition to lift himself up I wonder if the fact that he didn’t win fair and square so to speak if that made him feel inadequate. Especially since more people voted for a women. There were a lot of unspeakable things that happened during the campaign that set a tone for the election and for years to come I imagine. In order to win Donald Trump said things about Hillary Clinton that were gendered, sexist, and demeaning to women. He plans to take womens rights away as part of his political approach and I am fearful that women and our place in society that we have worked so hard to have will slide backwards. I am trying to remain hopeful and also just to remember that there was work to be done for women before this campaign and there is work to be done now. Sitting and complaining about how women are being wronged and our rights are being taken away will not change anything, taking action is the only thing that leads to change and now is a better time then ever to do so.

    • In the past Donald Trump has not had a history of being against women’s rights. He seemed to pick it up this time around to pick up the Christian Coalition and cultural conservatives generally. Here’s my hope: he campaigned to drain the swamp (get rid of the influence of corporate lobbyists and the big money campaign contributions — legalized bribery). If he follows through with that — so that he can win reelection next time around — he won’t appoint a far right Republican. If you look at the Supreme Court, it’s far right Republicans who vote against women’s rights, and for the rights of the elite. If by some miracle he manages to make economy better the cultural conservatives will care more about their pocketbooks getting fatter than harming women’s rights. Or minority rights. I hope he gets that.

  18. I appreciated the moral of this blog posting. Winning certainly does not translate into happiness, especially when . As you said, Donald Trump has obvious narcissistic tendencies that propel him to “win” only to experience, what i assume to be, a feeling of temporary success but long-term emptiness and insecurity. Looking back at Trump’s track record, it is beyond accurate to say he’s “won” in many situations- but at the expense of whom? How many people did he have to climb on and crush in the process? My guess is many. Sure he has billions to his name, but who could rightfully say this man has made a positive impact on their lives? The answer: probably not many. The egotistical only help themselves and those they find to be convenient investments of time and/or beneficial to them in some way. Trump’s entire campaign was based on hatred and ignorance. It baffles me that he now gets the privilege to represent our once progressive country. I think he’s already bored.

    • “it is beyond accurate to say he’s “won” in many situations- but at the expense of whom? How many people did he have to climb on and crush in the process?”

      That’s probably why he is still empty and unsatisfied.

  19. I am a nanny for two wonderful eight year old twins: a crazy-cool, sporty, tom-boy girl, and a sparkly, sweet, gentle boy. Their parents are liberal, democratic lesbian lawyers who have done an amazing job of focusing on what is important emotionally in raising their children, and not what may make them different socially. The last two weeks have has challenging moments as a nanny. I have gotten questions from the children about someone who says the “mean things” Trump has said can be president. I have had conversations with the little boy I watch who was called out and teased for having pink in his bedroom by other children at his school. Sometimes we forget that the decisions we make as adults always find a way to penetrate the childhood of the next generation. Your article highlights the emotional deficits of the man we not only now call president, but the man who the next generation calls president, and his behavior is more on display than ever. I just hope that constantly combatting Trumps portrayal of anger and bullying with reminders of love and compassion will be enough.

    • When others go low we must go high!

      I’m having a hard time focusing on anything other than politics, Probably due to my anxiousness over the election. Other friends of mine are experiencing anxiety, depression and even PTSD. So sad.

  20. Thank you for your blog shedding some light on how our society views this accolade known as winning. You have continued to evolve my understanding and appreciation for the important things in life by bringing to light that there is a lot of truth to the statement “it’s not whether you win or lose but how you played the game”. There is such a preoccupation in our society with this idea that winning is the end-all, be-all of success – so much obsession that we’ve even applied a particular set of clichés to the concept of winning such as your aptly titled blog “winning isn’t everything”. But, what you have demonstrated is that it actually isn’t a cliché at all. The reality is there isn’t much happiness to be derived from a particular set of accolades if the motivation behind achieving them is rooted in fulfilling one’s own narcissistic tendencies and feelings of inadequacy. This election cycle has been a complete emotional roller-coaster, for me, and for so many Americans – but what I see is not a country divided, as much as I see millions and millions of Americans across the country speaking out against racism, equality for women, LGBT equality, islamophobia, and so on. Yes, there is the hate – but what I see now more than ever before is the love we fellow Americans have for one another. The mobilization of so many Americans and the conversations this election cycle have spawned has reinvigorated the American fight for equality – and that is how I’ve redefined ‘winning’.

    • “I see millions and millions of Americans across the country speaking out against racism, equality for women, LGBT equality, islamophobia, and so on.”

      When others go low, We must go high!

  21. On the money. The Donald is rich in all the wrong ways.

  22. this is deeply impressive, you write with the best and highest standards…I expect you should consider to put all your golden post in a book…

  23. Were you already planning to write this or did you tweak it? Because it seems quite the coincidence and cool that you have this post and I see a lot of relations to what I just wrote last night in the “mike posner” blog you had.

    I’m gonna quote what stuck out to me and then copy and past what I just wrote in the mike posner posts. Here’s yours.

    “Even when he’s winning he doesn’t seem to be especially happy.”Donald Trump has been rich. He has been famous. He has bedded beautiful women. He has moved the levers of power in business and politics.” “But you can’t get enough of what doesn’t really satisfy. Apparently, power and wealth aren’t satisfying in and of themselves.”

    Then this from what I wrote. Many choices in relation to this blog post, and I know you already read what I wrote, but wanted to show this to show side by side of what I copied from your post and what I wrote here and how they do have relation it seems to me or similarities.

    “Therefore, ideals of dominance and egos, corruption but this path men would go through to seek this happiness and constant pursuit of this happiness, that never really exists or never existed but trying to fill a void that can never be filled or don’t know how to or looking in the wrong way and direction to fill it. American Dream is, to me the modern version of “The greek tragedy”. The man full of hubris, who had it all, though he had it all, pursued it and got it from conquests and maniacal effort. But never satisfied. Always needing more, hoping for more. Some are lost and forever corrupt. Others not evil, but lost in their pursuit and as they shut down their weak emotions they suppress the tender side”

    • I actually wrote this before the election and figured it would work, no matter the outcome.

      I guess we were on the same wavelength this week.

      I was thinking that this post worked well with what you were talking about yesterday. And I would like to do something on The Great Gatsby. I’ll collect your thoughts and hopefully edit and post with you as author.

      • Yeah I’ll have to watch the whole movie and get back to you. I got a summarization from parts I saw, especially the end of the movie, which gave me the overview of Gatsby, but I want to watch it because it seemed like a good movie and it would lead me to see the details of everything that happened.

      • That would be terrific!

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