Do you Play to Win? Or Do You Play Not to Lose?

So many thoughts and emotions have sailed through my mind this week. On Sunday, Perry and I were recording our usual Inspired Parent Insights episode. He brought up one of the reasons why his math tutoring business is so successful is because of a popular ‘kang-soo’ mentality that many Singaporean parents have. Certainly, this phenomenon is not geographically limited to only Southeast Asia. In fact, it’s rampant throughout the world. Only an elite few individuals on the face of this planet have a mentality that is beyond the ‘kang-soo.’ This just gets under my skin. The very purpose of everything I do… my life’s purpose… my very contribution to society is that to help people grow past their limiting ‘kang-soo’ mentality.


Everyone in our Mastermind group is working to get past this very thing. They need to do this in order to set up shop under their own names, instead of working for their employers.


So what is this elusive ‘kang-soo’ mentality? And why is it detrimental to how you play your game?


What is Kang Soo?

‘Kang- Soo’ is a loose phonetic translation to the Cantonese slang ‘Jup-Siu,’ which means ‘losing out.’ Losing out on what, you ask?



‘Kang- Soo’ is a loose phonetic translation to the Cantonese slang ‘Jup-Siu,’ which means ‘losing out.’ Losing out on what, you ask?


  • Losing out on opportunity
  • Losing out on money
  • Losing out in comparison to peers
  • Losing out to where you think you ought to be by now


In other words, the Chinese abhor losing out on anything, be it opportunity, money, or in life in general. They think it’s one of the worse things that you can do in your life. It’s so terrible that they consider it even worse than squandering your family’s entire fortune. “Jup-siu hang tou, cham-go-bai-gah.”


Even though you’d think I was born and raised in Canada… and though I don’t even know how to write this phrase, it has still had a profound impact on my own life, and the decisions that I made in the past. The point of it is to ensure that you take advantage of every single opportunity that comes your way. Inherently, though, I’ve discovered that it’s flawed. It’s flawed in a few respects that are detrimental to creating the life that you desire.


Playing Not to Lose

Its first flaw is that it instills an attitude of playing not to lose. You’d think that if you’re playing not to lose, you’d be playing to win. But it’s completely the opposite. The focus is completely counter-productive than what you think. Remember in my post “What to Do When You Feel Intimidated”  where I shared my views on ‘anti-bullying?’ I said that ‘anti-bullying,’ or ‘anti-anything’ for that matter only perpetuates the problem instead of making it go away.



The problem persists because subconsciously, our minds do not process concepts in the negative. It doesn’t process the removal of anything. Our minds ignore everything having to do with ‘anti,’ or ‘non’ or ‘not’ or lack of anything. Instead, it focuses on only what remains. Hence, by submitting the phrase ‘anti-bullying,’ our subconscious only processes the ‘bullying’ part. By submitting the phrase ‘don’t’ want to be poor, our subconscious processes only “want to be poor.” Get what I’m saying?


Certainly, I’m telling you nothing new. Every respectable personal development book on mindset discusses this very point. The new book that I’m reading “Happy Pocketful of Money” by David Cameron Gikandi reinforces this point very well.


Even Ninjago gets this concept. There was one episode where Lord Garmadon finds a Mega-Weapon that could deliver anything your mind desired. Being the evil lord of the underworld, he commanded the weapon to destroy and to bring about destruction to Ninjago City. Alas, nothing happened. At first, he thought it didn’t work. But then he discovered that this magic Mega-Weapon can only create. It cannot destroy. So he changed his requests, and created an army of evil ninja-clones instead, who subsequently did his bidding.


This is what happens when you pay attention to what your 5yr old watches on Netflix.


Keeping up with the Joneses

The second flaw with this phrase that annoys me to no end, is that it makes us want to have what everyone else has. We assume that because we don’t want to lose out on anything, we, therefore, need to get what everyone else has. This is so wrong it’s not even funny. This is how we get into the rat race where we blindly follow the script that our community has set out for us. This, my friends, is what turns us into sheep. Go to school. Get a degree. Get a job. Meet someone special. Buy a house. Have kids. Send them to an academic school. Go on vacation. Retire at 65. The cycle perpetuates.



What part of this do we truly want? All of it? Some of it? None of it? Maybe we want something entirely different? Maybe it’s not even what the Jones’ wanted? Maybe they just did it to keep up with the Smiths? Jokes on us. We might be all following a script that no one originally wanted. But it only seemed like a good idea because most of the population was going in that direction. It seemed safe. It seemed good.


Who cares what everyone else has? Is it even what we want in our life? The only way to get out of this rat races requires us to ask ourselves what we truly want. Here’s the sad part. It’s not that most people don’t know what they want, or can’t get what they want. It’s that they’re too damn lazy to spend the time and mental energy to define what they would like to have. Don’t believe me? Look at the people around us. How many of them set personal goals? How many of them know when they’re going to retire? How many of them think their life be any different in five years? This brings me nicely to my next point.


Scarcity Mentality

I have a Romanian friend. There was once the bunch of us were standing in line, waiting to get into a restaurant. While the rest of us were overcome with impatience, he told us he’s used to standing in line. Why? Because in back in the day in Romania, there was so little to go around that people constantly had to line up for stuff: food rations, water, basic necessities. He was taught to always rush and stand in line, even if you didn’t know what it was that you were lining up. You just knew you had to stake your claim. It could have been a lottery for human sacrifice and people still would be lining up for blocks just because they only knew they didn’t want to lose out.



I can appreciate that if you grew up in a place where there was rampant starvation, never enough of anything to go around, it would create a huge mental block. The fact is, however, it’s all fake. It’s a façade. Consider that even in Romania, where most of the population starved, I’m willing to bet that a select few, likely the central leadership, enjoyed bountiful meals. The world of scarcity is fabricated. The trick is for you to get yourself past that façade and find what you truly desire.


By my logic, the only thing on which you need to lose out is the concept that you can lose out. (You might need to read this over again to digest it.)


Let’s Play to Win

As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently reading a book called “A Happy Pocketful of Money by David Cameron Gikandi. It’s riveting. David discusses the laws of the universe and illustrates practical techniques to create the optimal environment where we could have whatever we would like in our life. Here are some of the highlights thus far:


1. Abundance Mentality

The opposite of a scarcity mentality is, of course, an abundance mentality. The trick is to change your course. Instead of hopping on a non-stop train to Scarcity-Ville, you need to consciously set your course to the Land of Plenty.


2. Lingo Matters

Instead of doing ‘not’ stuff, which is a sure way to get the opposite of what you want to avoid. Think and speak in terms of what you do want. The prerequisite, of course, is to define what it is that you do want. As I mentioned, your subconscious mind is wired to process only that which is in the affirmative. Knowing this, be conscious of your lingo:


When You Say Your Mind ProcessesSo instead Say
I don’t want to be poor.I want to be poor. I desire wealth.
I don’t want to be single.I want to be single. I would like to meet my ideal partner.
I’m afraid that I won’t find work.I won’t find work.I am constantly surrounded by a huge selection of opportunities.


3. A Calm Mind Creates

One of the most important ingredients in the recipe for a winning environment is a calm mind. A calm mind creates. A troubled mind attracts trouble. A confused mind attracts confusion. An angry mind attracts anger. You get the picture. The best thing that you can do for yourself when playing to win is to spend 15 minutes every day to calm your mind. It’s only in this state where you can start to see opportunities that would get you to your desired goal. When your mind is in a state of constant frenzy, you miss opportunities that would otherwise expedite you to your goal.



There are so many goodies in this book. I can’t wait to share them with you. In the meantime, you’ll do well to know this: No matter how trying your present might be, it’s a façade. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be right now. The universe doesn’t make mistakes. You’re exactly in the place where you need to be on the journey to where you wish to go.

Also published on Medium.

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