Tag Archives: xīn rú yuánhóu


That sporting events mirror military contests, or perhaps replace them, is not a new idea. But it’s amazing how both reflect so perfectly the human tendency toward the reckless at the moment when it counts most.

Napoleon marched 600,000 troops across the Niemen River in June of 1812, and came back with 20,000. William Nester, of St. John’s University in NY says it was a combination of hubris and brinksmanship.

This sounds very much like Pete Carroll’s decision just a few minutes ago to throw the ball at the precise moment when every Pop Warner kid in the world knew that it was the wrong thing to do.

We must ask why, but must we really? The Napoleon example is only one of the most famous. There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of stories exactly like it. It’s what we as a species do, over and over again. It’s the result of a lifetime of the Ego whispering in our ear every moment of every day. And it doesn’t matter if you huddle around a parchment map of Europe for eight days with your generals, or if you have 40 seconds to think about it — same result.

Yeah, it’s the Ego that we need to make the plays in the first place, no question. But as hard as professional NFL coaches train their player’s bodies, they need to spend at least 2% as much time training their own minds. Listen to the Ego when you know it’s not feeding you a line of bullshit, but be sure to know the difference between what it does and doesn’t do well.

The only way to know that is to sit very quietly for long periods of time and watch that xīn rú yuánhóu at work. Watch it from a distance, with some amusement, and a detached sense of humor. Doing this, even for just a few minutes of every day, will drastically reduce the number of times you are tricked, when it counts the most.

Have a Seat, Pete.