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NEW YEARS RESOLUTION: To Hell With the Zero Summers...

2012 is almost gone, and my resolutions for 2013 are pretty short.  So short I can sum them up in one sentence:

"To hell with the Zero Summers."

You know the Zero Summers. They are the individuals that think if you win, they lose. They believe there's a finite sum of good things that can happen in the world, and when one of them happens to you, that's one ZeroSum less that can happen to them.  They believe for every gain there is a loss. For every winner, there's a loser. 

Competing is fine. Being competitive isn't the primary issue with Zero Summers. The real issue is that zero summers withhold the following due to their world view. Zero Summers:

-Withhold praise and recognition 

-Won't collaborate to save their *** because they're too worried about who is going to get the credit

-Won't work on ideas that have clearly been created by someone else for the same reason outlined above

-Are generally snake-like when it comes to anything related to teamwork. They actually bring team chemistry down because of the negative vibe they bring to the table. Did you hear that silence in the meeting? That's the team reacting to the selfish vibe that the Zero Summer put out there. The team's probably not even fully aware of who's putting off that vibe. That's how under the radar the Zero Summers can be.

So I've got some decisions to make about the Zero Summers related to my 2013 resolution. I can either just say I'm not going to work on things with Zero Summers, or I can go off the grid and decide that I'm going to try and call out Zero Sum behavior when I see it, with all the social and professional discomfort that goes with that choice. Not sure yet how far to take it.  It impacts what I'm involved in away from work as much as it impacts my professional life. 

Zero Summers - they're killing your ability to collaborate in your personal and professional life. They should get called out on it.

Happy Holidays! I know, I'm a ray of freaking sunshine. You thought that I was going to give you a resolution on writing a haiku once per week, and all the sudden I'm throwing red paint on someone in a meeting.

Good times. PS, there's a band called the Zero Summers.  There's a cello and Green Day influences and they hail from Utah. Click here for the website, it's the only positive I've ever seen related Zero Summers in my life.


Grant Peacock

Amen. Zero Summers are becoming a more common occurrence rather than less... Great post, Kris. Happy Holidays!

Chris Walker

C'mon, Kris, you gotta get with the program. The Zeroes are everywhere. Can you say U.S. Congress? NRA? NEA? Advocacy group of you choice? Every issue is framed as one side against another, my way or the highway, it's how we roll here in the good old US of A. You're going to be totally worn out by February my friend if you start calling them all out.


a hearty AMEN to that, Brother Dunn.

In almost every endeavor that involves humankind, the pie can, and usually does, get bigger.

Electricity, the automobile, personal computers, the internet, wireless, smartphones, tablets, new farming methods, new water purification methods, medical advancements, micro-lending, greener energy ... more opportunities for more wealth and better quality of life for everybody.

And often 1+1 is > 2. Anyone that's ever worked on a kicka$$ team understands this.

Humans = The Ultimate Resource
(RIP, Dr. Simon).


Loved your article and am totally stoked that there are people out there like you who get it! I wish such people weren't so few and far between. I love how at the end of your article, you essentially practice exactly what you preach by mentioning my band. Thank you! I have also shared your article, I hope many people read it and spread the love....cheers and Happy 2013!!

Michael D. Maples

No matter who calls the play or carries the ball across the goal line, MY team scores. Even doing something badly, first, requires doing something. Your contribution may be the elimination of what doesn't work.

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