Introducing the Success Concept of Win-Win-Win

SatisfactionA win-win situation is as good as it gets, right? The world-renowned Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) states that Habit 4 is to think “win-win.” Who am I to argue with him? I don’t know, but that’s not success in my book. I strive for a win-win-win situation.

I take issue with that habit being some gold standard in the business world. I’m not saying that a win-win situation is bad — not at all — I’m simply saying that there is yet a higher calling for your habits that includes the element of contributing to something greater than yourself.

Win-win-win > win-win

In win-win, the relationship is symbiotic in a sense that both people win out of whatever relationship or transaction just took place. That’s fine and good, but is it noble. When you look at it closer, it’s selfish. It’s either:

  • I want you to win so I can win or
  • I want to win and you can win, too

I’m not here — existing — so I can win. Newsflash: you aren’t, either. When all is said and done in your career and life, are you going to mourn that you didn’t win enough or that others didn’t because you didn’t? No! You’re going to hope you made a difference in the lives of others. A legacy of caring, not winning.

Win-win-win is about caring

The 3rd win is about one (or both) of you being in a position to then spark another win-win with such success that it also becomes a win-win-win that spreads yet again. Sometimes these situations take months or years to unfold, but you must be aware of possibilities lest you squelch them.

An example

A personal example to help illustrate this concept comes to mind quite easily.

Some of you may know, since it’s in my Twitter bio and “life happens” from time to time and client work just has to wait a day or so, that we are foster parents. Foster parenting is a perfect win-win-win that works this way:

  • the child or children have a safe, loving home while they stay with us
  • we are enriched in spirit, patience, humor, and compassion for having a placement stay with us
  • hopefully, years later, our foster children will grow up to be pillars of their communities and patient, loving adults – many foster or adopted children grow up to be foster or adoptive parents themselves.

In that example, we don’t foster so we are enriched. It’s mind-blowingly difficult many days and heartbreaking others. We do it for them now and for their future selves — the third “win.”

Seek out that third “win”

You only have so much time, energy, and money at your disposal. You must choose what you’ll do every day and I will posit that those who think long-term and think in terms of the third “win” are the most fulfilled and successful people you’ll ever meet.

Who do you know who is constantly going after the third “win” or what other examples do you have to help others find their conduit into others’ success?


  1. says

    Interestingly enough, Jesse, my vendor-client matchmaking business model is explicitly built around the win-win-win approach. The client wins because they quickly find an optimal business partner. The vendor wins because they gain targeted new business opportunities without the up-front cost of sales. And when they both win, I then win through earning a referral fee. Nobody loses, except sub-optimal vendors (who deserve not to win!)

    • says

      You’ve got it, Steve! I knew I couldn’t be the only one who was into win-win-win but I have never seen anyone articulate it and go beyond win-win. I suppose it is some sort of “pay it forward” on the part of the other winner in the transaction and that’s another topic for another day.