Pete Carroll is a man of many parts. In addition to leading the Seahawks to the brink of a championship, he's also a New York Times bestselling author, and a serious philosopher. The Classical's own Damon Agnos has made a study of Carroll's "Win Forever" cosmology, distlled into a short, affordable companion: The Competitor's Guide to Existence, available for just 99 cents from Damon's website and other reputable vendors of edutainment.
What with it being Super Bowl Media Day, Damon and Classical editorial dude Pete Beatty took a few minutes to discuss what Winning Forever means, and whether this exciting new worldview might be right for all of us, not just Seahawks fans.
PB: When did you first start to study "Win Forever" as a philosophy?
DA: Like any other sports fan, I was aware of Carroll and his success at USC, but I didn’t look into his philosophy until my friend Matt began to send me “Always Compete” texts in 2012. Matt reached me at a time when I was feeling lost; in fact, I can recall wishing that I could be guided by a comprehensive philosophy originating in the athletic arena but covering so much more. I purchased Carroll’s book in October 2012 and have been studying Win Forever ever since.
Q: So the Win Forever philosophy is about more than just football?
Indeed, as I note in the book, recent cosmology research out of the University of Southern Denmark has helped bring into relief Carroll’s prediction—some might say prophecy—about the fate of the universe.
Q. Do you really take Carroll’s book with you everywhere you “compete”?
Well, I am competing everywhere I go, so that’s a tall order. But yes, I keep the e-book on my phone. If I find myself in a pickle (metaphor), I can always pull out my phone and go straight to the text. In especially tough times, I will use Carroll’s Pyramid as the lock screen.
Q: So on a scale from 1 to "Full of Shit," where would you place Pete Carroll?
I think it is easy to dismiss a new philosophy for its superficial contradictions, particularly when its champion is as charismatic as Carroll. I prefer to think of the attempts to reconcile Carroll’s Four Totalities (It’s All About the Ball, Everything Counts, Respect Everyone, Practice Is Everything) as akin to the attempts of religious scholars to reconcile the seeming contradictions of their holy books; that we struggle with these questions demonstrates the richness of our texts, and the struggle enriches us.
Q: How does Carroll walking away from USC just before that program got hit with massive sanctions fit into "Win Forever"?
With the Seattle offer, Carroll was given the opportunity to Win Forever at the highest level of the game. His philosophy commands him to “do things better than they have ever been done before.” Had he turned the Seahawks down, he would have betrayed his philosophy and its many adherents, including his student-athletes at USC.
Q: Who else is winning forever? Are any businesses winning forever?
I have recently heard good things about a Russian oil syndicate whose name escapes me. But ultimately, it is up to individuals and businesses to ask themselves whether they are winning forever. As Carroll makes clear, if you want to win forever, you must always compete and be in relentless pursuit of a competitive edge. Maintaining that level of competition requires brutal self-honesty, which is why the Seahawks have “Tell The Truth Mondays”.
Q: You're a lawyer, and I'm assuming you know more about logic and political economy than me. Tell me about what "Winning Forever" as a jurisprudence and/or organizing principle of society?
You are too generous in your assumptions about lawyers. That said, I do think our society would benefit from a greater commitment to Win Forever. Imagine if Wall Street and its regulators followed Win Forever rather than Objectivism. While imploring investment bankers to remain “in relentless pursuit of a competitive edge,” Win Forever and its titular emphasis on eternity would certainly frown on the short-term thinking behind derivative-driven bubbles.
Furthermore, Win Forever implores us to “Always Protect the Team” and to “Respect Everyone”, maxims that Alan Greenspan and the SEC would have been well advised to follow. In short, the 2008 financial crisis is the direct result of society’s failure to embrace Win Forever.
Just this week, though, NASDAQ tweeted two characteristically wise quotations from Coach Carroll, providing not just guidance to the people of Twitter, but also hope that tomorrow’s Wall Streeters will be a little less wolfish.
Q: You compare Win Forever to the philosophy espoused on Dr. Bronner's soap packaging. If Pete Carroll had a soap, how would the soap win forever?
Obviously, the soap would always compete. I imagine this would be evident in its cleaning and moisturizing capacity, and/or in some other characteristic currently envisioned only by a competitor in relentless pursuit of a competitive edge in soaps. Ask yourself, who is the Jesus of soapmaking? Who is the Gandhi? Who is the Rene Descartes? Carroll says to these greats, I see you your wisdom, and I raise you one. That’s what a Win Forever soap would do.
Q: How does the "Win Forever" philosophy treat with the segments of "forever" that occurred prior to Pete Carroll's arrival in Seattle or even USC? I seem to recall times when he was not winning forever.
Your question rests on two fallacies. The first is that all infinities are equal, something disproved by Georg Cantor’s set theory or by just imagining that Persons A and B will both live forever, but Person A is born ten years earlier. Person A’s infinity will always be ten years longer than Person B’s. (Here you wonder if Carroll believes in a competitive afterlife or simply thinks himself immortal; I wonder the same thing.)
The other fallacy is to define winning only by the scoreboard. To compete is to win, Carroll tells us, though he also says that the former lasts longer. There is much to study here.
To answer your question, Carroll developed his philosophy after being fired by New England and before being hired by USC. He recalls this as a time of dogged exploration; we might compare it to Gautama Buddha stubbornly sitting beneath the pipal tree before achieving enlightenment.
Q: Is there a "Lose Forever"?
You jest, but Win Forever does offer some interesting play with binaries. I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice it to say, in the Win Forever scheme, it may be hard to exist without winning and hard to lose while existing, which calls into question the philosophy’s founding binary. Similarly, the reader may find him/herself pinballing through the maze of Totalities, as this flow chart from illustrator Scott Pendergraft shows us.
Q. Your description of Carroll borders on the messianic; do you view him as a messiah?
Let’s not get melodramatic here! I prefer to call him a prophetic voice. But that mural in South Bend might consider ceding the title “Touchdown Jesus”.