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Some battles aren’t worth winning

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

‘Don’t waste time fighting battles that are not worth winning.’

This piece of advice was given to me very early in my career by Professor David Wilson, now a well-known Criminologist. He was my Governor when I worked in a High Security Prison, over 25 years ago. I learnt a lot from David, although he probably won’t remember the young, impressionable officer I was then.

I remember this clearly. It related to the introduction of staff name badges with a photo. The union was getting a bit hot under the collar about it. Some staff were refusing to wear them.

It was a battle not worth winning. The standing joke was ‘I don’t want prisoners to know what I look like!’ Funny but true.

This should not be mixed up with fighting for a justifiable cause, however low the odds of winning. When Rosa Parks, a black 42 year old refused to give up her seat on her way home from work in December 1955, she was fighting a justifiable cause. Racism.

That cause was worth winning, and still is.

But it is not worth fighting battles, and expending energy on ‘causes’ that just aren’t worth it.

If you find yourself saying things like ‘I don’t care but it is the principle of it’, then look at your motives.

Is it really worth winning?

Martyn Dawes is a Coach, Social Care Consultant, and Author of The Overwhelmed Manager: What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

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