Why you need a kill or be killed mentality in life to survive and succeed


Kevin Mangelschots

The kill-or-be-killed mentality is a largely forgotten one in today’s world since it has become almost too safe and comfortable. Yet, just because it isn’t talked about doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there employing that mindset.

It’s this by and large easy existence that has lulled us into a false sense of safety. Still, the winner takes it all. And to win, we must be willing to compete and to be ruthless. For you to be a winner, others will have to lose. And people dislike losing, that’s for sure.

Let me explain why this outlook is still necessary to survive and thrive in today’s society.

Why you need to apply a kill or be killed mentality in life

A young woman with boxing gloves holding her guard up while staring.

People are only as good as society allows them to be

Make no mistake about it, people are only as good as the world and society allow them to be. When governments would hypothetically fall, modern society would fall into shambles and chaos would ensue. It wouldn’t be long before people would start fighting, stealing, and even killing if things got bad enough for a prolonged period.

Most of us refuse to believe this, thinking this is a thing of the past, and that people have changed, that we have evolved past our previous weaknesses, and savage selves.

But I disagree, people are still almost the same. It’s just that the world is much safer and easier now, and that it benefits us personally to be calm, peaceful, and cooperative. This provides safety and prevents us from being punished by the legal system. Thus, we’re incentivized to be civilized.

I’m also not saying that you should take the kill-or-be-killed mentality too literally. However, in extreme cases, you should be capable of employing said mindset. Because when your own life is on the line, it’s you or them. And for your own sake, it has to be them that goes.

People are far too soft and removed from reality these days

Figuratively speaking, it’s a great mentality to have.

Most people these days are far too soft, and oftentimes far removed from reality. Part of this is to blame on their upbringing, part of it on themselves, and part of it due to the surrounding people refusing to be honest, and practice straightforward and open communication.

This means that we actively let people become and remain delusional instead of giving them a much-needed dose of reality to pull them out of their imaginary fairy tale that’s needed from time to time.

Everything is a competition

Illustration of office workers running on an arrow indicating that it's a race and a competition.

We are constantly in competition with one another. And if you can’t be ruthless when the situation calls for it, then you can never win and get what you want, and sometimes even need. To the victor go the spoils, so you need to make sure you’re the one who reaps the benefits of victory.

Make no mistake, even when you’re in your social circle with your best friends, you’re still competing. Men are competing for dominance, to attract the most women and social status. Women on the other hand are ‘fighting’ over attention, and to be the most attractive one to the other sex.

Competing in life isn’t bad. It’s what thrives society forward, and incentivizes people to improve. But people regularly see contending as tiresome, and something they can stop doing after a while. But make no mistake, it’s something we continue doing (or should continue doing) until we die. Life is one big competition against not only ourselves but also others.

To defend yourself

If you’re not willing to hurt some people, and this doesn’t have to be physical, then you can never get what you want. Because no matter what you do, you can never please everyone.

You’re inevitably going to hurt several people’s feelings just by being yourself. Even if you tried being everyone’s friend, some would still hate and despise you for the simple fact that you were trying to please everyone.

I’m not saying that you need to go out looking for trouble or to actively harm somebody. But just know, that sometimes it’s unavoidable. You will hurt some folks just by being you, and that’s okay. It’s not your duty to please everyone, nor is it your responsibility to make sure that everyone likes and cares about you, or isn’t offended by your comments and actions.

Sometimes it’s either kill or be killed concerning physical altercations. Avoid them if possible, but when that’s not possible, be ruthless to come out on top.

All people are inherently selfish to a degree

Image of the quote, “I am not selfish, I just want everything” written on a black background.

No matter how you slice it, all people are egoistical to a point. Even more, most individuals are extremely selfish. Most of us just aren’t willing to admit it out of fear of being negatively judged and perceived.

Some people will go to any lengths to get what they want, even if that ends up hurting others.

That’s not to say that being selfish to a degree is bad. It’s also this self-seeking behavior that allows us to go after what we want to get. This is good because when we’re not satisfying our own needs and desires, is when we turn angry, jealous, spiteful, and vengeful.

But to get what we want, we typically need to win. Life has, and always will divide itself into winners and losers.

Apply when needed, but be respectful

Treat others with respect. Be honest, and straightforward, and be an ethical human being. This includes being responsible and holding yourself accountable for your actions. That being said, let the chips fall where they end up falling. If some people don’t like you or end up being offended by you doing you, then that’s on them. It’s their issue, not yours.

You should also realize that you will need to adopt this mentality to protect yourself from bad people and predatory folks.

Some don’t play by the rules that the majority of citizens abide by. You need to recognize and accept this fact to prepare yourself to act accordingly. When meeting those people, you need to be a savage as well. You don’t need to like it, you don’t need to enjoy it, but you will need to do it since it’s a requirement to keep you safe and alive.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What does kill or be killed mean?

The kill or be killed meaning is not straightforward, since it can be interpreted two ways. Namely, literally, and figuratively.

Important to note is that both can be true, and be applied in life.

Kill or be killed mentality literal meaning

Literally, it means that you either kill the opposing individual, or else you will be killed instead.

Think of a terrorist who’s shooting into the crowd where you’re standing in, while you’re carrying a gun yourself. Chances are large that he’ll shoot you too, so you best protect yourself, and those around you by shooting back.

It’s kill or be killed because if you don’t kill him first, then he will dispose of you.

Kill or be killed mentality figurative meaning

Image of a yellow trophy on a yellow background with the word 'winner' written in black in front of it.

It’s kill or be killed can also be used as a metaphor.

It conveys that life is harsh, competitive, and combative, that bad things happen, and that some folks are straight-up evil.

This means you’ll have to be ruthless at times to just survive. In some situations and with some specific people, it’s kill or be killed to win and reap the rewards. To the victor go the spoils indeed.

For example, if you and another competitor are both playing a game of golf, and the winner gets 1 million dollars, while the loser gets nothing, then you do everything in your power to win for your own sake.

If you don’t win, then you get no financial compensation for all that time and effort you’ve invested. You’re the loser. You’re going home with nothing. And you can be sure of it that the other individual is going to play his heart out to win and to make you lose. They most likely won’t lose any sleep over it either.


Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

The kill-or-be-killed mentality mostly applies as a figure of speech instead of literally.

The winner takes it all. And this means that for you to win, others will have to lose and miss out. They will appeal to your conscience and seek out your empathy in an attempt to prevent you from winning, just so they can reap the benefits instead. This means that it’s either kill or be killed to be the winner.

People who are too nice will fall victim to this trap, which means they lose out and can’t live their lives optimally. Thus, it’s okay, and even beneficial to learn how to be ruthless when the situation requires it.