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Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose


Whew. I am still recovering from setting my ships on fire and watching their smoldering remains slowly sink in the harbor.

My stomach is still a tad topsy-turvy and I feel slightly disoriented. But you know what? There’s no way home so I best got hopping on on my game plan.

Which brings me to today’s post.

See, I’ve written game plans before. I’m very good at them really. And I can fill all the pertinent details and even execute them with precision. Knowing “how” to do something is one of my specialties. I can fill my days, my weeks, my months and my life with executing the “how’s”.

And that is playing not to lose. Let me explain.

(Just for clarity, the rest of this post is about me and my biz, not the work I do with my clients. I push them to the point of insanity. Really. Just ask them.)

I am a small business strategist. It is my job to assess a business goal and build the very best strategy to achieve it. I don’t like guessing at outcomes; I like controlling them. And if I can’t control them or know them ahead of time, I’m not stepping out. Minor risk is ok, but nothing that will liquidate major assets (cash and otherwise) is acceptable.

To make it sound savvy and smart, I’ve called it “calculated risk” (which, just so you know, I think is a wise thing). But I wasn’t mapping out “calculated risk”, I was mapping out safety nets and cautious progress. Just push the envelope a teeny bit here, try not to make too many people mad, try this little thing over here that *might* work. I think¬† you get the idea.

Why would I do that? Because if I don’t try too hard or care too much, I won’t be heartbroken if it doesn’t work

I was playing NOT to lose.

But now that I’ve burned my ships, here’s what I know: crippling caution will not serve me; it will get me killed.

Yes, I need to read the lay of the land and decide exactly where I am going (which I will finish up tomorrow) and then I MUST strike out boldly. (Remember that saying “Fortune favors the bold.”? I believe it.)

Now is my time for Playing To Win. saban

Let me give you a few distinctions on Playing to Win vs Playing Not to Lose. (And I am REALLY hoping you will add yours to the list in the comments.)

“I’m gonna knock this out of the park!” vs. “Gee, I wonder if anyone is going to like this?”

“Here’s what I have to say about that.” vs. “Saying what I think might make the wrong people angry.”

“I have what it takes to make this succeed.” vs. “I wonder if I know enough to do this?”

“I can slay the field.” vs. “I want the field to like me so I won’t try too hard.”

“I will push all my chips to the center of the table.” vs “I holding a pile of chips back in case I need them.”

“I deeply care about this.” vs. “I think it will sound good if I say I care about that.”

“I dug down and gave it my best.” vs. “Meh, I really didn’t try that hard anyway.”

“I love you.” vs. “I’m not telling them because they may not feel the same way.”

I think you get the idea.

So, as always, I’m hoping I’m not alone in shifting my game from playing not to lose to playing to win. AND, I’m hoping you have a PTW vs PNTL you will share in the comments, too.

Who’s in?!

(And you are feeling a big YES to all this, please check out my upcoming blog series 30 Days to Changing Your Game.)

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