It’s a decision that people make over and over again in their lives. Are we playing this scenario to win? Or are we playing this scenario not to lose?
Let’s be clear what I’m talking about here.
Playing to win means taking some calculated risk in order to achieve greater rewards. It often means doing things outside of your comfort zone and really challenging yourself.
Playing not to lose means minimizing your personal risk in every choice you take. You might get smaller rewards, but you won’t have to face losses very often.
I think these sets of scenarios should make the difference clear.
Do you spend all of your time at work keeping your head down and just trying to do the tasks you’re assigned well enough to keep your job? Or are you trying to get ahead by taking on challenging extra work, educating yourself, and standing up when the going is tough?
Do you manage your finances so that you keep your head above water each week? Or do you manage your finances so that you’re actually building wealth week after week?
Do you dream about asking that person out on a date? Or do you go ahead and ask, knowing that the answer might be “no”… but knowing also that the answer might be “yes”?
Do you stare at the floor when someone asks for volunteers? Or do you sometimes say, “Sure, I can do that,” and stick your hand up in the air?
In each case, there’s a safe path – one that involves virtually no risk and only minor rewards. There’s also a riskier path – one that involves some risk but has the potential for rewards.
At work, you can be the person that volunteers to give a big presentation. It might go poorly, sure, and that might reflect poorly on your career. On the other hand, if it goes well, you’ve secured your job and probably made a name for yourself among people who can help you go places in your career.
With your money, you can just focus on making sure there’s enough cash in the checking account to avoid bouncing checks. On the other hand, you can cut back deeply on your spending in some areas and start putting that money you save to work for you in other ways. Sure, you risk losing out on some small things you enjoy, but you have the big benefit of actually building a financial future.
With your relationships, you can just avoid asking anyone out and feel good that at least you weren’t rejected. On the other hand, you can actually go up there and ask and, if the answer is no, you’re still just doing what you would have done that night anyway. At least with this scenario, there’s the possibility of “yes.”
With your community, you can simply keep your head down and avoid some volunteer work. On the other hand, you can raise your hand, get involved, meet new people, and maybe build friendships and professional connections. Sure, it might mean some work and it might mean a few hours spent doing something that isn’t the best thing you’ve ever done, but the potential rewards are far greater than keeping your face down.
Over and over again, we have that choice in front of us. Do we play to win or do we play not to lose?
Most of the time, there’s enormous benefit in playing to win just a little more often.