Playing Not to Lose vs Playing to Win


cartoon-nov8-2012 “It is a characteristic of wisdom, not to do desperate things.” – Henry David Thoreau

This post is going to go against a lot of what I have told you in previous posts. But then on the flip side it will reinforce other posts even more. Confused? Understandably.

Take budgets for example. I have talked a lot about how important these are, but sometimes that approach can backfire. It’s not that you shouldn’t budget, project and forecast the important drivers of your business. But, it is easy to let the process get the best of you and get to the point that it can actually overwhelm and paralyze you. How many times have you seen a positive trend in your numbers and it automatically pumped you up? You felt confident – cocky even. But then, you may do a projection and see that you will have a problem down the road covering payroll or paying debt. This information then scares you, could make you panic, thus causing you to play not to lose. You transition into triage mode and act from the perspective of fear. It is so difficult to change this mantra, to switch gears, and to get your head back in the game.

On the flip side, playing to win drives your passion, vision, and goals into fruition. You play to win and you win. You meet budgets, cover payroll, exceed expectations and much, much more.

So, what is a business owner to do when this advice sounds nothing less than schizophrenic? Listen to both pieces of advice. Forecast and project. Have a plan to execute your idea. But, don’t get shackled by the idea that you are limited by those models or, even worse, that if those models give you bad news, that you play to just save yourself and not to thrive.

Any player, coach, fan, or anyone close to an athlete can tell you that playing to win is the most powerful weapon out there and that playing not to lose can be poison. Strike the balance between a well executed plan but yet a bright and persevering passion for your goal and you will no doubt win.