Are You Playing to WIN? or Playing to NOT LOSE?

I remember the first time I heard my mentor asked a group of us  “Are you playing to WIN or are you playing to NOT lose?”   I quickly responded, “To WIN, of course.”

He masterfully interrupted my thinking and planted a seed that continually causes me to challenge myself and ask how am I choosing to play today, in this area of my life?

What evidence is there that confirms or contradicts my thinking?

As I discovered inconsistencies in my life, I set out on a journey to consistently play to WIN. Losing could not be an option in any area of my life.  Obstacles are a given and losing will happen, however I will learn, get up and play hard to win.

I am grateful that this very question, Are you playing to WIN? pops up at least once a day in my decision making in my business, my relationships, my health, and in my life in general.  For me it has been a great accountability question.  And the facts have told me sometimes I had shifted to a NOT Lose mindset. I didn’t like it and it didn’t have to stay that way.

Are you playing to WIN or to NOT Lose?

Can you genuinely say that you intentionally play to WIN in all areas of your life? Have you discovered some areas that you unintentionally settled for less than your best?  What circumstances triggered a shift, a shift to a person who plays to NOT LOSE? A person who holds onto what you have instead of creating what you envision for your business, your relationships, your family, and even for your legacy?

This mindset is not reserved for those nearing retirement. It can be found in all age groups.  Just last week a 27 year old business leader stated he was too old with too many responsibilities to start his dream business.

Below are several expressions I heard.  Which statements are a ‘play to WIN’ mindset and which sound like a ‘play to NOT LOSE’ mindset?

  •  I’m hanging in there, only 4 more years until I walk out that door for the last time.
  • I finally learned what my manager was looking for and now when I present to him we spend very little time on numbers and we get to focus on the strategy I know will turn this company around.
  • I don’t have the capital to start my own business.
  • I am focused on getting good first, nothing is going to distract me from starting my own business in the next 2 years.
  • My boss said no, so we killed the new program and stuck with what has always worked for us in the past.
  • I have to get my book done so I can help as many people as I can, I never thought I would be 84 before I discovered my purpose.
  • We hit a road block with the city planners, so we called a special meeting that lasted 16 hours to figure out a viable solution that everyone was excited about and believed would work.
  • 20 banks said no to the new funding, however we have 40 more to ask. Besides it only takes one and if I can’t find a bank I’ll find a private investor.  Money will not get in my way of starting.
  • It’s going to take us 5 years before we get their, however 5 years from now I don’t want to be having this same conversation so lets give it a shot.
  • Growing up I always thought I would run my own company.  I earned more than anyone in my family so I did ok. Besides I’d be 65 years old before I got everything aligned to where I need it.
  • We tried all of that before and it didn’t work so why are you wasting our time discussing it today?
  • I am not twenty any more.  I need to be grateful for what I have and hold on tight to the future I envision.

With the help of a great coach or mentor, a business leader can learn to effectively navigate obstacles of the mind like:  obstacles of limited thinking, the obstacles of former success, the obstacles of loss, the obstacles of  technical expertise, the obstacles of not knowing how to ….

10 Things to consider as you Play to WIN and conquer obstacles.

  1. Rules that keep you from doing what you really want to do are merely obstacles to be creatively overcome
  2. Holding on to old ways keeps you at status quo and cause you to slip lower with time.
  3. Courage develops by taking action with the intention to LEARN and ultimately WIN.
  4. Increase your play to maximize your chance of winning.
  5. Playing for fun or playing to win, means trying all possibilities, no matter how off the wall they seem. Learn, adapt, try again, repeat until you win.
  6. Never give up, do not let go of your vision while life serves up a string of challenges.
  7. Obstacles are meant to be overcome and require you to tighten your grip to learn.
  8. Losing is inevitable. Choose to learn and get up one more time.
  9. Losing is temporary if you are genuinely playing to WIN.
  10. Whoever is watching you is following your lead, play to WIN so your team plays to win with you.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.

I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times,

I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”   Michael Jordan



“For me, winning isn’t something that happens suddenly on the field

when the whistle blows and the crowds roar.

Winning is something that builds physically and

mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream. “    Emmett Smith

What does ‘Playing to WIN’ ‘mean to you?