I remember the moment well. Some years back, I was at a mastermind retreat with one of my mentors, when I went up to the mic to ask him a question. I had been plateaued in my business for a few months and I wanted help. After a few minutes of dialoguing with him, I’ll never forget when he interrupted me and asked “Do you want to know the real reason you’re not growing?”. I nodded. He said “Well, it’s simple. You’re playing not to lose, and as long as you play not to lose, you’ll never win.”
I was taken back and a little defensive. In just a few brief moments my emotional state went from denial, to anger, to embarrassment, to finally concession. Honestly, he was right. I had gone from playing to win in my business, to simply trying to keep what I had. I was afraid of failing, and in doing so I started to play not to lose.
Whenever I see a leader who has plateaued, it’s almost a guarantee that they have stopped playing to win, and have started playing not to lose. In football, we call this mentality “prevent defense”, and the only thing it ever prevents is winning. We can see it in almost every sport, strategy, and even in the military. When we play safe, we actually expose ourselves to danger.
Click on the photo below to watch my video where I talk more about this phenomenon and what to do about it:
1. Identify where in your life or business you are playing not to lose. Are you avoiding taking actions, making investments, or starting new initiatives? Determine what aspects are affected by you playing safe.
2. Determine what you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail? If you had to succeed, or else you lost everything, what would you do immediately? Determine the “play to win” actions.
3. Redefine the risk and determine the cost of not winning. For example, you may be afraid to make some investments in new marketing campaigns or hiring more salespeople, because you’re afraid of wasting money and hurting cash flow. Well instead of thinking about losing the investment, think about the opportunity cost of the new customers you won’t acquire because you’re not investing. By not taking the risk, you’re guaranteed not growing revenues and profits.
As the famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” In the same way, if you don’t play to win, you’ll never get to see the reward of bold action, and you’ll be stuck with regrets.
If you know you’re not playing to win and you want some help identifying why, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s have a quick chat. I can help.
Here’s to you playing to win!