Playing to win is not the same as playing not to lose. 

The Olympics are my favorite season, particularly the summer games. A time when the world gathers in alignment to cheer and celebrate incredible athleticism and the human condition. I will watch any sport, sometimes knowing them pretty well, other times learning a lot. I was amazed to learn that the marathoners are running 26 miles at a pace that is less than 6 minutes a mile! I was also impressed that the men’s volleyball includes serves that can top 50 mph. The human body is amazing. And only as the mind goes with it.

You may have watched some of the US Women’s soccer team, a group that hadn’t lost a match in 4 years. That’s remarkable if not incredible! They lost to Canada and eventually won the Bronze medal, I’m sure a disappointment after years of so much success. They lost a match in their pool play as well, which meant they couldn’t lose again if they wanted to play for a medal. Imagine the pressure of all that success spilling into a “must win” situation. A coaching decision was made in their next match – we will play for a tie, not for a win. We will do what we must through a defensive posture to not lose the game. To not lose. And they didn’t lose. They also didn’t win. They tied, and it was a match uncharacteristic of the US Team.

So let’s talk about how we build the future of your organization. Are you playing to win? Giving your best ideas, building timelines and strategy that carry more than one year? Participating in meetings even when you doubt yourself?

Or are you playing not to lose? Listening to what everyone else in your industry is doing and then following along? Waiting for problems to emerge and then plugging the holes (playing defense)?

Playing not to lose is exhausting. It is a different mindset than playing to win. Calculated risks, strong communication, and a desire to be better tomorrow than you are today are only three of the myriad of benefits in playing to win. Maybe today is your first day with a new mindset?