Playing to Win

“Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right.” -Henry Ford

What this quote tells us is that mindset is a double edged sword. It can help us succeed or hinder our progress. One of the keys to getting anything you want out of life, is first believing that you can have it. But the reality is, most of us do not believe and look at ourselves in ways that are less than successful.

In one of my favorite books, Top Dog, this idea is illustrated very powerfully through sports, specifically soccer. When a game ends on a tie score, each team must take turns taking penalty kicks. A penalty shot is essentially one kicker, trying to make the shot, and one goalie, trying to prevent the goal. Best of five shots wins the game. This is not a hard feat. In the history of penalty kicks, overall, these shots are made 85% of the time. However, the success rate greatly changes in different scenarios. Whether they are playing to win or playing not to lose. What does this mean? When a player is playing to win, meaning if the player misses the shot, nothing happens and if he makes the shot, the other team has no chance of making a come back, making them the winner, the shot is made an astounding 92% of the time. However, when we flip the picture and the kicker is playing not to lose. Meaning, if he misses the shot, then his team loses but if he makes it, they get to stay in the game,  suddenly, the amount of shots made drops down to 62%!

The paradox of playing not to lose is specifically aiming at not making mistakes which tends to lead to more mistakes. When you’re playing to win, you are taking continuous risks which leads to more victories. You’ll have some failures but you’ll have greater victories. The greater the uncertainty the greater the quality of life. When you get out of your comfort zone and seek growth in the unknown then you suddenly have more certainty.

“Each player must accept the cards that life deals.. But once in hand, one must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” – Voltaire

Many of us set goals whether it is to save money, lose weight, get married, get promoted, write a book, catch all 150 pokemon on pokemon go etc. We may believe that these goals are attainable and truly want it but often times we do not posess the mindset to carry carry the goal through. It is more of a wish, more of a dream, than a goal. What we need, is to play to win, to believe that we can achieve our goals. When obtaining a goal becomes so real, we will literally become what we want in our mind, long before we achieve it in our life.

One man that I greatly admire is Phil Jackson, coach for the Lakers, and holder of 11 championship rings, so this is a man that knows a thing or two about winning. He’s also known by another name, the Zen master. Anyone who has played for him has always had comments about his coaching Style. In a locker room, what you will find are players meditating, talking about love or even sharing compassion. Exactly what you would expect to see in a room full of men loaded with testosterone. In the 2010 NBA finals, it was the last game, game 7, win or go home. The Lakers were up against the Celtics, two teams that has had a lifelong history of rivalry. At the end of the halftime, the Lakers were down 34 to 40. When the players were taken into the locker room, Phil Jackson had everyone stand around, close your eyes, and be silent. He started talking. Don’t think about the score he said. I want you to visualize this. Imagine, the buzzer has just gone off, it’s the end of the 4th quarter. You have just won the 2010 championships. Imagine yourself in that moment, What are you now doing? Are you running to hug your family? Are you thanking God? Or are you laying on the floor in Elation? Even though the lakers were down, they went out and won the game. There is something that Phil Jackson greatly understood about the human psyche. If you put yourself in the place that you want to be, you are destined to achieve it.

People tend to play not to lose, always play to win.  If you see it, then you will believe it. No, if you believe it, then you will see it.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s