Two Ways to Play the Game of Life
awareness discomfort risk
"Now we're going to do front flips from high up." My coach pointed at three platforms and the crash mat below them. "You can do either the 2 foot, the 4 foot, or the 6 foot, whichever you're comfortable with."
We all went for the 4 foot platform. It wasn't so high and scary as the 6 foot, but it was bigger than the 2 foot so we felt like we were pushing ourselves a bit.
After a few decent flips, my coach stepped in. "Ok. From now on, you can use any box except the 4 foot."
My first instinct was to go for for the lower box and call it "working on my form." But I knew my form was fine. I was capable of the 6 foot.
It was fear holding me back.
I climbed the tallest platform and looked down. It was a long way to flip. My heart was racing. I made a few false starts. I just couldn't commit.
I was about to step down to the 2 foot when I remembered something.
I didn't come to APEX to play it safe and be comfortable. I came to learn Parkour.
The goal wasn't to get through the classes as comfortably as possible. The goal was to get better, to learn new moves and to push past my boundaries.
I told myself, "I'm not playing to avoid losing. I'm playing to win."
Then I jumped.
There's a difference between playing to not lose and playing to win.
Playing Not to Lose
- Avoid risk as much as possible
- Live based on what's feasible, reasonable, safe--not on what you believe in
- Only travel to countries with paved roads, or stay in resorts
- Never try to start your own business
- Focus on arriving safely, avoiding the detours and the scenic overlooks
- Stay in the lines
Playing to Win
- Understand that risk is unavoidable. Manage it and weigh it against reward
- Pursue your dreams, even if they aren't guaranteed, safe, or easy. Nothing is.
- Travel to experience all that the world has to offer, good and bad
- Start your business and fail. Start again, and fail. Keep failing until you don't
- Have the guts to pull the trigger, to commit to a course of action
There's nothing wrong with the other approach, but there will always be risk and we can never protect ourselves completely from loss or failure.
Everyone knows this, but people who play to avoid losing spend their lives denying it and trying to run from it. They never learn how to deal with failure or how to grow past it.
People who play to win see failure and loss as feedback. They use it to improve and grow stronger. They are comfortable with discomfort.
As a result, they become more resilient, so when something truly catastrophic happens that nobody can escape (like the stock market crash), they have the skills and experience to bounce back.
This has nothing to do with thrill-seeking or rash behavior. That is a form of avoidance as well, except that the thrill-seeker is running from what they think is a mediocre life. Just like those who are avoiding loss, thrill-seekers try not to see the truth, hoping they won't ever have to deal with it.
Playing to win means looking for the truth, good or bad, accepting it, and accounting for it.
How will you play?
Photo credit: Torben Hansen on Flickr