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

Playing to Win

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