I live in the deep South. Around these parts we love our fried chicken, our watermelon, hunting, fishing, Jesus, and…oh yes…football. If you are not a big pigskin fan, stay with me here for just a moment, will you?
Whether we want to admit it or not, sports, and in particular – football, teaches us life lessons. You know what I’m talking about – like the importance of working together as a team, preparing for competition, trusting in your teammates, sticking with the game plan. Today, I want to talk to you for a minute about playing not to lose.
To those of you reading this who might not be football fans, you may think this sounds like a good strategy. It’s not!
Over the years, I’ve seen it happen time and time again. A team that is not expected to win a particular game, will come out of the gate swinging. They change their identity from previous games, put in different players, run trick plays. They will change their cadance at the line of scrimmage so that the checkoffs and signals that the defense had prepared for, sounds like nothing but bafflegab. I’ve even seen teams put on different uniforms from what they traditionally wear – anything to throw their opponent off guard. Then low and behold, early in the fourth quarter, they find themselves in the lead. All of the preparation and strategy that they have used has worked. They are up by 10 points, with only 11 minutes left to play…..
…..And then it happens.
Everything they have done for three quarters of the contest has helped put them in a position to be successful in a game that they were not supposed to win….and they stop.
True competitors are the ones who always play to win.
With minutes still left on the clock, fans still in the stands, the band still playing, cheerleaders still cheering, the coaches revert back to safe play, hoping that they can maintain the lead until the clock expires. All of that aggressiveness, strategy, thinking outside the box, everything reigned in and the team resorts to playing not to lose.
Typically, when this happens…..the team loses.
Everything that they were doing, most of which was outside of their comfort zone, and what had put them ahead in the game, is replaced with a very conservative, “safe” style of play that typically results in a loss.
Is that how you want to live your life?
Let’s face it, we all, at times, come face to face with a mountain in our life. It may be a job promotion, an illness, a relationship issue, a financial issue, a parenting issue, and we recognize that what we have done in the past is not going to help us get over this challenge that we face. We might try a new approach for a while, and may even get momentum as we move forward, yet just before we get that job of our dreams, before we get that mortgage paid off, before we get the “all clear” from the doctor, we go back to doing what we did before.
Tom Brady, one of the winningest quarterbacks to ever play the game said, “True competitors are the ones who always play to win.”
Think about it. If you are playing to win, you are giving it your all. You are going above and beyond what anybody expects. You are pulling out all the stops. You are making no excuses. Playing to win means you might have to stay at the office a little longer each day. You might have to exercise a little more each week. You might have to read more. Study more. You might have to spend a little more time with that person and show them how much you really care.
Listen, playing not to lose is basically settling. It’s not giving your all. It’s not pursuing excellence.
I love reading about the late, great Coach John Wooden, a basketball coach who won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA, including a record seven in a row. Wooden said, “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.“
I want to encourage you today – don’t play not to lose. Don’t live your life just to “get by.” Don’t settle. Live your life to win. Go after it! Pull out all the stops! Don’t hold anything back!
In most cases, if you live your life not to lose you are going to lose. PLAY TO WIN! LIVE TO WIN!
And remember – LIFE begins…..today!