No Shortcuts - Playing to Win vs Playing Not to Lose

I saw a post on LinkedIn the other day that talked about the difference between playing to win and playing not to lose.  It resonated with me because sometimes when you are THINKING you're playing to're actually not.  You're playing not to lose.  And if you keep doing that you will never reach your full potential.  

The playing not to lose scenario that I see (and is also very sad) is the really smart person who did amazing in school, has the opportunity to do something that could impact a lot of people and then just chooses every "safe" option for college and career.  They never actually push outside the box to reach their full potential.  The individual choices for this person as they go through life feel like they are challenging themselves, but they really aren't allowing them to fulfill their full potential. 


They choose the highest rated and most prestigious college even though another school might actually be better to prepare them for what they are meant to do.  Hard to fault a person for choosing a prestigious school though!

First Job Out of College:

They choose the bank or consulting firm that is challenging to get into, but pays really well.  That high salary can help them pay off their loans faster!  Again, hard to fault a person for choosing a prestigious company that pays well.  The problem here is that these jobs often require long hours and are grueling.  They're also easy to get sucked into for more years than you expect because the pay is so high.  

Your 20's:

You work at a prestigious company, the pay is good, you have a sweet apartment, take great vacations, have a nice car and love hanging with your friends on the weekend.  Nice life, right?  What has happened to your work to REALLY change the world for the better.  You are advising big companies now on how to make even more money.  Is this the path you saw yourself on in high school?  Very hard to fault this trajectory though!  

Your 30's:

You are either at your prestigious job you took out of college or have moved to another prestigious job.  You now meet the person of your dreams.  You're in love.  You are excited to settle down and move away from the wild single life.  With this comes obligations though.  You can't move to the place where you had originally thought you can make that big impact.  Your money is now tied up in buying a house, nanny for the kid, etc.  Again, this isn't a bad situation.....but did you reach the place where you feel like you are able to make the most impact?  

This is a purely hypothetical situation, but shows how easy it is to play not to lose.  You made all the "right" decisions, but you NEVER took that risk to be a breakout winner.  Your school was safe.  Your classes were safe.  Your job out of college was safe.  Your next job was safe.  You're then married with a kid and taking that risk becomes WAY more difficult.  

It's never too late.  I just think it's important to keep that mentality to play to WIN.  Start that business.  Start that itch you have to get into politics.  Make that bold move at work.  Life happens quick.  Play to win.