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You may have heard the phrase “playing to win or playing not to lose.” And while it sounds good to say “you’re playing to win” in your business, what exactly does that really mean?

Okay, well first off, let’s define these phrases. To me, playing to win means playing all out. Going for broke. Leaving nothing on the table. You’re putting everything out there to win and holding nothing back.

Playing not to lose means holding something back. Being conservative. Taking some of your chips off the table. Making sure if you don’t win, you minimize your losses.

Now is there a time for each of these? Of course. Playing not to lose makes a lot of sense in certain situations. Vegas for instance. Betting your retirement on a spin of the roulette wheel isn’t real bright. (Even if by some miraculous chance it works, it’s still not too bright.)
And if that’s the way you want to approach your business and your life (playing not to lose) then there’s nothing wrong with it. You can still be successful playing not to lose.

But typically, if that’s your approach, you’re not going to play as big as you could be. And you’re probably not going to make the kind of money you’re capable of.

So how do you know if you’re playing to win or playing not to lose? Well, here are a few signs.

Playing to win in your business:

  • You take risks (and a lot of those risks other people just don’t “get”). Maybe you invest in a high end coaching program or mentorship. Maybe you decide to launch a product that looks on the outside to be a bad idea. Maybe you decide to expand and hire a team even though you really can’t afford it right now.
  • You take advantage of opportunities even if they don’t appear to be a good idea on the surface.
  • You turn down opportunities even if on the surface they look perfect. (Ah, didn’t think I’d say that, did you?)
  • You make decisions from the place you want to be, not necessarily the place you’re at now. (Even if that’s a really scary place to be.)

Playing not to lose in your business:

  • You make decisions based on what you can afford rather than what you need. Okay, a caveat here. I’m NOT saying you should spend your life savings or go into massive debt with no way of paying it off. What I AM saying is sometimes you have to take a risk. For instance, hiring team members. What happens a lot of time is you need the help desperately but you don’t quite have the cash flow. If you never take that first step and hire someone, even on a small basis, you’ll never free yourself up to start making more money.
  • You’re ultra careful about the risks you take (or you don’t take risks at all)
  • You probably aren’t marketing as much as you should be because deep down inside, you don’t want your business to grow very big (after all, you’d start to lose control of it if it did grow to big). Or you aren’t marketing as much because what if it doesn’t work? What if you make this big public splash with your marketing and it fails? It’s bad enough it doesn’t work but now everyone will know it.
  • You don’t try a lot of new things — speaking, marketing, etc.

Now, I want to be clear. There’s nothing wrong with playing not to lose, but chances are you WILL be playing small. You’re going to miss opportunities to get your message and vision out in a big way. You’re not going to take chances where you might fall on your face (especially if you fall on your face in a public way).

Michele PW

About Our GE Network Expert - Michele PW

Michele PW (Michele Pariza Wacek) is your Ka-Ching! marketing strategist and owns Creative Concepts and Copywriting LLC, a copywriting and marketing agency. She helps entrepreneurs become more successful at attracting more clients, selling more products and services and boosting their business. To find out how she can help you take your business to the next level, visit her site at



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