You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play

06 August 2011, by A. Cedilla

“100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.”
Wayne Gretsky

Simple, isn’t it? You can’t win if you don’t play. Seven words of one syllable each. The action lies in the words ‘win’ and ‘play. Let’s break them down.

Everybody wants to win. To win is to make it. To win is to hit it big. To win is to be popular. To win is to matter. Play, on the other hand, gets something of a different spin in this context. You want to win? Play hard. Be aggressive. Give it all you got, and then some. Hoo-rah!

Now step back and dial it down a bit. Let’s go use “win by playing” with “showing up for the game.” With that, the sentence changes: You can’t win if you don’t play. And you can’t play if you don’t show up.

The simple truth is that showing up doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to win, but it certainly ups your chances when show up and you get in the game. Will you allow the specter of not-winning stop you from getting out there and giving it what you’ve got? Wait, don’t answer that yet.

The rarely mentioned fear hovering in the background is: You have something. Time, youth, energy…something. And it’s an exhaustible supply. When it runs out — pfft! No more. All out. Dead end. You don’t want to lose it, that hurts. And you might need it again, so you hold on.

So you’re careful, or careless, as the case may be in your youthful days…but as experiences teaches you to be more circumspect with what you do, and be more careful with what you have, it can also cause you to latch onto things that, well, really can’t stay with you no matter how much you try.

Think about it. Money? Taxes, or a financial downturn. A sudden illness that never quite goes away, or an accident nobody could ever have expected. (Which also covers the issue of health as well.) Youthfulness on the outside can only last for so long, and then you start looking like you escaped from Madame Tussauds on a summer day.

Time? You run around with GTD lists , use GTD techniques and pay other people to do things for you you don’t have the time to do yourself…and the time you saved still can’t be carried over the next day, or pooled together at the end of the month and spent at a nice beach somewhere. Dammit.

And even if you ‘save it up for later’…you still die. Morbid, but true — and an undeniable kick-ass reminder: What are you saving it up for? More importantly, what are you holding back for? You only have one life — it’s not like you can hit a cosmic rewind button, you know. You can’t edit or splices-over anything, except in your own mind, and too much of that has its own consequences.

So, to rephrase the earlier question: Will you let your fears dictate how you live your life?
(You can answer now.)

You have to play with what you’ve got. It’s a guarantee you won’t be having it for very long, in the whole scheme of things, and you really can’t take it with you. You got to tweak your viewpoint a little, make your time count, and here’s one way to see things differently:

In the comments of John Scalzi’s article, “What You Have To Give Up To Write“, Brad Torgersen wrote the following:

“[…] Don’t be like me. Don’t put shit off. Doesn’t matter if you’re a teen or if you’re 50 or if you’re 70. If you’ve got the desire, then dammit, get to work! Get the words down. Send the words out. Get in the game.Everyone and their cat sits around and says they want to be a writer some day.Real writers write. They don’t talk about it, they do it. Doesn’t matter if you’re bringing in several rejections per month/week. You’re in the game and you’re playing. And you can’t win if you don’t play. Often.”

It’s the Win-Lose dichotomy: For someone to win, you must lose. If they win, you lose . Ergo, you’re a loser. You don’t play, you don’t lose. For the Win-Lose viewpoint to work, you need to believe that there’s always someone who pays and the victory is at someone’s expense; yours or another’s. And it damn well won’t be you. (Or maybe it’s always you…you know? So why even try?)

Justine Musk also wrote about the scarcity and abundance mentality in her article, Fighting Off The Scarcity Complex. One line that really struck me was this: It’s “the tyranny of either/or” ……instead of ‘-and.’

The scarcity mentality says there’s only one pie, and it can only break down into so many slices, so you better get yours in before anyone else, let ’em fend for themselves. This view of the world is rooted in long-lasting beliefs of not-enough (ever), a world-view that you may have inherited. Don’t you think it’s about time to rethink (literally) old issues? See, when you tweak your viewpoint to focus on gain instead of loss (Oh, noes!) you come to the following:

  • Can’t win for losing = scarcity thinking
  • Can’t lose for gaining = abundance mentality

Don’t watch your life from the sidelines . Take risks (after at least some careful consideration), and find out what you can do. Don’t sit assured that there’s nothing you can change, that it won’t matter anyway, that you can’t do it. All that sitting-out won’t get you anything but a flattened ass and a bad back. You might as well get dressed in bubble wrap and sit on a shelf, and that’s no way to live.

That’s not living at all.

Playing it safe is keeping small, and that’s not what you’re here for. You have to realize something. You’re here. YOU are HERE, you are ALIVE and the awesome and terrifying power of making something come into being, of making things happen, of responding to events and not just reacting, the power of choice is very real, and it lies in your hands.

Scary, no, to realize that you have no one to blame for your life, and that you’re responsible for how it goes?

You want something, it won’t come to you. No one is going to knock on your door with this giant check and a news crew waiting in the parking lot. You want something to happen, you wish for it, you pang for it, you plan for it, but if you don’t ACT, if you don’t get into the game and play, you don’t get anything at all. And not-losing is freaking cold comfort.

You’re the only one walking this planet with your life: your particular life experience, your own desires and demons and gifts to practice in this world. You don’t die empty, you die with all your possibilities still-born. You’re wasted. YOU are wasted. Win and lose, it’s all right there in your hands. Don’t sit out your own life. Get up, get out, show up, and get in the game.

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