Playing to Win or Not to Lose?

In their book, Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman discuss the difference between playing to win versus playing not to lose. The cautious approach of playing not to lose is suited for many endeavors, from accounting to surgery and teaching. Oftentimes risk taking is foolish and simply not losing is good enough. After all, I really don't want my surgeon to remark while I am under the knife, "Hey, what do you say, let's try this!"

But sometimes we have to step out on a limb professionally and personally. The authors conclude:

"Competitive fire will never ignite, or be expressed, when our orientation is just to get through the day. Competitive fire will flourish when long-term goals are high and when it's accepted that risks and mistakes go hand-in-hand, and we are free to let ambition reign."

The worlds of ministry and non-profit are inherently ones of consolidation, caution, and consensus. A good year is often simply hanging on and not losing. For the preacher a prophetic word from the pulpit may feel good on Sunday, but it is not nearly as much fun when three families leave by Wednesday. The Executive Director of the non-profit constantly balances the goals of doing more versus not upsetting the donor base.

When is the last time you began an initiative, not sure whether it would succeed or not? Have you set a personal goal that seems out of reach? Is your professional life on auto-pilot? Are you coasting? 

When is the last time you took a risk?