I’m a huge proponent of the saying, “If You Can’t Win, Don’t Play” and I found myself defending it again the other day. Specifically, I got criticized because I came in 3201st in my recent marathon and if that’s the best I could do, then why did I bother to run it? This misses the point. Before you can live by the “If you can’t win, don’t play” motto you have to get really good at selecting your games.
The game I was playing with the marathon was that I wanted to get in to good shape. I wanted to set up a meaningful hurdle that I could cross, that would show I had gotten there. The marathon wasn’t the game then, getting in shape was and I won at that. I’m not going to be the CEO at my current company, I don’t want to be and I shouldn’t. For more on setting up your games, take a look at my New Year’s Resolutions post. My philosophy for coming up with New Year’s resolutions is similar to that of picking games you can win. The only exception is that I think New Year’s resolutions should require daily attention and the games you enter don’t have to.
There is one giant cautionary tale here. Do NOT pick games that you WILL win, pick games that you CAN win. This function of picking games you can win is not an excuse to call yourself a winner for doing nothing. For example, graduating with my MBA is not one of my goals for the year. I will graduate with my MBA, I have committed to the program and I will. If I wanted to pick something MBA related I could pick, get a 4.0 or network with my fellow graduates. Things that I could easily not do, if I didn’t make them priorities.
It’s a useful tip for goal setting, always know what games your in and what your strategy is to win each.