What I appreciate about athletics – tennis in particular – is that sheer persistence, just keeping the ball in play, can often win the point and eventually the match. But there are times as well when one just needs to put the ball away. ‘Cause if you don’t, your opponent is going to. Trouble is knowing when to play it safe and when to go for a riskier, winning shot.
I decided some time back that I was going to play every shot that I could, as aggressively as I could. Even when I couldn’t get a clear winner out of a shot, I was going to try to set up a play so that the next shot could be. But my problem is that I lose a lot of points on very close shots. The upside is that when I win the point, I feel even better knowing that I wasn’t playing safe. Whether I win or lose the match, I go home with the knowledge that I played my heart out.
What’s required most days in my work, though, is persistence. Keeping at the tasks of the day – keeping the ball in play, as it were – is what keeps my day in motion rather than slamming one or two big projects or goals and feeling like I’ve scored a winner. What troubles me about a persistence mindset, however, is that it can draw me into a play-it-safe attitude, and I know after many years in business that playing it safe is one of the biggest risks one can take.
Playing it safe virtually eliminates exploration, which shuts down creativity. You can’t create without trying new things, which is what exploration is all about. And in this economy, when so many people are playing it safe on every front, what better way to set yourself apart in business, and in all of life for that matter, than being creative, attempting the unexpected? In other words, going for a winner, which is what taking risks is all about.
So how about you? Can you afford the risk of not taking risks? Are you playing to win or to just keep from losing?