Play to Win

A lesson in strategy

Pingpong Notext

This past Monday, I had an incredible time playing ping pong with friends and strangers. I never won many games but I’d like to think I at least put up a good defense. In the midst of all the chaos I realized something about myself that always seems to resurface when I’m playing this particular game; I’m just playing to play because I love the game. I’m never playing to win.

It felt like the underlying metaphor for parts of my life where I’ve felt so close to winning but was just always shy of it. I wondered why. Why is it that even when you’ve given it your all and scored a few points along the way, you still end up losing the whole game.

On one hand, I can’t deny that most of my success is attributed to this idea of just playing to play. To be more focused on being in the moment and enjoying the path that winning doesn’t matter.

But on the other hand, when you’re at a point where you’re working towards a specific goal with expectations of what success looks like, it’s not enough to just play to play, you have to play to win

So how do you play to win? Strategy.

Thinking about the next move before it’s even time to play it. While I knew I should be thinking about things like placement, spins and all the fancy ping pong ways to win a game, I concentrated more on hitting the ball back than on finding ways to beat my opponent.

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” ― Alvin Toffler

When you find yourself following all of the guidelines to improve your skills, get that client or find that job and nothing seems to be working, take a moment to think about the overall game plan. Define what success looks like and work backwards. Explore all the tips and tricks necessary but do it mindfully.

As you make every move ask yourself: Am I playing to play or am I playing to win?

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