Playing to Win vs. Winning to Play

Playing to Win vs. Winning to Play

“It doesn’t matter if you win, as long as you had fun.”

This is a statement that I’ve heard time and time again. Usually given to a young child weeping over their loss, this saying is meant to soothe the blow of defeat.

I believe that failure is an experience everyone should endure multiple times throughout their life. However, the benefit of learning from losses is a topic for another blog. The subject I wish to discuss is that of a winners mindset.

Recently I participated in a western sorting event at my local Cowboy Church. At this event, there were all levels of cowboys. From big-time sorters, ranch hands, even first-time competitors and kids.

In high school and growing up on a ranch, I’ve had my fair share of sorting experience. However, since my ACL surgery last year I’ve only ridden a horse a handful of times. To be honest, I hadn’t even planned on competing, yet I did.

Signing up last minute I ended up with the last slot. As I watched everyone go before me I saw the pros flash in and out of the pen, more often than not spooking the cattle instead of sorting them. The ranch hands were too concerned about looking the part and upholding their reputations to slow down and read the livestock. And the kids were so nervous with mom and dad coaching them from the side panels that they couldn’t control their horse.

When it got to my turn, I was just happy to be on a horse again. Once in the pen, my experience came back to me like riding a bike and by the time the flag dropped for my time I had sorted off 6 steers, winning the event and scoring higher than any competitor that day.

What were the differences between me and the pros, ranch hands, and kids?

I was winning to play whereas they were playing to win.

Sure I wanted to win, but I honestly was there to have fun. My fellow competitors were there to win, regardless of whether they had fun. As a result, I was able to go into the ring calm, cool and collected because my eye was on the event instead of the trophy.

In every area of life, one must be able to keep their head in the game without being distracted by the end prize. Of course, we should aim high. Of course, we want to reach the top. But if you’re not looking at the steps that you’re climbing because you’re too focused on what’s up ahead, you’ll end up losing balance and falling off the edge.

Your skills and experience are what get you to the trophy, so focus on that and let the prize come to you.

“It doesn’t matter if you win, as long as you have fun”…because if you forget to enjoy the game you’ll never actually win anyways.

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