thinking you have a chance (but you don’t)
“There’s nothing worse in the world than thinking you have a chance when you really don’t.”
Ok. This is mostly about business <but certainly offers some Life thoughts>. This is about motivation, risk and discerning reality from wishful thinking (which is actually a management skill).
I do believe if you ‘play’ … you should play to win.
I also realize that sometimes in Life, and in business, we play … and play knowing we don’t have a chance in hell of winning.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Someone will point out the times where someone was given no chance and they won. I will then point out that it is just like the ‘poor to rich’ examples — they are exceptions. Few & far between. Unfortunately, the majority of time if you have no chance (seriously: you really do not).
Now. For some reason when someone starts talking about ‘no chance’ the phrase “playing to win or playing not to lose” rears its ugly head. And while it sounds good to say “you’re playing to win” in your business, what exactly does that really mean?
We can dance on the head of this pin all day long if you are not careful.
Some suggest playing to win means playing all out, as in, going for it all and holding nothing back.
Some suggest that playing not to lose means holding something back, at its worst ‘being conservative’, and at its most prudent ‘making sure if you don’t win you have something left’ <or minimize losses>.
First of all.
Every good business person does both. Playing to win isn’t always about resources … it’s more often about effort & attitude.
Think about it. I can hold reserves back and tell the ones attacking to ‘go for broke’ and they actually play harder because they know there are reserves if they falter. Technically that puts you in the ‘playing not to lose’ category and technically that is shit.
Regardless. This is where ‘no chance’ comes into play.
There may be nothing worse in business than thinking you have a chance when you don’t have an ice cube’s chance in hell. This mostly sucks because at the conclusion, for the leader, it makes you second guess whether you are a good judge of ‘chance’ or if you are a shitty leader or it makes you second guess your people <”are they good enough? … because we sure as hell had a chance”>.
This can suck the life out of a manager.
For at the conclusion, for the worker people, who tend to be thinking in general on most projects and initiatives “why the hell are we doing this because it has no chance of working” anyway … it simply becomes confirmation that most initiatives have no chance.
This can suck the life out of an organization.
Look. Thinking you have a chance is normal. In fact, it is so natural to think it you almost have to convince yourself that there is no chance. Society, and crappy managers, are constantly seeking ways to convince you that the latter is simply signs of pessimism or lack of ‘positive thinking.’
In addition, we all ache to not be mediocre and for some reason ‘not having a chance’ is directly linked to ‘not good enough’ and can very quickly, and very stealthily, slip into thoughts of mediocrity.
Well. That is shit too. No chance is … well … no chance. It doesn’t necessarily mean not good enough nor does it have to suggest mediocrity.
Simply: no chance is no chance.
In fact, I would suggest a sliver of a chance is still no chance. Note: this always reminds me of Dumb & Dumber:
Lloyd Christmas: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me … ending up together?
Mary Swanson: Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. I mean, we don’t really …
Lloyd Christmas: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me.
What are my chances?
Mary Swanson: Not good.
Mary Swanson: I’d say more like one out of a million.
Lloyd Christmas: So you’re telling me there’s a chance… YEAH!
Yeah, yeah, yeah … once again … people are gonna come out of the woodwork to point out the times the sliver of a chance became reality.
Life, and in particular, Business is about making choices on where to invest energy. Investing energy in ‘no chance’ situations and initiatives are a drain — individually & organizationally.
In addition, those incredibly rare ‘no chance wins’ take on a Life of their own which most leaders and managers mismanage by encouraging overall belief rather than encouraging ‘we beat the odds which is an exception <which creates exceptional moments>’. Managers need to teach & coach employees to honestly assess chance.
Shit. Managers need to get better at ‘not thinking there is a chance’ assessment.
Shit. Businesses, in general, just need to admit they have no chance when they literally have no chance.
I am certainly not suggesting this is easy. Having been in dozens of painful business meetings where everyone fights to NOT admit we don’t have a chance because, well, it absolutely sucks to have no chance let alone admit you have no chance. While I noted earlier it is bullshit to associate this thinking with mediocrity we all inevitably dance with this ugly feeling at some point in this discussion.
But what sucks more? Thinking you actually have a chance when you do not.
In the end I believe what I am suggesting is that a successful life, personally and in business, incorporates some pragmatism. I say that as an unequivocal “hope” guy. But hope needs to be treated well in order to treat you well … abuse it and you lose it.
So … remember.
Hoping you have a chance is significantly different than thinking you have a chance. And maybe it is within that distinction that most of us just suck at thinking.
But we should all take solace that even in our suckedness there is good. It is good that everyone hopes they have a chance and it is good that all of us dance on the thought of having a chance. It is a beautiful heartening uplifting soul sweeping dance which all of us should learn the steps to.
We should just know when to leave the dance floor.