Juice it Up!

Accountability Resilience Teamwork


Key Point: I detest playing “not to lose” versus “playing to win.” The mindset difference between the two positions is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. It’s been a while since I’ve written about this, and the U.S. election just fired me up on the topic again. I do not want to over simplify a very complicated political situation, but from my perspective, Hillary Clinton (after having a double-digit lead just weeks before the election) went into a “prevent defense,” (playing not to lose), while Donald Trump left “nothing left on the table,” to win. 

Just several days earlier, the world observed Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon take enormous risks. He might have been run out of town if the Cubs lost, but he played to win. As an example, he used his relief and closing pitchers against conventional thinking, and risked losing the series on a questionable, suicide bunt call. You may not know baseball, but trust me; he let it all out. He played to win rather than avoid losing. As most of us now know, the Cubs ended a 108-year drought by winning the 7th game of the World Series in extra innings. Cubs fans are still celebrating.

According to a 15five.com article, the difference between playing to win versus playing “not to lose” is often a matter of knowing how to reframe threats as a challenge. This is more than silly semantics. Based on the article, the following is the difference:

“A threat situation alters the way the brain sensitizes to risk and reward. The amygdala, deep in the limbic system, is highly attuned to fearful stimuli. The risks of a situation become prominent in the mind. Meanwhile, the brain’s reward center–though activated by the opportunity – is still the lesser partner. All this changes in a challenge frame of mind…

‘In a challenge state, you’re NOT expected to be perfect, and NOT expected to win, but you have a fighting chance to rise to the occasion. You’re free to take risks and go for it, which activates the gain-orientation system. A cascade of hormones is released that suppresses l-TPJ activity, and the brain gets comfortable, as if everything is familiar. Decision making shifts back to automatic mode. The hormones dampen the amygdala, making you fearless, and they juice up the reward networks, making you highly attuned to the spoils of victory. Competitors breathe freely, feel energized and approach opportunities…’

Based on this knowledge, creating a threat situation greatly impacts your ability to perform. Think about how often we create our own ‘threat’ situations. We sometimes think or expect the worst, and mistakenly, feel it’s a way to avoid failure – hoping to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed by dreaming too big.” 

Character Moves:

  1. Think BIG and frame up desirable opportunities as a challenge. When we think challenge versus threat, we often find the capacity to win. Juice up the reward networks and become fearless.  
  1. The idea of bringing heat will never ignite when our orientation is just to “get through the day.” Competitive fire will flourish when long-term goals are high, and when it’s accepted that risks and mistakes go hand-in-hand, and we are free to let ambition reign. Let it #%%} go! 
  1. Believe in yourself. Give it! Bring it! Leave it all on the field, and you owe it to yourself and others to play to win. Focus on the challenge versus the threat. If you do lose, it’s an opportunity and challenge to win next time.

Juicing up in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Well, with the election being literally the most important story in the whole world, how could we not touch on it? But ALL political opinions aside, please, I bet we can see the point here together: It’s not over till it’s over, and you have to run till the whistle blows. Whether it’s gunning to lead the free world, win the World Series, or closing that next big deal… Play to win it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis