Winning in 2021

Play each point as if it’s the only point.

“What will it take to “win” in 2021?” This is the wrong question. Thinking you can “win” or “lose” implies that there is an outcome completely within your control. This is simply not true. While we certainly influence events, outcomes cannot be controlled. Certainly, successful outcomes are the side effect of demanding work, insight, and luck, but they are still a side effect and not a controlled result.

Luck and timing play an outsized role in determining any outcome – and these are extraneous circumstances one cannot influence. As in sports, sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t.

What matters is doing the best you can. While this sounds like a cliché if one genuinely knows they have done their best, gave it everything, and left it all on the field, that self-satisfaction alone is the worthiest goal, not some sense of “winning.”

Importantly, winning should never be the goal because you can never do your best if you compromise who you are – your values and character – while achieving your goals. Whatever the outcome, it’s just the outcome. But the values and standards that make you who you are inviolate and supersede any near-term goal.

I have had experience with successful and unsuccessful companies. Often, the successful company was just luckier. Sometimes extraordinary people doing remarkable things aren’t enough. Some combination of events out of our control worked against us. Either we didn’t time the market properly or the opportunity simply didn’t develop at the right time – and failed even though we optimized what we could control. Everyone did their best; if this is all that mattered the company should have been a success, but it wasn’t. These experiences teach that keeping score is a fool’s errand and measuring yourself by either winning or losing is meaningless.

The point you are playing is the only point that matters. Worrying about the score is meaningless. You only control this point. Sometimes you are down, other times up, but it doesn’t matter. Only the point you are playing matters – and sometimes the ball bounces the wrong way even if you play the point properly. On to the next point.

A good New Year’s resolution for 2021 is to treat the thing you are doing now as the only thing. Be present and focused. Don’t keep score. Leave the field with the self-satisfaction of knowing you gave it your all. Never mind the scoreboard.

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