Winning at the Game of Life

(This is the ninth and final post in a series on wisdom from baseball; and how about it posting just a few hours before GAME 7. In this article, Mark Stanifer continues to mine his playing experience for insights into how to better play the game of life.)

One hundred and sixty-two regular season games. Three wins for the Division Series. Four more wins for the League championship. All for the chance to win four more games and be called the best in baseball. Only the Dodgers and the Astros have a chance to reach this final goal for the season.

Over the course of our article series, baseball has provided some excellent material for how to excel at the game of life. Of course, it is not a perfect analogy, but it is a good one.

Clear Goals Are Important

Last season, the Astros finished with a record barely over 0.500. The Dodgers lost in the League Championship to the eventual World Series winners. Both teams came into this season with something to prove, and they have. Although only one team will finish first, all the goal setting, planning, and hard work have paid off for both teams.

It’s likely that the other twenty-eight teams now watching the games on TV set a goal to win the World Series as well. Setting a goal does not guarantee it will happen. There are many factors which go into achieving a goal, some of which are outside of your control. But without a clear vision of what you are working for, how will you know when you achieve it? If the Astros had set their goal as simply “do better than last year,” it is likely they would have significantly underperformed. Winning the World Series is a big stretch goal, but it is specific and clear.

Team Effort

Each team has stand out players, but without the whole team, winning championships doesn’t happen. During this article series, we covered the importance of playing your role, doing the little things, and being the ideal team player. Suffice it to say, it takes a team to win the World Series.

It takes a team effort to win at the game of life too. Anyone who has achieved a level of success, broadly defined, has had help along the way. I don’t mean to diminish the individual effort. Instead, I want to emphasize the role that others — parents, mentors, coaches, teachers, partners, friends, spouses — play in their success. Moreover, truly successful people help others to be successful as well. MVP’s and all-stars garner a lot of attention, but I believe being praised as a great team player is a more desirable accolade.

Staying Focused

Spring training starts in March. The World Series sometimes finishes in November. That’s almost nine months of baseball, and over 200 games all told. How do teams stay focused for that long? There are multiple factors here, but I want to highlight one in particular. The players make a choice to stay focused on what they are pursuing — a championship.

Choices like this require sacrifice. I don’t mean to imply that a single minded pursuit of goals is always admirable. Rather, I’m highlighting a principle Greg McKeown writes about in Essentialism, which is this: “The way of the Essentialist rejects the idea that we can fit it all in. Instead it requires us to grapple with real trade-offs and make tough decisions.” Said differently, staying focused on your goals requires consistently choosing activities that lead to accomplishing your goals, and saying no to things that don’t. It also reinforces the importance of being clear about goals. Regrets arise from saying no to things that should have been a yes.

Not Just One Winner

The big flaw in using a sports analogy for life lessons is that in sports there is only one champion. Not so in life. A winner does not have to come at the expense of a loser. Winning, again broadly defined, is achievable for many. That said, let me be clear — I am not advocating for “participation trophies.” That diminishes the achievements and actions of those who have truly excelled. Rather, I’m advocating for a perspective that allows for many winners in the game of life, as each plays the game in the way they were created play. Some might call this an abundance mindset.

If I were to summarize this series in just a few sentences, it would be this: Be clear on where you are going and do what is yours to do to get there. Recognize the importance of being on a team and do the little things to help each other win. Realize that much of this game is mental and overcoming mistakes or failure will be critical. If you do all these things, it won’t guarantee victory, but it will increase your chances of living up to your full potential, and of winning big in life.

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