My Life Changed When I Decided to Play to Win

UPDATED: May 20, 2024
PUBLISHED: October 7, 2021
My Life Changed When I Decided to Play to Win

I love running. I like to say that I took up long-distance running as a tween because it’s one of the few sports you can do anywhere. You don’t need special equipment or the right season; you can just lace up and hit the road. I decided this would be my thing. At high school in British Columbia, Canada, running for the track team became a big part of my life. I ran the 1 mile and 2 mile. I was good, too. And then, because of my father’s business, we moved to a little town called Bethel, Oklahoma.

My new school didn’t have a track team, which wasn’t too surprising considering every grade level attended class in the same building. I was determined to stick with running—having my thoughts to myself while on the road is still my favorite way to sort through complex problems—so I ran drills with the basketball team until I bored of the repetition of ladder sprints. Nothing gives quite the same thrill as being outside and feeling the distance pass under your soles. Therefore, I did the only natural thing: I joined the wrestling team for my last two years of high school. 

I was horrible. I lost every match my first year.

My senior season wasn’t looking much better. Needless to say, I felt pretty dejected. Then one day, I was set to go up against someone with a record that mirrored mine. Before that match, I felt something like a proverbial switch flip. I decided I would win. And I did. 

If that sounds a bit like the stuff of a Hallmark holiday movie for you, consider the context: It wasn’t a pretty win, and my coach nearly ended the match early after I took an elbow to the nose. We were evenly matched, both physically and technically capable of beating the other. We both worked hard, trained hard, and listened to the advice of coaches and teammates. It was a shift in mindset that won.

Before that day, I played the game just to play. It was something to do when there wasn’t a track team or when I wasn’t helping my dad with his latest entrepreneurial endeavor. That day, I played the game to win. I made a commitment to put myself out there, no matter the result.

How often have you held back for fear of looking silly or failing or even losing some money? How many times have you passed up on an opportunity for fear of letting yourself or others down? To be an entrepreneur is to take risks. And really, that applies in so many other areas of life: wealth-building, parenthood, personal achievement… they all require risk. If we play it safe and give only enough focused effort to pass muster, our results will match. Instead, we must imagine that the risk will pay off, and the reward that will result.

So many people avoid the commitment to go all out because they know there will always be someone better. It’s a coping mechanism against the sting of failure. It really is true. In most things, there will be someone better positioned or more talented than you. You can’t control that. But you can control your mindset, your commitment and your level of effort. There are proven tools to help you.

As a teenager, my tools were to think bad things about my opponent, to imagine them as the worst kind of person—my arch enemy. I don’t like what it took to get me to that flipped-switch mindset, but I’ve since upgraded to more effective and positive tools. One of my favorites is quite simple. 

When faced with a difficult or overwhelming situation, start by making a commitment to the outcome. Say it out loud. Write it down and post it where you can see it. Make it specific. Making a solidified commitment to an endeavor brings a different energy than simply trying. It creates alignment and focus. It challenges you to go beyond goal setting. 

Challenges are exponential; goals are incremental. 

Even the words we use show the difference: I want to set a goal to sell 25 houses this year instead of the 20 I sold last year versus I challenge myself to sell 100 houses this year. The latter shows a wholehearted commitment to an exponential outcome.

Now, this isn’t blind faith that you’ll magically increase your sales fivefold. The challenge forces you to imagine greater outcomes and problem-solve differently. The best way to solve a challenge is to solve a bigger challenge. If my goal is to build a $1 million business, then my challenge is to build a $10 million business.

What problems lie in your path? What would your goals look like if you increased them tenfold? Sit with that, let it simmer, then make a plan to prime yourself and your business for exponential growth.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 Issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by @jr.zee/Twenty20

Glenn Sanford is theCEO and founder of eXp Realty andeXp World Holdings.