Playing Above Yourself

When in competition, don't play above yourself. Just be at your best.

Its not just about process though, nor is it just about outcome. The outcome has to be PART of the process. Your process is defined by the outcome you are striving for - whether you like it or not. If you are striving to be the best in the world, then your process will be, essentially, striving for perfection, for to think you will be the best without reaching your own potential is both arrogant and unlikely. But if all you are trying to do is to be better than someone else, then it is them who define what your process is, not you.

Very often teams and athletes cite their best performances against the best in the world, where they lose admirably. Of course - this is because there is absolutely no pressure to win and so there is no fear of under-performing. Everything is easy because there is nothing to lose. They are joyful to play in because there is no pressure. Once in a very long while you actually win these matches.

Its much tougher to win an important game against a 50/50 opponent and play at your best. Its stressful. Unpleasant. Generally there is only relief at the end, not joy.

To win every single time against an opponent you should beat has its own form of stress. You can never lose these competitions, and even though you are in control of the outcome, don't forget there is a change your opponent will be playing without fear.

Ultimately in a competition there are three types of situations:
  1. ones where you should win
  2. ones where your opponent should win
  3. ones where both teams have a good chance to win
At the end of the competition, if you win all the games you should, and half the 50/50 games, you will be satisfied with the outcome. 


  1. There is another dimension. In risk analysis, the goal may become never to make a mistake: the goal of zero defects. Unfortunately, in most endeavours, this goal of "zero" actually causes harm, and leads to significantly sub-optimal ways of thinking about the problem, which can do great violence to the culture of the team. It is better to analyse the causes of sub-optimal performance, and actively seek after a culture of excellence.


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