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Losing By Playing Not To Lose

Losing By Playing Not To Lose

Jim Furyk led the recent US Open until midway through the final round. He is called a “plodder” by some colleagues, who claim they mean it positively to denote consistency and calmness, not matter what the circumstances.

But Furyk, who has won a prior Open in 2003 and has 16 or so tournament wins, played THIS Open “not to lose.” He was conservative, tried to get his long putts merely close rather than try to make them and risk three-putting, and never attacked the course.

He was waiting for others to make mistakes. Instead, Webb Simpson, 26, attacked the tough course, had repeated birdie opportunities, and made enough of them to win by one stroke over two others (who had also passed Furyk on the final nine holes).

You don’t win by trying not to lose. The infamous “prevent defense” in football inevitably allows all kinds of points to be scored. Teams do far better leading if they simply continue their aggressive offensive game plan and stop trying “not to lose.”

The same holds true for consultants. Too many try not to lose the business. They allow scope creep, act like a hired hand, scrape and grovel, and are petrified at trying to appear as a peer of the buyer. They make concessions on everything from fees to terms, from days on site to washing the windows.

NO ONE grows or gains respect by trying “not to lose.” You appear to be weak, hesitant, afraid, and vulnerable to pressure and demands. You allow others to gain momentum which will overcome and surpass your own negative inertia.

The world is not for the safe or faint-of-heart. We are not here to stick our toes in the water, but to make waves. We need to be bold, innovative, and assertive. No risk, no reward.

There’s no embarrassment in being in the top ten at the US Open Golf Tournament, but there’s no pride in leading it and letting it slip away through conservative play midway through the final round.

And trust me, “plodder” is never a compliment, no matter how the source spins it.

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 4

  • John Martin

    June 18, 2012

    I think I should forward this to the England football team.

    Sorry, soccer

  • Monica Austin Gordon

    June 19, 2012

    Great post Alan! It reminds me of the scene in my favorite movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, where Vinnie encourages the chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSV2IFNgqI4

  • Skip Weisman

    June 23, 2012

    Great points and insights on comparing the conservative play down the stretch in the US Open to helping our clients in our consulting projects.

    I have a question, though, regarding the opposite approach. Prior to the final round NBC ran a special on Arnold Palmer and how he played too aggressively down the stretch with a 7 stroke lead with 9 holes to play shooting to break the US Open scoring record, and lost the Open to Billy Casper in 1966.

    And, my favorite golfer, Phil Mickelson, has historically stumbled with aggressive play down the stretch in the US Open.

    So, how do you suggest we best balance between the risks and rewards of the conservative vs. aggressive approaches, both in athletic competitions and in our client work?

  • Alan Weiss

    June 30, 2012

    In Vegas, you bet heavier when you’re ahead (playing with “house money”) if you’re smart. The aggressive play which brought you to the lead is the exact same play you should continue. When you change from your strength, you are degrading your performance. The Patriots try to score even when well ahead. When asked why he runs up the score, Bill Belichek, the coach, said, “If they don’t want us to score, they should stop us, not appeal to us not to.”

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