Do results matter? Ask any corporate executive, professional sports team coach, or almost any fiercely competitive person and they would no doubt answer that results are the ONLY thing that matter. Either play to win or don’t play at all, they would say. What then about the other old adage that claims it doesn’t matter if you win or lose but how you play the game? Are those who subscribe to this simply destined to be gobbled up by the play-to-win crowd in the survival of the fittest game? Truth is, results DO matter but achieving them – over the long term that is – requires a balancing act between play-to-win and how-you-play-the-game.
Consider the farmer who labors tirelessly tilling the soil preparing it for planting, sows the seed then does whatever else he can that is within his control to help the seed sprout and grow. The problem is there are many forces over which the farmer has no control whatsoever – the wind, weather, too little or too much rain, and even the price he might receive for his crop at harvest time. Do results matter to the farmer? Absolutely! But farmers know better than anyone that results are no sure thing, thus they plant – over and over, year after year with the ultimate confidence and assurance that even if the seed does not grow to fruition this time, seeds do eventually grow and come to fruition. Farmers understand the balance between play-to-win and how-you-play-the-game.
Results DO matter. They are our incentive for doing what we do. But focusing totally on results can distract us from the task at hand and adapting to conditions we cannot control. Companies focused totally on profits can be distracted from recognizing and adapting to new trends in the marketplace. Sports teams focused totally on the championship can become distracted and overconfident in facing the next opponent. Today our education system risks being so focused on standardized test results that teachers become distracted from providing the broader education our children need. It is a balancing act that educators are currently challenged to resolve.
Results do matter, but achieving them – over the long term – requires a balancing act between play-to-win and how-you-play-the-game.