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Getting in the Game

Two different people asked me today for my opinion on something I don’t have a strong opinion about. I stopped to think about it a second. What does my opinion matter? It won’t change the situation at all.

I thought back to childhood when I played in organized sports. There was a difference between watching the action from the sidelines and being in the game.

What Game Are You Playing?

This should be a straightforward question to answer. Can you state or describe exactly which game you’re playing? Is it “teach these 100 people all I can about X” or “get 10,000 followers this year” or is it “ship $YYYYY amount of product in the first quarter”? When you can state what game you’re playing, you won’t get caught in someone else’s game where you don’t belong.

I have found that it’s helpful to consciously decide to play the game of leadership. “I’m choosing to be a leader.”

There’s another side to this too. Sometimes we’re preparing to get into a new game. No problem! You should prepare well and get yourself ready. Just realize that your current game is “Practice and preparation to play Z game”. That’s the game. Give it your best!

Practice is More Powerful than Rules  

Every game has rules. You need to know what the rules of your game are.  You also need to know that some practices look like rules and are treated like rules by the majority, but they aren’t really rules. Rules set boundaries and make the game possible. Focusing on the rules, though, makes you miss out on learning some of the finer points about playing the actual game well.

One example is copywriting. You need to know the rules and conventions of language. You also need to learn through continual practice how to use writing to communicate with people. If you focus on communication and engagement with your audience more than the “rules” of writing, you’ll be much more effective at your game.

For the game of leadership, the “rules” are more flexible, but you can learn a lot by studying leaders in a variety of fields: history, business, military, government, civil society–we can learn from a wide range of people about rules and conventions and how they broke them.

Get Back in the Game

Playing the game can be discouraging, especially in the beginning when you aren’t that good at it. Doubt can set in. You miss practice a few times. Take a minute to remember why you chose this game and decide if you are still committed to play it. If the answer is yes, get back in the game and play your heart out!

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