Offense vs. Defense

In soccer, the way a forward approaches the game is opposite of that of a defender.

When you are on offense, the object is to create. To create opportunities. To make something out of nothing.

And mistakes rarely have much impact. In fact, in order to create on offense, you have to be comfortable with making a lot mistakes. And the mistakes made all fade away if you can create one or two opportunities a game.

You could have a terrible game, screw up all of your passes, hardly create any opportunities, and then at the very end, score a goal.

And guess what, all that really matters is you created an opportunity and scored. The rest of the noise will fade away. The mistakes made will diminish.

A defender on the other hand doesn’t have this same luxury. In fact, it’s all about the mistakes.

On defense, you don’t have the luxury to take the same risks. You can’t afford to make any huge mistakes.

Because defense is about limiting your mistakes, not creating opportunities.

In fact, as a defender, you could play a stellar game with zero mistakes, and then at the very end, let your guard down, and change the outcome. And receive all the burden of the blame.

All 89 minutes could have been perfect. But all that will be remembered is that last minute. That mistake made at the end. The perfection from the rest of the game will fade away.

The same thing can be said in life and in business. When we are small and nimble and just getting started, the object is to create. Create opportunities for success. You don’t have to worry about a few mistakes made here or there. It’s part of the territory.

As long as you end up scoring on an idea, the mistakes will fade away. (Think Steve Jobs — we tend to discount the failures early on, and fixate on the success he had later on).

A big company or longstanding company on the other hand is typically on the defensive. Safeguarding there position in the market. Afraid to leap too high or they may risk giving up a goal. Or market share.

Mistakes can wreak havoc. And upset the shareholders.

It may seem safer playing defense. Because we aren’t forced to create — rather we just react. React to what comes our way. Hoping to not screw up along the way.

The real opportunity, though, comes from being on the offensive. It turns out — what may feel risky is actually safer in the long run. There are more opportunities to make a difference playing offense. To create change by trying things that don’t work.

And yet, far too many of us are stuck playing defense.

Because we think it’s safer.