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The Difference Between Being Spectators or Players in The Game Of Life

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Teddy Roosevelt

I was 13 or so, and on the school basketball team. I was never really very good, but living in a small rural community with limited amounts of kids, I was picked for the team anyway. We were having a hard year in the winning department, and our coach was doing all he could to make the team win. Every game would see us getting a motivational talk before, during and after. And win, lose or draw, he was always ready to point out what we did wrong so that we would not, hopefully, repeat the process.

I was getting immune to the talks from Coach Fullarton. Immune because no matter how good or bad we were playing, I never once saw even two minutes of floor time. I was a “Bench Jockey”. I rooted and cheered, I got water for the playing team, I got the towels, but I just couldn’t play. It seemed like I was being kept on the team to be a cheerleader. When we won, I didn’t feel like I was a part of it, and when we lost, I didn’t feel like “I” lost. It was the team who played the game, not me. Although I was suited up, and ready to play and I was in the gym and on the bench, I was not in the game. What also seemed to make it worse was the ribbing we got from the spectators. They knew how bad we were, and they never let us forget it. The game was easy for them, all they had to do was watch.

Have you ever noticed that it is the people in the stands who supposedly know everything about the game? They give all kinds of advice, but you don’t see them actually in the game. It is as if the game exists for them. Many will say that yes, the game does exist for the fans, for without the fans, where would the game be? I’d like to throw a wrench into that argument and say that, yes the fans are an important part of the game, but without the players, the game wouldn’t exist either.

The parallel that I want to draw today is to the game of life. Many people are willing to give out advice to others when they have not even experienced how to live, or play, effectively themselves. I have discovered that nothing strengthens advice like experience, or playing skills. I’m not saying that all fans don’t know how to “play” the game, most of them have a very good understanding of the game, and some of them are also players who are watching to learn new secrets and strategies. What I am saying is this: unless you are in the game, you are not in the game. You are just a spectator. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a sports fan say “we won”, when they were talking about their chosen team as if they had a big part to play in the winning of it. The people that actually won, were the ones who risked injury, who, bloodied and dirty fought face to face with their competitors and together moved the game forward until the last horn.

So, how do we play the game of life so that we win?

First of all, we must go into each and every contest intent on playing! No one ever scored a goal sitting on the bench or sitting in the bleachers. We can cheer and shout and scream for all we’re worth, but nothing can build confidence like the success of scoring! For many, scoring may be making a sale, it may be raising a successful family, it may be starting a business, it may even be facing defeat and learning from it, but whatever it is we must decide just what game we’re in, learn how to play and then attack it head on.

Secondly, we need a coach or a mentor. We need to find someone who has played the game well, and is interested in continuing that success through us. We need someone who believes in us. All the professional sports players who have risen to world championship level have all had coaches to inspire and push them to higher levels. A coach’s job is to see potential in their players and then help them to realize it. Without a coach, Simone Biles wouldn’t have swept the Brazil Olympics, without a coach Tiger Woods wouldn’t be the magician that he is on the golf course and with no coach Penny Oleksiak wouldn’t have become the breakout star in the olympics either. Sure, they have natural talent, and that accounts for a lot of their successes, but it was their coaches that planted that seed of belief into their hearts deep enough so that they knew they could and would succeed.

The third criteria is vision: A clear, motivating picture of where we wanted to go. We were a losing team. That much was as plain as the noses on our faces, and we carried it along with us wherever we went. I don’t think we even knew that we could win. I remember one game where the team was betting on how bad we were going to lose. You don’t win games like that. You can’t succeed in life like that either. If we could have had a clearer picture of what we could have been and where we could have gone, and a coach who cemented that into the hearts and souls of the whole team, then we could have gone so much further.

This week, let’s decide how we want to play our game. Let’s decide to be a player rather than a spectator. It takes more courage to play than to watch because every time we try, we are putting ourselves at risk of losing, but it is through playing that we learn how to handle the failures and earn a spot on the medal podium.

I’m guessing that you will play to win!


My vision is quite simple: to make an impact on the lives of the people who have been entrusted to me: You (for reading this article), my family and my clients.

I coach people. Direct, practical, innovative, meaningful. I coach for excellence.I love what I do… and so do my clients.

Over the years I’ve noticed that business coaching that was supposed to make us stronger actually took away our confidence and made us doubt ourselves. Confidence and people skills aren’t developed just by measuring and planning everything, they grow through doing and learning from experience and by taking risks. People want to make a difference. Build teams. Be better understood. Live more confidently.

I am committed to creating a world where business people communicate and act with confidence to create better worlds for themselves. Worlds where they feel powerful and free to express themselves. Worlds where something as simple as conversation creates energy, understanding and impact. Worlds so exquisite, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

If you found this article helpful, insightful or moving, please let me know, if you think it can help others, please share it with them.



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