Play to Win!: Choosing Growth Over Fear in Work and Life - by Larry Wilson, Hersch Wilson

Emotional Maturity

Thriving, as opposed to merely surviving, involves not solely matters of the head, but also matters of the heart. Emotional maturity involves:

  • Being self-aware--knowing our emotions, recognizing a feeling as it happens;

  • Managing emotions--handling and managing our feelings appropriately;

  • Motivating ourselves--marshaling emotions to pay attention, delay gratification, and stifle impulsiveness;

  • Feeling empathy--understanding others and recognizing their emotions; and

  • Handling relationships--building and maintaining relationships.

Spiritual Maturity

  • Answering and living the answers to the questions Why am I here? and What is my life about?

  • Shift in perspective from "me" to "we".

Playing Not to Lose: Avoiding situations where we might lose, fail, be emotionally hurt, or be rejected.

Playing to Win: Consciously choosing to go as far as I can with all that I have and learning from whatever happens.

Sphere of Control

We cannot control the events that happen to us. Sometimes we can influence them, but life is far too capricious to be controlled. "Stuff happens." All we can truly control is our thinking, our feelings, and how we respond. The events that happen to you are not what make you upset--your interpretation of these events is.

Making Stuff Up

We make stuff up, it becomes what is true (our maps), and we respond out of those maps. The fatal flaw is that we rarely stop and ask, Is this really so? What is the evidence for my beliefs? The idea that, to a large extent, we make up our beliefs strikes at a very human desire to have certainty, to have absolutes, to be able to say this is true and this is not. But the heart of human experience--especially when dealing with ourselves and with others--is subjectivity, interpretation, and best guesses. Maturity is largely the willingness to accept a certain amount of subjectivity and uncertainty, to accept completely different interpretations--different maps--of the world from those we cling to. Maturity, just like good science, is in large part the willingness to let go of long-help maps--maps that were made up in the first place--in the light of more accurate and complete information. We need always to ask, Where is the evidence? What are other interpretations? What am I making up that is not based on reality?

Stop, Challenge, and Choose: A way of going from feeling an emotion that is different from positive or neutral (emotional cues), to managing it, feeling better, and responding more appropriately.


Dont't act.What am I telling myself, making up, or believing that is causing my feelings?What is my optimal response, based on objective and factual data?
Mentally disconnect from the situation.Is there more than one interpretation of the event?What is my optimal response, in my long-term best interests?
Breathe. Center. Observe.What are the objective data that support or negate my interpretation?Choose it and use it.


Thinking Rationally

  • Discover objective reality.

  • Diversify your interpretations.

  • Determine what's in your best interests.

Irrational Thinking, Inaccurate Language

  • Instead of catastrophizing, use Stop, Challenge, and Choose, considering the best- and worst-case scenarios.

  • Instead of absolutes, use more accurate language: Be specific! Avoid generalizing. Avoid always and never.

  • Instead of "I can't," try using more accurate language: "This is difficult, possibly very difficult, but not impossible."

  • Instead of "I need," use more accurate language: "I want" or "I prefer."

  • Instead of "it will be awful," use more accurate language: "It will be inconvenient if..."

  • Instead of "@#$#^!!!," use more accurate language: "That guy is an FHB!--Fallible Human Being"

The Hero's Journey

Three things are true about the quest for becoming a full human being. First, we are almost always initially relucant--we don't want to go. Why change? Life is good and we are comfortable. It's like getting out of a warm bed on a cold morning to go climb a mountain. Comfort and warmth pull at us. Not to mention, it's scary out there--we might fail or be devoured (we're not sure which is worse.) But the second truth is this: The way we grow as human beings is to be on the path toward the dragon. In myth, growth requires us to reject comfort and embrace and endure risk, danger, and pain. The third truth: Anyone who is not on the journey is deemed to be asleep--intoxicated by comfort and convenience. When you are asleep, no growth is possible.

The Growth Model: Dependent --> Independent --> Interdependent

If we are to grow into the full human beings we are meant to be, we have to be willing to go on our adventure. We have to be willing to face challenges in order to grow. We have to be willing to face and tame that part of ourselves that believes it is the center of the universe. Finally, we have to pursue the answers to the questions Who am I? Why am I here?

The Four Fatal Fears

  • I fear failure: I need to succeed.
  • I fear being wrong: I need to be right.
  • I fear rejection: I need to be accepted.
  • I fear being emotionally uncomfortable: I need to be comfortable.

When we choose to avoid the Four Fatal Fears, we guarantee ourselves that when we come to those dozen choice-points a day we are going to choose the path of safety and not growth. When we consistently choose--day in and day out-- the path of safety and defense, playing not to lose becomes our life strategy.

Loving Service

Intention plus action equals results. Empathy, understanding, acceptance, and involvement--taking action--are what will propel us on our journey to our true selves.

Playing Not to LosePlaying to Win
PhilosophyEmotional survivalEmotional and spiritual growth
Core mapsScarcity and no trustAbundance and trust
Interpretation templateAvoid being wrong, being rejected, failing, and being emotionally uncomfortableGoing as far as I can with all that I have
Responses(1) Self-protection and self-promotion (2) Stay inside your comfort zone (3) Irrational thinking (4) A closed mind (5) Blame others(1) Base truth on objective reality (2) Make decisions rationally (3) Give personal best (4) Outside comfort zone (5) Can't fail, can only learn and grow (6) Take accountability
ResultsBeing right; Being successful; Being in control; Being accepted; Comfort; ConvenienceTruth; Growth; Fun; Curiosity; Relationships; Joy; Better health; Understanding