Harvey Ramer

Lower the Stakes

A Simple Path toward Achievement

The pressure to succeed can cause a business to fail. In our desire to dominate the market, we latch onto ideas with the intensity of a drowning man grasping a life ring. Our vision narrows. Our thinking becomes muddled. We sacrifice long-term success for short-term activities that dissipate our valuable energy. How can we build a business despite the inevitable uncertainty and feelings of doubt?

In our desire to succeed, our vision can become muddled as scarcity and fear take root.

Instant Results vs. Incremental Gains

As pressure mounts, even the most patient leaders begin to develop a short fuse. Irritability spreads as they give in to the pressure. Thinking becomes transactional, limited in scope, and scattered.

Leaders make matters worse by passing their fearful thinking on to coworkers. Doubt spreads through the team, leaving workers to wonder if the company will succeed.

“In any situation you can think of, impatience is a source of weakness and fear, while patience represents substance and strength.”
— Jim Rohn

Pressure is unavoidable, but it doesn’t need to result in impatience. Pressure should not produce a mindset that demands instant results. With experience, we learn that nothing good happens in an instant. Patience always wins.

Rather than immediate action, times of pressure demand slow, calm thinking. We must deploy our resources in the most strategic way possible. We can answer the question, What is the right action right now? and look for incremental wins while keeping the end goal in mind.

With incremental gains, our vision can begin to find focus. With clarity, those we lead can rally and find ways to unite their efforts. Results take time, but incremental thinking helps us invest our effort strategically.

Self Preservation vs. Daily Progress

Some situations are do-or-die. But even if our future depends on today’s actions, it rarely helps to frame them in such dire terms. Thinking in catastrophic terms keeps our fight-or-flight reflex close at hand. Our blood pressure goes up. Impatience, irritability, and short-term thinking are the inevitable results.

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
— Barak Obama

Breaking out of do-or-die thinking lets us relax and imagine a better future. It does not rule out the occasional need for an 80-hour week, but it can help us justify heroic efforts as needed. A clear vision enables us to respond to challenges rather than live with heightened awareness and stress. Daily progress in a consistent direction will build value over time.

Winning and Losing vs. Continual Learning

I have yet to meet anyone who wants a mediocre life. We all love to win. But casting business challenges as a matter of winning and losing leads us to substitute effort for wisdom. It drives us to view others as competitors rather than collaborators. A competitive mindset that runs amok encourages us to exploit people. That would be a disaster. Long-term relationships are the foundation of innovation and success.

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”
— Albert Einstein

Curiosity is a casualty of competition. When we cast others as losers, we underestimate their ability. But when we view our competitors as people, we can learn from them. We can respond thoughtfully to their attempts at innovation. We may even turn competitors into collaborators if we abandon the winner-takes-all mentality.

Lowering the Stakes

We would benefit by dropping our preoccupation with instant results, self-preservation, and competition. Rather than living in stress and scarcity, we can focus on the opportunities around us. Let’s lower the stakes. Abandon instant results for incremental gains, self-preservation for progress, and losing for learning.

In this frame of mind, we can engage in business experiments without grasping at outcomes. We can grow without winning and losing. Without fear of losing, we can learn, collaborate, and build. Exercise faith and hope. Build on healthy relationships and a vision of a better future.

Do you fall into the desire for instant results, self-preservation, and competition? Keep your faith and look for incremental wins, daily progress, and learning opportunities.

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