Playing Not to Lose Until You Learn How to Win.

Have you ever felt like a loser because you just couldn’t win at anything? Here is an idea you can try to start winning, but it will take time, learning, and a willingness to lose in the short-run.

I played the game Connect Four with my son the other day. After he lost several times in a row, he became discouraged. I told him he was playing the game wrong.

Instead of playing to win, he should have been playing not to lose.

This strategy seems at odds with winning and even learning. We want to dominate our opponents, not look like a dud. We also know that losing helps create learning. But hear me out on this one.

There is a time to play the game to win, which is the ultimate goal, whether it’s board games, stock trading, or combat sports. When that time comes, you have to overcome your fear of losing and attack with everything you have.

But when you face a bigger, stronger, more experienced opponent, surviving long enough to see an opening is paramount.

Once you learn how the game is played and you begin to figure out your opponent’s strategy, you can form your own winning game plan. As you develop as a player, you will get stronger, wiser, and increase your chances at winning.

An interesting case study to see how playing not to lose creates wins over time is Anatoly Karpov, a Russian Chessmaster whose style was likened to a boa constrictor. Karpov’s style was about positional dominance and logic instead of the often-popular attack-style seen in other greats such as Bobby Fischer. Karpov took few risks and then only to capitalize on his opponent’s errors.

If you find yourself losing more than you would like, change how you view the game and start playing not to lose. Develop your skills for seeing openings, and then progress to attacking.  

My wife told me a few days ago about how my son kicked her butt in Connect Four. He might be a prodigy. Or, he may have taken my advice for once. 

(Chess photo by Joshua Clements)

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