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Play to win. Here’s why that matters.

People and teams can outperform themselves because they’re doing what they’re doing for a strong reason.

Sunday was a memorable day for Dutch sports.

Which doesn’t mean it was all positive. Memorable does not imply it’s always good news.

Max Verstappen won the Austrian F1 Grand Prix and extended his lead in the championship.

Max has only one dream since he was a little kid. To become F1 world champion. Max is on a mission. Max plays to win.

Mathieu van der Poel won the second stage in the Tour de France and won the yellow jersey for leading the general standings.

With that yellow jersey on his shoulders, Mathieu honored his grandfather, Raymond Poulidor, who had never worn the yellow jersey. Mathieu was on a mission. Mathieu plays to win.

The Dutch football team, considered favorite and for sure more talented, lost against the Czechs in the first knock-out stage at Euro 2020.

The Dutch team never was on a mission. You could smell that the do-or-die mentality to become champions wasn’t there.

The team formation for each match was not built on its own strength but adjusted to opponents’ qualities.

The Dutch team never played to win. It played not to lose.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Danish soccer team, who nearly lost one of their players to cardiac arrest.

Since that horrific Saturday evening, the Danish team is on a mission. They’re playing to win and to honor their teammate.

We see this very often in sports, but frankly everywhere in life.

People and teams can outperform themselves because they’re doing what they’re doing for a strong reason.

And that reason is more than just winning a game or a tournament.

They have created a strong why inside that provides that extra motivation, determination, and energy.

It’s why I believe that Belgium will win Euro 2020.

Belgium has a group of incredibly talented players who have never won. This tournament may be their last chance, and they know it.

The football players of Belgium have a strong reason why, raw talent, and they play to win.

Talent is the foundation. A strong why is needed. And the courage to play to win is the last part.

The same applies to business.

You need strong players on your team who are willing to play together as a team.

You need a strong reason why you want your business to excel. And this reason is not to beat your competition.

It’s the reason why you exist and the contribution you’re making to this world we live in. That reason is more significant than your bottom line.

And you always play to win.

You didn’t start your business to always look at your competition and see what they’re doing.

You didn’t start your business to defend yourself against threats from outside.

You didn’t start your business not to take risks, experiment, fail, learn, get up, and get stronger again.

You didn’t start your business to play not to lose.

You will never be able to influence what’s outside of your control, so it’s better to focus on what you can control and excel at that.

You started your business to make a difference and contribute to the lives of your customers. Whatever it is your doing.

That’s what playing to win looks like, and paired with a strong reason why, your chances of success are high.

Now we just need to get the Dutch football coach to understand that.

If he’s still there.

Your turn: are you playing to win?

Do more of what makes you happy!

Erikjan

PS. The Dutch coach resigned later the day I wrote this.

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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