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Are you playing to win or playing not to lose?

I heard these words this week and it made me think. I don’t like to view the art world as competitive— in fact, I think the only person you compete with is really yourself in this life.

But, it’s interesting to think of how the mindset of “playing not to lose” looks like rather than “playing to win.”

In a small example, perhaps I’ll do a small painting rather than a large one, to minimize cost loss in case it’s not bought for a long time. In that way I’m not playing to win (or, to really actually use my vision in the size which would make it look best). Or maybe when applying for a grant I don’t spend too much time on it because if I DO spend too much time on it and I don’t get it, I would have lost that time. In that way I am playing not to lose (time) rather than playing to win (believing I have a shot and giving it my best).

I can tell when I’m playing to win because there’s a sense of leaning in and commitment. What do you guys think about this concept? Have you ever “played to win” or “played not to lose?” How does it feel for you?