Professionals versus Amateurs

When I was young, I used to play competitive chess. I vividly remember that at a certain point I got stuck: In order to win, I relied heavily on mistakes made by my opponents. Since I encountered increasingly better opponents, who made fewer and fewer mistakes, my strategy of trying not to lose, became less and less effective. Only when I decided to actively take initiatives to do things differently in order to win, I was able to break through this plateau.

When amateurs in sports—or young businesses—are competing with each other, the best strategy to win is often to simply avoid making critical mistakes. The most successful businesses in an amateur playing field are the ones which have steered away from making too many wrong decisions. 

Yet, when these businesses mature and enter a new playing field, filled with other professional, often established businesses, this approach no longer works. In a professional playing field you need to shift your focus to playing to win, while at the same time avoid making huge, often fatal mistakes. 

How do you know if you’re playing to win? If you’re doing what every one else is doing, you’re not distinguishing yourself from the competition, and you’re probably stuck. This is the real difference between amateurs and professionals.

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/Andy Cossins

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