How to start playing offense, not defense, in your life and career


You are exhausted. And the reason is that people seem more interested in giving you things to do than helping you do what’s important to you.

They are thoughtless, aren’t they? Well, maybe. But the situation is often your fault. You have mostly played defense in life and in your career. You respond to the agendas and needs of the people who play on offense.

Essentially, people who play offense are much quicker to ask you for something than you are to ask them for something. And it might put you on the defensive always.

Here are some things that people who play offense to say:

  • “Hey, I really need your help with this important project I’m working on.”
  • “I understand that you are too busy to give me all the time I expect of you, but can you at least take on this small task?”
  • “I can promise you what I’m working on is really important.”

Here are some things that people who play defense to say:

  • “Sure, I’m going to help you move your furniture this weekend…” (while secretly thinking, “Great, here’s my chance to do the things I’m behind on in my own life”).
  • “Well, I’m pretty busy right now, but I’ll try to make some time for you…” (while secretly thinking, “Damn, I really can’t remember the last time you never had this kind of weather for me. »
  • “I have this idea, but I never seem to get it…” (while secretly thinking, “Because I always help you move your cursed furniture. “)

The problem is that even if you have a program, a vision or a dream, you are a little uncertain about it. A little hesitant, a little shy. You complain about how the gods could try a little harder to get you to your goals. But in everyday life, you mostly seem to feel the gods urging you to help others achieve their own goals.

It sounds like a cosmic injustice, but it is not. It’s just that you’re passive. Here’s how to switch from defensive to offensive play:

1. Make a to-do list for everyone in your life.

It means everyone. Family. Friends. Colleagues. Even your bosses. Write their names. Ask yourself what they or they can do for you. It could be something totally painless and cheap for them, like tweeting news about you or your business. It could be something more substantial, like asking a well-connected colleague to introduce you to a contact you were hoping they would introduce to you on their own initiative.

As the list grows, you will find that you have a network that can do you good. You just need to stop seeing yourself as their courier only. Then give yourself permission to start assigning the tasks on the list. Is there any reason to believe that the chores others assign to you are more important than the chores you might assign to them? Usually not.

2. Ask nicely in most cases.

The power to ask is one of the most amazing powers in life. As author James Altucher noted:

A very simple test was done by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram. He picked up ten students and sent them on the New York subway.

They went on the subway and approached all kinds of people who were sitting there: young, old, black, white, female, male, pregnant, etc. To each passenger seated, they said, “Can I have your seat?” Seventy percent of the people gave up their seats.

Two interesting things: One, the percentage of people who stood up was so high. They were simply asked to stand up and they did as they were told. But the other interesting thing is how reluctant the students were to even do the experiment. Asking people where they belong went against everything they had ever been taught.

But many of those who succeed are those who have overcome this shy and modest reluctance. They’ve realized that playing offense pays serious dividends.

3. In some cases, tell them to do it or get lost.

Raise your expectations of people who wear you down with their constant need for help. Find a way to make them as useful to you as you are to them. Put them to work. And if they seem reluctant to reciprocate, you are now giving yourself permission to no longer be confused by their wants and needs.

Let’s continue with the sports metaphor a bit longer. Offense sells tickets, they say, but defense wins championships. It is somewhat true. People who play offensively in their careers tend to be promoted, celebrated, or voted into Big Dog status. People who play defense often quietly help big dogs deliver on big promises.

Let’s also be realistic: people who alone playing on offense, who care only about their own agendas, are likely to fail in the end. Wise CEOs have noted that successful leaders can’t just talk about their own vision; they have to do a thankless job, which often means playing a certain defensive role and accepting the agendas and needs of others.

Yes, playing defense is an element of success, but the problem is balance. If you play it too much, you burn out. Then you get resentful. Then you feel helpless. And when you feel helpless, it’s all over. Don’t even expect things to improve, because they won’t unless you reverse the equation.


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