When biz gets scary: How to play a bigger game without getting too big for your britches

by | Sep 1, 2010

Last week a group of coaches challenged me to play a bigger game. To declare a larger vision for my business, acknowledge long term goals, and live up to my ability to plan for and achieve them.
I’m all over that, and yet…
Playing a bigger game sounds suspiciously like self-aggrandizement. Ego inflation. Playing Boss of the Universe. Not a good idea.
Perhaps you struggle with the same dilemma. You feel called to make a bigger difference in the world (and to show up bigger), but you can’t see yourself actually doing it.
If you, too, are a reluctant visionary, this article is for you.

The first problem: who the heck are you to do this thing?
As soon as you declare a bigger game, you’re agreeing to make a difference in the world. And who are you to do that?
In one sense, nobody. You’re just a person like every other person, no more or less important.
But declaring a bigger game isn’t about being important. It’s about choosing to make a difference and doing what you can to bring it about. And this is where you are a very special somebody, because no one can make quite the difference you can make.
You have to be right-sized to accept that you’re both a nobody and a somebody. Fortunately, you don’t have to this perfectly.

The second problem: what’s your game?
Your bigger game may not be immediately apparent. You will probably have to dig a bit to get at it. For one thing, all the fuss these days about being a rockstar is distracting. It can make it seem like bigger games are about getting more attention.
Getting more attention might be part of it, but it’s not the key. The key to discerning your bigger game is to tune into your vocation.
Frederick Buechner defines vocation as the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. This makes a solid foundation for deciding what game you are called to play.
If the game you envision requires you to do things you aren’t happy doing, it’s the wrong game. It’s also the wrong game if it means you’ll be happy but your game doesn’t serve the world.

Happiness is not the same as pleasure
A happy game is not always a pleasurable game. Pleasure is a temporary feeling associated with gratification of desire. It’s a lovely thing, but it’s not the same as happiness.
Happiness has a more enduring character. It can be present in the midst of sadness or frustration. It comes from developing yourself and making your optimal contribution to the world.
The right bigger game for you will be pleasurable some of the time and fundamentally happy most of the time. (And you might have to do some digging to get at the happy part during challenging times.)

Service does not require depletion
You can’t meet the world’s deep hunger for long if you deplete yourself in the process. The right game will allow you to renew both your commitment and your energy and resources on a regular basis. The world does not benefit when you run yourself into the ground.
For Accidental Entrepreneurs this means planning so that you earn an income adequate not only for your basic needs but for a margin of comfort. Without that, you won’t have the security to make your optimal contribution.

The third problem: arguing with the reality
In case you haven’t noticed, arguing with reality is painful. As Byron Katie says, you lose, but only 100% of the time. So how do you do the bigger game thing without getting manhandled by reality?
The simple answer is acceptance.
To play a bigger game you need to accept two things: current reality and future possibilities. When you accept current reality, you find peace. (This doesn’t mean you approve of reality, just that you’re not arguing with it.)
When you accept future possibilities, you find peaceful ambition, the marriage of humility and desire. That’s a wonderful place to come from and a good touchstone for whether or not you’re in the game.

The fourth problem: showing up
Showing up, being an advocate for your bigger game is where the rubber meets the road. It means selling yourself and the world on your vision.
Not the whole world, mind you. Just the people you are here to serve, what I call your just-right clients.
To effect real change in the world, you need to persuade people of the merits of your vision. That’s partly about earning enough to do your work, but it’s also about taking a stand for what you believe in and spreading the word. Both involve selling.

It’s an inside and an outside job
Knowing your game and consenting to play it is an inside job that will challenge you spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. It will also reveal exactly what you need to do to grow as a human being.
But playing your game is also an outside job. There’s no game until you take action in the world. It’s not enough to do good work. You need to make your good work known.

A word about mistakes
When you consent to play bigger you’re going to make mistakes. Spiritual mistakes of pride, grasping, and envy. Material mistakes of investing time and energy in things that don’t work. And relationship mistakes that result in misunderstanding and hurt feelings.
All of these mistakes are part of the game. No one is exempt. What is important is to keep returning to the principles of play. Practice being right-sized. Look for the intersection of gladness and hunger. Listen for guidance and let go of results.
And most of all, show up. Keep taking risks. The world needs you.

Practical help for your bigger game
I hope this post pushed a few buttons and awakened a peaceful ambition in you. Of course, it may not feel so peaceful if you don’t know how you’re going to make your game bigger.
There’s help for that. In a couple of weeks 10 of the best practitioners I know come together in The Self Employment Telesummit. It’s a different kind of event in that it includes daily coaching to help you apply what you learn to your bigger game.
If you’re wanting to play bigger, I truly hope you’ll consider the telesummit. Find out more about it at www.selfemploymenttelesummit.com.

PS: The early bird deadline is September 2. Just saying.
Photo by cobalt123 via Flickr
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