Playing Versus Doing

What exactly separates business owners who cash in on their ideas from those who don’t? There are two different classes of entrepreneurs: those who play at business and those who do business.

Chris’s first job out of college was in a lending department at a commercial bank. He was excited (and admittedly a bit intimidated) by the idea of working with smart, motivated colleagues. He was under the impression that everyone in business would be professional, innovative, and well educated. He anticipated being challenged, learning, and growing through healthy competition and mentorship.

After attending several meetings with associates, Chris came upon a startling realization: most of the professionals with whom he was talking didn’t care about making deals or creating new business opportunities. They had no long-term goals. As Steve Jobs would say, they were “bozos.”

Chris was attending these meetings with the agenda of bringing loans back to his bank. He was bewildered to find that most of his colleagues didn’t have a goal beyond having a meeting. They wanted to look and feel productive without actually accomplishing anything. And the scariest thing was, they had no idea this was the case.

This is the prototype of a player in the business world. These professionals enjoy playing at business instead of doing it. When you play, you’re not invested in outcomes or goals. You’re in business for the ride, and you don’t appear to be going anywhere fast.

Doers, on the other hand, have goals that they actively pursue. They are the sprinters in business. Everyone wants to know how they get ahead so quickly. They are often called lucky, but luck has nothing to do with their fast rise. It is decisive action and clear vision that allows doers to seize fleeting opportunities when they become available.

We’re going to tell you one more story about our friend Mike. Not long ago, Mike decided to move to Maine to start a consulting business with two other partners, Tim and Dan. Although Mike had committed to relocating to Maine and was exited about the venture’s potential, he felt unsure about working with Dan. He was worried that Dan might be more of a player than a doer.

This uncertainty was solidified for Mike a few weeks after he relocated. The two business partners were discussing business strategies when Mike noticed Dan suddenly growing very agitated. He was pensively pacing about the room and waving his hands through the air as he spoke. Mike couldn’t understand why Dan was so stressed. They were just creating business plans.

After a while, Mike realized that Dan was putting on a show for him. He was pretending to be serious and stressed because that’s what Dan thought “business people” did. Dan had no practical solutions to bring to the table, and was not interested in establishing realistic goals with Mike. It became clear to Mike that Dan didn’t care about making this venture lucrative. He was taking part in this venture just so he could say he worked in business and owned a company.

Dan is an example of the ultimate player. You want to avoid his kind like the plague. They don’t care about succeeding in their careers, so they will only be deadweight in yours.

Luckily for Mike, he picked up on Dan’s game early enough to pull out of the venture without doing much damage. Players will suck the time and energy out of your ambitions until there’s nothing left if you allow it. Be vigilant like Mike, and don’t let this happen to you.

The tough part is recognizing whether or not you’re playing business. Most people don’t. But serious professionals recognize this trait instantly in others.

If you fear you’ve been playing at business or life, it’s never too late to change your ways. Give yourself a goal and take action. You’ll soon find those playing days are far behind you.



This article is an excerpt from the book “The Whiteboard: Go from Blank Canvas to a Productive, Leveraged, & Highly-Profitable Business” by Chris Haddon and Jason Balin. Please click here to see more.