I love high stakes. It’s exhilarating to have to become hyper-focused on a challenge while sourcing every part of myself for support. The higher the stakes the more present I am; the more the things that don’t matter fall away. Regular hang-ups and frustrations are left by the wayside as I continue to pursue my goal with single-minded vigour. Failure isn’t an option so I make sure I don’t fail. Or if I do, I get right back to solving the problems that need to be solved.
I spent years getting on planes and flying to new countries with little money and no plan. Once on the ground I would get to work building a life for myself. Those were some of my most creative and resourceful years. There was no room for fear because I needed to eat and put a roof over my head. While doubt did creep in from time to time, the high stakes of basic survival meant it never stuck around for long.
Over time, I learned to raise the bar from day-to-day survival to professional development. I wrote proposals for marketing projects I was never entirely sure I could pull off. I asked clients for more money and, as a result, increased the return they expected to see on investing in my writing services. It was stressful and thrilling. When I cut myself off from getting on planes for a while, my work got that much riskier.
I didn’t always do my best work as a result of raising the stakes. Sometimes, I promised too much and couldn’t deliver. When I first started out as a freelance writer, it was often the timelines I had set that became my undoing. The work wasn’t impossible but the urgency of what needed to be accomplished was unrealistic. This was before I watched this video and decided that I didn’t need to worry about missed deadlines anymore.
One thing I did get right most of the time was making sure I wasn’t the one to enforce the high stakes. Whether it was dramatically changing my environment or promising a client something or signing up for a training that I needed to make up for financially immediately, I outsourced the restraints that would make me spring into action and follow through. When I started working with coaches and eventually became a coach, the value of this structure was solidified for me.
A lot of my high stakes situations had to do with money. I needed it and then I needed more of it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As complicated as my relationship with money has been over the years, it’s also one of the reasons I’ve showed up so presently in my work and life. While I am looking forward to paying off my debt and having more financial stability, I also wonder if I’ll be as sharp when that happens. Or maybe I’ll just need to set higher stakes.
So, how can raising the stakes help you do your best work?