Winging It: Gambling Through Your Life and Career

Winging It

All too often, people who wing it, and succeed, are greeted with admiration. Their success is viewed as a magical ability to ignore hard work, hope for the best, and still come out on top. To them, winging it is a way of life.

Winging it is a form of shooting craps. You gamble that, prepared or not, you’ll be able to handle whatever comes up in life — sevens or snake eyes. But even veteran gamblers recognize that the odds are stacked against them.

Taking a calculated risk is not the same as gambling. One is taking a risk after considered judgment; the other is leaving everything to the roll of the dice.

Originally, the term “winging it” was used to describe actors who relied on prompters in the wings because they had never taken the time to learn their lines. Winging it, or bluffing, certainly didn’t enhance the reputation of the actor who was performing without adequate preparation. And it won’t help you.

Winging it is nothing more than a gamble

You may have confidence in your ability to make off-the-cuff decisions; indeed, winging it may even be a habit, one you have little desire to break because it hasn’t created a major problem for you — yet.

Winging it is a form of shooting craps. You gamble that, prepared or not, you’ll be able to handle whatever comes up in life — sevens or snake eyes.

The fact is, it’s impossible to substitute winging it for planning, preparation, and practice. When people wing it, they hope everything will work out, but they don’t know that it will. As a result of laziness or a tendency to operate on automatic pilot, they forget that making things work takes work. As Jascha Heifetz, the renowned violinist, said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”

Practicing the basics, being prepared, and following up on details is a small price to pay for success. Crisis management — putting out fires all day long — is more expensive and it’s exhausting. Winging it wastes valuable time and energy, leads to a loss of credibility, and can damage even the most promising career.

Of course, there will always be unpleasant surprises to deal with because the world isn’t perfect. But you can reduce the number of crises that plague you (and the stress they cause) by maintaining discipline in areas that are controllable.

The fact is, it’s impossible to substitute winging it for planning, preparation, and practice.

How do you stop this runaway freight train and gain control of your life? The answer is as simple as an old Chinese proverb: A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

Since winging it has much in common with gambling, the first step is to follow the precept that Gamblers Anonymous requires of new members: Admit that you’re a gambler. Once you see yourself as a gambler (rather than an astute, risk-taking person), you’ve taken that first important step.

Practicing the basics, being prepared, and following up on details is a small price to pay for success.

When you’ve convinced yourself that you must break out of your winging-it, shoot-from-the-hip, flip-a-coin mentality, you’ll have a new lease on life.

Once you incorporate some planning and preparation into your life, I’m sure you’ll find that the investment leads to better, more reliable outcomes. Is it worth the effort? You bet!

© 2013 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.

 

Art by: Tasertail

Frank is an award-winning author. He has written five books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America's Top 100 Thought Leaders” and nominated as one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs.” Frank’s new book, Follow Your Conscience, was released November 2014. © 2014 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.

  • http://twitter.com/tedcoine Ted Coine

    Oh, boy, Frank: did you write this post just for me? (No, I’m not actually being egocentric here – Let’s be honest, fellow readers: how many of you are thinking the exact same thing right now?)

    What I’ve learned about winging it is, it actually NEVER works. I am the type of person who is just very bad at anything the first time, or even the first 30 times, I try something brand-new. Looking back at the things I’ve “winged” successfully, not one was actually winging it after all. In each case, I had put in my 10,000 hours mastering the base material in question, and I had spent a prodigious amount of time crafting an outline for whatever it was I was setting out to do – give a speech, make a sales pitch to a potential client, teaching a class: whatever the case.

    Bottom line? Calculated risk well prepared for: good. Gambling: always bad.

    Great post, Frank. Despite what I’ve written about my own experience, being reminded – frequently! – of how success actually works is priceless. When it comes from someone whose expertise I admire as I do yours, it’s all the more valuable.

  • Frank Sonnenberg

    Hi Ted

    You make a very important point. As accomplished as you are, you still recognize the importance of practice and doing your homework before any significant undertaking.

    When you talk to successful people, they’ll tell you that the queasy feeling that they get before a major sporting event, business meeting or speech keeps them on their toes. It forces them to be at the top of their game rather than letting their guard down. It’s when we get too comfortable and start winging it that we have the most to fear.

    Have an awesome day!

    Best,

    Frank

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