March 1, 2023

Winning vs. Losing Strategies

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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As a high achiever, you have been taught the winning strategy which is that you must work hard for success. However, this will make you have exceptionally high standards for yourself and you may become a people pleaser.

This strategy has its merits since it allows you to live a very decent life. But at what cost? For instance, women in the pharma/biotech world achieve success and have good jobs with high pay. However, they get stuck or are unhappy because they approach their career problems with what they think is a winning strategy. 

In today’s episode, I will talk about the true winning strategy that is beneficial to you. You will learn how to choose the correct strategy. You will understand what living a winning strategy makes you be and feel in both your career and your life.

What you’ll learn:

The difference between a winning and losing strategy for your career

3 losing strategies that are winning strategies and how to use them

A shift in how to think about your goals

“Winning” strategies

I want you to think about the sacrifice you make having an overachieving behavior. It usually comes in the form of stress, self-doubt, anxiety, and self-critique. This approach can be crippling your potential.

You are trying to do everything so that you can feel a certain way and think it’s going to get you ahead. But this provokes unhappiness since you work more than you need to. Even if we’re not consciously thinking about those things, it’s these thoughts that run through our minds throughout the day which create negativity. Many women have either experienced this or are currently experiencing this. 

The winning strategy puts you in a box or cage even if the doors are open. It makes you stay and keeps you in the same pattern of trying to be seen as the best. The winning strategies are considered the right path to goals within our society. Although they create some success, they turn you into a loser in the long run.

With this in mind, what is the correct strategy? How can you stop this cycle of people pleasing and feeling unhappy?

“Losing” strategies

Within the winning strategy, you lose sight of an important point about yourself and your career. The point is that you are seen as the best and as having potential.

Think about how you approach your day. What do other people want from you? You’re likely more risk-averse and you might tell yourself that you just need to stay the course. Especially as women, who tend to consider ourselves last and dismiss all the wins we have achieved. 

The way that we grow up is not to take risks and to play it safe. This in turn keeps you small. It keeps you from seeing what you’re capable of and prevents you from new experiences and growth opportunities. That is preventing you from truly being happy. 

But what about if we decide to do the opposite? Imagine if you see yourself as the best and as worthy of what you want. This type of strategy is seen as losing the game but it is winning it. In this strategy, we learn how to take risks and invest in ourselves. We also are comfortable with making mistakes. 

Social conditioning and its effects on the winning strategy

Society teaches us it’s more acceptable to have a huge salary with student loan debt than it is to spend on something we want or that would help us be better at our jobs or achieve a milestone in our lives.

It also plays a role in what we tell ourselves to spend money on. Investing in your development outside of work is not considered within the norm of weddings, restaurants, or Louis Vuitton bags.

Think about what growth you want to have and how you can achieve it in a way you maybe haven’t before. I challenge you to think about how many strategies and decisions you make because of society. What choices do you make because of what society tells you to?

The value of making mistakes

Another societal misconception is not allowing ourselves to make mistakes. Accepting that you made mistakes and will make them is perfectly okay. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re playing too small. Mistakes come when you try new and bigger things. Even when you don’t feel ready, if you decide to push yourself to the next level then you see you can survive it.

When you aren’t afraid of mistakes, these losing strategies become winning strategies. Think about the winning and losing strategies that you’ve adopted in your life and the things you’re doing that don’t bring joy. Observe your life and then decide what strategies you prefer to get to that much-desired success. Are they winning strategies? Are they aligned with who you want to be? Is there something you want to try but are worried you’ll make a mistake and you’re going to do it anyway? 

If you have more questions like these, investing in yourself and your career is the first step to living within a “losing” aka winning strategy.

Take your winning strategy to the next level by joining me and an elite group of leaders who are redefining what success looks like for women in the pharma and biotech industry. 

The Standout Leader Incubator is a three-month group coaching program for women looking for a new strategy for success. Applications are open now until March 5th or until spots are full. 

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Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast with me, Melissa Lawrence. I’m a career and life coach with all the corporate credit and talent development and organizational psychology. I help women like you get extraordinary results by being more you, not less. I won’t just help you have a career experience worthy of you, but I will help you build your self worth to shift what you think is possible and take the action that will create the career you’ve always wanted. Whether it’s more meaningful work you’re passionate about, making more money, getting to your next level, or being more effective as a leader, we are shattering the glass ceiling here. The one that exists for women at work and the one we put on ourselves with our doubt and inner critic. Each week you will get practical teachings grounded in neuroscience and effective career development strategies. You’ll experience deep mindset shifts and the perfect amount of rule so you can run your career with ease rather than your career running you. You were born for more and I’m going to help you get there with maybe a few dance parties along the way. Your up level begins now.

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. How are you? How is your year shaping up? I can’t believe that when this episode comes out, it is already going to be March. Now, today we’re going to talk about winning versus losing strategies at work and we’re going to really in life, too. And this is going to be a really fun and insightful episode. But before we dive in, if you didn’t know, if you have just joined the Cheta family, I want to give a shoutout that my leadership development program is currently enrolled rolling and the deadline to apply is approaching us on March fifth. So if you are a people manager, new or experienced, you identify as a woman and work in the pharma or biotech industry, head to to get all of the details on this program and learn how to apply. You can also check out an episode that I did a couple of weeks ago titled The Standout Leader Incubator. All right, are you ready to get to it? Let’s talk about winning strategies first. This might not be what you expected when you turned on this episode.

So a common problem that I see is that the women in my world achieve success, have good jobs, good pay, but they get stuck or are unhappy because they approach their career problems with what they think is a winning strategy. Now, let me explain. As a high achiever, you have been taught and it has been reinforced that you should work hard, say yes, be perfect, and rely on your company for your solutions and growth. Now, how this shows up or how you know this is you is if you have a hard time making decisions, without worrying you’ll make the wrong choice, you may identify as a people pleaser, always giving to others before yourself, trying to make everyone happy. You have exceptional definitely high standards for yourself. You want your work to be perfect. You don’t want anyone to see you make a mistake. You want to be seen as really good at what you do, dependable, pleasant to work with. Seems reasonable, right? And this is how we were taught to win, not to trust ourselves, not to take risks, to look to others, to know what to do, and to just be happy with your job.

Having a good job with a good pay and benefits is great. If you like it, that’s icing on the cake, not the standard, right? That is what we’re taught. We studied to the test and the test is being your boss, your work culture, what you need to do to get those exceed expectations marks at every review time. This has gotten you where you are and it works to some extent. You have a good job, you can have a good career and a good life using these winning strategies that we grow up with. But at what cost? I want you to think about what is the sacrifice of those behaviors because it usually comes in the form of stress, self doubt, anxiety, being critical of yourself, questioning your decisions, settling. It cripples your potential because the test that you’re trying to ace is arbitrary and was made up, likely, by some white dudes in an office somewhere. And you’re trying to do everything you can to ace that test so that you can feel a certain way, be valued, think it’s going to get you ahead. So when you’re unhappy, you look at what is available to you in the space that you’re at, what other people are doing.

You want to grow and develop? You look for what your company offers as far as training or development programs. You work more than you need to because you’re trying to help everyone. Then you go home and you probably take care of your friends or your family or your pets or your partners and all the things. Talking about this just makes my body tense. If you could see me, my shoulders are getting closer to my ears because when I talk about this, it really makes me think about being in a cage or being in a box. And that is how I felt when I worked in corporate and I had been unhappy in my job, or I wanted something and I was telling myself I couldn’t have it, or I was just spinning out looking at what other people are doing, what my boss was doing, what I needed to do to get ahead, how I needed to be, how our senior leadership team looked, what they wanted from me, what would be considered success failure. It’s exhausting. And even if we’re not consciously thinking those things, it’s not like I had think sessions where I was going through and thinking those things on purpose.

It’s just the thoughts that run through our mind throughout the day. That creates tension in our bodies. It creates stress. A lot of us as women have either experienced this or currently experienced this. It’s like you’re in that box or you’re in a cage, but the door is open, but you stay and you keep those same patterns, trying to ace the test, trying to be seen as the best, seen as worthy, seen as having potential. But listen to this, you are seen as the best, seen as worthy, seen as having potential when you see yourself that way first. What? Yes. Now you might be thinking, “Okay, but seriously, at work, I am judged and assessed by others, so it can’t all just be about me.” And to that I say, I hear you, but you’re missing the point. Think about how you approach your day right now when you are thinking about what other people want from you, how they will react if you’re good enough, if you’re paid enough, if you’re making good decisions, if you’re a good enough partner, when you’re convincing yourself to take what you get and don’t get upset. And that last part actually takes me back to reading Pinkalicious to my daughter 10 years ago.

There was that line in that book, you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Anyway, think about how you are. Yes, you deliver and you are amazing, but you’re likely more risk averse. You may look to others to decide what you want. You might tell yourself that you just need to stay the course that you don’t really need the thing that you really want. You work extra and that could be an hour served or not being able to turn your phone off at night or stop checking your email for fear you’re going to miss something. You scroll on LinkedIn to see where your colleagues are and if they surpassed you. You look to see what’s out there or what you could do to develop yourself, but then close out the tab and so that really was just a waste of time. You stay up late making sure your slides are perfect to compare yourself to others and wonder what you could be doing differently and why others seem to be more, fill in the blank, confident, sure of themselves, know what they want, winning, getting ahead. And this isn’t your fault. This is what our society has created for us, especially as women.

Be everything to everyone. Consider ourselves last. With my clients, we celebrate wins every week. Now, truth be told, this is uncomfortable for some of them. It’s something that has to be practiced and learned to do because it doesn’t come natural to think of all of the things that went right, the things that you’re proud of, to pat yourself on the back. In fact, women sometimes think, “Well, I don’t want to brag. I don’t want to take up space.” We’re taught to just be in our place to be demure, not make too much fuss, not too much noise to question ourselves, to fall in line. You’re probably better at telling other people how great they are. But this is an important practice because it acknowledges growth, also reinforces to our brain the good that has happened because our brains have a negativity bias. They like to dismiss all the good and focus on the doom and gloom. So focusing on the good and making our brain do that in those wins creates new neural pathways in our brains. How cool is that that we’re able to do that? Here is what I want you to know.

All of these winning strategies, the things that you’ve done to get here, they will keep you on the safety train. They will keep you playing small, not seeing what you’re really capable of, never truly really feeling good enough, imagine if you see yourself as the best, as worthy of what you want with unlimited potential. How would you show up then? Well, this is where we start to get into those losing strategies. And if you haven’t caught on, the winning strategies, the ones I just talked about, those are considered winning because that is what we’ve been taught and they have created some success, but they are losing in the long run. They are a disservice to you. And these losing strategies, they’re seen as losing, but they’re actually winning. What we see as losing is taking risk, investing in ourselves, making mistakes. We expect ourselves to be logical and reasonable and we don’t want to take risks. When I worked in the industry, we had a campaign, like a cultural campaign around taking smart risks and teaching employees to be able to do that. And man, was there resistance, especially from the quality minded employees because their job is really to avoid risk a lot of the time.

But there was just a lot of resistance in general, and people indulged in a lot of confusion about this topic, like, what is considered a smart risk? Is any risk safe? How do we know? Is there an escalation process? Somebody had asked if we could have a process for approval of the risk idea, right? And where is that coming from? That’s from our belief that we can’t make that decision, that we’re going to make a wrong decision, and so we need someone else to co sico-signgn it so that we don’t feel responsible if it’s wrong. So this is just embedded in everything and work in our society and everything. The way that we grow up is not to take risk, to be risk averse, to play it safe. But this keeps you small. It keeps you from seeing what you’re capable of. It prevents you from new experiences and growth opportunities. If you’re carefully trying to control everything and everyone around you, that is preventing you from truly being happy. You’re still being more concerned with everyone else because that is usually coming from fear of making a mistake, being seen as foolish or dumb, feeling embarrassed.

But there is that saying, no risk, no reward, and that’s because the ROI on risk is huge. And when you avoid it, you just get more of the same on that safety train. Make it a song. Starting to rhyme. So it’s the same with investing in yourself. Some people believe that they shouldn’t have to invest in themselves. It’s almost like their ego can’t handle it. They have enough education, maybe have a PhD, they work for a good company and should already know everything, or they shouldn’t need help, or what would people think of them? I remember one of my clients told me that when she shared that she was working with a career leadership coach, me, that the employee immediately thought that my client was on a performance improvement plan. There was a bias there that if you invest in a coach, you must be having trouble. But in that situation, it was her colleague that had had that experience. She had a coach because she needed to improve, and so she had that mindset that you don’t get a coach unless that’s the case, because her coach was assigned to her, right? So she never went out and invested in her own coach for her own development.

She waited until there was a problem and she wasn’t effective in her role. And as a punishment to get her back on course, her leadership assigned her a coach. But my client, she obviously had more of a growth mindset. She sought coaching to amplify her career and be proactive in owning her development. And now she’s continued to coach with me for almost two years. Initially, she hired me to help her figure out what she wanted next in her career, and we did that. She got a big raise, she moved into her dream job as a transfer within her company, and then we changed goals. She met that initial goal. Then she wanted to be effective in her new global role, so we got her there. Then we started focusing on leadership development, and I facilitated a 360 within her company, and we worked through leading in a matrix environment and strategic relationship building and creating a vision and so on. And now we’re working on her next promotion. So think of all the growth that she has had in less than two years because she invested in coaching. She could have said she didn’t need that.

She was a director level at a good company with good pay. She was an outstanding performer, but she decided she wanted to be happier that there was more she could give, more that she wanted and that she wanted to have more of a purpose. She wanted to feel more confident. There were things she wanted to overcome, and she wanted this secret weapon in her pocket to help her be effective the most efficient way possible without the trial and error. It’s almost like a security plan. Instead of just going out and figuring it out and hoping it works out, it was a way that that she could take some risk but do it in a way that felt safe for her and also expedite her growth. So if she hadn’t reached out, she’d be in the same job, or she might have just quit and gone to another company and been still stuck wondering what it is that she could actually be doing instead of already being in her dream job, excelling as a leader in succession planning, doing what she loves, making more money, and feeling good about herself. So I challenge you to think about what growth you want to have and how you can achieve it in maybe a way you haven’t before.

Society teaches us it’s more acceptable to have 100K in student loans than it is to spend 10 % of that for something we really want or would help us be better at our jobs or achieve a milestone in our lives. You think about how much society plays a role in what we tell ourselves to spend money on. It’s crazy. 100k for a wedding? Yes. You want to get married once or twice or three times or whatever? For a degree, yes. For a household renovation? Yes. Going to fancy restaurants for vacation? Yes. Or maybe buying an expensive purse? No, that’s not logical. Getting a hot tub that you’d really love to spend some time in after work every day? No, you don’t need that. Investing in your own development outside of work? Work, maybe, but do you really need it? See, it’s funny when you think about it like that. It’s like our government. If you look at the laws we have, like reform that is common sense around guns, for example, we have all of these issues with gun violence in our country, but we can’t get simple measures put in place that would help control some of those incidents that happen.

And that’s just because that is our society. It doesn’t make it right. So I challenge you to really think about how many strategies and decisions you make because of society or what you think you should do versus what you really want. When you invest in yourself, it boosts your confidence. Then you see what a good investment it was or the joy you have as a result, and it just reinforces your worth. When I bought my Louis Vuitton bag, that was a huge moment for me. I never thought that I would be so careless with money. That’s what I told myself. It was careless. But when you want something and you’re always telling yourself you can’t have it, that is awful for your self concept. It’s awful for your confidence. There’s a difference between deciding you don’t want something and telling yourself you can’t have it. So figure out what you want and be open to going after it. Now, let’s talk about mistakes. I never want to make a mistake either, okay? But I accept that I will and it’s okay. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re playing too small. Mistakes come when you try new things, when you go after the big things, even when you don’t feel ready, when you push yourself into your next level, even when you doubt yourself, then you see you can survive it, but no one actually cares.

And the reward is so much greater than not trying. You build your confidence by making mistakes and surviving them. You try more things, you take more action. Your life becomes so much bigger when you aren’t afraid of it. So these losing strategies are actually winning strategies. So think about the winning and losing strategies that you’ve adopted in your life, the things you think you need to do, the things you’re doing that actually don’t bring joy, the things you want but are scared to try, the tests you measure yourself against. If you silence your own voice and tell yourself someone else knows better, just think about it. Observe your life over this coming week and then decide, are the strategies that you’re using actually winning strategies? Are they aligned with who you want to be? Or do you want to try one of the losing strategies I talked about? Is there a risk you want to take? Or I should say, Is there something that you want to do that your brain is telling you is risky? Is there an investment you want to make? Is there something you want to try but are worried you’ll make a mistake and you’re going to do it anyway?

Give it some thought and I will talk to you next week. Thank you for listening to this episode of Your Worthy Career. Visit for full show notes and additional resources to help you on your career journey. Speaking of resources, if you enjoyed today’s show, you will love being an email VIP Insider where I share trainings, tools, and behind the scenes content exclusive to my VIP list. Become a VIP and join us at See you next week.

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Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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