logo image

ATD Blog

How to Play Up Beyond Your Current Scope


Mon Aug 05 2013


Playing up requires us to stretch beyond our abilities or circumstances to leverage current skills and past experiences to capitalize on future opportunities.  

Consider the case of Sheila, a senior accountant, who assumes a new position with greater responsibility and includes areas outside her expertise. Although the role is new, she must draw on and transfer her knowledge, skills, and experiences from one position to another to achieve success, despite the fact that the new position requires the acquisition of different skills beyond what is comfortable and familiar. Sheila must play up. 


Who needs to play up?  

The short answer: everyone. Playing up is not limited to a profession, age group, or educational level. Consider again the case of Sheila, who returns to business school because she understands that her current level of education, contacts, and experiences do not give her the skills or distinction needed for the career advancement she seeks. She must play up by developing a state of mind that forces her to stretch and challenge beyond the breaking point of others whose mindset is to “settle” for failure or mediocrity.  

When do we play up?   

Generally, there are four instances in which we must play up. The first is when life, through its unpredictability, throws a “curve ball” at us that we cannot plan or prepare for. We are ill-equipped and smacked with a reality that was not anticipated or imagined.  

The second instance is when the rules of the game, past practices, or customs require us to participate at a level beyond our perceived ability and despite our self-imposed limitations. And the third is when our own actions and choices, both positive and negative, result in consequences that require us to transform poor choices into better overall outcomes, or to optimize good choices to create more opportunities.  


Finally, we must play up when our dominance and demonstrated level of proficiency on one level is recognized by others, and we are promoted to the next level—whether we believe we are ready or not.  

Why do we need to play up? 

Playing up raises the bar in every area of our lives, causing us to grow and develop socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially for the benefit of our family, friends, employer, and community. We must make a conscious effort to extend beyond our current abilities and circumstances to help resolve current issues and to capitalize on future opportunities.  

For example, when Sheila returns to business school, she immediately recognizes the discipline required to complete the rigorous two-year program while working full-time. As a result, she must examine and prioritize other areas of her life. This approach positively affects her performance in business school, productivity at work, and the quality of relationships with others. 

How do we play up? 


Acknowledge and confront the situation regardless of the facts, but do not ignore them. Seek counsel from trusted advisors whose wisdom and expertise form the basis of an action plan that can be implemented to solve a problem or leverage an opportunity.  Then, fight to execute them, using all the talents, gifts, and capabilities you have acquired—supplemented by the efforts of others where necessary.

You've Reached ATD Member-only Content

Become an ATD member to continue

Already a member?Sign In


Copyright © 2024 ATD

ASTD changed its name to ATD to meet the growing needs of a dynamic, global profession.

Terms of UsePrivacy NoticeCookie Policy