The Benefits of Playing Full Out

I attend a lot of conferences and meetings. I have noticed that most people play it safe in these settings. They are reserved—arms crossed and skeptical—or simply distracted, hunched over their smartphone. Precious few take the plunge and play full out.

A Man Jumping with a Bungee Cord - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #10013408

Photo courtesy of ©

Several years ago, Robert Smith, Andy Andrews’ manager, paid for Gail and me to attend an internationally renowned motivational conference. Though it only lasted four days, it changed our lives. We still feel the impact today.

Before we left for the conference, Robert said, “Look guys, I am thrilled that you are going to this conference. I only ask for one thing: Play full out. Don’t hold back.” We agreed.

That was some of the best advice I have ever received. It served me well—not only at that conference, but in almost every other project.

What does “playing full out” look like?

  • Being fully present, undistracted by anything else.
  • Stretching yourself, even if it makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable.
  • Giving it your best effort, even when you are tired and want to quit.

Why play full out? Here are three significant benefits:

  1. You bring out the best in others. When you bring you’re A-game to a meeting or project, it has a noticeable impact on others. It raises the bar for everyone. It is especially encouraging to the speaker or facilitator.
  2. You maximize your own learning experience. When you are fully present in the moment, leaning forward, fully engaged, you absorb and take away more. You can’t do this if you are distracted, stuck in the past or fretting about the future.
  3. You create the possibility of transformation. Let’s admit it: change is difficult. It is doubly hard when you are half-hearted or not fully committed. But when you are playing full out, you accelerate the rate of change and open up the possibility of real transformation.

This week, Gail and I are attending the Dynamic Communicators Workshop at the WinShape Retreat in Mt. Berry, Georgia. Honestly, it is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I am having to re-learn the basics of public speaking—something I have had a lot of experience doing.

Each day we are required to give a new speech in front of our peers. We are taught, challenged, and critiqued. The days are long and grueling—fourteen hours just today! But we are learning so much. It is unbelievable.

Difficult as it is, Gail and I are committed to playing full out. We want to milk every benefit we can from this amazing experience. We know we will need it in the future.

Question: What meeting or project are you about to participate in where you could benefit from playing full out? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Anne Deeter Gallaher

    What great insight! At the end of the day, I would hope all our clients agree that we play full out for them. Important to remember to bring our A game even in the smallest details and especially when no one’s watching. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gary D

    Hi Michael,

    I have a video shoot to do for our church on Saturday. I didn’t feel like the “push” was inside me to go ahead with it, but your “Benefits of Playing Full Out” newsletter sealed it for me. I just emailed the church’s communication coordinator to let her know that I am interested. Planning on Playing Full Out!

    Thanks, man.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good for you. The cool thing is that all it takes is a decision to do it.

  • James Dibben

    Many will treat you like you’re odd when you do this.

    I’m [trying] to live every area of my life in this manner. I have A LONG way to go. I believe with all my heart it will be worth the effort. It just takes time, something so few are willing to endure…..the time.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That reminds me of the title of Craig Groeschel’s new book: Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working.

      • James Dibben

        I REALLY need to get that book! I’m still finishing up his sermons on the subject.

  • Oleg Sinitsin

    Working on a startup has been the most intense exercise of my career in terms of staying focused. From the standpoint of communication, delivering a good pitch in front of key people has been a tough skill to master. Any thoughts on best practices of idea pitching?

  • Cynthia Herron

    “Creating the possibility of transformation.” I especially liked that one! Anyone who truly knows me knows that I love to talk, share, and encourage. Now, public speaking? Not so much. I’m at a point in my career, however, where I’ll need a big dose of courage myself. Again, this is why I come here. I learn so much! Thank you for a wonderful post!

  • @kylereed

    Solid words here.

    To add to your point about playing full out and the conference you are at right now. It is interesting when getting peer review. If you play it safe and try and hold things back people will spot it immediately. But when you play full out and take a risk no matter the product you will still be respected, because you gave it your all. Playing it safe in that situation does not allow you to grow and does way more harm then good.

    BTW, sounds like that conference that you are at right now is a must attend. Randy told me a couple of weeks ago that I have to get to this and hope to next year. I cannot wait to sit down with Jeff Goins and discuss some stuff with him about what he learned.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It is definitely a must-attend event, Kyle. My wife was scared to come, too, but she is learning tons.

  • Ashleyscwalls

    As a young person, I think that this is so important. Especially in classes and seminars. I am starting school again in the fall, and I am praying that I do not allow technology to overly distract me during my classes. As a person that is self-employed, I feel as though I have to work around the clock and be available for new clients and networking as quickly as possible. I am going to work on a system that tailors my communication around my class schedule.

  • shellyanglin

    Wonderful timing… And thank you to Monte King who drew my attention to this commentary. I have been working on a project and book called, “Living in Joy: 7 Things You Should Know by Now.” The project includes a seminar aimed at mitigating burnout for people in high-stress professions (and who isn’t?), and has been met with postive feedback from all attendees, so far.

    But I have not be “playing full out.” I’ve been dabbling, sticking a toe in here or there, peeking around corners and darting back to my safe, regular habitat: get up, go to work, come home, make excuses for why I didn’t chase my dreams today, get up, go to work, come home, make excuses… The incessant loop.

    I know better. Thank you for the reminder, Mr. Hyatt. I appreciate you.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Shelly. I like your book title, too!

  • Anonymous

    My next move ‘playing full out’ can be in the way I play piano tomorrow. I can go ahead and learn what I need to learn and also when I’m teaching, I can play full out, and even in the rehearsal to come after that. I am working with a singer through a lot of songs and I’m going to show my full commitment by playing full out. I’m encouraged at the chance to give it my best shot tomorrow and to totally be engaged in the moment

  • Gigi McMurray

    I appreciate this challenge to play full out. Like the phrase. Right now I am being challenged in my marriage to play full out. We are about to take the trip of a lifetime to Italy for 11 days. I am noticing that some intimacy fears are creeping in. So glad to see them and be able to name them and pursue intimacy with everything I have as a wife.

    Also, I want to be fully there and fully present. I am thankful to see that mentioned as I see little about it in our Christian sub-culture. I think about the present as being the Holy of Holies. It is where I have to God’s grace. I can’t access Him in yesterday or tomorrow. He was there. He will be there. But right now, I have full access to His Presence.

    I just launched or re-launched a blog. I want to play full out and full on there to use my gift set for His glory.

    Thanks for this discussion.

  • Adompe3

    I experienced this when I attended my first WAH boot camp. My goal for that weekend was to be absolutely honest with myself, with other participants and with God (go full out). I was going though a very difficult time and so the stuff I had to be honest about was raw. It felt risky. It turned out to be an amazingly powerful and life changing weekend which reset the trajectory of my life and is still having repercussions.

  • TNeal

    I play basketball with a bunch of older guys early in the morning. I once played hurt, a pulled something or other, for a week and didn’t notice any discernible difference in my game. Or the other guys’ speed. I thought, “My goodness! We’re all so slow.”

    This morning we had three high school guys join us and I matched up with one of them. I had no trouble keeping up. I had plenty of energy (thanks, Mike, again for and actually played well (which is hardly ever the norm).

    The thing about this morning is I prepared to “play full out” long before I woke up. Losing those extra pounds, cycling every day, and lifting weights all helped.

    I am reminded that our ability to “play full out” starts before we hit the basketball court or the board meeting or the pulpit. It’s in the mental and physical preparation when no one sees or hears beyond God.–Tom

    • Steven Cribbs

      Tom – that is a great perspective. Appropriate preparation makes a huge difference – without it, it becomes much more difficult to be fully engaged, to play full out and not to hold anything back. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Thanks, Tom, for the motivation.

  • Andrew Weber

    Terrific post! Reminds me of this piece by Mark Suster on how he conducts business at SXSW and conferences in general:

  • Steven Cribbs

    Sounds like one of those conferences that you are obligated to go to; but, you don’t expect anything from it and you see it as time that could be better spent doing something else.

  • Steven Cribbs

    Tom – that is a great perspective. Appropriate preparation makes a huge difference – without it, it becomes much more difficult to be fully engaged, to play full out and not to hold anything back.. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great idea, but frankly, I have never understood why someone would do it any other way. I once was sick at a confence and missed most of a day but sat through the evening sessions with a fever. I sat in the back away from others as best I could which was easy because the evening sessions were sparsely attended.

    One organization I was a member had its annual meeting at Gulf Shores, AL every year and regularly had attendees in shorts and relaxed attire. I made a stark contrast presenting after a guy who wore shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, flip flops and a baseball cap. It was almost a joke. It never set well with me to not fully engage and get the most out of any conferences.

    Not only did my work ethic come away feeling better, I came away with new ideas and more negative leadership lessons for when I am in charge.

  • Scott Luck

    As a pastor, I am getting ready to launch a task force for reviewing and developing protocols for disaster preparedness for our church. This is such a worthwhile investment, but it does not exactly light my fire. Perhaps giving my best to this project means finding someone else to lead this task force so that I can focus on giving my best in my “zone” of effectiveness.

  • Blair Howell

    When I first read the title of your post I immediately had a flashback to my childhood years participating in several sports I had played. The central theme in all of them was that I LOVED to play sports. I actually cannot think of a time when I wasn’t happy when I was playing any sport (okay maybe those games that I/we lost) but they are a distant memory compared to all the JOY I had. Even the 2 hour back to back practices after a full day of school still brings a smile to my face. And to tell you the truth it transferred over to everything I did. It got me thinking after I finished your article that somewhere between the ‘younger years’ and becoming an adult (working, paying bills, marriage, kids, etc.) that the passion began to dissipate and before you know it one day you wake up and say ‘Where did it all go?” Thanks for reminding me that you can still ‘Play Full Out’ in everything you do even when you are older. Cheers!

  • Katherine Hyde

    I learned this at my first writers’ conference, although I didn’t put it to myself in those terms. I’m a shy, introverted person, and I could easily have gone through the whole five days never speaking unless I was spoken to. But I made the decision to leave my comfort zone, start conversations, and make friends. It was a transformative experience.

    I do find, though, that I don’t always have the physical strength to go full-out for a whole conference if it’s more than a weekend long. Sometimes I really do have to go take a nap. But then I’m able to come back for the rest of the program re-energized. So I would add to your advice: Play full out, but know your physical limits and respect them.

  • JD Eddins

    I can’t tell you how many conferences I have been to where it is noticeable that people are checked out. Honestly I don’t understand it. You have invested the money and the time to be there, why not learn something?
    Right now I need to get fully invested in writing. The past month I feel like I have been doing the minimum on my blog, I haven’t been commenting on other blogs like I use to and I have made no progress in writing a 30-50 page manifesto for fathers that I plan to have done by the end of the year. Thanks for challenging me today to get after it.

    • Jeff Randleman

      I agree wholeheartedly with your first paragraph. So true!

    • Robert Ewoldt

      JD, I totally understand your situation… there are many times when I lack the desire to continue through with my blog, commenting, writing, working, etc., but then I read something from MH, and find the motivation to continue!

  • Brett Vaden

    I meet with the other elders of my church a week from today. I want to “play full out” by bringing my frustrations, wants, and ideas to the table.

  • Elizabethfhg

    I have shared how motivating and encouraging your blog is with my husband and family and friends. I want to play full out. Thank you Lord I somehow stumbled upon Michael’s blog! Thanks Michael for your stepping outside the box and desiring to enhance the lives of many!

  • Anonymous

    I’m getting ready to attend a Captivating retreat in Nashville at the end of this month. Vulnerability isn’t always easy for me, and I know I have to play full out with a bunch of women I don’t know. Ready for God to grow me in this area.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You will be amazed at the impact you will have on the other attendees. It’s kind of like giving everyone else the gift of going second. I other words, if you go first in playing full out, you give permission to everyone else to play full out.

      • Anonymous

        You’re right. Thank you.

      • TNeal

        Shared the “gift of going second” concept just this afternoon with a friend. She immediately responded by commenting in a public forum. That’s a great concept. Glad you shared it with us in an earlier post.

      • B_Schebs

        What a great idea. ” the Gift of going Second” I have never thought about things in that light before.

  • Karl Mealor

    By the way, did anyone else start hearing “The Final Countdown” in their head as they read this article? Or was that just me?

  • Katie Axelson

    Awesome advice. I feel like this can be applied to conferences as well as life in general. I’m graduating undergrad. this month and I don’t know what comes next. Everytime I start fretting about the future and mourning than I’m leaving a place I love, my God-send of a friend Stacy keeps reminding me, “Enjoy today. Right now. This moment. Do you school work, submit your resume, yes, but hang out, eat lunch with people, be social. You don’t want to regret your final days here.” I need her constant reminder to play life full out.

  • Stephanie Shott

    Michael, as I read your question, “What meeting or project are you about to participate in where you could benefit from playing full out?” – all I could think of is LIFE. I want to live my life full out!

    I just spoke at a conference this past weekend about that very thing and reading your post only reinforces the fact that we only get one chance to do this life well. We only get one shot to intentionally pursue a life of purpose – to know that there is significance to our existence.

    Full out and all in!

  • Sutton Parks

    I’m finishing a book on gratitude which I am going to self publish and use as a ‘business card’ to start a speaking career. I certainly need to go all out. Faith is my ability to make the transition is something I need to overcome.
    It sounds like you are at a conference I need to attend next year.

  • Jeff Randleman

    I love this post. I’ve been dealing with this very issue recently, trying to make sure that I’m fully present, no matter what I’m doing or where I am. Especially with my kids and wife.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Gatekeeper

    I can greatly appreciate your point of topic. As Gatekeeper for our Governor I am faced hour by hour with issues to pray about regarding legislature. If I keep focused there is great peace. If I give way to distractions I am aware of not fulling my call. If results aren’t readily observed I can become discouraged. However, this is not the case most of the time. God erspond in His timing, not ours. So if I play it out fully I have done my part.

  • Vicki Small

    As I’ll enter the hospital in about 10 days for major back surgery, I’m going to be out of almost every “game” going, for at least six weeks. However, I do have one comment about this great post, as a former college instructor: Students at every level, of every age, would do well to heed this advice!

    When I was teaching, I had one summer class that was so incredible. The retention in that class was higher than in any other, despite that most of the students were also working, at least part-time. Most of them were fully present and committed to doing their best. As a result, I was so inspired that, even though my lesson plans had been finalized before the class began, there were days when I woke up, inspired with a more creative way to teach the day’s lesson.

    It was a freshman-composition class, by its very nature time-intensive. Three or four weeks into the course, all of us were weary. Worn out. Bone tired and mentally numb. They were mad at me, and I was mad at them. But everyone persevered, and we ended the class well.

    I was never a better teacher than in I was that summer, in that class. I wasn’t constantly trying to motivate the unmotivated or fielding their whining, excuse-making and blaming (me) for policies they didn’t like–but had known of on Day 1. It was wonderful, and 13 or 14 years later, I’m writing about it! :-)

    • TNeal

      Good stuff, Vicki. I slipped over to your web site and enjoyed reading about hyacinths for the soul. Well-written and concise.–Tom

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  • Pauline Magnusson

    What great timing! My organization is at a crossroads at the present time, and I’ll have to admit that my own motivation with respect to work has taken a serious hit. This post – along with the answers generated by my emerging life plan, courtesy of your great free e-book – really has me thinking about how I am engaged at my work at this time. It’s so easy to get caught up in the drama and such and let my motivation suffer. I’m now wondering how it might look if I make an intentional choice to be here (or not!) in accordance with how it fits into my life plan, and play full out accordingly, rather than be resentful of said choice.

    Thanks for (yet another) thought-provoking post!

  • Kevin M Wall

    Reflecting on your post, I am reminded of the Woody Allen quote that “80% of success is just showing up” which I have always had a problem with. I think when we connect the Pareto principle it makes sense why. I think that Mr Allen was right that 80% gets us going but the full success comes from the last 20%. That can only be gotten by playing full out.
    I grew up playing elite competitive hockey and I credit the many great coaches for this lesson, but the real lesson was in the preparation. They demanded that we be the best conditioned team so that with 2 minutes left in the 3rd period, we still had legs.
    I agree wholeheardtedly that playing full out is what wins, but what lets you get there is the work you put in building up to that point.

  • Heather Card

    I appreciated this post. I get worn down sometimes and while I fulfill my responsibilities, I’m not sure I’ve always “Played Full Out”. I’d like to. Kind of like Matthew West’s song “I don’t want to go through the motions…I don’t want to spend my whole life asking–What if I had given everything?”

  • Dan Greegor

    I plan on attending the Chick Fil A Leadercast this Friday at a satellite location. I am praying that this seminar will give some clarity and direction in my life. Perhaps going full out for me looks like me on bended knee; complete surrender to my Savior.

  • Ryan Neises

    I loved this post. Being a basketball coach, I’ve seen the benefit of “playing full out” with my players, but also with myself as a leader. Practices become somewhat mundane when working on building the right skills, but every drill is important. That’s why the great players play full out and give it their all in every drill no matter how many times they do it the same way. The great coaches find a way to not get bored with teaching the same skill as well. Being engaged and getting your followers to be engaged in the little, boring things in life and in your craft creates a team that is focused on the little details that create the bigger successes.

  • Anonymous

    I like your thoughts about brining the best out in others when you bring all that you have. It’s easy to get motivated when the person driving the boat is motivated by what they’re doing.

  • Edenpure

    Great advice. So many people just go through the motions of day to day life and aren’t truly present. If more people are completely present and playing full out just imagine the possibilities.

  • Dean

    The Chick Fil A Leadercast. It is always an exciting high energy event with amazing truth being disseminated. I will make efforts to be fully there!!!

  • Rick Womack

    I’ve been learning the importance of being fully in the moment in the past couple of years. Mentoring college students requires that you listen actively, wait patiently and advise graciously. The “tie-in” to your post is that it requires being fully in the the moment. Thanks for the post – I’ll be certain to apply it next week at WiBo in Atlanta!

  • Anonymous

    Great words of wisdom Michael. Playing full, I think , applies not only to meetings and conferences but in our work and engagement with people. It is important to be present, stretch yourself and give your best all the time. I like the way that you lay out the benefits of doing this too. It points out the relationship between ourselves and others and ourselves and ourselves. We ultimately have control over our ability to play full out and impact others. No one else can do it for us. I have several church projects that I am working on that could fully us my full out self. I will see if I can apply these helpful hints to those situations.

  • Peter Hoppe

    Excellent reminder! Typically, I am the kind of person who dives into whatever I do with my all. But as I am transitioning from college to career mode, I have found myself trying to find the right balance between quantity and quality. I’m learning to avoid spreading myself too thin. I’ve found that if I try to do TOO MANY things, I do not have the energy or time to do many of them WELL.

    The “project” that will definitely benefit from my applying this is my summer with the Varsity Internship Program (started back in the day by Thomas Nelson)! I have pretty much just “showed up” the last two summers and did ok. But I’m not an “ok” person. I never liked mediocrity, and it frustrates me when I feel I’m slipping into it. This summer, I am really working to “play full out” and really “kill it” this time around.

  • Jason Hughes

    I’ve asked myself many times why people clam up at conferences, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s the same reason people don’t ‘live large’ in virtually all other settings. It’s fear. Fear of being judged, of being exposed, of rejection.

    We have to be comfortable with ourselves, we have to see the divinity within ourselves. Private victories lead to public victories.

    I’m very happy I found you Micheal. This is great advise in all aspects of our lives. Thanks!

  • Dean Hockenberry

    Avery good reminder, I have recently stepped up to a directors role at an organization I volenteer with. It requires public speaking which is something I have not done in 40 years. Speach class in high school was torture but I plan to be fully present and play full out in order to maximize my results verses time spent.

  • Joan Dempsey, Literary Living

    Great advice, Michael. Years ago I delivered a speech called “Walk Naked into the Land of Uncertainty” – sums up what you’re saying about opening yourself wide to new experiences, despite any fears or hesitations. The three benefits you mention were all present in the room Thanks for the reminder of that time – inspiring.

  • Anonymous

    Got a chance to put this in action last night in a meeting. The interesting part is that I saw that I was not playing full out and it helped me to recognize what the issues were that held me back. I started to realize that I needed to change my focus and found ways to get past the things that where limited my ability to be fullly engaged in the meeting and it help me out a lot. I thikn that playing full out also means that we take the time to find out what keeps us from doing that and then find ways to get past those barriers.

  • Chris

    Wow, great motivation. I learn something from every one of your posts. Thanks for playing full out on your blog.

  • Stephen Cooper

    Writing a new devotional series. You do, but most people have no idea what commitment that takes to prayer and study. That’s full out all the time.

  • Anonymous

    Loved this. Thank you for such an encouraging blog. I have been learning so much and am taking your advice one day at a time . I’m excited about what God is going to do in my life. Thank you for not keeping what works to yourself.

  • TNeal

    Mike–While riding to lose those extra pounds (actually riding for the sheer joy of it), I thought about you and this post. I also read Jerry Jenkins article in the Christian Writers Guild monthly magazine this morning. Both of you model something worth noting. You, a successful public speaker, are learning to be a better speaker. Jerry, a successful multi-published author, will be attending a writing seminar as a student this weekend. Wow! That speaks volumes. Thanks for the example.–Tom