The Table

Posted on May 31, 2022

Many years ago I was waiting for a train in London. Glancing at a book rack in Waterloo station, my eyes landed on a brownish paperback with an unattractive cover and rather boring title: Bunkhouse Logic. For some reason I picked it up and thumbed through the book. Lucky for me, I bought it.

That ugly little paperback by Ben Stein holds one of the best coaching points I’ve ever read for achieving success. It actually comes from another book, one written by the great novelist Joan Dideon:

“You can’t win if you’re not at the table.”

Ben Stein explains. “You can only win when you’re at the gaming tables, with other people playing, usually playing against you. You can only win at the tables when there’s real, genuine action: real, tangible winning; and real, tangible losing. Only at the place where the action is for our particular wish can we win.”

There’s the logic that helps explain the book’s title.

Stein goes on to say, “There’s a particular table for every want, every heart’s desire. You can only win if you’re at the table...Stepping up to the table means getting into the arena where you can fight for what you want.”

Why is the table so critical to your success? The table is where you get into the game, meet the right people, see opportunities, and learn how best to proceed. It’s the most promising place to test your assumptions and expose your ideas or talents to the realities of the marketplace.

What’s your table? If your goal is to become a pilot, your table is flight school. If you dream of having a great looking body, your table is the fitness center. You get the idea. Question is, are you anywhere close to your table?

Let me get personal here. I write songs—really good lyrics and some nice melody lines. I’ve got a killer song for Tim McGraw called “The Road.” I wrote one that Norah Jones could take to the top of Billboard’s charts. Then there’s one called “Every Fire” that’s perfect for some pop artist.

I would love to hear these songs on the radio or in movies or concerts. But I haven’t taken my songs to the right table. Fact is, I haven’t taken them anywhere. They’re locked in a drawer in my library. Nobody except a few family members even know they exist. What the hell do I expect to happen? Nobody in Nashville is going to call me out of the blue and say, “Hey, Price, do you happen to have any songs? We’d love to see what you’re written.”

What a waste. My table is Nashville—Music City—and I’m sitting in Dallas with my songs dying in a drawer. For now, my desire to have a hit song doesn’t have a prayer. Why? Because I haven’t gone to the table.

You’re guilty, too. I can say this with near certainty. You’re sitting on terrific possibilities instead of pursuing them.

What ambitions or desires lie dormant inside of you? For them to have a fighting chance, you must get to the table. Put yourself out there. Place your bets, play your cards, take the necessary risks. You can’t win if you’re not at the table.

[Bunkhouse Logic was published in 1981. Years later it was repackaged and released under a new title, How Successful People Win.]


Price Pritchett is one of the foremost experts on fast-growth strategies and breakthrough performance. His firm—PRITCHETT, LP—is recognized worldwide for its thought leadership on mergers, corporate culture, change management, and accelerated achievement. These writings define the behaviors and individual mindset underlying fast growth and innovation.


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