It is often said that life is a game. This notion raises eyebrows or elicits rolled eyes as the cliche quote is recycled ad nauseum to a disinterested listener, often someone that has just seen a failure in their lives or careers. The phrase can be used for both positive and negative spin on any argument. “It’s a game, there are always winners and losers”; “Life’s a game, you gotta keep rolling,” and so forth. The problem is not that life is a game, because it is; Life, capital “L”, outside of the Milton Bradley board game of the same name (and with a disturbing amount of realism to it for when it was made), is the original Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Game, which is ironically increasingly played online. The grind is important because that is how you play such a game, and most of us do so well enough to keep going.
The problem persists, however, in how to overcome the circumstances of our birth, and become more than we are. Any number of authors are out there to tell you how, although the majority use some take on the Carnegie system, including myself and I’m still a low level player. Like my heretofore mentioned favourite MMORPG, Entropia Universe, Life is a hardcore skills-based game–there are no levels, you simply grind your skills until they get better. However, many of us are operating on a set of false assumptions about the game of Life and how to play it. Too often we allow our beliefs about the rules of the game to be influenced by those around us, and in doing so, it pidgeon-holes us into a set of actions, reactions, and routines that allow us to grind at the pace we always have been, but means we only maintain what we have. Due to this, many of us don’t see the socio-economic verticality that we really want.
This epiphany came to me today, 16 June 2019, as I was mowing my lawn and listening to an Audiobook, the printed version of which I will post an affiliate link below; it’s Grant Cardone’s variant and synthesis of the Carnegie system, and as I review more books written by those that have internalized that system, I came upon the answer to a burning question I’ve had.
The question: “Why do only a small number of people succeed?”
There is a mathematical formula known as the Pareto Distribution, which I have referenced in my recent article on the Golden Rule; it indicates that the more success a person has, the more likely they are to succeed the next time, and that success will likely be geometrically larger. Conversely, if a person fails, they are likely to fail again, and even worse. The irony of this, of course, is that human psychology and society is more tilted toward pushing failure than success; far too many people don’t want those they know and love to be too successful, because it only proves that they aren’t doing enough to succeed themselves. Worse still, are those that are pushing toward success, but think they’re failing because of the way that others are treating them.
That bears repeating: people would rather talk others into failure rather than do the work necessary to succeed themselves. The irony being that they put as much effort into pushing others down as it would take to push themselves up.
There are those that would blame the game itself, the system, the limitations of the engine, or the Rules as written, for being the cause of their woes. As the old saying goes, “What the F*** Blizzard?” was a frequent question when game mechanics became too tough. To be fair, the same phrase took a far different tone whenever a player runs into one of the myriad of poop quests.
The problem is that too many people don’t know the rules to the game. They think they know them, and to a certain extent they do, but they only know the basics. You can play World of Warcraft, and be fairly successful at doing so, but if you don’t learn how to handle mechanics, rotation, spec, talent trees, and optimization, you’ll only get so far. Life is exactly the same way, but you have to find those aspects in your life that need to be optimized. Albert Einstein once stated the general answer to my question:
“You have to learn the rules of the game. Then you have to play better than everyone else.”
Most of us, including and perhaps especially myself, don’t know all the rules to the game. I would be surprised if there was a single person that does, although if I had to make a guess, it would either be HM Queen Elizabeth II, or Betty White, as both have seen and experienced more than the average person has, and neither could be considered unsuccessful. This is an obstacle that we all face, and must contend with throughout our lives; we have to seek out and determine what the rules to the game are, and then play the game better than everyone else.
Of course, it’s impossible for all of us to play better than everyone else. How to grapple with that is a matter that I am continuing to contend with, and attempt to figure out; suffice to say, it is likely contained in one of the Rules that I have yet to learn. That said, perhaps it can be stated that you must learn and respect the rules, and play the game better than those who seek to stop you. Country singer Cam once said it thusly:
“I think life gives you lemons, and the thing that I’m working on doing is not watering down, not putting sugar in it. The more you can take life head on…it’s gonna make you a better person, and then you have nothing left to be afraid of. And what an awesome way to live.”
In the end, it’s not what you have to contend with, but how you play the game; and the first step of that is to choose to play. Too many people play because they have to. Take Life by the horns and choose to play the game, by Life’s rules, and to master them. Although I cannot say this in itself will breed success, I am working on that hypothesis, and will continue to do so until I find a better one.