By: Heero Yuy
A buddy of mine challenged me to think more about:
- the Game of Life
- Rules of the Game
- Ranking and Points System
- How to get to the next Level in this Game or the next one
1) The Game:
Life is a river, flowing one way, and a careful selection of routes can lead to greater bodies of water or dead-ends/standing water pooling into swamps or lakes. Moving water is better than standing water because moving water has a chance of getting to greater bodies of water or higher levels in life.
The Stages of the Game are as follows:
A. In the beginning of the game:
Life until end of highschool or college/gradschool is rather structured. Goals are very clear and many have been through this assembly line. The administrators of this game, teachers, parents, and coaches all know this game pretty well because it is predictable and the results directly and readily measurable. Watching candidates shuffle through the assembly line of school has become a scientific discipline where the measure of one’s aptitude can be easily summarized by a few metrics being the almighty Prestige of Institution and the individual’s Numbers such as GPA (Grade-Point Average) and Test Scores (SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc).
B. Mid game:
Get the paper(s), good metrics, be branded by prestigious institutions and you can be on your way to middle-class paradise (white picket fence, 4-5BR House in the Suburbs, a couple of cars, boats, jetskis, etc). You ran the race well in the lower tier divisions, finished College at some top 10 whatever ranking order (US News, Financial Times, etc) for your respective discipline, got a few years of work experience at big name Fortune 500 (FANG [NASDAQ], ExxonMobil, J&J, Coca-Cola, HomeDepot, SAP, etc) company, went back for a Harvard Business School (HBS) or equivalent M7 MBA, and reshuffled back into the system as a higher leveled player leap frogging your peers stuck on the assembly line by a couple of years worth of leveling (grinding).
At this point, you are tied down to a pretty hefty mortgage payment, owe a ton of student loans, got a spouse, probably have a few rugrats (kids) running around. Current risk tolerance is much lower than the beginning phases of the game, debt load substantial higher from the leveling required that helped you get ahead, and set to live and retire in your current home or maybe one level above it should you make Vice President, Director, Managing Director, or the coveted Executive-tier rank at a Major or Minor institution.
Some break down at this point and have a mid/quarter/third life crisis and ponder the meaning of life. Too bad, you are a little in over your head to change course and speed, because the cash-flow schemes don’t make sense with other options on the table and the bills coming in have to be paid. Those chains of debt keep reminding you of why you are where you are at right now and the only sources of comfort is the smiling face of your spouse, your children, and a wag of the tail from your pet. If you didn’t manage to start a family by now you might have already been Tango-ing with Xanax and Chacha-ing with various devilishly tempting flavors of Alcohol as you struggle to walk life in a straight line swiping left and right at the various mating prospects that you shopped and took home from the App store Meat Market. It’s not too late, or is it? Wake up, it’s time to get back to the grind, the system awaits your production!
C. End Game:
It’s over! You either know or made it at this point or you are simply doing the ‘road’ program waiting to collect various sources of social or company sponsored retirement packages at 59.5, 60, 62, 65, or whatever arbitrary set date as determined by mathematical models to keep the current system’s payout to influx of new cash sustainable.
Regardless whether you made it or not, you reflect on all the ups and downs of the past decades, the hours robbed away from the now trivial but then seemingly so damn important projects/promotions/merits/achievements/awards, and you wonder what to do now with this new experience of retirement; the unstructured, undemanding, and unrewarding afterlife as a cast-away divorced from exciting and engaging Corporate ladder climbing life. Free time seems like an infinitely long rope to climb to a peaceful life spent in indulgence of hobbies or a tight noose to hang oneself in absolute boredom. Isn’t life swell? Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon. Average age expectancy is around 85 and the rest is determined by how your body, mind, and genetics withstood the damage done to you by being a working Bee. Still remember where you kept your stash of Xanax and 9mm rounds? Finish your last Will and Testament and make sure you took out a life insurance policy. Enjoy your time or what time you have left on this Earth, you’ve done well and it will be all over soon.
In any competition, the rules are pretty obvious if one asks the right questions to determine how the game can be played. It basically comes down to this:
- Advance OR
- Get run over or worse left behind
At least this is how the game is played in a Capitalistic free-market society. You’ve seen examples of this in school where “Elite” students are heralded as Heroes and rest of the class a moving population of cannon fodder Losers for the successful. The Losers are told everyday and made aware of who the Heroes are and how the Heroes are infinitely better than whatever non-sense that the Losers can produce with their trivial lives. (But wait, didn’t some of these Heroes come from the lower-ranks once upon a time or deemed as losers by the media once upon a time before they made it? Shhh now, rest up, plug back into the Matrix, you didn’t just think this thought, erase it from your memory.)
Everyday, you either Advance or you get left behind. Produce or DIE. Simple as that. A group of individuals make up a company, a group of companies belong to a holding/umbrella/parent company, groups of big companies’ debt traded on exchanges, a group of the companies are aggregated together as an index to measure the overall health of the economies from various sectors, and the indices aggregated to tell the tale of the economic status of a particular Country. Everyday, economies get ahead or get left behind on a macro scale as determined by how the game is played on the micro scales between individuals up to the aggregated multi-national behemoth conglomerates.
Ask then the following questions to determine the rules of the game:
- How do I get ahead?
- What does it take to get ahead?
- Who around my level do I need to leverage (or screw over) to get ahead?
- How can I apply my talents to best exploit an edge?
- Which mini-game(s) should I dedicate my time to in this big game of life?
- Which Elite players (mentors/coaches/teachers) can help me level up quicker?
3) Ranking and Points System:
Capitalism made the ranking and points system pretty obvious:
You are either on that list or you are not. If not, try and try again.
Academia is now played through the battlefields of:
- TED Talk
- NY Times Best Seller
- Ad Space on Harvard Business Review Articles or Publications on or below this caliber (Business Insider is the purgatory but still better than being straight up in Middle-Class Hell).
Academia is all about Impact Factor. Either your work makes a difference or it doesn’t and gets filed away into oblivion where no soul knows of your work in this life or the next. If you actually want to be well known during your life, you have to resort to shameless plugs in the methods listed above to crowd source your academic/mental aptitude insecurities and validate your life’s meaning. Think on Hero, think on, the Nobel Prize/Fields Medal/etc is only a couple of publications away. Keep dreaming!
4.A) How to get to the next Level in Games (Selection of Quests Available):
Corporations at any level want to prevent an Icarus situation. Icarus in Greek Mythology tried to take flight with a pair of wings made from feathers and wax, flew too close to the Sun, his wings melted and he fell to his death. Fly carefully if you want to fly high, avoid hot things that will melt your wings, and pack a parachute just in case. Corporations prefer you to remain as predictable as possible just like you were when you left the Educational Institutions so that you can be shuffled predictably from one assembly line to another, from one factory/warehouse to another until you leave the assembly lines and ship off to be sold/repurposed/recycled(buried in the ground aka Game Over).
A. Entrepreneur route (high-risk, high reward): If you somehow try to challenge the system (with your startup or idea), you will be converted into being one of them and join the elusive and exclusive club of the ultra elite (Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, etc). This is a complete IPO or buyout. If they don’t feel like buying you out entirely you will be allowed to survive so long as they want you to survive.
To complete this Quest you need to have (in no particular order):
- Great innate talent(s)
- Purposeful development of this/these talent(s)
- Great Mentors/Coachs/Teachers/Peers to support all of the above
- A bit of luck here and there
You want to make money? Learn sales and how to market products, services, and yourself. Hint: The closer you get to integrating the entire sales pipeline for your commission, the more money you stand to make. Be the person (company) that takes 95% of the revenue and flips the Salesman 5% for commission for a job well done. Be the person collecting the checks on your Yacht anchored out of your own Private Island in the Latin Americas and not the person still grinding when you get to your 30/40/50/60s depending on how you’ve played the Game.
B. Senior Level Employee route (mid* risk, predictable higher pay [120-400k USD/yr]): Slave away endlessly working for those who made it in the Entrepreneur quest. When effort, timing, and luck aligns you will be favored for promotion(s) assuming you didn’t leverage the nepotism card to get ahead in the game. An ideal end game is C-level position, else Senior Vice President or Senior Director, else Vice President or Director, else Senior Management or Senior Program Manager. The amount of your sacrifice has to be commensurate with attaining these ranks or you find the nearest bridge and promptly jump off of it because you failed to live up to your “ultra high” expectations that you’ve placed on yourself.
* = You will get to fire others before they fire you
C. Mid Level Employee route (high* risk, predictable okay pay [85-150K USD/yr]): Slave away to be the apple in the Senior Level Employee’s and Founder’s (Entrepreneur) eye. Promotions are far and few between because there is an ever larger and growing pool of entry level populating the Mid Level Pool (did I just hear a school bus backing up? Yep, there goes another innocent employee used to grease the tires on the bus that helped to advance someone else). You are fairly certain at this point that you aren’t going anywhere but your collection of DVDs/Blurays, 100″ Projector screen and Home Theater System, Semi-Luxury cars (BMW/Audi/VW/etc – by the way all made in the Bible Belt in good ole USA) keep you happy and off the ledge of the cliff. Having a spouse, children, and pets help as well. Hey, look at you, at least you might have a chance to maybe finish Senior level, right?
* = There are just too many of you and all the same, undifferentiated, and very replaceable if the Senior powers to be decides to cleanse the workforce to appease the shareholders on the next quarterly earnings report.
D. Entry Level Employee route (low* risk, unpredictable low pay [50-75K USD/yr]): You are the lowest person on the totem pole. You just got out of one game in the Educational Institution and you are trying to figure this one out. There are a ton of you around and you are ever so grateful but complain about the fact that your job sucks, hours are long, and you have a career that seems like it is going no where. There are too many people in the Entry level pool waiting to climb to Mid level waiting to climb to Senior. All your cool ideas are poached by the Corporation and you get flat fixed-fee pay off at least for your efforts or a pat on the back and “Thank You!” email from one of the Senior level(s) or Founder(s). You are too greenhorn to have an opinion, too naive to understand what’s going on, too young and still think you have your whole ‘life’ in front of you. Little do you realize that that’s exactly what the pool of Middle and Senior level all thought back in the day and they are still here today! Welcome to the [rat] race, here is your wheel to run on, get running.
* = You’ve got no epic gear to lose, no epic spouse or house to write home (parent’s home, not yours, you don’t make enough to have one remember?) about, and no epic experiences to be had. If you lose everything now, you can build back tomorrow, no harm, no foul!
4.B) Wait, what? That’s it? So how the hell do you get ahead???
Good question, how do you get ahead? The more you act and behave like the folks who are most successful in this game the more successful you become.
- Want to run a company? Go start one!
- Failed at startup? Good, try again!
- Can’t lead worth shit? Good, join the military and learn some real leadership!
- Don’t have any money? Good, go work a job on WallStreet or Military and save that money, try again!
- Not going anywhere in life with your current group of friends? Good, dump them, get new ones!
- Your peer group whining about the same things? Good, dump them, start talking to coaches, mentors, and teachers who are at least 10-20 years older than you preferably retirees 60+ who have more time available to share their life story and wisdom with brash and aggressive young lads such as yourself.
- But old people suck, I don’t want to talk to them! Good, stay a loser and let others win for once and leave your whining ass behind.
- Okay fine, but where do I find these old people to talk to? Good, finally came to your senses. Ever heard of grandparents or retirement homes? Volunteer your time and learn to give before you receive or take. Learn the power of opening up yourself to strangers and let them ripe your life to shreds so your life can be built back up together with a supportive team of experienced individuals.
You kind of get the gist of how to Win in this game by now.
Bottomline: Dump what doesn’t work such as useless activities, habits, and/or people in your life and fill it back up with useful activities, habits, and/or people. You will be on the right track to success by doing the above.
Life doesn’t get any simpler than that. Any deviation from the above truth is nonsensical waste of time. Have fun and go live. When you’ve figured out this life and can start to live it fully you can then start to ponder how to play the next game as you level up and what the next life is about.
Descarte once remarked “I think, therefore I am.”
Modern day social media clout hoarders often dubbed this as “I tweet/update/upload, therefore I am.”
Bruce Lee once said that life is about subtraction not addition. Take out the bullshit!
Smile, have fun, enjoy life, and live life by: “I am!”