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Know the Rules Of The Game

May 19th, 2017

Just imagine you've had enough. Had enough of getting up early in the morning, getting washed and dressed, gulping down some carb filled 'not good for you' cereal and spending a good portion of your unpaid time, commuting to some place where you spend your day dealing with irate customers, grumpy colleagues, unreasonable demands from superiors only to face that commute back again. That is it! You up sticks, find a wide open space that suits your soul and down sticks. How long you think you got before someone lets you know, you cannot stay there? Lets you know that you can't drink water from the clear stream that runs past nor eat the fruits from the trees around you? Other people have done it, so why can't you?

Well, to be able to do this and any other thing you want to, you have to understand the rules of the game. Some people will tell you life is a game, play it, whilst others will tell you life is not a game, it is serious stuff. I would like to suggest to you that life is a collection of games. Economists have what they call game theory but psychologists call the theory of social situations and that is what life is, a multitude of different social situations in which certain rules are presumed understood by all who play. Relationships, work, citizenship, cultural and religious rules all interact and are all examples of social situations or games.

Monopoly Board - PlayYou will note that I have not said anything about 'playing the game'. Many times though, to really know the rules, you have to play. It always amazes me at how so many people are very good at playing monopoly. Many of these people believe they are not financially savvy or are not very well educated. If you think about it, it is a game with quite a substantial set of rules and playing it is the only real way to understand how to play it well. I can't stand the game myself but hey, each to their own.

When you know the rules, you can choose not to play at all, stop playing or to play along. In all cases, you will also understand the consequences of playing, not playing or breaking the rules. The better you understand the rules, the better you are prepared to avoid them, to bend or sidestep them to achieve what you desire to do. Once in a while, we have extraordinary people who come and help change the rules of a game – but for most of us, we have to stay on the pitch.

Many years ago, at work, I advised a young, black man working in a predominantly older, white, conservative teaching environment and who was generating negative feedback from his colleagues about this theory of mine. He changed his game plan i.e. attitude and a few years later he had been promoted and was much happier in his working life. Another young man in another similar environment where I worked also didn't take my advise and didn't fare very well.

I have been introducing my adult children to advertising. I am like the rest of you, hate the idea of it (the internet is getting ridiculous with ads) but they do work. If you want to do something mainstream like sell your skills – music, acting, writing – or sell goods then word of mouth alone is not going to cut it in most cases. You are normally competing with thousands if not millions of others and you need to get yourself to the 'tipping point' where word of mouth is a valid, but not the only, marketing strategy. That is a rule of commerce or economics if you want. Your Facebook friends and family alone are not likely to generate the millions of views or purchases you carve, simple. How you make it pay involves another set of rules to contemplate.

Back to our 'getting away from it all' scenario. I watched a youtube video some time back where someone who had done just that, upped sticks and ended up in an open space somewhere in the USA. When the lawyers and the local government officials and all the others came to get him to move on, he had all the answers, he knew all the relevant regulations and they could not touch him. He continues to live in his 'place in the sun'.

BTW, I have a course entitled 'Games People Play: Game Theory in Life, Business, and Beyond' on my 'The Great Courses' wishlist – feel free to buy me a video download :)