How Do You Play The Game?

14 July 2012, by A. Cedilla

“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” – Voltaire

Face it, we really do work better when we have a clear view of what we have and how much of it is there. For example, take deadlines.

One rather immature way of dealing with a deadline is procrastination. It’s exciting and intense to do things at the last minute–ohmygodthePRESSURRRE!!--but then again dealing with the fall-out and the let-down afterward can be quite wearing after a while, not to mention the havoc it plays on schedules and other activities you’d rather be doing.

When you have only this much of something, you pay attention to how you use it, and when you use it. This applies to everything –time, money, energy, tasks.

It’s a mind game, a test of will, mental agility and focus: to make do with what you have in order to to get you what you want. Ever hear the one about a boatman needing to transport a goat, a wolf and a bag of cabbages across the river*? It’s something like that, only more complicated.

  • Time affects deadlines, and schedules are built on time. Remember the business trifecta? Fast, good or cheap, pick two. Think of next-day delivery. Think of 24/7 convenience stores, always open. Think of tax time, and timezones, and conference-calls. When you have this much time to work in, and a certain number of things to accomplish, you have to stay sharp and focused.
  • Money dictates budgets. On the business level, how much to you have to work with, and how much do plan to recoup, or make to break even? How much to make a profit? On the personal level: how much do you pay yourself first, and how much can you put aside for a rainy day?
  • Energy affects how well we work.You can’t code well if you’re hungry and irritable, or do an important presentation when you’re sleep-starved. How much work do you actually finish when you’re plagued with the nagging back-pain from Hell?
  • The things we need to do, in terms of scope, number and immediacy, dictates how we deal with them. Limits make you focus on how much you have to work with. It’s a puzzle, you have only these pieces and you have to arrange them in a way that makes a coherent picture.

What’s fun (and challenging) is when you get handed the cards, and they change on you mid-play. That’s when things get interesting.

  • For example, what are the issues facing your business right now? Sussing out the factors behind these factors is a fact-finding game. You connect the dots, and as you see the whole picture emerge you can do something to adjust.
  • Another example: If you have an idea of how many people make up your target niche –dog-owners, business-owners, retirees, aspiring entrepreneurs, whatever–what percent of that population do you need to get as subscribers for your blog, or newsletter, or service, to make your business viable? How much do you charge for your product or service to make a profit after taxes and overhead?

Sometimes we get so enmeshed with the story of how running a business is a hardship — such an ordeal, oy –that we can’t get out of the corner we paint ourselves into. “I have to do this, I have to do that, I must soldier on, blah-blah-blah.” Pffft.

Tackling things like a full-on assault or a military campaign is a mindset, and when your mindset is that you’re in a war, you get stressed as if you are in one. What’s the point of putting yourself through that kind of experience? Pull back, ease up. See things for what they really are.

When you take on a realistic, level-headed and mature way of looking at what you want to happen in your life or your business, you understand that some changes just happen, and some changes you need to make happen. This asks you to stop with the inflated goals and unrealistic expectations, and to take a good hard look at what you have.

Then you make an equation and try to balance it:

  • This is what you have = [Assets, resources, information, experience] – what do you do with it?
  • This is how much time you have = [X amount of TIME] – what do you do with it?
  • This is what you want = [Desired goal/s] – How do you get it?

YOU hold the answer. You hold the cards, you make the choices on how to play them, you’re the one who acts on these choices, or refuses to.

If the term ‘equation’ bothers you, think of it as a game. Maybe chess, regular or Star Trek-flavored. It doesn’t even have to be cards, although for the purpose of this discussion, yeah, that works out even better. See, life hands you the cards, but it’s easy to forget that it’s you who chooses how to play. The learning curve is steep, and the consequences can be painful if you don’t learn fast enough, but it’s a challenge worth meeting.

Bonus link: Impact Algorithms: Strategies Remarkable People Use to Accomplish Remarkable Things (Studyhacks) shows the interlink of creativity and play when they approach problems as “puzzles.”

* Other variants to this popular puzzle include a fox, a goose and a bag of beans. Or exchange a chicken for the goose, and corn for the beans.

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