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The Games We Play
👋 Hey there,
We live in a society obsessed with being more productive.
"Harder, faster, stronger" has been the motto since the beginning of the last century. I myself have been a productivity geek for many years.
There is nothing wrong with being productive; it frees up time for what fulfills you and expands your capacity to create what you love.
The problem arises when productivity revolves around performance and lacks meaning — when improvement suppresses questioning.
More often than not, you end up playing other people's games.
"A good player works hard to win the game everyone else is playing. A great player creates a new game that favors their strengths and avoids their weaknesses."
Almost everyone plays two types of games in life: status games and money games.
You can play them healthily, as in these examples:
Playing the money game wisely involves being aware that money is necessary to survive in current society, and can give you the freedom to follow your own path.
Playing status games sensibly can open doors to new opportunities and networks.
Or, you can play these games obsessively and meaningless, and they can become an addiction as you seek to accumulate more and more status or money.
But if you play these games as a means to an end rather than an end in themselves, you unlock the door to create your own game.
For example, if you embark on a purpose-driven journey focused on helping others, you still need money and status. However, you measure progress by the impact you create rather than being considered the "most something" or owning "more shiny things."
When you set the rules of your game, you can almost always make it a positive-sum game. If you encounter people who play similar games, you can partner up with them. If you meet people whose main game is money or status, they won't see you as a threat, and there will be room for collaboration. These win-win situations give you leverage without compromising what you value.
But to play like this, first, you need to cultivate your inner game.
"Charlotte: Does it get easier?
Bob: No… yes it gets easier."
Bob: The more you know who you are and what you want the less you let things upset you."
—Lost in Translation
Many people spend their lives trying to find fulfillment in external factors when the key has always been there... inside.
The inner game involves building self-awareness, being non-judgmental, and following your intrinsic motivation.
We can enjoy life more fully by calming our minds and reducing distractions. And this will impact our daily thoughts, feelings, and actions.
The best example of the strength of the inner game is what Viktor Frankl shared in his book Man's Searching for Meaning. He survived a concentration camp by focusing on his internal strengths, mindset, and purpose.
If Frankl could find his life compass under the hardest circumstances possible, imagine what you can do in your regular life (assuming you have one).
Let's recalibrate our expectations from Viktor Frankl’s extraordinary resilience to something more achievable. If you are forced to make a career change because of an unexpected event, you can frame it as an opportunity to pivot and grow. Instead of wasting time on self-doubt or blame, you can candidly reflect on it, integrate the lessons learned, and move on.
How to Nurture the Inner Game
It's your path, your game, where you are both author and protagonist. You need to discover by yourself.
But here are a few generic ideas that may help you on your journey:
Finding a sense of purpose and meaning in your life
Meditation and other mindfulness practices (e.g., painting, drawing, praying, etc.)
Developing a growth mindset
Building resilience through challenges and failures
Cultivating positive self-talk and affirmations
Prioritizing self-care and development
Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people
See what works for you, adjust it, and double down on it. Your inner game will flourish when it's authentically yours.
The focus then shifts to embracing a continuous adaptation mindset aligned with your life compass, rather than conforming to other people's standards of success.
"A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play."
― James P. Carse
When you have a solid inner game and create a game that makes sense for you, success will become an effect, not a goal. The concept of success itself will change from accumulation to flow in harmony with what moves you.
The key to achieving what you want is to take pressure off performing according to other people's games and allow yourself the creative freedom to explore and experiment.
You'll start living more in the present, and progress will be your north star.
You'll play to continue to play.
All it takes is a change of
Stay strong, Gus
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