The first rule of any game

You won’t win a game you don’t know you’re in. If you don’t know you’re in a game you’re won’t be familiar with the rules and you won’t be paying attention to the trends and nuances that spell opportunity for veteran player. 

Here’s an example: In high school my older friends would tell me that I should learn “understand the system” and “recognize that it’s all a game.” At first, I thought this sounded great, but I really didn’t understand what it meant so I continued to follow the conventional advice, “just work hard.”

Then, due to numerous business pursuits I found my college schedule quite unpredictable. Taking interim absences from “the education system” and then returning helped reveal the lengend of  “the game” that I was previously told about.

I became much better at discerning how grades were determined, how teachers taught classes and how their approach was reflected on their tests. I became better at understanding my role in the game by experimenting with rapid-learning techniques (that were often very counter-intuitive). I became better at identifying the best students in my classes and creating ways to exchange ideas and spread the workload through collaborative technologies. I became better at prioritizing — sometimes entirely ditching certain assignments or specific aspects of assignments (bibliographies, as one example), passing extra-credit opportunities, etc. 

The end result was better-grades, more free time, more flexibility (I travelled to 4 countries during my last semester while running 2 full-time businesses), and a lot less stress. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and I attribute this outcome to finally getting a firm grasp on the game I was, like it or not, participating in. 

To reiterate, seeking to better understand and master the game you’re in requires you to play smarter, not harder. To do this successfully, we must fully embrace our role in life as a CEO, not a worker-bee. By this, I mean maintaining a 30,000 ft view of the system we’re in, the direction we’re (really) headed, and the subtle opportunities for innovation that are only revealed when sought after. It’s far too easy to be engulfed by the daily inertia life’s constant stream of activity to the extent that we become so close to what we’re doing we don’t recognize the larger systems we are a part of.

The prominent players of any game are those who can recognize the unique ecosystem they are part of and understand what actions offer the greatest ROI (Twee this quote). Whatever you’re goals and whatever you’re doing, there are often rules, assumptions, and trends that can (and should) be tested and bent — and yes, this can be done without being unethical.

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