It's all really just a game...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

There is a book entitled "A History of The World in 10 1/2 Chapters"* which is a collection of short stories loosely connected; there is one story called The Dream, in which the main character finds himself in heaven and in part, wants feedback and a judgment - "I wanted, oh, some kind of summing-up, I wanted my life looked at". In the great halls of heaven he was told, "You're OK"..."No, really, you're OK". He confessed later that he was a "bit disappointed", and was told, "most people are, but not to take it as any reflection of himself".

This would be an easy segue into people leadership, regarding timely and constructive feedback for individuals and teams. However, when I first read this, I immediately thought of the metaphor, "Life is a Game" and with all games, when it's over, you want to know how you did...  a segue to gamesmanship it is! 

Technically speaking, gamesmanship is the practice of winning a game or contest by doing things that seem unfair but that are not actually against the rules... but I also want to  look at games in a broader sense - Particularly with "winning", or at least having great fun. We should remember, life is one of those games we all must play and sometimes the situations can be very, very hard, with literal life and death stakes. For the sake of these prose, let's assume we are dealing with a safe and sound version of life.

There are a couple of things that instantaneously come to mind about playing games and gamesmanship:  

  1. What game(s) can you play at?
  2. What are your skills, aptitude, and emotional ability?
  3. Do you know the rules?
  4. Do you know when you are winning, stalemated or losing?
  5. Does the game feed your soul?

I will say up front - DREAM BIG!

But with that said, understand your strengths, and play to them as you will not be able to play every game. Partially, this is a simple matter of "time and space" as you just physically can't do it all, but mostly, the reality is your talents and skills may not lend themselves to you being an astronaut, a singer or a neurosurgeon; there are some games you just can't play - It is just the way it is. When your mother said, "you can be whatever you want to be"... just remember she loves you. For most of us, our skills and abilities will allow us to play many games, keeping us busy and fulfilled. 

Winning, and we might as well get it out there, is defined as gaining, resulting in, or relating to victory in a contest or competition**, and as you know, it can be objective or subjective (look at figure skating), but it is always relative to something. My recommendation is winning should be relative to your personal objectives. In many cases your personal objectives may align with someone else's expectations, but ultimately, how successful you are comes from within. It will make you happier this way.

Knowing the rules of the game is key in my mind. It is in knowing these rules, aligned with leveraging your abilities, that will determine how well you play.... put another way, "the better you understand how something is done, the better you will be at it". And this is where the true definition of gamesmanship comes in - Knowing how to play the game so well, you can leverage this knowledge to your advantage. There was a professional hockey coach named Roger Neilson (1934-2003), who understood the game of hockey and its rules so well, he consistently took advantage of loopholes for tactical advantage or to implement innovative thinking with his coaching. Many rules of the game were subsequently changed because of him and he is honoured in the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame, in the Builder Category. If you want to win, know the rules better than most and align your skills to them.

But how do you know you are winning? Easy, just measure yourself against your objectives and determine what you need to do better or if you are satisfied with the results.

One last thing, do it for the "For the Love of the Game". It will help you through those times when the dice just keeps coming up "snake eyes".***


* Julian Barnes wrote A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters.  

** Winning as defined by BING on the Internet.

*** The odds of rolling snake eyes on two six-sided dice are 1-in-36. In some board games, this roll earns the player a bonus due to it being rare and otherwise disadvantageous.