I’m working on my next book, Make Your Own Game. The first major premise of the book is that business and life are a game. Sure, there are serious parts to both, but if you’re working on improving your levels of success, maybe learning how think like we do in games will be the missing ingredient.
Business and Life are a Game
Have you ever noticed that some people seem to succeed with ease while you or I might be still wondering what the heck is even going on? I believe one tool to moving further ahead is to find the game in everything.
Games let us see things differently:
- There’s a story – Even if you play poker, there’s a story. Games help us simplify our world down to a few discrete details for a moment. Every game has some kind of story to understand. This helps clarify our wins.
- There are players – All games need players, even if some are run by the computer. Sports have teams. There’s always someone else in the mix.
- There’s a goal/a way to win – In chess, it’s who puts the king in checkmate. In Pokemon, it’s your monsters vs theirs. In holding your breath with a friend, whoever holds it longest wins.
- There are rules – I can’t peek at everyone’s cards in poker. Baseball has nine innings. Your gun has limited ammo in Doom.
- There’s a scoring system – Cribbage has a score. Tetris has a score. Cricket has a fascinating scoring system (reminds me of whackbat).
How Do You Apply This?
Those five details above are ingredients. Take these and map them against what you’re doing in life or at work and you’ll start to see patterns that weren’t immediately obvious.
What’s the story of your work? It’s probably not just to show up, do your stuff, and leave. And when you dig into it, there are many parts to the story, right? Let me give you a game example and we’ll get back to work.
I play a lot of fighting/war games online. Battlefield One is a World War 1 game, and at any time, I might be a combat medic fighting in the Italian hills. My squad and a few others are trying to push the bad guys out of the bunker. Other squads are dealing with a tank taking the hill. My job is small compared to the battle, and tiny compared to the war, but it’s important and people right beside me and people far away from me are counting on me.
Think about work. You might be one software developer at a desk in a company of 400 people, but your job is part of the story. It’s up to you to think about both the larger story as well as your role in it.
Who are the players? You have coworkers maybe. You have bosses. You have competitors. You have family members. What are THEIR parts in the game? What motivates them? How do they fit into your world? Who should you make your ally?
What is the goal or what are the wins? This one gets easier. Maybe it’s 20 lines of bug-free code a day. Maybe it’s 4 sales a month. Whatever your role, there’s definitely something worth aiming towards. But remember this (because this is a problem): revenue is rarely the goal. Revenue is the REWARD but the win is something else.
What are the rules? If you think about it, you know the rules of work. But have you thought through WHY they’re in place? Or have you thought about which rules help you win more? We focus quite often on what holds us back, but there are many rules that work to our advantage. Look for those.
What is the scoring system? Here’s a big one. Everyone else at work might think showing up is the goal. You know better. How do you move more towards the goal? How do you advance the story? What do you do to improve your score? (Remember: some games are better as collaboration and your win doesn’t mean others should lose.)
Games Shrink the World in a Good Way
Our minds get carried away easily. One way to keep yourself on track is to focus more on the game of your business and on the game of your life, and determine what it will take to win.
Try working through those five points for your own business on a sheet of paper. You might find an unexpected revelation. And you might find a new way to win.
My upcoming book, Make Your Own Game, teaches you how to take stock of what’s going on, break the right rules, and finally own your life. Look for it this year from Wiley books.