Viewing life as a game is the most useful mental map I’ve found for being able to live your best life.
Viewing life as a game not only makes life a lot more fun, but it gives you tremendous insight into the human condition.
And within the Metagame of life, we all play minigames, each with their own rules, levels, rewards and punishments.
The money game, the fame game, the women game, the power game, the status game, recognition game, the love game…
And within all those games are even smaller games we play with each other to get those things.
Every person on the planet is gaming each other, all the way down to little children crying and throwing a tantrum when they aren’t allowed to have ice cream.
With the desired end result for all our games is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.
Unfortunately, many of our games end badly, often times with the opposite result of maximizing pain.
Because some people, still play child’s games as adults, crying, screaming or threatening when they don’t get their way.
People play bad games, not because they want to be miserable, being miserable is just the end result, the play bad games because of
Lack of self-awareness
Lack of understanding of what motivates other people
Being blind to the negative patterns and games you’re running
Not knowing how to get what you want in a positive, constructive way
Not being able to create win/win scenarios for other people
Or a combination of all the above
People who consistently play bad games are toxic people, hurting themselves and others in a misguided attempt at happiness.
People who play good games are happy, positive people who live fulfilling lives and uplift other people around them.
How To Play Good Games
Good games, in a sentence, are games you play with your friends, family, clients and girlfriend(s) where the end game is maximum happiness, and win/win scenarios for you and your people. In life, he who has the most joy wins, so it only makes sense to play for maximum joy. Some great games to play with other people are
1. Mutual value escalation
The goal of mutual value escalation is to move through life together with your people, helping each other to do better, be better, and lifting each other up when you fall. Helping yourself and your people maximize their health, wealth, relationships and life style.
Another name for the game could be I’m great, your great, lets help each other be our best selves. Mutual value escalation comes from a place of seeing yourself as your best self, seeing other people as their best selves, and encouraging them to fulfill their potential. Seeing someone as their best self is an incredibly powerful way to relate to people, especially if you’re the first person in their lives to recognize their potential and support their goals.
The rules are to stay positive, supportive, give good advice when asked, and occasionally give unsolicited advice when you think that your friend or your girl is making a major mistake. Ultimately, it’s about seeing your people as the best versions of themselves, and supporting and encouraging them to be that person.
When not played properly it turns into a game of value de-escalation, where you’re telling that person they’re no good, and they’re telling you the same, which is not where you want to be.
2. Us Vs. Them
Us vs. them might sound like a bad game at first, and it definitely can be depending on who’s playing and what the goals are, but it can be a great game when you play it ethically. Because the reality is, at least half of life is a competition, competition for money, resources, women, clients, customers, housing, status and all the other things people are playing for.
Life becomes a lot more fun when you have people to help you compete. For me, having a group of guys who can not only support me in my goals, but offer valuable business advice, introduce me to women, making me more competitive in getting what I want.
The same logic applies to your company, you want people on your team who are committed to helping you make money, get more clients, more revenue, more traffic, or whatever else you need to compete.
Us. vs them applies to romantic relationships too, at the end of the day, there are very few people who will be loyal to you when you’re down, and a large part of being in a relationship is to have someone in your corner.
Us vs them, is like mutual value escalation, but projected outward into the competition of life. Where you work as a team to help each other win, and help each other compete ethically. And if someone is being unethical to your people, you help your people throw stones at their enemies, not necessarily in the literal sense, but you have each other’s backs.
Every successful organization, government, nation or enterprise plays us vs. them, as humans we’re tribal creatures. With that said, us vs. them goes badly in two ways:
1. Ethical failure: you can see this in nations when they attack a neighbor for resources and territory 2. Infighting: When instead of cooperating within your team, you start to compete within your team, and us vs. them becomes us vs. us, this is how companies implode, friendships end, and divorce starts.
3. Recognition and appreciation
The recognition and appreciation game is a great game to play because it’s so easy to play, it costs you nothing to do, it makes other people happy, and almost no one else does it. The rules are simple, recognize people for doing things for you, and show them your appreciation.
Most people are too hungry for their own recognition to give it to others, or they don’t really listen to other people, and it doesn’t occur to them to appreciate the other person. Ironically though, the more you appreciate other people, the more they tend to appreciate you.
In fact you could say the recognition and appreciation game is the entire basis behind Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People, which is hands down the best book on navigating interpersonal relationships.
The recognition and appreciation game is also incredibly important in business: recognizing and appreciating your clients, customers and supporters is extremely important, that’s why I play the recognition and appreciation game every day in the comments section of my videos and articles.
Failure to play the recognition and appreciation game often leads to resentment, especially in romantic relationships, in fact not being appreciated is probably the #1 complaint from women about men. Which can lead women to play the:
“I do so much for you” game and you to play the “I’m not a mind reader” game
Or the “I didn’t ask you to do those things, you did them because you wanted to” game
Or the “Does everything you do have strings attached to it?” game
And then before long you’re both playing us vs. us instead of us vs. them, and it’s the beginning of the end of your relationship.
4. Let’s have fun
Let’s have fun is probably my favorite game, underneath my dedication to my mission and go-getter attitude, I’m basically a 12 year old who only wants to do things that are fun. I hate going to the dentist, doing chores, seeing distant relatives or any of the other things adults my age spend their life doing. It’s part of why I took such a radical turn in my life, so I could set my life up where I do the minimum of things I don’t want to do, as opposed to the guys I used to work with, who had to do something they didn’t want every day of the week, on top of a job they hated.
Ultimately, adult life doesn’t have to be boring, and you don’t have to do chores when you make enough money to pay other people. Whenever I sit down with my friends, family or girlfriends I want to have fun. Jokes, impressions, funny movies, Family Guy, standup comedy, dancing, drinking, sex – whatever it is, free time for me is either fun time, or reading time, if it’s not fun I’d rather spend time learning or working on my business. I’m always thinking about how to have fun and try to bring a playful attitude to the people around me.
If it’s a girl I’m dating and we’re chilling at my place I’m not above tickling, playfighting, teasing, doing a silly dance or giving her something only to snatch it back at the last minute, basically being 8 years old. When you keep it playful you make other people feel the same way and life becomes more fun for everyone.
In short, healthy relationships are based on feed, not need. And especially not blame, shame, guilt or fear, sure if someone is violating your boundaries, or disrespecting you, there is a place for guilt and shame in moderation, but not much, when you have the right people in your life, most problems can be solved without resorting to negative emotions.
The whole idea of good games is win/win scenarios, with a win being more happiness for everyone involved. But, just as important as playing good games, if not more important, is avoiding playing bad games.
How To Stop Playing Bad Games
Bad games, in a sentence are games that you play with friends, lovers, family and clients that end in win/lose or even lose/lose scenarios. Win/lose is where you’re trying to get over on someone and lose/lose is even worse, where you know you’re willing to take a loss, only so you can drag someone down with you.
With that said, the logic of bad games does not apply to competition outside of your inner circle as covered in us vs. them. In life you need to compete for jobs, clients, customers, women, investment and that often means someone else taking a loss while you’re taking a win. That’s the natural order of life, and as long as you’re ethical and respectful, it’s your duty to compete OUTSIDE or your inner circle, so you’re able to better help yourself and help your people.
Competing within your circle is the kind of win/lose behavior you want to avoid, because ultimately you make other people less happy, and even though you might get a temporary win, the resentment you cause in others eventually kills those relationships, leading to a loss. Ultimately win/lose and lose/lose games within your circle ends in a loss for you.
When you look around, you’ll see how much time people spend setting up games, losing them, then being upset about the loss. Often times those games are about controlling others, failing at getting control, being angry about your lack of control, yet refusing to recognize that you’re playing the wrong game, and refusing to take action to change your games.
And when I say you, I mean you, because you have total control over all the games you CHOOSE TO play, because you choose to play them all, no one has or can every make you play a game you don’t want to. Even the game of employee in a job you hate, you chose to take that job you can say you “have” to work there for money, but that’s only because you didn’t start your own business. And you can say you couldn’t have started a business because you didn’t have the cash or the acumen, but that’s only because you didn’t spend the last decade saving and studying the business game.
I played the corporate salesman game for a while for money, suits and status. I had the act down, the suit, the phone, the studied mannerisms, the corporate buzzwords, the appropriate objections, the right venues to take clients….but I hated every minute of it. I recognized that no matter how much money I made at that game, it wasn’t even close to worth it to have to wake up every day and do what I hate. .
So I decided to play the personal development guru game and it’s been 100 times more fun. Building this business was the best decision I’ve made in the last decade, and I’m on pace to smash my sales income, not to mention that my income is now geoarbitraged in a country that’s a third of the price of Canada. And I’m only getting started, God willing I have the rest of my life to play this game, build my brand, and help as many guys as I can.
Changing your games from bad to good is one of the best things you can do for yourself, especially the interpersonal games you play. In fact there is an entire school of thought called Transactional Analysis based around becoming aware of the games you and the people around you play. This is incredibly important, because once you can recognize a bad game, you can:
1. Stop creating bad games for yourself and for others
2. Refuse to play bad games that are offered to you
3. Get rid of toxic people in your life who only want to play bad games
Tolstoy in Anna Karenina rightfully said that:
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
And that quote, also known as the Anna Karenina principle applies to all people in all walks of life and all the games they play. There are maybe a handful of good games that make you happier, but there are a near infinite amount of games that make you and the people around you less happy. If you truly want to be happier, it’s your job to get rid of those games. To do that you need to know what a bad game is.
The manual for games analysis is Eric Berne’s seminal book Games People Play, which covers the basics of his philosophy known as Transactional Analysis as well as lists 100 games people. Or you can check out the bullet point summary here.
Here is a small list and chart that I’ve taken from an excellent site,, analyzing a few of the bad games people play as identified by TA. Take a look and see how many bad games you play now, and how many bad games other people are trying to play with you.
Violent argument with deliberate pressing of hot buttons
Sustain attention, venting and displacing anger
Providing objections to refuse help
Maintenance of attention and control
Acquire a handicap, real or imagined and ham it up
Sympathy, avoidance of responsibility
The bad games I’ve played in the past but don’t play anymore are:
Courtroom: Where I would use my IQ and logic to bludgeon people in arguments, especially girlfriends
Now I’ve Got You: Where I would get revenge on people who wronged me, now I just get revenge through success
Uproar: When I would raise my voice to my mom as a teenager and sometimes as an adult to girlfriends, this is something I’ve put a lot of work into, and can proudly say that I’ve raised my voice 3 times in the last five years. Ideally I will raise my voice 0 times in the next five years.
The bad games I still play are:
Blemish: Which is finding faults in others, part of this is because I have high standards for myself, so I have a gut level reaction to people who don’t take pride in operating at a high level. With that said I try to quickly reframe that with self censorship, humility and compassion. And although I might think something, I’m pretty good at keeping my negative thoughts about others to myself.
Clever Me: Also known as bragging, and I’ll admit I still do this with my friends, but in moderation, and my friends are kind enough to indulge me. Ultimately I don’t see it as a big problem, and I do the same for my friends, in fact I want to be around guys who are proud of their accomplishments and confident about their future.
But for the most part I’ve done a pretty good job of uprooting and getting rid of my negative games. I’ve raised my voice maybe 3 times in the last five years, and I haven’t had a real argument with a friend since I can remember, and I rarely if ever send the angry text or email or end relationships dramatically. With that said, some women get dramatic with me at the end of a relationship, but I don’t agree to play the game, in fact that’s usually half the reason I wanted to stop seeing them.
We’re all human, and it’s not about beating yourself up, instead it’s about getting rid of your bad games so you can be happier, and so you can make your people happier. It’s really worth your time to sit down and see what bad games you’re playing and how to change them.
How To Play Better Games
The first step in learning to play better games is to get rid of people who play bad games. For a good relationship to work, everyone needs to be on the same page, playing good games, but for relationships to go bad, it only takes one person playing bad games, because it’s impossible to co-create good games with someone who wants to play bad games.
It’s a fact that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch, which is why it’s much easier to just remove toxic people from your life, instead of trying to change their behavior. With that said, no one is perfect, most people play some bad games, but when you’re dealing with a good person, a quick conversation can usually steer the relationship back on track.
The second step is looking within, and taking responsibility for changing the bad games you play. In my industry, a lot of content creators try to teach guys how to be more “alpha”, which is useful to a degree, but a better frame instead of trying to be more alpha, try to be a better leader, and a better player in the game of life. Start with happiness and look more towards creating experiences that make you happy, then trying to live up to some anonymous bloggers idea of what a man should be.
We don’t live in the jungle anymore and true alpha behavior can easily end you up in jail. Not to mention the fact that alpha isn’t always available, if you landed a plum job as a hedge fund equities trader, trying to act like the alpha in that shark tank will get you fired within hours.
I’ve made a lot more progress controlling my natural aggressive instincts, and transmuting them towards positive goals then I ever did indulging them. I went from the kid who would scream at his teammates for costing me a soccer game, to someone who almost never raises his voice, or creates dramatic situations. And every year I develop more emotional control, and more productive, positive ways to resolve conflicts.
It’s become incredibly obvious to me, especially after close to a decade in sales, that you catch way more flies with honey, and that controlling your emotions, and doing things like not sending that angry email is incredibly important.
Blame, shame, passive aggression, or even aggressive aggression are rarely the best ways to get what you want.
Sure, sometimes you have to call attention to someone breaking the rules of a game you agreed to play or violating your boundaries. But you can almost always deliver criticism gently and in between two compliments, which is so much more effective.
And sure, in the rare case of self defense, aggression is useful. But if you’re playing the game of life to the fullest, the fact that you have to defend yourself in a street fight, means you’ve already made a major mistake and got caught slipping.
For the most part, you want to put effort into creating good games, and in times of conflict, you want to take a deep breath, not send that angry email, not raise your voice and think about how to create a positive solution.
The ironic thing is, using restraint, creating positive solutions, and finding a way to give the other person what they want gets you what you want in the long run. And using blame, shame, and aggression to force a solution, often leads to you not getting what you want, or only getting what you want in the short term, and suffering the repercussions in the long term.
In summary, all life is sales, every communication you make is selling some type of experience, even down to polite conversation with the checkout girl. You can choose to create positive games and sell a win/win experience for the people you interact with. Or you can chose to create losing games, pay no attention to what other people want, try and force results with blame, shame and aggression, and move through life like a bull in a china shop.
The choice is yours, I recommend creating the best games you can, when you do, you and everyone around you becomes happier, and you get one step closer to living your best life every day of the week.