Remember the game of Life?
That big clackity wheel in the middle you spun for your turn. The little plastic cars full of tiny pink and blue pegs. No NB pegs in that game. Winning and losing came down to two things. Random chance and the decisions you made.
Just like IRL.
We should have paid more attention. It taught us all we needed to know about how to win at Life.
You Makes Your Choices, and You Takes Your Chances
There are only a handful of choices in the board game. But choices have consequences, the same as in real life. The game throws you in the deep end right from the beginning: Start a Career or Start College. Even though you made many decisions before this as you grew up, and hopefully learned from them, this is one of the first major decisions a young adult will make.
And that decision is followed by dozens, hundreds, even thousands of subsequent choices. Each one a spin of a dial or a roll of the dice. And just like in the game, you always have to move forward. You can’t go back in time and change a decision.
But you can change directions. You can see that you made a mistake and choose a new path. Many of us don’t do that, and it’s one way to lose the game. We pick a direction, and dammit, we’re going to stick to it. Because we’ve already invested time or money in the decision.
Don’t do that.
In accounting, there is a principle called sunk cost. The analogy I was given in school was this. You pick a line at the grocery store. After you’ve waited a bit, you see the next line is moving much faster. But you’ve already invested this much time in the line you are in, so you stay put. But sunk cost means you have already spent that time, you can’t get it back.
All you can do is decide what to do in the future.
Leave the line with the old guy writing a check and counting out dimes from his change purse and move on. Change direction.
I’ll Just Wait Here Until Good Things Start Happening.
You have to spin the wheel. Every day. And once the wheel is spun, you have to move your little plastic car down the road. You can’t sit still. You can’t wait for good things to happen.
You have to move forward. Make your best decisions and chase your dreams. Ed McMahon is not going to knock on your door. Not because he’s dead, although that’s a pretty good reason. But because you aren’t going to win the Millionaire Sweepstakes. You aren’t going to win the lottery. Somebody is, but the odds are, it won’t be you. The odds are 3,600,000 to 1 that it won’t be you.
Make a decision. Spin the wheel. Move your damn car down the road.
Somebody Should Just Give Me Stuff
Life is a much better game than Monopoly, as far as teaching you something. There’s no Get Out of Jail Free Card. You got your ass in jail? Get your ass out. There’s no Chance where you suddenly get a bunch of money for no reason.
Although there are many ways to spend money in the game, the only way to get money is to land on the Payday squares. In other words, you have to work for it.
I’m retired now, and I have to tell you, it’s great. I highly recommend it. But retired requires a from. You retire from work. I worked for fifty years. There were many days when I wished I didn’t have to, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I can’t imagine not having contributed to something all those years. Not learning new things and then learning how to make money doing them.
Choose your actor and movie. Burgess Meredith said, “It’s a waste of life.” Clint Eastwood said, “Dying ain’t much of a living.”
They both meant the same thing. Wasting your life isn’t living your life.
Swing for the Fences Every At-Bat
That’s one place the game let me down. There may be a Millionaire Estates someplace, but I’m not going there. And if I lived my life trying to get there, I wouldn’t be here. And here’s pretty damn good. Countryside Acres (what a less enlightened version of the game called the Poor House) is just fine.
Sorry, you ain’t Hank Aaron. You’re not going to hit home runs every day. Know Thyself. You have to understand your limits to be able to push them. That may mean only hitting singles every time.
But here’s the thing. If you hit a single every time at-bat, you’re batting 1,000, and you will never lose.
So, learn what you can do, and more importantly, what you can’t do. If you spend all your time trying to achieve a goal outside your reach, you’re just spinning your wheels.
I hired a handyman once. I needed a lot of work done, and it made sense to find someone who could handle most of it. This guy knew how to do some things very well. Other things, not so much. The problem was, he didn’t know the difference. He didn’t know what he didn’t know. So even though he was excellent at specific jobs, I had to let him go. The fine detail of wood trim didn’t help if he flooded the kitchen changing a faucet.
Life was a good game. You had college and careers. Families and obligations. You had to buy a house and pay for insurance. You spun the wheel, and you moved on down the road. You could buy stocks or take out loans. And yes, there was retirement at the end of it all.
There were winners and losers. Life was just like life.
Play a good game and win.