How are you at The Game of Life? Not the board game, but the real game that you’re playing this very second?
Don’t think life is a game? Then you’re thinking about it the wrong way. Life is an infinite game. And a fun one if you play it the right way.
Mark Manson shared his cheat codes in this mega article (one of my favorite pieces of reading, ever, by the way), and now…I’m going to share one of mine.
Games are supposed to be hard.
That’s right — they’re supposed to be hard. Easy games get boring…fast.
You’d quit playing a game you won every time, so why do you expect life to be different? Games get harder as you play because your skills rise to the level of fresh challenges.
And you enjoy conquering those challenges. But the same people who love those games tend to bitch when things go wrong in their lives. They can’t see the irony. As Mark Manson put it in that article I told you about earlier:
“Life is designed to continually throw difficult and unexpected problems at you. Life is a never-ending stream of problems that must be confronted, surmounted, and/or solved. If at any point, Life runs out of problems to give us, then as players, we will unconsciously invent problems for ourselves.”
When you get better, life gets harder. You can either be crushed by challenges (Game Over) or rise to the occasion.
The mindset of an Emperor and a Warrior.
Some of my favorite ideas on this mindset are from Stoicism, modern psychology, and a scary Navy SEAL.
Let’s take a look at how they’re all tied together. Starting with the Emperor. Marcus Aurelius recorded this little passage in Meditations:
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”— Marcus Aurelius
This quote inspired Ryan Holiday’s title for The Obstacle is the Way. I can see why.
The things that get in the way give you opportunities to grow. Your skills improve somehow – you get more creative, stronger, more resilient, etc. You find a new path. You get BETTER.
This ancient wisdom pairs VERY nicely with the first psychological exercise from the book The Tools.
The Reversal of Desire. According to Psychiatrists Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, it’s normal to feel pain and discomfort when you leave your comfort zone. So most people stay safe inside of their comfort zones, avoiding pain and frustration.
But…on the other side of that pain and frustration is unknowable growth and potential. Rather than retreating inside of your comfort zone, it would make sense to seek out the pain of growth, right? Of course, it would.
Becoming more than robust.
Let’s take it a step further.
Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile describes an interesting mindset that might make some people uncomfortable. And I think that’s the point.
I mean…it’s alright to find solutions when problems pick up, and to make yourself uncomfortable for growth. But to be Antifragile means that what would damage a fragile person or wear down a robust person would make you STRONGER instead.
That’s right, it’s not enough to be strong in the face of adversity. Strong people get worn down, too. You need to be antifragile in the face of adversity – the adversity doesn’t wear you down, it makes you better and better.
So you look for challenges and embrace the obstacles with enthusiasm. Not just seeking growth, but looking for the pinnacle of your abilities. Seeing how much you can grow, how much pain you can devour to get better.
And finally, the warrior.
Jocko Willink is a scary man. A terrifying man. He’s intense in everything he does – his speaking, his writing, his actions.
When Jocko comes upon an obstacle (or a disaster), his answer is always the same. Can you guess what it is?
When shit hits the fan – GOOD. You can get stronger. When you wake up to a bad day – GOOD. You’re still breathing. Find the challenges, find the pain, find the growth. Because if you’re challenged, you can get better. If you’re in pain, then at least you’re still alive. And that means you can get back up.
What kinds of challenges have you been facing lately? Have you been breaking under the pressure?
It’s time to change the way you look at those challenges and embrace them as a good thing instead of something to break you. You have to find your own growth, nobody is going to give it to you.
And when you find growth, the challenges will get bigger, not smaller. But that’s not a bad thing in the Game of Life. Remember- “Good.”