Success Principles: lessons from board games that will serve us well in life and business

25 05 2013

 by Adrian Shepherd

I have always loved games.

I enjoyed playing Mario Brothers back in the day and in my 20s I got into some PC games such as F.E.A.R. and Crysis but, for me, there’s nothing like a good board game.

Board games are so much more than games. They are social events. I still remember the laughter and excitement of our sitting around the dinner table with my family and friends and being engrossed in a game.

Some I was a natural at – like Connect 4. I have no idea why but I just got it. From the age of 8 my parents stopped playing with me but it wasn’t for till a year or so later that I found out why. I remember asking my parents “How come we don’t play Connect 4 anymore?” I have never forgotten my father’s answer, “You just got too good. Your mom and I just can’t beat you.” And that was that.

Others I had to work hard at. My parents used to slaughter me at Boggle but I just kept at it and one day things just clicked. From that day on I was pretty much unbeatable.

Scrabble is another game that I struggled with but over the years I got better and could at least give my parents a run for their money. I may have only won once but it was a day I’ll never forget.

I had always thought I was good at Monopoly till I played my cousins in Switzerland where they took me to the cleaners, but I’ll get to that later.

Then there are those games that I’ve never been able to figure out. Othello being one. For the life of me, I just don’t get the strategy of Othello. Despite having played over 100 games I have yet to win a single one.

So how do board games relate to life and business?

Here is a short list:

  • You can’t win every time
  • Strategy is more important than your position
  • Some games we’ll never understand
  • Even when you think you know everything, you can still learn more
  • Never underestimate your competition
  • Sometimes people cheat
  • Understand the rules if you want to win
  • The competition sometimes wants to win more than you
  • Luck does play a small part

Let’s take a look at each one individually.

You can’t win every time

The thing about board games is that it’s you versus the other players. As such someone will win, and other people will lose. This is obvious in the business world because companies that make mistakes will often pay the price. Each year there are companies that go belly up which creates a vacuum which their competitors fill.

There is no such thing as batting 1000. Even the great Babe Ruth struck out 7 times out of 10 times at bat.

Accepting that failure is just part of the game of life is important because it allows to have faith even when things seem at their worst.

Strategy is more important than your position

Too many of us think that life and business is all about where you start out. Your educational background, your socio-economic status, your environment, your friends, and the like but we have all heard of those people who were multi-millionaires only to lose it all. It’s not about where you start out or how much money you have but what your strategy is.

A good strategy involves discipline, study, research, and a little bit of elbow grease.

Some games we’ll never understand

Life is full of things that come natural to us, things that we have to work at, and other things that are pretty much mysteries to us.

As each of us is limited to 24 hours a day we must focus our energies on this that we find easy or, at least, understand. That way you’re taking advantage of your natural talents. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try and learn those things that don’t make any sense to you but you must realize that it will be an uphill battle. To get a handle on such things you will most likely have to expend a heck of a lot of energy and invest a serious amount of time.

Think of it this way. If 10 is a professional and 1 is a beginner, then if you have a talent for something you start off at maybe a 6 or 7. If it makes sense but you not great then you’re around a 4. But when it’s like hieroglyphics you’re a 1. Anyone can become a 10 it’s just a difference of how hard it will be to get there.

How can we apply this to our own lives?

In business it means that you should spend time on the things you’re good at or want to learn but those things that you find incomprehensible it might make more sense to figure a work-around solution. Say you are good at numbers while your coworker is better at dealing with customers. If you’re asked to deal with a customer then you might try and work out a deal where your coworker takes care of that for you and you, in return, take care of something they need help with.

After all, the results are what matters. Spending hours of your time on something another person could do in a fraction of the time then doesn’t it make sense to ask them to help you out.

Two of the greatest lessons I learned about life were taught to me by my cousins as I mentioned earlier. I clearly remember warning them that I was pretty good at Monopoly. Boy, did they prove me wrong. They mopped the floor with me. I was shell-shocked but I learned two lessons that day – always be willing to learn and never underestimate your competition.

Too often we think we know enough, but with the speed of change today this is a mistake. Much of what we learn today, especially when it comes to technology will be obsolete in two years. We must continually work to keep ourselves ahead of the curve.

Another mistake it thinking our competition is too small, too weak, too old, too slow…history is full of examples but two of my favorites are IBM underestimating Microsoft, Yahoo underestimating Google. Don’t end up on the wrong end of this.

Sometimes people cheat

Sadly in games, in business and in life, there are those people who cheat. There are those who lie. There are those who take advantage of others. And there are those who waste our time. We must keep our eyes out for such people in order to protect ourselves.

Understand the rules if you want to win

You can’t win a game consistently that you don’t understand. There is such thing as beginner’s luck but we cannot rely on luck each time. By understanding the rules you can develop a winning strategy. That will also allow you to teach others.

The competition sometimes wants to win more than you

To achieve what you want, whether it’s a business deal, the woman of your dreams, or

Luck does play a small part

Luck favors those who plan and prepare but there is no denying that from time to time things will occur we have no control over and can create success or failure. The key is minimizing the effects of the sudden negative black swan events.

There have been times when I’ve been playing a game and all seemed lost. It was curtains for me…and then something incredible happened. Luck.

I won.

Here, on this planet, the strangest things do happen.

So there you have it – 9 lessons that we should all learn to be able to win at board games, at business or in life.

Try putting them to use in your life today, you may be surprised at the results.

Adrian Shepherd




One response

9 07 2013
How do you play the game? | Jacqui Senn

[…] Success Principles: lessons from board games that will serve us well in life and business ( […]

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