Five Life Lessons From A Lifetime Of Strategy Games

A lifetime spent playing strategy games has given me a unique perspective on how ‘simulation’ games can often mirror real-life circumstances and choices. It’s easy to discard the hours spent playing Civilization (from 2 to 5) or a dozen other titles, but it’s not a total loss – you get a level of satisfaction that life rarely provides you and if you’re perceptive, you gain life lessons that will serve you well in the real world.

So what can we learn? Read on and find out.

1. Overcoming challenges is more important than ‘winning the game’

Human psychology is typically wired to desire what is just out of your reach more than what you already possess. Contentment issues aside, we value what we fight for, not what we have won. While there is considerable happiness in winning, it is truly short and sweet. Long-lasting fulfillment comes from always embarking on and facing new challenges.

Always re-evaluate your goals and keep pushing them higher and higher as you progress towards them. Be it business or personal life, money, health or social welfare, accepting that your first goal is your last will be your downfall. The fight is more rewarding than the win – which is why you will find the best entrepreneurs, sportsmen, writers, artists, scientists, performers – the best in their fields – constantly looking for new challenges and opportunities.

You could find them within what you do already, or you may have to branch out into a new direction. But you must find them, because long-lasting satisfaction comes from persistent progress towards your goals, not necessarily from reaching them.

2. To achieve great results, you must have a great ‘start’

Countless ‘maxims’ emphasize the importance of a great start. From ‘showing up is half the battle’ to ‘the early bird catches the worm’ to ‘early to rise…’, there is enough wisdom shared on having a good, early start that you would be foolish to abide by any other starting philosophy.

An early start (and in business terms this means have a short time-to-market) gives you a distinct advantage over most other people who are lazy and prone to procrastination. Smart, focused priorities then give you an added advantage by working on what’s important first, so that you have genuine progress over time (as opposed to working on what’s not important and thus wasting your time).

When it’s game time, you can’t muddle about confused and unsure of what to do. Dipping your toes into the water (at that point) is a waste of time. Get up, get out and start doing. A great start is defined not only by how fast you’re out of the blocks but also by how effective you are with your actions. Start early, prioritize smartly, and don’t stop till you drop.

3. You can’t choose your starting position, but you can choose everything else

You can’t always choose your starting conditions – you don’t choose the neighbourhood or family or country that you are born into, and quite often you don’t choose under what influences you are brought up.

But you choose what to do with your starting conditions, and how to best leverage them (or how to find new, better conditions) to achieve your goals. Not everyone is born a millionaire. But of those who are, not everyone is capable of turning those millions into a greater success.

You can choose to be pissed off at the hand you’re dealt or you can choose, as early as possible, to use what you have to achieve more for yourself. It’s a choice you shouldn’t have to think twice about.

4. Opportunities and Opportunity Costs

One of the key lessons life teaches us is that there is a cost attached to pursuing each opportunity. We can go bowling or watch a movie, but usually not at the same time. We can maybe combine food and socialising in one activity, but ‘alone time’ is off the table at this point. You can focus on improving a product by working on it in isolation or improving it through market research and real-world feedback through distribution, but you can’t do both.

It’s a lesson that we refuse to listen to. We want everything all the time, even if consciously we are prioritising our lives to focus on what’s important. Ultimately we take on too much, spend our time putting in sub-par efforts in too many different directions while ultimately achieving little in progress or happiness.

Pursue opportunities that provide you the most benefits towards reaching your goals, and certainly those opportunities that allow you to compress time by combining two or more activities in order to move faster towards your goals. And pursue your chosen opportunities with an addiction – because it’s easy to distract ourselves with newer, unimportant opportunities that arise along the way.

5. Learn Fast. Know The Game. Know Yourself. Know The Players

Knowing the game gives you insights into what to do, what direction to work in, what decisions to make, etc.

Knowing yourself allows you to play the game to your strengths (while minimising / negating your weaknesses – you don’t always have the time to turn them into strengths).

Knowing the players allows you to play them, not just the game, and use your strengths and superior knowledge to your advantage by targeting their weaknesses.

Learn fast. This is as true in business (where you need to know your niche, your competition and your core strengths) as in personal life (where you need to know your situation, your abilities and forces working against you – natural or self-created).

I hope you will find these lessons useful, but more than that I hope that you can take away and use at least one of them in your own lives. And if you enjoyed reading the article, please share it with those friends who love gaming – they would, more than most, be able to relate to this article and gain value from it.

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