mnmlist: Are You Trying to Win Someone Else’s Game?

In my late twenties–days long before marriage, babies and persistently creaky joints–my friends and I would go out on weekends to meet chicks.

Around that time, I had returned to school to finish my bachelor’s degree (in the very practical arts of English). I was working as a head waiter for a catering company–technically a “captain” in the self-important language of cater-ese.

When we went out, I dreaded the “what do you do?” question. I lived in New York City, and thought what I did was not very age-appropriate. 27 year-old’s did things like work at branding firms and develop iPhone apps.

When asked, I would say something like, “Well, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in English, because I want to be a writer. I dropped out when I was younger. It’s really cool because I appreciate the chance to learn so much more than when I first went to school. And I work as a head waiter–well, a ‘captain’–at a catering company. It allows me to go all over the city and see cool places and go to fascinating events.”

My voice must have acted as a diuretic because women instantly had to go to the bathroom after I started talking.

There were a couple reasons I was exciting bladders:

  1. I was selling myself. Implicit was that who I was had no self-evident value. If it did, I wouldn’t have to sell it.
  2. I was trying to win someone else’s game. I tried to create a compensatory value for who I was in relation to what I thought 27 year-old’s should be doing–making money, having a career, whatever. In other words, my life + lengthy explanation = lawyer.

These oft used-strategies keep us in the middle management of life–sucking up, hoping for a promotion from our boss, who is often someone we don’t want to be anyway.

After a good spell of swinging and missing at the bars, I realized I was losing hard. I realized that if I wanted to start winning, I’d have to play another game. So I picked the only game I was good at: mine. I looked at what was important to me: my personal evolution, relationships, spiritual life, health, etc. With these things, I was valuable. I was a winner.

When women asked what I did, I started talking about my games, inviting them to play. A funny thing happened: women started holding their bladders. They started selling themselves. They tried to get on my team–telling me how much they do yoga or something (of course, I found these things unattractive).

Sure, many women couldn’t give a shit about meditation or the healing I had done with my mom, but those weren’t the women I wanted to play with. I ended up marrying a chick whose values were aligned with mine–one who would have had nothing to do with the self-justifying loser I used to be.

With these thoughts in mind, consider:

  1. Pick an area of your life where you lack power that involves other people. It could be meeting a partner, your work, athletics, etc.
  2. Where do justify your existence in this situation? Where are your explaining your value rather than being valuable?
  3. Is this situation your, or someone else’s game? Where do you lack ownership of the your life? Keep in mind, even if we’re doing things that seem like someone else’s game, e.g. making a family or practicing medicine, we can make these things ours.
  4. For the day, stop justifying yourself. Stop explaining why you’re valuable. Look for and cut out the self-diminishing things you say to yourself and others. Be valuable, don’t explain it.
  5. Focus on winning your games, not others’. Decide what’s important to you and align your life with those things. Talk about and share those things. Look how it changes your interactions with others. Remember, if it’s not your game, you will fail.

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