THE BLOG

Life: Just a Game of Monopoly Taken Way Too Seriously

07/02/2014 04:15 pm ET | Updated Sep 01, 2014
MTSOfan/Flickr

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was play Monopoly with my sister. Part of the reason why I loved it so much was because we tweaked the rules. In our game, we were allowed to buy as many houses and hotels (per property) as we wanted... and the middle of the board always started with $500, instead of zero. This made things very exciting. Now we had unlimited potential for growth, and we had expanded the amount of money we could leverage to buy more properties or "hotels" on those properties. Soon, the board was full of green and red. In fact, my sister and I would have so many houses and hotels that there wasn't enough Monopoly money in circulation to handle it and we actually had to start creating our own money by writing on pieces of paper. Our new rules also extended the time it took to win the game, making it last for days... which of course made it even more riveting and yet more serious at the same time... because now there was more at stake. More to lose. Every new purchase of a property, house or hotel automatically came with a surge of excitement that I could feel in my gut. And the feeling was addicting.

But...

Before long, the game started to get really, really serious. In a normal game of Monopoly, you can only have one hotel per property. I usually had two or three. So now, when my sister landed on Boardwalk or Park Place she had to pay an astronomical amount. And when she did, she was nearly on the verge of tears, and I can remember feeling bad for her... watching her painfully look at her pile of money while slowly handing me a stack. But I knew that I had to tell myself that "this was just part of the game" and that I shouldn't feel so bad... especially since sooner or later, I would be in her shoes. Eventually though, after this went on for three days, one of us would start to lose. The pile of money would get smaller and smaller and we would become increasingly sad as we watched all the time and money that had been invested, start to disintegrate. We were only 10 and 11 years old, and yet this game got so significant that it would end with one of us feeling helplessly defeated and the other feeling victorious.

We knew that this game had gotten completely out of control. We knew we were taking it way too far and way too personally. And the reason why it had gotten this significant was because..

We forgot that we made up the rules . We forgot it was just a game; something we had originally intended to be fun and exciting.

This is life.

We live in a game that we think is real. Human beings are so complex. We seek to analyze, to understand and to explain everything that is happening to us... and as far as we know, lizards don't do this. Neither do dogs. It's a human thing. We make up reasons, philosophies and rules for everything. We have developed organizations, governments, countries, cultures and systems by creating standards and regulations for all of it. It helped give us clarity around how to live life. The structure helped us feel more stable and secure.

But here's the thing: None of it is actually true. We made it all up. But we forgot that we made it up. And as a result, it all got way too significant. It's why we have war... We actually invented the concept. We created divisions between us and others. We created the idea of "ownership" and therefore "scarcity." We came up with sets of expectations for what we will and will not tolerate. We created the borders and all the separation. We designed a world run by a 40-hour work week. We invented the idea of money and even time. We organized our corporations around the idea that profits are more important than purpose. We made it all up. But we don't live like we made it up... because if we did we wouldn't feel so stuck. Instead, we live like it's the truth and as if we MUST operate within the confines of all of it. We have accepted the fact that this is "just the way it is." Says who?

Why is this so important? Because once we realize that life is just like Monopoly; merely a game we made up... then we realize that we, humans, are the source for creating something new. We are the source for creating new systems, organizations, governments and a world that actually works for all people. And a world that can be so much more thrilling, unpredictable and abundant. We can make it all up... again. And this time around, we don't have to take it so seriously.

So let's reinvent all of it. Let's design our companies in ways that gives people the flexibility to work while learning about and seeing the world. Let's incentivize them to reach their greatest potential and highest purpose. Let's create governments that constantly monitor the wellbeing of their citizens and not just GDP. Let's build educational systems that teach kids that the key to success is to live a fulfilling life and teach them exactly how to do that; how to manage their finances, find a great job, get involved in their communities, and build relationships.

Where should we start? Examine and challenge the rules that govern your life or your organization. What are all of the things that you think you should be doing? And ask yourself where that idea came from.... because who says that you should run your organization in a certain way? Who says that you should buy a house or live in a big city? Who says that marriage should be hard? Who says that you should pick a political party or that you should work such long hours? What societal norms have you conformed to that don't really make any sense when you really take the time to think about it? Who is this who? Or the "THEY" that we always talk about when we say ... "well, you know what they say..." The "they" is you! And the "they" is me.

We are all responsible for the current state of the world. And we are either merely going along for the ride, or we are inventing the ride itself. Let's create something new... something better. Re-write the rules to the game of your (our) life. And let's play a game worth playing.

With that in mind, what rules would you propose?