What is the one thing you need to succeed in life?  Unless you define success as blissful ignorant middle class suburbia, there is one mindset you must have:

Life is a game.

This statement goes deep.  Strap in.

1. Life is a game, and your pursuit of success is a game.  Read “Finite and Infinite Games” and watch Alan Watts to truly appreciate this.

2. The game you play includes Poker luck, not roulette luck. The word luck is tough because its usually thought of as one thing: pure chance.  Most people think of blackjack  or even roulette as gambling/luck.  The big mindset change is to think of luck as that in Poker: you’re competing against others of unknown skill level, and your success = (chance * skill * stakes).  You can influence two.

3. The game requires luck, skill, and stakes.

4. Don’t be only the audience to another’s game. This is why most people I spend time with don’t watch regular TV, but you shouldn’t watch sports either, unless reciting the score improves your standing in another game.  Televising professional games serves to entertain the masses who are pawns in other games.

5. You can play multiple games at the same time. To succeed in an exclusive game, such as the NBA basketball championship, you may have to be like Michael Jordan and combine the practice, genes, and chance to be the best.  But along the way he played and won thousands of smaller games.  There are many smaller and shorter games you can play that will build your stakes for other games in the future.

6. Not every game uses money, but every game has stakes. Michael Jordan doesn’t need to pay for dinners, because restaurants will comp his meal in exchange for a photo.  The stakes are the restaurateur’s social status gaining a bump, which makes his restaurant a bit busier; his friends a bit more impressed, and his direction in life feeling validated.

7. You cannot play every game. There are billions of games being played and you cannot be in every one.

8. You can choose your game. Most people will never choose the games they play, but instead just start playing the game they can see in front of them.

9. If someone shares “The Secret” of the game, you’re a pawn in their game. At the height of the 1996 home run race, Mark McGwire was discovered to be taking a drug called Andro.  Sammy Sosa, second in the race, admitted to taking Flintstone vitamins.  Dozens of magazine articles interviewed them and offered the secret to amazing strength: reverse crunches/negative lifts/some other BS routine.  They were taking steroids the entire time.

Sometimes Its okay to get played: you can be a pawn in one person’s game, and use that status to be a king in another game (see: #6)

10. There are games being played all around you, and you need to be aware of them.  I have a friend who is in the top staff of a hotel, the kind of hotel where Madonna will stay next door to royalty.  It was difficult at first to hold a conversation with her because she was so tuned in to listen for multiple games, to translate my words to identify every game I was playing.  And like any new poker player, my rookie strategy confused her because her mental model was to play against experienced poker players.

Most American middle class spend the first 20 years of their life preparing to play one game: their career.  They don’t even see the other games.  Just seeing these around you can change everything.

11. If you don’t know the games being played, find a guide. Shawn Kemp is another notable sports star because he had something like 20 children with 20 wives.  Entering the Pro league too early, he allowed his hubris to get the best of him, and these women played the game perfectly.

In contrast, most star athletes want to work with top sports agents, agents who will take 5-15% of their earnings to guide them in the various games (sports, women, endorsements, dealing with poor family, health.)  When entrepreneurs get funded and talk about taking “smart money” this is what they mean.

When you can see the games around you, and understand what games everyone around you are playing, then every secondary behavior of success becomes easier to obtain: mastering sales is easier when you can see the games others play; taking chances is easier because you know the true odds of success; getting that job you want is easier because you know what company needs you more than you need them.

This mindset also helps to make decisions in your life.  Can’t choose between waking up early and sleeping in?  Choose the games you want to play and be awake for them.  Feel morally against the Tucker Max approach to objectifying women?  Realize, as he did, that the women he targeted were playing out the game where their fathers treated them like shit, and he was simply helping them continue the same game.

How to succeed in life