What Game Are You Playing?

What type of game are you playing with your life? The long game or the one of immediate gratification? It’s easy to overestimate the importance of luck on success and underestimate the importance of investing in success every single day.


What Game Are You Playing?

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What type of game are you playing with your life? Is it the long game or one of immediate gratification? It’s easy to overestimate the importance of luck and success and underestimate the importance of investing in success every single day. Too often, we convince ourselves that success was luck. We tell ourselves that government employee that left millions behind were lucky. No, she wasn’t. She was playing a different game than you were. She was playing the long game. The long game isn’t particularly notable and sometimes it’s not even noticeable. It’s boring, but when someone chooses to play the long game from an early age, the results can be extraordinary. The long game changes how you conduct your personal and business affairs. There’s an old saying that I think of often but I’m not sure where it comes from. If you do what everyone is doing, you will get the results they all get. Ignoring the effect of luck on outcomes, the promo bill, lottery ticket and doing what everyone else is doing ensures you’re going to be average. Not average in the world, but average to people in similar circumstances.

There are a lot of ways not to be average. One of them is a trade-off between the long game and the short game. That’s why lottery tickets’ general rule of thumb is those who never learn to manage money often end up significantly poorer after winning the lottery in a few years after they have run through the money. What starts small compounds into something more? The longer you play the long game, the easier it is to play and the greater the rewards. The longer you play the short game, the harder it becomes to change and the bigger the bill facing you when you do want to change. The short game is what leads you to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease because of the easier choices you made about what you ate, drank, and the exercise you did not do. The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment is a famous study on young children. They could predict in advance which group of four-year-olds was more likely to have better life outcomes as measured by a set of scores, educational attainment, body mass index and other life measures.

The short game is putting off anything that seems hard for doing something that seems easy or fun. The short game offers visible and immediate benefits. The short game is seductive. Why learn something boring that doesn’t change when you can learn something sexy that impresses people? Finally, you reach a level of incompetence and you can pull the wool over the eyes of your customers and your corporate career is over. Why bust your butts at work to do the work before the meeting when you can read the executive summary and pretend like everyone else? Until one day, your boss asks to see if you hit the meeting and the truth comes out. Why invest in your relationship with your partner now when you can work a little bit extra in the office and then you wonder why your partner walked out on you. Why do your homework when you can go out and play? This leads to poor grades and all the anger and rage at the school system and does not allow you to be authentic. Why wait to pay for full in cash when you can put it on credit card? This is a shortcut to credit card debt and impending bankruptcy. Why go to the gym when you can go drinking with your friends and many years later comes the heart attack.

The effects of the short game multiply the longer you play. On any given day the impact is small, but as they turn into months and to years the result is enormous. People who play the short game don’t realize the costs until they become too large to ignore. The problem with the short game is that the costs are small and never seem to matter much on any given day. Doing your homework now only give you straight A’s tomorrow. Saving $5 now only makes you a millionaire overnight. Going to the gym and eating healthy now only makes you fit tomorrow. Reading a book only makes you smart. Going to sleep on time will make you healthier tomorrow. We might try these things when we are motivated, but since the results are not immediate, we revert back to the short game. As the weeks turn into months and the months into years, the short game compounds into disastrous results. It’s not the one-day trade-off that matters in values accumulation.

In the Stanford Marshmallow Studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for approximately fifteen minutes during which the tester left the room and then returned. The reward was some type of marshmallow, but often a cookie or pretzel. In the follow-up studies, the researchers found that the children who are able to wait longer for their preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes. While the original study was that the test was a measure of pure willpower, later studies suggested it was a measure of economic background and intact family background. Children from such an environment learn from very early to play the long game rather than go for immediate gratification. Playing the long game means suffering a little now. Why would we want to suffer now when we can suffer tomorrow? If our intention is always changed tomorrow, then tomorrow never comes. All we have is now. Looking at how the Millennials are brought up, I’m somewhat concerned. They were encouraged to go for what they wanted immediately.

Often, they grew up in a school environment where winning and getting good grades without playing. Everyone was a winner from day one. There was no need to play the long game because there was instant gratification. They often did not learn about the messy things, about making friends and relationships because of social media. When I grew up, I hung out with three other guys and then four others I could call friends. I have a few thousand friends on my social media sites. I’m not a Millennial. I know the difference between social media friends and real-time friends. The Millennials are likely to struggle when they go to work in corporations because they will expect instant gratification and recognition for their abilities. They will not know how to play the long game. They’re likely to champion for shorter working hours and work that is more meaningful and impactful. They will struggle in real-time relationships because all they had was social media-type connections.

The long game is the opposite of the short game. It means paying a small price now to make later easier. If we can do these long enough to see the results it feeds on itself. From the outside, the long game looks boring. Save money and investing it for later, leaving the party early to get some sleep. Investing time in your relationship now, so you have a foundation when something happens. Doing your homework before you go out to play, going to the gym rather than watching Netflix and countless other examples. In the simplest form, the long game isn’t debatable. Everyone agrees that we should spend less than we make and invest the difference. Playing the long game is a slight change. One that seems insignificant at the moment, but one that becomes the difference between financial freedom and struggling to make next month’s rent. The first step to the long game is the hardest. The first step is visibly negative. You have to be willing to suffer now in order not to suffer tomorrow. This is why the long game is hard to play.

LBD 27 | The Long Game
The Long Game: Playing the long game means suffering a little today in order not to suffer tomorrow.


People rarely see the small steps when you’re looking for enormous outcomes. Deserving enormous outcomes are mostly the results of a series of small steps that culminate into something visible. In everything you do, you’re either playing a short-term or long-term game. You can opt-out and you can play a long-term game in everything. You need to pick what matters to you. In everything you do, time amplifies the difference between long and short-term games. The question you need to think about is when and where to play a long-term game. A good place to start is with things that compound like knowledge, relationships, and finances. One lucky audience that posts a review in iTunes will win a private confidential consultation and coaching with me on discovering your soul’s purpose. I will lead you on a personal journey to discover your unique mind-body psychosomatic map of your life. You will get a detailed report and a personal 45-minute consultation with me that’s worth thousands.

I’m going to help you design a life that works, so you are able to say yes to the things that matter and eliminate everything else that slows you down. The clearer you can be about how to organize your daily life to support your bigger vision, the more you step into your true potential, stay on track, and accomplish all that you want and deserve. Are you ready to make that happen? Feel free to reach out to me to ask your questions at AskDrSun.com. Your life is a gift, design it. Do what matters and join me each episode as we get closer to designing the life of your dreams. Join me next time on Your Life By Design.

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