You can’t lose a game that you’re not playing

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Something I have been thinking a lot about over the last several months is the idea that life is a game, one that’s been created for each one of us to compete against one another. 

We had no say in the creation of the game, not the game pieces, the rules, the path, who we’re competing against, our environment, but as soon as you were born, you became a contestant in it.

Everything we experience, all our actions are shaped by these predefined rules and structures. I won’t get into it too much, but I accept that society needs these guidelines, laws, a common set of morals, and for some, religion to help direct us as a people.

That said, have you thought about the rules that you play by? Which rules are the most important to you, or are they all important? Have you defined what is truly valuable in your life, or were those values impressed upon you by the media or your peers or your parents?

The rules may be set, but when it comes to your life, you can mold these rules in ways that make them work for you and determine which ones are the most meaningful to you.

A Priceless Urn from the Han Dynasty

As posted previously, I went to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum over the weekend.

One of his most famous works is a series of three photos titled “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn.” The controversial piece from 1995 shows Weiwei holding a priceless urn from the Han Dynasty, letting it go, and the last photo displays the aftermath; the Han urn in small jagged pieces on the floor at Weiwei’s feet.

This made me think again, about what is considered “valuable” and who determines that “value”. To most everyone, the urn was considered “priceless” and could be sold for a large chunk of money because we blindly accept the price tag handed to us.

Weiwei’s action made me rethink what value means to whom and the process of how prices are created based on subjective measures that do not matter to a large majority of the population.

The point is if you walk up to anyone on the street and try to sell them that urn for $700 without telling them it’s history, you won’t get any takers. Now tell them it’s an urn from the Han Dynasty and see if that makes any difference.

In the first scenario, the urn, without context, isn’t worth that investment, but in the second one, it’s a steal to those that have that information. All in all, it’s valuable to the people that think it’s valuable. Most of us aren’t historians, artists or art dealers, so though it’s considered priceless by experts (another label to rethink), is there any value to how you conduct your everyday life?

Ai Weiwei shattered the idea of value. Literally.

Photos of Ai Weiwei dropping priceless urn

If value is an intangible concept that can applied to any item, yet the true value varies depending on that person’s investment of that definition, then that tells us that value can be determined outside of what we’ve been told to believe.

You can define what matters most in your life

I’ve met so many career-oriented friends and acquaintances that work their asses off to move up at work, but at the same time, all those hours at the office makes them miserable.

All this hard work is generally not for the sake of the work, but it’s to achieve success. What does success mean on the pre-determined game board? If you accept “success” as it’s defined for you, then that usually equates to money, status, prestige and fame, or a combination of them.

If you want to roll the dice on a game board that’s been laid out for you, go ahead. I truly believe that some prefer having the road mapped out for them. No curveballs and no surprises. That said, I’ve also see too many reach a level they’ve strive for only to continue being just as jaded, frustrated, and lost as they were 4 years prior. All in the name of satisfying someone else’s definition of fulfillment.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not everyone is the same, so why choose to be judged by the standards of others?

I’m not saying you sell all your belongings and go into the wild or lash out at the traditional. Most of us enjoy stability and don’t mind following the rules of road, but you can still make changes to the game board without hurting your fellow man or joining a counter culture group.

Start by questioning your definitions of “important” and “valuable” — the more you’re able to break away from these preconceived definitions and rules, the better you are at playing a game suited for you, on a board you created, and where the things that matter are also the truly valuable ones.

You can’t lose a game when that you’re not playing. With a game defined by your rules, only then are you able to truly measure yourself against personal “success” and if you do end up winning, you won’t be surprised that you actually feel fulfilled.

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