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It’s Tough To Win The Game If You Don’t Know The Rules

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved playing games. Whether that was through the many sports I played, backyard activities with friends and neighbors, video games or board games, I’ve always had a blast when doing these kinds of activities.

In what would come as no surprise to anyone that knows me, I’m also pretty competitive. I suppose it comes with the territory of growing up with three siblings and having parents who are also fairly competitive.

Because of this, I was always doing my best to find a way to win these games. I took pride in being a good athlete and being able to help my team win. The feeling and sense of accomplishment after winning a game or having a good season is one that’s been tough to replicate now that my sports playing days are largely over.

This feeling also manifested itself when it came to video games, or board games. I always loved the feeling of beating one of my friends in a Madden NFL, or NHL hockey game on Play Station 2 (oh yea – the old days). Same thing playing board games with family. While I just generally loved to play cards or a board game, it felt even better to play and win.

While I can’t deny that in some of these aspects I was just naturally gifted enough to be good at these games, in others I had to work to figure out how the game was played in order to succeed.

In these instances, in order to win the game, you have to know the rules.

Learn The Rules

Whenever I’m learning a new game, not only will I have someone explain the basics of the game verbally so I can ask questions, but I’m the kind of person that will scroll through the instructions, to see if I can find out any other information.

After all, how can I play and win if I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be doing?

In addition to this, I’ll also discuss common strategies with other people, or watch how other people play the game to see what tactics I can glean from them. Why reinvent the wheel if there are already perfectly good ways out there!?

Sometimes the rules are obvious, but other times they are much less well known. You can gain an advantage over other players when you know these little known rules!

An example I love to use is when playing chess there is a little known move is called a queen (or king) side castle. While this isn’t a move that’s always needed or necessary, it is one to have in your arsenal of moves if you ever need it, and use it to your advantage.

So why all this focus on games? I mean, after all, they’re just games right? It’s not like there are any high stakes implications here (though I will admit at the time some of my high school sports games felt like it was the end of the world after a loss…)

When you put on a different lens though, can you consider life to be a game?

Is Life A Game?

When you take a step back and take a look at life in the big picture, in some ways it can certainly take on a game-like state.

If you think about it, in the typical life script you have certain objectives to complete: graduate high school/college, get a job, get married (if you so choose), buy a house, etc. Many games (especially video games) have timelines and events too.

So if life were a game, how would you win it?

This is a question probably every single person would answer differently, as everyone has different wants/needs, tastes/preferences, and different pursuits that give them fulfillment.

But given that winning the game of life is something that only you can figure out, what are you doing to win that game?

In many ways this is exactly how I’ve viewed my life. Simply as a game to win.

It’s why I tried hard to get good grades in high school (to “win” and get into a good college) and in college (to “win” and get a good real job). It’s why I grind and put in long hours at work – to “win” by getting promotions ahead of schedule.

It’s also why I’ve jumped so fully head first into pursuing financial independence once I discovered it.

This is the next game for me to “win.”

Win The Game

If we view financial independence as a game to win, it would be pretty tough to accomplish if you don’t know the rules.

What are these rules?

The rules in this case, revolve around some of the basics in financial literacy.

These are just a few of the hundreds of life hacks and tips to help on your way to financial independence.

As with any game, there are also advanced methods to help you “win” as well. Strategies such as real estate investing, the “mega-backdoor Roth”, and travel hacking are more advanced and may not apply to your situation, but they still could be rules worth learning about that could help you some day.

Many people don’t take the time to learn these “rules” and are financially illiterate. This is how some people can have six-figure salaries, yet live paycheck to paycheck.

When you’re in this kind of situation and don’t know the rules, it’s very tough, if not impossible, to win the game in this sense. Financial Independence just may not be within reach.

So when you’re just starting out on this journey, take charge of what you’re consuming. Learn as much as you can, take the advice that applies to your situation and implement it.

You don’t have to do everything yourself, but at least having a base understanding of as many concepts and strategies as possible can only help you.

Although it’s tempting to charge full steam ahead to reach financial independence as fast as possible (and “win”), it’s key to remember to enjoy this journey along the way.

The only person you are racing against is yourself, and as this journey can be a long one, it’s not in most people’s best interest to put aside your short term happiness to reach this goal.

Besides, who says you can’t “win” while on this pursuit as well?


Do you look up all the rules when playing games? What life hacks, frugal tips, financial advice, etc has been most helpful for you along the journey to financial independence?

6 thoughts to “It’s Tough To Win The Game If You Don’t Know The Rules”

  1. This stuff should be taught to high school students. My high school tried, and focused on budgeting, but not why. Perhaps we were too young or they thought we were. Thus basics of budgeting and investing , and more importantly, why to do those things would be a net positive for our world.

    Good post!

  2. I’ve definitely gotten caught up in trying to win and be the fastest to get to FIRE. I’ve learned, though, that isn’t what is going to make me happier in the long run so I’ve drastically scaled back my efforts in some areas.

    1. Trying as hard as you can to win can definitely bring out some bad habits. Scaling back and being ok just “playing the game” can lead to much more enjoyment and fulfillment I think!

  3. I thought I was the only one who read the rules of board games when I was young. Glad to see I’m not alone! 😂

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