If it's just a game, why bother playing?

Kurt is angry.

He tells me he and his wife had a heated argument last night, during which she told him he’s “wasting his life” trying to improve his ability to play “a made-up game.”*

Is Kurt playing a made-up game? Yes!  Odds are, so are you.

The game (profession, obsession, pastime, hobby) to which you’ve devoted so much of your money, time, resources, passion, and energy may be, well, largely fiction.

Just about everything you can point to about your game is an invention, the result of some (inspired, crazy, sensible) idea some other human had.

Go ahead, try it: write down all the rules of the game you’re playing.

Now, erase all the rules that human beings created.

What’s left?  Very little.

Is Kurt’s wife right? Not necessarily.

Improving your ability to play a made-up game isn’t proof that you’re wasting your life.  The fact that your game of choice was invented does not necessarily mean it’s worthless.

Humans are creative beings, and we invent and choose the games we do as a reflection of who we are and wish to become.

There are games that place a premium on cooperation, games that emphasize competition, and games that you play entirely alone.

There are games in which a judge’s opinion of the player’s movements is paramount, games in which the judges have a very limited role, games in which you judge yourself, and games with no judges at all.

The boundaries and rules we select and voluntarily impose on the game (and ourselves) give us structure and clarity.

The boundaries and rules we devise allow us to test ourselves within those boundaries.  On occasion, we come up with creative, breathtaking, and stunning innovation that we, and our fellow players, cannot ignore. This leads to conversation, discussion, argument, adoption, or rejection of the innovation.  Sometimes, it even leads to us changing the rules of the game or inventing a new game altogether. It always leads to individual players having to decide what to do with the new innovation: learn it immediately, see what your coach prefers, reject it wholeheartedly, etc.

Do you choose your game? Yes.

Yet some games seem to also call out to you, whether because of their challenge, their seeming impossibility, their convenience, or some other indefinable sense that this game is where you belong.

Does your game change you? Absolutely.

Whatever you practice regularly changes you, physically and mentally, into someone else. It will prune you, just as a gardener prunes a rosebush, as it encourages you to develop some attributes and eliminate others.

Yes, we humans are making and have made up all of our games. That’s fine.

That’s not a reason to sit on the sidelines!

That is an invitation to choose your game wisely and to innovate with passion and care. Approach your game with wisdom, passion, and care, and you are in a fine position to enjoy playing your game in the present and to reminisce fondly about the adventures of your playing days in your future. You may even achieve the ultimate prize: deep gratitude to the game for making you into a person you respect and like.

If you’re ready to enter this New Year with wisdom, passion, and care, these questions are for you:

What game was I playing last year?

In this New Year, do I want to play this game differently? Choose a different game altogether?

Who will I become if I continue to play this game?