Who doesn't want to game the system? I don't mean lying, cheating, and stealing your way to the top. I'm talking about living your life in a successful, fun, and compounding system - like that of a game!
As a child, I remember loving games, specifically video games. I'd come home from school to boot up my desktop (with no real video card, a whopping 80GB of disk space, and an upgraded 2GB of RAM), log into RuneScape, and start the grind - all the while praying that no one disrupted my dial-up connection by calling the house!
All my friends played and, boy, were we a competitive batch. Especially in the early stages of the game, it was empowering to come into school the following day to find out that I had gained more levels than anyone else in my group, completed a quest that no one else had, or had found a rare item! On the other hand, it was frustrating and also motivating to find out that someone else had beaten me to the chase!
Back in grade school, my friends and I fell into the category of nerds. I'll be the first to admit it - actually, I take pride in it! We found passion in the inspiring - tales of dragons, adventure, mythology, and valor resonated with us and dictated what we did in our free time. Of course, playing RuneScape, those values carried over and fueled our desire to be the strongest! But, I had a friend (let's call him E) who didn't fit our nerdy cookie-cutter mold. While most of the nerds were picked on, E was actually pretty popular. And while most people outside of our circle didn't know it, in RuneScape, he was also hands-down the best.
Game the System
"Best" is a subjective term, but when I say "best", I mean he was the best in EVERYTHING. He was the strongest fighter, the craftiest crafter, the best miner, and had the most quests completed! Despite RuneScape being a nerd's playground, E managed to trump everyone in our group - and do it by a landslide!
Despite us all having the same amount of time invested, E's accomplishments always outweighed ours. We couldn't understand it! From our perspectives, we were doing everything right, yet every time we compared our characters to E's character, the gap only widened!
Looking back now, it's easy to see why we didn't succeed and why E did. Simply, E knew how to game the system! Rather than jump in and just start killing things randomly, he found objectives that he wanted to obtain then determined achievable goals on how to get what he wanted. While we were aimlessly wandering, E was learning the unwritten rules of the game and following a predetermined path to success. E didn't break any rules, he didn't use any cheats - he did what no one else was doing to become successful in the game!
While RuneScape might just be a game, the ability to attain success in it should hold some weight. There are too many parallels between it and our own world! Both are centered on real-time success, meaning that no one has more of an advantage than anyone else. Both have a set of restrictions you have to follow or risk being punished, meaning that everyone has the same capabilities. Finally, both have a financial system in place that rewards certain achievements and feats, meaning that our actions bring varied results!
My opinion (which, I know, isn't a popular one) is that our lives are actually very similar to games, at least ones of this type. The key similarity I'll be referring to in this article is that despite having the same limited resources, some people succeed while others don't.
Whether it be games or life, some will always reject the concept of a self-made hierarchy. People refuse to believe that doing things differently than how you've been told can achieve positive results! They want to believe that they're taking the steps necessary to succeed because they've been taught that this is how you make it. The truth is that the system (the government, our schools, possibly even our parenting) creates an environment which fosters and reinforces mediocrity - where "success" is achieving average or juuusst above it.
You're here because you actively want to beat "average". You can't do following the path the system lays out for you.
The reason being that following "the system" limits our options. Everyone's heard that the definition of insanity is to perform in the same way and expect different results. But the fastest way to learn is to learn from others - if what they're doing isn't working, it's INSANE to expect a different result! To break free from mediocrity, you can't do what everyone else does! You need to deviate - first by understanding and acknowledging the hierarchy of our world.
Everything you can do (the world)
- Everything you're allowed to do (the rules)
- Everything you're told to do (the system)
To visually represent what it looks like...
Notice that the "system" category is the smallest and contains the least amount of options. Most people live in the grey "system" circle, limiting their opportunities because they truly believe that they're doing all they can do. Because they believe this so wholeheartedly, they associate the system and the rules into a single analogous category. Then when they see others operating outside of the system, but inside of the rules, they reject the action as "illegal" because the action is outside of the traditional scope of "system"!
If you've ever heard anyone whine about the injustice of large companies dodging taxes, this is a perfect example of this fallacy! The whiners refuse to accept that these companies are playing "the game" by the same rules as them. Herein lies the true disconnect.
People inherently reject that which they don't understand. The aforementioned complaining party doesn't understand the rules so they reject them. Is that the fault of someone who knows the rules or the fault of someone who doesn't? Both parties are playing the same game - one has just taken the time to actually read the rule book!
Playing the Game
To game the system, you first have to understand that there's more BEYOND the system! You need to be the party who knows what to do. You need to learn the rules!
With information being free and so easily accessible, there's NO excuse to NOT understand what you're up against! If you see someone doing something that violates "the system", don't bash them - instead Google how they do it so that you can add their skills to your arsenal! Chances are, it's applicable to everyone and you just didn't know it! It's like retiring early - it isn't difficult, but most people don't know it's possible so they deem it impossible!
To break free from the system, intentionally look towards other people who have the achievements you want to obtain. This is your leaderboard! What did they do to get there that was different from everyone else? More importantly, what DIDN'T they do that everyone else did? Find enough of these examples and you'll be able to see what lies outside of the system.
Instead of a "You can't do that!" mindset, have a "How can I do it?" mentality. You'll find very quickly that you'll separate yourself from "average" if you actively think about how to improve yourself, rather than bash others for doing what you aren't.
Finally, you need to view your time and your finances as a game! The enjoyment of any game doesn't come from where you'll eventually be, but how you get there! The same is true with our own lives. If you intentionally strive to play the game the best you can, you will enjoy playing it! It's not about the result, it's about the pursuit of the result.
Doing this, you can be as successful as you want, but only you will be able to make it happen! And the thing you'll find is, if you view your time and finances as a game, you'll start associating the events in your life to the events in games (which are actually enjoyable)! That quest to obtain experience and a small item (which leads you to bigger, more rewarding quests) is right around the corner in your own life! It's just up to you whether or not you take it.
So game the system.
And what ever happened to E? Well, E has successfully completed his undergraduate degree and is now pursuing med school while working at a Walgreen's pharmacy. Taking the same approach he took in RuneScape, he's defined his goals and taken the necessary steps to achieve them. I'm sure he will get there and he's having a blast doing it!
Readers, if you've ever gamed, what made the games you played enjoyable? How can you take that enjoyment and apply it to your own pursuits?