Play the Game

“Sometimes you have to play the game”

My father would utter the phrase when he sensed I was pushing up against the rules, be they ones created for our baseball team or those enforced at home.

I knew what he meant, although I didn’t want to admit it at the time.

Go with the flow.

Don’t fight the inevitable.

The process is bigger than the individual.

Remember the scene in Office Space when Joanna is criticized for wearing the minimum fifteen items of flair while her annoying enthusiastic coworker, Brian, wore 37 pieces?  Brian knew how to play the game while Joanna didn’t feel comfortable doing so.


Yes, I got the message loud and clear. Sometimes it was easier to play the game than fight the system.  That’s how it worked. That’s what I was supposed to accept. I felt like 15 pieces of flair were enough and didn’t want to add another 22.

I can hear my father’s voice when I run into a process I don’t understand: just play the game.

Lately, I’ve found myself unwilling to play the game because it feels fake. What makes it difficult is when many people around you are professional players. They know the game inside and out and expect you to go along with them. But this never leads to happiness.

Like the time I went through the gauntlet of interviews at the University of Utah only to find out few of the companies were hiring. Somehow that process was supposed to be valuable to us down the road, but I wasn’t aware the joke was on me from the start.

At what point in life does one stop playing the game?

I am playing it less than I used to, and my soul feels better for it. As I get older, I find it’s often easier to let others play the game and coast in their wake doing my own thing. Let them work the front lines while I sit back and observe.

Game over.

4 thoughts on “Play the Game

  1. We all play the game but consier that the game has some value in that it establishes a sense of order and timing to things and gives people the predictability in life that we all need (althoughwe claim we don't like it.) The problem to me isn't so much the game as the people who deceitfully maipulate the game for fun and profit. Next time we talk I'll have to share with you the body of research I've studied about the importance of teaching kids, especially those who experience generational poverty, the importance of learning andplaying the game.


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