There are times when you need to break free of the masses and do your own thing. Don’t panic, I am not promoting you go through life alone or do the opposite of what everyone else does all the time. And I am not a gamer at all, but I borrowed this term after listening to a podcast with Tim Ferriss and Naval Ravikant, and thought it very appropriate for today’s blog post.
Keep in mind, the consensus of a large group is not always the right thing, and it does not mean its the right thing for you even if the group is correct. The problem with group think from its origin is that it needs consensus to work, otherwise it would fracture and fall apart.
We live in a country granting us some amazing freedoms, but we live in a culture that strives for conformity in many ways. From political stances to “challenges” on social media, the herd mentality is easy to fall into. We as human beings need to be a part of a society, have friends and a group of people that see life the way we do. But this gets carried way too far, especially when we are younger. Those couple of people who rebelled against the norms in high school ended up hanging out with each other, somewhat out of necessity, as we have to have interaction with others to survive in life. It is in our DNA, and to deny that is fruitless. But to bend your life to the whims of a group that you are a member of is not healthy either. You quickly lose your sense of being an individual.
One thing I profess all the time is to think for yourself. You need to consider all sides of an argument or discuss, do some research on your own, and then come to a conclusion. Here is an example ripped right from the headlines of any year, but plenty of it during 2020. “An African American man is shot and killed by police…” I am going to stop the headline read right there to emphasize my point. In a world where the mainstream media and news outlets rush to be FIRST, not necessarily correct or to report ALL of the details, our tendency is to read these few words and form an opinion right away. THIS IS THE FIRST PROBLEM in this equation… you didn’t get any context or detail, you got a smidge of information and your brain filled in the gaps with information from your previous experiences, personal biases, etc.
I’ll give you an example that a friend shared with me quite a while ago that really stuck with me. He was sitting on a train headed home from work one afternoon (he lived on the East Coast, and this was his typical means of transportation working in a big city) and there was a father with three kids in the same car he was in. The kids were loud and unruly, clearly misbehaving despite being in a public situation. The father just sat there, staring at the floor, seemingly unconcerned about their disruptive behavior.
Being the diplomat my friend is, instead of yelling at the kids or confronting the dad, he leaned over and ask him :Is everything ok? Your kids seem to be disrupting everyone, and I thought I should say something.” The dad looked up at him and said “I am sorry, we just left the hospital, and I had to tell the kids that mommy is not coming home with us. I don’t think they are handling it very well, and I don’t know what to do.” This story is the PERFECT example of how more information about a situation would completely change how you feel and react to it.
NEXT PROBLEM…someone else starts talking about this same situation, and their opinions influence your thoughts and feelings about this situation.
This cascade of events continues and within hours you have formed a solid opinion on this scenario without any more information being added into the decision-making process. That 10 word headline has become embedded in your psyche as the sum total of the situation. Now it will be difficult to round out your real thoughts about this situation for several reasons:
1. More stuff will happen, and in our hyper-connected world we will be made aware of it anywhere it happens, the moment it happens.
2. You will be concerned about sharing your opinion with others that you are not totally sure will share your point of view on this. That equals one thing: echo chamber
3. Some situations are in fact very tenuous and need to be handled differently, but most of
us don’t take the time and allocate the mind space to do so.
So, back to the Single Player theory…the reason this analogy caught my attention when Naval mentioned it was I thought it is the perfect synopsis of how we should strive to live our lives. I love the idea that we should be striving to function as an individual within the society as a primary roadmap is key, in my opinion, to a happy life that also contributes to the greater good. I am not advocating that you become a monk or move to a isolated cabin in the wilderness of Alaska, what I am saying is that you need to make your own decisions, form your own opinions and views, and then share those with your circle of influence. You need to pause and reflect, not just pick up a rock and join the angry mob before you know what they are protesting.
If your friendships hang in the balance of what you think and feel about certain topics, you may need to reevaluate those relationships. Lately I have been getting into more and more conversations in the realm of seemingly uncomfortable topics within my circle of friends. I feel comfortable doing so because of the relationships I have with these people; I do not think our friendship is on the line by having civil discussions with opposing viewpoints. I do think that I learn more form these conversations than in most any other format, because I get person accounts of why this person has a different viewpoint than I do. And I honestly believe this strengthens our friendship, not weakens it. I enter those conversations with my own opinions, but very much open to listening to others so I can learn their view of the situation and maybe even change my own opinion because of it.
If you have been paying attention throughout this blog, you’ll notice that I am talking about real interaction with real people, not the disconnected social media type of interaction. Although I am trying to build a brand for my speaking and consulting business, I am not trying to communicate in a non-personal method with the masses on topics such as I discussed above. I don’t take a political stance, post it with a “Come at me Bro” attitude, ready to argue via the social medium of choice. I don’t wish to convince anyone that their viewpoint is wrong just because it is different than mine. This seems to occur most on Facebook, which I deleted awhile ago after watching The Social Dilemma documentary anyway. That seemed to relieve a lot of this noise from my life right there…
A Single Player Game lifestyle is one with a different approach than most. In my own example, I try to stop and pause, ask myself “what else is there to this situation that I am not yet aware of?” and try to not jump to easy conclusions. We as humans try to batch everything into convenient groups in our minds, making sense of something that we are unfamiliar with. In some ways, this is an efficient operating system, such as when facing danger. If you’ve never encountered a tiger in the wild, you instinctively know quickly that this is as dangerous as other large predators would be. In this case, batching information is very helpful. In many social interactions, is a detriment to the process, not a help. A Single Game Player develops a strong sense of their own morals and ethics, and checks decisions and opinions against these measuring sticks FIRST before ever caring what others think as a primary measure of validity.
This approach also applies to happiness and self esteem as well. You do not want to let the outside world dictate how you feel about yourself, as this is a recipe for disaster. There will always be someone who finds some arbitrary reason to belittle you, especially when it can be done from a distance with no real ramifications. Ask Mike Tyson was quoted recently saying: “People have forgotten what it is like to get punched in the face for saying something bad about someone.” When you are a tough kid from the streets, this is how everything was handled. And he is right, if your Twitter or Insta bio had to include your phone number and home address, almost everyone would conduct themselves very differently. Knowing that you could be confronted for bashing on someone, or even just a snarky comment intended mainly to get a laugh from others, would institute a sweeping change on social media.
The main takeaway is this: You need to be far more interested in what you think about yourself and the world around you then you should be about the collective opinion regarding these things. Strive to turn down the external noise, and focus on the internal dialog about the world that you are listening to. If there are things you are hearing you don’t like the sound of, you need to work to change that. You are not going to have much if any luck trying to change the masses, but you can certainly make some major changes for yourself. This will get you well on your way to playing that Single Payer Game, and in many ways make you a better member of society at large. You may even have some influence on others because of the way you live your life; believe me, people will notice. When you set the standards and expectations for your life, you will likely achieve more, and certainly be a happier person in general.