Money Game

Once you have enough money to cover your needs then money is just a game.

Whether you’re a billionaire or a homeless person, everything goes to zero when you die. The only thing that may be preserved is a legacy, but that legacy is for other conscious minds to perceive. Although most of us already know that we can’t take money with us to our graves, it’s not enough to cease our pursuit of wealth. This is because knowledge is theoretical, meaning that it’s not enough to influence our daily behavior. Money is so interwoven into the fabric of society that it remains one of the most important aspects for the majority of our lives.

Nothingness of Money

What’s so great about having tons of money anyway? Sure, you get access to more “stuff” but that’s not intrinsically beneficial. In fact, possessing lots of stuff actually increases stress and drains energy from you. Having a lot of money allows you to fly in private jets, vacate on yachts and have opulent experiences that the average person can’t. These may be nice to have but they aren’t necessary for happiness or wellbeing. Actually, you can have many profound and meaningful experiences without a lot of money. Many don’t believe this is true because the notion luxury=hapiness has been ingrained in us for centuries. It’s a company’s job to make money, so they spend a lot of resources to convince you that the best experiences are bought. Marketing professionals are really good at what they do and have been developing ways to make us want to consume stuff for centuries. No wonder social media is so addicting. The truth is, once you have enough to live comfortably, money is simply a game[1]. And games aren’t a matter of life and death, they’re just meant to be played for fun.

People who are good at the money game know how to get other people to give them their money. To understand why someone would give another person their money, we need to understand what money is. Money is a way of moving wealth; Wealth is stuff we want. We want good health, food, clothes, houses, cars, gadgets, and to travel. If you’re on an island with a population of three people and everyone has a billion dollars except you, but you’re the only person with shelter, food, and tools, then the other people may be rich, but you are wealthy. The other guys on the island will pay you for your food and shelter, presumably for more than it cost you to produce it.

Advanced players find ways to increase their value output while minimizing their input. The game requires you to interact and negotiate with people to ultimately help you create and build things. The best at the game use their creativity to enhance their processes and systems or to find entirely new ways of doing things. It isn’t really about working hard; many broke people work just as hard as Elon Musk. The ability to work hard in the game of money is as fundamental as the ability to see in the game of basketball. It’s not necessarily going to make you good, but it’s a required trait. However, there are a few more strategies anyone can use to help them become good at the game.

The money game has a nonlinear ending so you can’t win, but you can try to reach the leaderboards. And not everyone who plays is trying to reach a high score, some people simply enjoy free roam and the artistic aspect of games. There are tangential criteria for success such as the impact you’ve had on people and society.

The money game is multifaceted, fluid, and complex and the rules are constantly changing. There are plenty of other ways to accumulate money, including chance, speculation, marriage, inheritance, theft, extortion, fraud, monopoly, graft, lobbying, counterfeiting, and prospecting. But many of those are against the rules (illegal) or rely on chance, so I want to focus on the legitimate method which is creating wealth.

In our generation, there are a few proven strategies that work. First off, there’s only so much energy one person can expend on daily tasks, so using leverage allows you to build and create more things faster. Every successful company uses leverage to provide the level of service that they do. Although the founder/CEO usually gets the most credit, they could not have done it alone. A business would not be successful if they didn’t use some form of leverage. Leverage doesn’t have to be money; you can leverage machines, people, and technology.

Another key to getting good at the game is the ability to understand people and to be good with people. If you know a group of people extremely well—you know everything about what they like, don’t like, what they’re scared of, how they act, etc., then it becomes easier to create something they value (product/service) and how best to tell them about it (marketing). If you’re good with people, you can also make valuable connections to do business with (employees, investors, partners, customers) by leveraging their knowledge/resources for your business.

The money game is really fun. It’s rewarding in many ways to build something of value that people need, love, and appreciate. The resulting financial gain from building a successful company is the byproduct of creating value for a large group of people. In the game, your net worth is simply the scorecard. Nothing more, nothing less. As with every game, you sometimes need to risk in order to take longer strides. You also need to experiment by trying (and failing) to learn and get better. Sometimes you struggle and sometimes you lose, but that’s how you improve and become a master at the game.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets to start from the same starting point. Some players get a head start, and some start way behind the pack. Generally, every single person feels less privileged than they actually are. Studies show that even the wealthiest people in their country believe their incomes are below average. Those born into poverty or with a major disability have the greatest disadvantage because poverty can be very difficult to escape, and playing the money game with a major disability adds an unfair layer of difficulty to that person. In addition to inequalities, players should also be aware that the money game has cheaters and unethical players, and it also has altruistic and genuine players. You will almost certainly run into both while playing.

History shows that just because you start late or are underprivileged doesn’t mean you can’t get good at the game. There are many self-made individuals who defied all odds by channeling their inner persistence and determination. It isn’t easy and it’s not fair to start from the back, but if you understand how growth works, it can help you stay motivated.

Growth works like compound interest; Growth takes a much longer time than you initially think. And then it happens much faster than you ever would have thought. Growth happens gradually, then suddenly. When you realize this, you start to do things differently. You begin to think and act with long-term intention. The growth paradox explains how Elon Musk could amass a net worth 120x greater than Donald Trump despite Trump being born into wealth and Elon bootstrapping his own ventures. It explains how 99.9% of Elon’s net worth came in the last year while the other 0.1% grew during his other 30 years of business[2]. Elon understands the rules and strategies of the game: He uses leverage effectively, he is really good with people, he creates and builds things of value, he takes risks, and he understands the growth paradox.

What’s great about getting good at the game is the versatility that comes with a lot of money. It can be used for a lot of things and it’s up to you how you want to use it. If you’re passionate about helping people, you can use your money to build schools or improve healthcare. The ethics of this is arguable, but even if you want the world to work a certain way, there are (legal) methods of using money to influence government policies towards your own beliefs and values[3]. When you’re good at the money game, you are in a better position to make a larger impact on the world to cater to your vision. In a sense, money=power.

It’s important that the game is modified to reward good conscientious capitalists rather than sleazy players, and since the referees of the game are sovereign governments, they are the ones who ultimately set the rules. In democracies, the mass population votes for who referees our game, so they ultimately have more power than the government or large corporations. The past few years have shown the power and influence the masses can have over larger players[4], and Blockchain and Defi are empowering democracy and promoting fair play. Technology and the internet are becoming great equalizers by gradually leveling the playing field. They make education more accessible to all, they lower the costs of starting businesses, and they allow for decentralized money pooling for a just cause.

I think the most important step in making the money game less vilified and more fun to play is to enable everyone to make enough money to live comfortably and afford necessities stress-free. This gives people more energy to direct toward innovation and value creation. A world where everyone is excited to play the money game is a world with unbelievable technological advances which greatly benefit society and humanity. It’s a world of unifying effort to create value and to serve others. This world may be a utopia, but I do believe we can at least cleanse the game a bit by voting for altruistic, benevolent people as referees, and teaching good virtue. Modifying the game to be more decentralized and transparent also promotes a healthier playing field. It’s a world of less depression and soulless wealth-pursuit when we treat money as just a game.

Once you have enough money to live comfortably, money is just a game[5]. It’s meant to be played and enjoyed, but not taken too seriously. It’s mutable, so what worked yesterday will not always work tomorrow, but that’s what makes it fun. Players must continually develop new ways to create value. Without further ado, let the games begin!

[1] This is relative. What’s considered a comfortable lifestyle varies from person to person, but generally, people need a lot less stuff than they think in order to be comfortable. Most importantly, to achieve comfort, everyone must have their psychological needs taken care of, and their health covered. Everything else is of secondary importance.

[2] Warren Buffet started seriously investing at the age of 10. By the time he was 30, he had a net worth of $1 million. Today at age 91, Buffet has a net worth of over $100 billion. Over 99% of his wealth came after the age of 50.

[3] The Koch family has one of the largest influences on modern American politics which trickles into society and the economy. In an interview at Stanford, billionaire venture capitalist, Chamath Palihapitiya explained how money is an instrument of change that should be used to make the world a better place.

[4] The recent Gamestop and AMC short squeeze proved the power and dominance of the (smaller in size but larger in number) retail investor over larger players. The general population is strong and powerful when we work together.

[5] If you look at self-made billionaires, most don’t actually overindulge in luxury. Their frugal nature is what allowed them to reach that level of wealth and they often don’t change that when they reach wealthy status. At that point, they have more money than they could ever spend and yet they continue to try to get more. And it’s definitely not because they need more.