You can play life in three ways

By Hampus Jakobsson

We spend a lot of our time trying to predict, plan, and steer so that we get the best possible outcome — in society, in our company, and in life in general. In startups, in particular, I find one winning strategy.

There are three different ways of understanding these systems: as a game of dice, poker, or chess.

If you believe life is like dice, you find it random or perfectly predicted and controlled by a greater being. You are either rather miserable or very devout. Why you didn’t get the job? Well, who knows? Or, God didn’t want that for you. I find it very hard to work with people that run their life this way.

If life is chess, well then you can plan everything. Chess is not so much a game as a computational challenge. The person who computes the fastest and with the best focus will inarguably win. I also find these people hard to work with.

I find life to be like poker. There is a lot of hidden information. Sometimes you have a great hand and lose. Sometimes you have a bad hand and win. The way to get better is to understand what one doesn’t know and how likely the outcomes are. Some people play life as a cash poker game, trying to win every hand, some play life as a tournament and think more longterm.

The differences in life and poker are that there are too many cards for you to calculate probabilities in life. You just have to guess more. And, in life, it is not a zero-sum game. Someone doesn’t have to lose, for you to win. But, that is a topic for another blog post.