A few things worth noting here…
1 | The things you need in a survival situation are developed during play. In other words, you become equipped for survival based on what you do during play.
Play is how you develop rapport, how you learn to work with each other, and how you stress-test the dynamic between you and someone else. In those moments when you need someone to turn to — it’s your playmates you’re going to call. Play is where you develop the relationships that you need to lean on when you find yourself in survival mode.
Play is also where you experiment with things, where you iterate on ideas, and where you develop a deep understanding of how stuff works. It’s this exact understanding that you’ll call on in survival.
2 | Survival is precise, but play fluctuates.
Trying to apply a survival mentality to a game of play means that you’ll be the loser.
Play evades all the rules of survival. It’s not about precision, and you can’t control it. It’s about the human interactions, and the mutually-generated rules that govern the group.
Your only way of succeeding in play is to engage with the group.
When you’re taking yourself too seriously, it’s an indicator that you’re in survival mode. And that stance ends up ruining the game for everyone…
Everyone who’s playing the game has an equal stake: all want to enjoy playing their part. If the game stops serving that purpose, they’ll leave and find a new game that does work for them. “Enjoy” doesn’t mean have it easy. It simply means they want to feel some sense of satisfaction from doing it.
And so, everyone will cooperate within reason with the needs of others and with the rules as they’re generated.
Problems crop up, however, when one person takes their own interpretation of the game too seriously.
Because everyone else isn’t there to play your game. They’re not there to make sure things go in the way that makes it pleasant for you. They’re there to play a fun game for them. And they’ll cooperate within reason with all other players in order to keep the game going. If the game ends, after all, that’s no fun for anyone.
So all players are willing to make some concessions and to abide by the agreed-upon rules in order to keep everyone happy so that the game continues. But as soon as someone starts acting like the game is supposed to be one very specific thing — more specific than what the group has agreed upon — if he starts behaving in a way that demands all other players to follow suit, and if all other players don’t like playing that way, the game will fall apart as the other players lose their interest.
When you make it too serious — when you pretend like it’s all survival — you’ve stopped playing. You’ve made it about you.
When you try to control the game too tightly, you lose.
When you obsess too needily over how things are going, how the other players are doing, you lose.
When you stop fighting through the problems that come up with the other players, you lose.
Creating anything worthwhile — doing anything generative — comes only from play
Only part of life is survival. The rest is play.
Play is where we generate, create, and connect. It’s where the magic of life happens.
The key part we often forget is that it should be treated like play. Most things in life should be treated like play.
Your world is a playground, full of invitations to join in. There are always group-generated rules for collaboration, and fighting to keep the thing going. When you can recognize these moments for what they are, you’ll become a much better player… and somewhat surprisingly, a lot of those outcomes you’ve been searching for will reveal themselves in your life after you (re)learn to play.