Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's All Fun and Games

I never read the popular life coaching book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten", but I kind of get the gist of it. It takes some of the simplistic early lessons we all experienced as children and equates it to life lessons we should still follow as adults.

For example: Share Everything, Play Fair, Don't Hit People, Say You're Sorry When You Hurt Someone, and blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, wouldn't be nice if we could all follow this credo? The problem is ALL of us need to do it for this to work. Not many of us will continue on if the other person doesn't share, plays fair, hits, or doesn't say sorry.

While we may have learned all the essentials on how to be nicer people in kindergarten, I have a few things to add that were missing from that book. Actually, I'm sure they were intended never to make it into the book (maybe this should be a book on its own). These are things we learned through games played during recess or in some friend's backyard. The lessons from these games prepared us not about necessary niceties in life, but how to look out for oneself and survive in the cut throat world of business. Below, are a few examples of these

Mother May I
A game of permission. In the children's version, one person plays the role of mother and stands facing away from a line of kids. Each child takes a turn asking if they can take a certain number of steps, until one person reaches Mother. "Mother, may I take three baby steps?" And depending on the whim of the person playing Mother, they would either grant your request or deny it.

Wow, what a way to become submissive. But an essential trait in kissing as in the corporate environment. Think about how many times you have had to lower your self-esteem and ask a superior for permission: May I take a 1 week vacation? May I take the morning off for my colonoscopy exam because my doctor said I had giant polyps near the endpoint of my large intestine and the start of my anus? Or, May I take all those heavy files on our group year-end reviews off your desk and directly to the HR office, I'm heading that way anyhow?

Hide and Seek
The classic childhood game where a group of people hide and try to be the last one found by the seeker.

One thing I've learned in business is that there are some people who hide really well from work responsibilities, and others who don't - kind of like the fat kid who thought no one saw him standing behind the Maple sapling.

There 's the one person who you never saw in the office. They had a desk, they had a nameplate, they had mail piling up, they had the red voicemail light on their telephone always lit up, but they somehow rarely were ever present. It got to the point you actually believed they were on some high level assignment, and you weren't going to be the one to question it. Your manager wasn't questioning it, so you couldn't even dare. These no-shows were a mystery. Stories would circulate. Some would take about how much business this person was doing or that they had become so specialized and were working on such high level strategic work they were now invaluable to the company. That person is the ultimate hider, the one who had the best spot and could never be found.

On the flip side, there's the guy in the office who thinks that if it's lunch time and he's sitting at his desk reading a book that the boss isn't going to see him, or care. They think they have this invisible "out to lunch" sign over their desk and that everyone should know not to bother them. Bullshit! Even though this guy shows up everyday, muddles through his work and doesn't make waves, he's the first one the boss is going to fire for being such a dork to hide in plain sight.

This one may not have been as popular and you may have known it under a different name. For instance, we called it, "Kill the Guy with the Ball".

It was quite straightforward. Within a contained area, like my friend Ron's backyard - the one filled with patchy grass and rocks - someone would be given a football and told to start running. The other eight or twenty kids would chase this ball carrier who was running for his life because the goal was to catch him, throw him to the ground and pummel him. The person who could run for the longest amount of time was the winner.

We didn't play this game too often, but the lessons it taught us for business were endless. The main one being, no one likes a ball hog, a.k.a the leader. You see, everyone is gunning for the top position but only one person can have it. Everyone is looking for some fault in the leader that will topple the regime and allow the next person to move up the ladder. As the leader, your goal is to run for as a long as possible because the longer you do so the better the payout package will be when you fall.

And the most important lesson of this game is, you will fall.

So, these are just a few examples of the activities we experienced in our youth that can be extrapolated to adulthood. And remember, it's still just fun and games.

Except when someone does get their eye poked, an infection develops, that person loses their eyesight, claims workman's comp, collects long term disabilities, sues the company for inadequate safety measures, wins a multi-million dollar court case because the jury is filled with out-of-work people who blame the large corporation for their own woes and sided with the little guy, but is later found to have committed insurance fraud because the person was seen on the golf course in Ft. Lauderdale driving the ball 180 yards, because they didn't really lose their eyesight it was just that the guy got a doctor to lie for him because he agreed to share the award proceeds from the lawsuit, but the jealous ex-wife hired a private detective to find out what the deadbeat was doing and then circulated the photos on her Facebook page until one of the woman's 358 friends - a prosecutor in the attorney general's office - saw it and decided to press charges because he knew it would help make a name for himself since he was passed over for promotion last year, and the game continues ....

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