Do You Want To Play The Game?

I don’t believe in the whole work-life balance thing. I know. That’s not the most popular position. Everyone these days wants to tell you that you can have it all. Me? I almost died not long after I turned 30. One minute I was in Wales with a whole bunch of strangers wishing me happy birthday, and then the next I fell ill, and that was (almost) that.

So I have a different outlook on things.

My attitude is this: Life is short. You’re going to die. So, if you want something bad enough, you have to spend every minute you can trying to get it.

That doesn’t mean to be a neglectful asshole. If you have other obligations, you should live up to them. But in the time that you have that’s not otherwise committed, you should be working toward the thing that you want.

Because you either want it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Yours included.

This all sounds easier said than done, but you would not believe the number of people I’ve encountered over the years where you ask them what they want, and they don’t have an answer. Small businesses. Individuals. Not-for-profits. The heads of large corporations. More often than not, they don’t have an answer to that question. And because they don’t, nothing gets done. Employees are unhappy. Projects fail. Shareholders revolt. Nobody donates. The media rips you up.

I’m not saying you need to have an answer right now, but you should soon. And then you need to decide if that’s the thing you want to go after or not. Because if it’s not, you have to get out of the way. Other people are trying to get through.

And then if you do decide you want that thing, you have to ask yourself whether or not you want to play the game to get to it.

Because that’s all marketing is. It’s a game.

There’s no trick or secret to marketing, PR, advertising, or any of these industries where you have to promote something (yourself included). There’s a specific, repeatable formula that you follow.

It’s a game. You guide your character by following the formula, and you do your best to get to the end. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes obstacles get in the way, and sometimes other players have ways they can cheat to get ahead.

But here’s the catch: I’m convinced that once you start playing, you can’t stop. Or only play it half-way. You have this thing that you want, you commit yourself to getting it, and part of that commitment comes in the form of spending every free second you have playing the game and getting better at it.

You can take a break when it’s over. Ideally, after you’ve obtained the thing you’re after, but there’s no shame in quitting or stopping, as long as you know that’s what you want to do.

For me, this is an important framework for a lot of what I talk to people about. If you’re committed to playing the game, then I know you’ll follow each step of the process to promote something successfully and give it your best shot. If you’re not committed, that’s where bullshit happens.

And you all know how I feel about that.

So ask yourself this:

  1. What do I want?
  2. Do I want it bad enough to spend every waking moment trying to obtain it?

If the answer is no to the second question, then you’re wasting your time. If the answer is yes, then you have to learn how to play the game.