Life Lessons I Learned From The Game of Monopoly

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If you like Monopoly, you’ll love this post.

I wrote a piece for on lessons we can learn from the game of Monopoly.

Current Photographer has some great articles for artists, photographers and techies alike. Trevor Current, photographer and website founder, has done work for the likes of Sony Corporation and Mars Inc.

Here’s a link to the post:

(article pasted below)


I love board games.

They pass the time, are generally easy to pick up, and offer a competitive outlet. One of the most popular board games of all-time is Monopoly. It has spawned dozens of spin-offs and would-be imitators.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who is not familiar with the game. Monopoly enjoys a passionate following, including University Presidents and CEOs.

One can learn a thing or two about life and business from the game of Monopoly, especially in retrospect.

Lesson 1:

If people don’t like you, even if it’s in their best interest, they will not do business with you.

I was preparing to play a game of Monopoly with a few friends while I was in college. Another resident (let’s call her “Stacy”) asked if she could join us. Stacy told us that she had played the game a few times in the past.

It quickly became clear that she didn’t understand the nuances of the game.

She made a number of terrible moves, including declining to buy property and ill-advised trades. I couldn’t contain my disdain for her play and made sure that she knew it.

Against counsel, she completed a mega-deal with another player. This player (we’ll call him “Jeff”) handled her with kid gloves. He never yelled or berated her. He just kept talking to her, reassuring her that she was playing a “good game”.

I still remember the smirk on Jeff’s face as he consummated the deal, all but cementing his victory.

She was so turned off by my criticism that she accepted an inferior deal that ensured she had no chance to win the game. Even Jeff conceded as much after the game was over.

I felt bad about criticizing her play, so I apologized to Stacy the next day.

That old saying about flies, vinegar and honey still rings true.

Lesson 2:

Consider the value of the people around you.

At the onset of one memorable game, a friend declared that he wouldn’t trade with three of the six players present:

“I’m not trading with you, you , or YOU” – a friend affectionately known as “T3″

It may have been bravado, or some lingering vendetta that inspired him to make that statement. Either way it made little sense to everyone else present at the table.

You never know who you’ll need to barter with during the game; Monopoly is a game that demands open lines of communication with other players.

Not surprisingly, “T3″  was one of the first players eliminated from the game.

In life, you need to to work with others. You never know what role the people you meet will play in your life. A neighbor might know someone that will get you your big break. A coworker might have a secret talent that meshes perfectly with one of your core competencies.

Nobody gets anywhere worth going to without assistance from others.

Don’t be a fish. Give yourself a chance to succeed by utilizing all the resources around you.

Lesson 3:

You get what you negotiate.

Monopoly is a fickle mistress.

Some games you’ll land on Park Place and Boardwalk with consecutive rolls. Other games, you’ll go three times around the board and have only one property to show for it.

No matter how you start, one thing you can control is how you play the game.

You don’t have to sit back and accept your lot in the game. Good players realize that rolling the dice is only a small portion of the game. A shrewd negotiator can flip the entire game on it’s head, even nullifying the considerable luck factor present in Monopoly.

John Wooden, arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all-time, made a fraction of what other successful coaches made because he didn’t negotiate his salary. He simply told UCLA administrators to pay him a decent salary.

Not surprisingly, UCLA never had to break the bank to retain him.

His salary never topped $40,000; even adjusting for inflation, that’s a pittance for any elite college basketball coach.

Money isn’t everything, but there’s nothing wrong with receiving compensation commensurate with your value.

This much is certain: you’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask for it.

Life is full of subtle negotiations; you must be able to sway others to your line of thinking.

Do yourself a favor—become a competent negotiator.

Lesson 4:

Creativity and persistence will take you far.

Moving your token around the board is good and fun, but the most exciting part of the game is the in-game negotiation.

Acquiring property or protection through trade is critical in Monopoly.

I’ve been in games where individual turns lasted 40 minutes, furious wheeling and dealing before every roll of the dice. Navigating the houses and hotels late in the game can be daunting; especially if you’re low on cash and your competitors control most of the board.

You can’t rely on “splitting the defense” (i.e. landing on safe spots amid a stretch of enemy property). Be proactive. Institute measures that increase the chances of success.

Virtually all of my experience in Monopoly has been under “house rules”. Players would form partnerships, grant immunity, and construct all sorts of convoluted deals in pursuit of winning the game (or just delaying bankruptcy). Reasoned deviation from the rule book enhanced the game. (who hasn’t put money on the Free Parking space?)

In Monopoly, there are countless ways to win the game. You don’t need to obtain the most expensive monopoly to be the sole survivor at the end of the game. Players who were wrecked by misfortune early in the game, have come roaring back by using unconventional methods of game play.

Redefining the problem facilitates problem solving. Consider all of the methods you could use to achieve your goal.  “Meta-cognition”(thinking about thinking) trains your brain to look for solutions beyond the obvious and helps determine what you need to do to get what you want.

Creativity and ingenuity can forge new paths to victory in Monopoly.

That goes double for the game of life.

Lesson 5:

When things aren’t going your way, flip the board over and walk away.

Just kidding.

Flipping over the game is the ultimate display of poor sportsmanship and can foster lingering resentment.

However, it does illuminate an important point:

Sometimes it’s best just to start over (or better yet, not travel down that path in the first place).

A concerted focus on talents and interests is a hallmark of successful people.

In Monopoly, your immediate goal is to land complete set of properties. Focus your efforts on landing any monopoly early in the game (even the lowly purple group). You may snag one piece of every property group to block any monopoly attempts, but the instant you have a chance to trade for a complete set, you do it.

You’d do well to adopt a similar strategy in life and business.

The more deliberate effort spent on a single pursuit, the quicker you can achieve mastery level. Star performers receive a disproportionate amount of attention and requests from the marketplace. When you are regarded as the best in your industry, people seek you out (when was the last time you saw a television ad for Harvard University?). When we want an essential good or service, we want it from the best. Skilled specialists have an easier time attracting and retaining clients than mediocre general practitioners

Acquiring and retaining clients is of the utmost importance for photographers. A deft touch behind the lens and with prospective customers is a prerequisite for enduring success. Focus your time and effort on the activities that will reap the biggest rewards for your photography business.

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