It all really is just a game...
There is a book entitled "A History of The World in 10 1/2 Chapters" *which is a collection of short stories loosely connected. In one of these stories called The Dream, the main character finds himself in heaven; as the story unfolds he wants feedback and a judgment.
"I wanted, oh, some kind of summing-up, I wanted my life looked at".
In the great halls of heaven he was told, "You're OK"..."No, really, you're OK". He confessed later that he was a "bit disappointed", and was told, "most people are, but not to take it as any reflection of himself".
This would be an easy segue into people leadership regarding timely and constructive feedback for individuals and teams but when I first read this, I immediately thought of the metaphor, "Life is a Game" and like all games, when it's over, you want to know how you did..."
Technically speaking, gamesmanship is the practice of winning a game or contest by doing things that seem unfair but that are not actually against the rules, but I also want to look at games in a broader sense... particularly in regards to "winning" (or at least having great fun while you play). We should remember, life is one of those games we all must play and sometimes the situations can be very, very hard, with literal life and death stakes. For the sake of what I am talking about let's assume we are dealing with a safe and sound version of life.
There are a couple of things that instantaneously come to mind about playing games and gamesmanship:
- What game(s) can you play at?
- What are your skills, aptitude, and emotional ability?
- Do you know the rules?
- Do you know when you are winning, stalemated or losing?
- Does the game feed your soul?
It is important to understand your strengths and play to them, and you will not be able to play every game.
This is a simple matter of "time and space" as you just physically can't do it all, but also your talents and skills may not lend themselves to you being "an astronaut", "a singer" or "a neurosurgeon"; there are some games you just can't play.
When our mothers said, "we can be whatever you want to be", just remember they love us. For most of us, our skills and abilities will allow us to play many games, keep us busy, and fulfilled... it just may not be what we dreamt of when we were seven.
Winning, something most of us strive to do, is defined as, "gaining, resulting in, or relating to victory in a contest or competition" **, and can be objective or subjective (look at figure skating). It is always relative to something and my recommendation is winning should be relative to your personal objectives.
In many cases your personal objectives may align with someone else's expectations, but not always; how successful you are comes from within and should be defined by you. It will make you happier this way.
Knowing the rules of the game is key.
It is in knowing these rules and aligning them with your abilities that will determine how well you play.... put another way, "the better you understand how something is done, the better you will be at it".
And this is where the true definition of gamesmanship comes in. Knowing how to play so well, you can leverage this knowledge of the game to your advantage.
And one last thing, remember to do it for the "For the Love of the Game"... it will help you through those times when the dice just keeps coming up "snake eyes".***
* Julian Barnes wrote A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters.
** Winning as defined by BING on the Internet.
*** The odds of rolling snake eyes on two six-sided dice are 1-in-36. In some board games, this roll earns the player a bonus due to it being rare and otherwise disadvantageous.