That’s Just How You Play The Game… Right?


A few weeks ago, two friends of mine came over for dinner and to relax a bit on a Monday night.  It was nothing formal – just a little bit of respite from the week.  One of them arrived a little later than the other and just a bit before 8 PM, came charging into my house and wanted to be sure we were all ready for the show at 8.  Show?  What show?  Ladies and gentlemen… it came to my attention that we would be watching a little thing called “Bachelor Pad” that evening, brought to us by the fine folks at the American Broadcast Company.  God help me.

“Bachelor Pad” is fairly similar to most reality TV shows where contestants are competing for some kind of cash prize at the end: there are roughly two different groups (in this case, men and women who did not make the cut in either “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette”) who compete in weekly competitions to gain immunity from being kicked off the show/out of the house/off the island, etc. There’s nothing remarkable in any of that – that’s the formula with the only real wrinkle being that almost every person on the show is really attractive and there are all sorts of… err… “romantic” entanglements.

Now, I try to avoid reality TV shows like the plague – I just find them absolutely awful on almost any level I can think of.  I will allow for a bit of leeway on a show that is really structured more like an on-going documentary (such as past seasons of “Hard Knocks” on HBO or something to that effect), but things like “Jersey Shore” just make my skin crawl since it’s really just a glorification of the worst elements of people’s lives recorded, cut down to the juicy bits and plastered on TV for viewing like a train wreck of biblical proportions.  I know, I know… that made no sense since there were no trains to be wrecked in the Bible, but don’t lie… you got the picture anyway.  Don’t get sassy with me, my friend.

Wait, where was I?  Oh yes – reality TV.  And you thought you could completely get me off traffic, didn’t ya?

The competition shows are probably what bother me a little more than the antics of other reality programs because there is this common theme that runs through all of them that just makes me nuts: every act of lying, backstabbing and conniving is justified under the notion “Hey, this is just part of the game.  I’m just doing what I need to do to win.”

*shudder*  Nails on a blackboard every time I hear it.

Lest you think I’m being puritanical, I get the idea of hard-fought competition and it’s one of the things I truly love about sports and such.  It reminds me of a passage from Vince Lombardi’s “What It Takes To Be Number One” speech:

It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

On any reality TV competition show like “Bachelor Pad”, there’s always a focus on the win part and seldom more than a passing nod to the notion of winning fairly, squarely and by the rules… and maybe that’s just it.  These shows really don’t have any rules about how you play the game.  And why would they?  A big chunk of the reason people are watching in the first place is to see the lying, backstabbing and conniving that occurs week in and week out.  I guess that’s the “fun”.

But for me, it’s just nothing I can get behind.  It’s like the old rap adage of “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”  Except here’s the problem: regardless of the game, every person has the opportunity to make choices for themselves and who they want to be in that game.  And hell, you chose to be in the game (whatever that game may be).

I don’t rush to view shows like “Bachelor Pad” as yet another sign that we are steadily marching towards the Apocalypse – I’m just not that prone to Chicken Little thinking like that.  I think every society goes through those kinds of moments where some new thing causes everyone to be convinced that everything is falling apart… and then it doesn’t really happen.

I just hate to think that our model for how to compete is increasingly becoming this kind of programming we see on TV, which would be sad.  And while sports is not perfect, I think it tends to get competition right a lot of the time and at least there is something or someone keeping most of it in check.

So pick your arena of competition.  Go out and seek to win.  But never, ever try to sell me on the eggshell thin notion that how you compete is somehow out of your hands.  The choice is your own.

Proactive Simplicity

Think of some of the best teachers you’ve ever had in your life.  Go ahead… I’ve got loads of time to wait… umm… especially since by the time you read this post, I’ll be all done with it and not literally sitting around waiting for your pondering self.  Win-win for everyone!  But in thinking about those people, what were some of their most notable qualities that made them such good teachers?  For me, I find it tends to boil down to two critical traits: a passion for teaching the subject and the ability to make the complicated simple.  Boom – there ya have it.

With that in mind, I found it interesting as I read some of the negative reviews for the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey to see what exactly people were complaining about.  The most common gripes were “It’s just common sense!” or “Typical self-help tripe!” and things of that nature.  To me, these can almost be a form of an endorsement for a book of this nature (i.e. self-help or a new way of viewing your own world).  Why?  Because it gets back a little bit to about what makes a good teacher – are you taking a concept and making it simpler or more accessible?  It’s certainly possible that the reviews could be spot on and you read the book only to find out that every page is full of regurgitated platitudes about doing good to others and being a better person.  That’s just an annoying read.

But guess what?  Not the case with this book (at least not for me).  In fact, the gripes people had I found fairly amusing because they focused on the high level themes of each section “Put first things first” and “Think win/win” without delving into the author’s thought process behind those notions. That’s just flat out missing the point, my friends.

For me, I found a nugget that hit very close to home and gave me more than a few minutes pause as I read the book last night in bed.  The first theme/habit of the book is “Be proactive.”  Pretty simple right?  If someone just told you that you needed to “be more proactive” and that was the extent of their advice, you might smile at them, give them a nod of acknowledgment and then walking away thinking “Thanks for that inspired pearl of wisdom, Plato.  No idea how I could have continued life as I know it without that one!”  Ahh, but there is much more to it than that in how Covey talks about it.  Covey’s all about values being one of the true shaping forces for being a better person and a more effective one.

So that’s why this passage I read last night struck me:

The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values – carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.

Huh… never quite thought of it that way.  If you are a values/principles-driven person (and I try like heck to be exactly that), being proactive is not just a matter of going out and doing things without being asked to or having the circumstances thrust upon you forcing you to act.  It’s much more than that – it’s acting upon your values as opposed to being driven by your feelings and impulses and the circumstances around you since that is just reacting.

This strikes such a chord for me because it puts such great importance on not being reactive… because being reactive means I would be letting circumstances dictate what I do as opposed to my own set of carefully considered values.  When you look at being proactive in that light, it goes well beyond the rather banal notion of just telling someone “You know… you really should be proactive.”  It gets more to the heart of the WHY and the why is always the more powerful piece of the equation.  What would be the sense of taking the time to carefully construct where you find meaning in life only to ignore all of that and let the world dictate to you?  It’s the kind of thing that makes me re-check myself a bit because the cost to pay for wanting a values-driven life is eternal vigilence… and yes, I totally stole that Barry Goldwater line and tweaked it for myself.  I make no apologies.

So dismiss not the simple… especially if it is backed up by a depth that may not be readily apparent at a casual glance.  Those darn casual glances… always leaving the wrong impression.


Unlike this handsome fella – always leaves a good impression. (Not mine – just a houseguest until tomorrow).

How To Make Your Prowler Sessions Super Fun

The Fat Gripz for the pulling motion? Hoo boy. Definitely adds a great wrinkle to things. I keep looking for more ways to incorporate the Gripz into my program and they just keep on coming. A few more months, a couple of anchor tattoos on the forearms and a bunch of spinach cans… who knows what may unfold…