Today's episode is a deep meditation & reflection on a deep ancient, profound proverb: “Play stupid game, Win stupid prize”.

Now you might think that this is just an internet meme or internet joke, but I actually find a lot of profundity and depth in this statement. So while it might sound like a joke, I actually take deep inspiration in deep value from this very kind of jokey hokey statement of playing stupid games, win stupid prize. So for this Free Fatty Friday on a breakdown, this statement, this axiom and 3 different perspectives or 3 different disciplines, I'm going to look at the statement of play stupid game wins, stupid prize from a neuro-chemistry perspective. And talk about the neurochemical implications of the statement. I'm going to look at the statement from to a game theoretic sense. So talking about game theory, and then lastly, I'm going to discuss play stupid game when stupid prize from a life aesthetic life philosophical sense. So after this conversation, hopefully you'll find depth and profundity in play super game when super prize just as I have. And hopefully this makes you avoid stupid games and win great prizes in your life.


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Let's talk about this from a neurochemistry basis. So you might have heard of the term or the phrase “practice makes perfect”. This is really a reflection of the deep neuro chemistry of what is actually happening in your brains, actually happening in your neurons when you're practicing. So when I am looking at a tennis ball bouncing towards me and I see the spin and I have a reaction towards drawing my racket backwards and then taking a swing and making sure I have top spin a follow through, or if I'm looking at a chess move and I have an automatic response of seeing the patterns there and what kind of patterns the opponent's attacking me with, I have my defense or my openings or my defensive openings automatically in play. Well, where does this all come from? These stimulus, this stimuli, triggers a reaction in our brain in our brain builds up neuronal circuits or patterns or chains of neurons firing together in sequence to generate a response to set stimulus.

So whether that's responding to a physical object coming towards me in a more sports setting or a physical world setting or intellectual challenge, like a chess board or a business challenge, there is stimulus coming in and our brains process that signal and turn them into responses. Now, as we practice responding to the same set of stimuli over and over and over again, well, those sequences of neurons firing of that electrical pulse for that chemical pulse with neuro-transmitters and that electrical pulse being passed on that chain towards a subsequent action. Well, that chain reaction gets more and more efficient over time. In fact, there are some patterns are so deeply embedded that there's actually a process called Maialino Genesis, which is the creation of myelin sheets, actual physical structures that streamline and reduce the loss of signal of this sequencing of this transmission of information.

So truly when you're practicing the same response over and over and over again, you're literally baking the response into your brain structure. Literally your brain structure changes and really deepens and drives this groove of a response. So how this applies to playing stupid games. Well, if you are playing stupid games over and over and over again, and as you master this stupidity, what you're going to be a master, you're going to be great. And you don't have an automatic response of going down this path of playing a stupid game, and you're gonna be really great at winning stupid prizes. Another great example of this is actually looking at, at this from a medical perspective or a psychiatric problem perspective or a post-traumatic stress disorder perspective. So obviously that's a complex disease state, a traumatic damage. That's still very hard to characterize, but a leading firm have to think about this issue is that there was a stimulus obviously very, very traumatic.

And this stimulus triggered a very deep ingrained circuit neuron circuit. That's not conducive to everyday normal civilized society, right? For example, let's make this a little bit more concrete. You hear a loud bang, maybe you are downrange overseas in a bad part of the world. Your, your friends got blown up and now your brain, because it's so traumatic and so searing that any time you hear a loud bang, you find out that same neuronal circuit of wow, I'm being under attack. I'm getting blown up. People around me are dying body parts of flying around. And when people come back from overseas that are in civilized society, a closing of a door or a slamming of a door, or someone banged a bike into a trashcan. And that same stimulus, that sounded like a bomb actually trues that same, very negative pathway. And that's obviously problematic.

So obviously PTSD is not a stupid game, not a stupid prize. This is just a very unfortunate side-effect collateral damage of being in war. But I think you get the point, which is that there is a misfiring in a miss response, a maladaptive response to a certain type of stimulus. So in that sense, when you're playing stupid games over and over again, you're building a bad automatic response that is being ingrained and program deep into your neurochemistry. And this is not something that you can just flip a rack out and get away from. This is I would say at the order of addiction, this is an order of actually changing your own neurochemistry. So to get out of it is very challenging and that's why PTSD and some of these psychological problems, are very hard to solve in the real world because these neurons firing and bad patterns are so deep.

So in that sense, that's why from a place he began his perspective, I've now become very, very thoughtful of the games I choose to play because if I choose and enter myself into stupid games, well, I'm going to literally reprogram my brain to get really good at the stupid game and ultimately win a stupid prize. And obviously you and me, we're not interested in stupid prizes or stupid games.

So that's why the statement plays stupid games, win stupid prize is such an interesting thought experiment or frame it from a neurochemical perspective. And let's talk about this now from a game theory perspective, right? There's a biological underpinning of why I want to avoid stupid games, but from a game theory perspective, one could say, Hey, maybe it's easier to win a stupid game, maybe because it's so stupid, less competent players are playing it, and even though the prize is kind of dumb, still better than winning no prize. However, my argument here is that even from a game theory perspective, even if it's a stupid game, the fact that it is quote unquote stupid means that there's a lot more potentially people or market for this game, a lot of players in this game. So even when that stupid price is actually arguably just as hard as playing a meaningful game. Now let me explain this to you in a little bit more of a concrete way. I think a lot of people would say that being a ticktocker is kind of a stupid game. But again, I'm not going to judge whether being on TikTok is worthwhile or stupid, but I would say that a lot of people would say, Hey, this is not really interesting. It's not very intellectual, not very meaningful, but my argument here is that being a number 1 Tiktocker is probably just as hard as being a number one physicist and solving quantum gravity. Okay. Maybe not solving some kind of gravity, but it just as hard as being like the number 1 physicist and just as hard as being a gold medalist in your favorite sport. Now, how do I mean, I mean that, I think the number one ticktocker is Charlie. Demilio this a 16, 17 year old girl, a hundred million plus followers on Tik Tok. It's for me to beat her is probably just as impossible for you or for me then me becoming a better basketball player than LeBron James or me becoming the best physicist in the world in solving quantum gravity.

It's literally, I think just as hard meaning that I have a very small probability to make up this much ground and catch someone in what is arguably a stupid game. So the point here, I think you can debate a little bit on the order of magnitude and, you know, is there some objective, like difficulty weakness of art versus science, mathematics, and sport, but I think you get the underlying just which is that the be the top of any field regardless of the stupid field or where the battlefield is very, very hard, because the amount of people playing that game is fairly dynamic to the difficulty of the challenge. So even if you're playing stupid game, it's probably really, really hard to master that stupid game to the point of being the best in the world at it. But just making this even just a little bit more tangible here, let's just talk about how hard it is to run a small business.

I think I work pretty hard. I think I'm pretty smart. I think I work pretty hard. I run a successful business with Health Via Modern Nutrition, do a lot of great investments, work with a lot of smart people. I mean, I work pretty hard, but do I work harder than the bodega shop owner? That's struggling through a pandemic that literally has government and potentially shutting down their livelihood and they can't pay their mortgage, they can't pay their rent. I don't think that even if I'm in a much more financially secure and stable position that I'm way you know, a million times smarter than, or working a million times harder than the small business owner working a retail job. Arguably I think the retail shop owner probably works harder than me. I'm not necessarily on my feet for 18 hours a day. You know, living paycheck to paycheck like the stress level, there must be incredibly hard.

And my point here is not to say that this is a stupid game per se, but I'm just saying that the game selection is so important. I've chosen a game where I can compound relatively well and build financial security and wealth and assets that can generate income and value while I'm asleep or as the selection of a game where you have to sell your time and trade that time for money makes it much harder to build wealth in financial security. So my point here is not to say any livelihood or job is stupid. It's to say that you have to be smart about selecting the game you play. So I don't want to say that I'm better or worse than anyone I'm just saying. I want people to choose smarter games to play because those games, those smarter game might put you in a better situation where you can have stability and security and a health and wealth for you and your loved ones.

So that's an interestingly to talk about playing stupid game, win stupid prizes. Again, I don't want to say this. There's a hierarchy of relative value or judgment on types of jobs and ranking people by their jobs. I'm just saying that in terms of doing well for yourself, well, for myself, you need to be smart on the game selection. And then the last example I'll use here is that the scale of impact when you're choosing a game to play, if you're teaching one person, one at a time, you can make massive impact one at a time. But if you can reach 10 people, a hundred people, a thousand people at a time, am I working a thousand times harder? If I have a thousand people listening to me right now, I can have this conversation with each of you one at a time, and that will take me a thousand hours to accomplish, or I can have this conversation once and how this distributed a thousand times, of course the one-on-one conversations will be a little bit deeper. You'll probably get 10-20% more value in a one-on-one conversation versus a one in a thousand conversation. But the leverage in terms of the game selection is so much higher. One to 1000, and let's say, we'll do a 20% discount on the end value. That's essentially 800 equivalent hours of work of leverage off of one hour versus a full 1000 hours for a thousand hours of leverage. I have almost an 800X leverage on time by having a little bit smarter selection of the game. So again, as I conclude, number 2, the game theoretic perspective here, the point here again is not to judge people's games that they play for their livelihood, but it's worth thinking about your day-to-day actions. How do you choose the right games to play? So the end prize is worthy of all of your bloods tears. And now this is a perfect segue to go into 0.3, which is taking a look at this notion of stupid games and winning stupid prizes from an aesthetic or a life philosophical perspective.

And this is something that I've been thinking a lot more about in over this past year, probably just in terms of mortality, of resilience, of stoicism. I've had a recent podcast with folks talking about this topic, and it's something that is always fun to share about because we can always become a little bit more resilient, a little bit more thoughtful about how to live a well live life. And my thought here is that our lives, our time is so short. We have a very finite existence on this planet on this universe. And we only have just a limited set of games that we can even play. So if you are not happy playing the game you're playing right now, you're going to end up winning a prize that you don't even care about. And from a culture, social, cultural perspective, my intuition, my sense here is that many of us are playing games that we didn't even really want to play, meaning that we've sort of fell into the autopilot groove of getting a job or practicing a skill set or being in a situation that's kind of falling into place as we progress in life. For example, you go to high school, you kind of expected to go to college, you chose like a kind of a random major. You kind of needed a job, pay off the student loans and you kind of just went on with her life and snap. At some point you're hitting a midlife price. You're like, Whoa, how did all my time disappear? Or there's folks that had their parents or their friend group or their peer group say, Hey, you gotta be a doc, you gotta be a lawyer, these are prestigious jobs, you gotta be a investment banker, do all these things. And then you realize, Hey, I don't even care about investment bank. I don't care about taking, you know, I don't care about being a dog. I hate being a lawyer. So the point here is oftentimes we are playing other people's notions of what is a good game or a prestigious game.

I think one of the biggest fallacies and the biggest challenges or realize is playing someone else's dream, it's choosing a path or a livelihood that other people deem as prestigious. I remember as a kid growing up and a lot of people at Stanford where I went to undergrad, wanted to be doctors. And for me, I think I had this self-awareness early on that I care about people, but I don't know if I want to into the fluids of people. I don't know if I want to actually physically, you know, diagnose, living, breathing, you know, it's not written sick bleeding human being. That's not my cup of tea. And I don't think that's a lot of the cup of tea for a lot of pre-med students at elite colleges. Like I'm going to be honest. I had a lot of pre-med Stanford kids who were just like, I think this is procedure. I think it can make a lot of money and make a million bucks a year being a surgeon. And yeah, that sounds like I can make a lot of money here and be respected by my parents. And that's why they're doing this job. That's why I'm doing this profession. And it's not because that they necessarily have a special interest of healing a human being it's like, Hey, society told me that this is prestigious and society told me that can make a million dollars or you're doing this. I'm going to do this so I can make a good living. Maybe that's fine. But then that's a fine choice. A million dollars a year is nothing to sneeze at. But for me personally, I don't want to play a game that all that that's other people's streams, right? We have one life to live. Why live someone else's dreams? Why live someone else's prestige ladder? I remember when I was a sophomore, second year in college, someone told me to reply to the Goldman Sachs internship. And what the hell is Goldman Sachs? Like no one dreams to be an investment banker. I remember like, I think I had a good resume and you know, it did well in school. So they wanted me to do a final round interview. And I remember just like, I didn't even know what the job was about and flubbed it, but I don't even regret that instance because that was not something that I actually cared about. And then, and now, as I'm deeper into my business career, investment banking is almost on the lowest rung of finance, where people are looking at a Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan or Morgan Stanley investment banking job as the most junior menial worst level of finance.

These are not the financial Titans, right? That's the private equity side of the world, the actual by-side for investment banks on the sell side, they're really overpaid PowerPoint, jockey and salespeople flipping other people's businesses. So I think that evolution of chasing my own dreams and following my own passion and following my own prestige has gotten me so much further than if I just gotten a Goldman Sachs job, became a little invest in banking analyst, you know, work 80 hours a week. And, you know, try to climb up this corporate ladder. I would still be probably in a worse situation than I am right now, where I have so much access and knowledge on so much varieties of the financial system and the financial powers that may be out there. So this is where the point comes full circle, which is that if you actually play a game that you find deeply meaningful, you actually have a chance to win a meaningful price.

And I think that's the ultimate summit attractive value in this world. I think there's so many, so few people they're actually creating their own value system, their own prestige system, creating value for the world that if you even have some semblance or inkling of that, people look up to that. People want to follow you. People want to listen to you for being independent minded and being brave and having a voice of your own. So the point here is that life is short. We can only play a few games in our lives lifetime. I wish we had infinite times. We could play all the games, but we can't have everything that we want. We can only play a few games. So play the game that you think are interesting think are worthwhile. Like you can think that my games are stupid and that's great. You play your games that you think are valuable.

I'm going to continue to evolve and keep updating the games I think are valuable and never give up. Never just default into playing the game that your parents want you to play. That uncle wants you to play that your rich friend wants you to play, because I don't think that's ultimately satisfying you when you're at your deathbed. You're dying alone, right? Yeah. You can have friends and family surrounding you but it's your life that you have to reflect on. And when I am on my death bed, I don't want to have a regret around, Hey, I wish I played my own game. I wish that I didn't just live my life according to someone else's. And that's where that has made and made my spine so much more brave and solid and have high conviction that I need to play the games that I think are valuable.

So don't play this stupid game because you're going to win a stupid prize, play a meaningful game. So when you're at your deathbed, you can say, Hey, I put up a good fight. I might not have gotten the ultimate worthy prize, but I had a blast trying to chase.

So this is Free Fatty Fighting. Number nine. I hope you had learned a little bit about neurochemistry, a little bit about game theory and a little bit about life philosophy or aesthetics. Civil life will live through this statement, “Play stupid games, Win stupid prizes”.

Hope this is fun. Hope. This is entertaining as always. I appreciate you sharing this to friends who might find this conversation useful. Of course, any 5 star reviews, thumbs up subscriptions, all that commentary that boosts up the algorithm for this piece of content is much, much appreciated. I'm going to go back to some Q and A soon, so right questions that you have for me, very excited to engage. You can find me @geoffreywoo on Instagram and Twitter. You can send me questions there on either Instagram or Twitter, or you can email us at podcast@hvmn.com.

Stay strong, stay smart, stay resilient. Talk to you soon, Geoff out!