This week around Christmas I have enjoyed playing board games, and learning a little more about the hobby.
Lessons from Games:
Games where success is based on a combination of skill and luck are more fun than games based purely on one or the other. Games like Chess and Go, which involve no element of chance, dominate competitive tournament play, but their ubiquity makes them less novel. They can only involve two players, so the experience is less social, and the confrontational nature is exacerbated by the skill difference leading to a known result. Chess and Go have a significant enough following on their own to sit outside the board game community. Distraction, reading about perfect information games I discovered Chess on an Infinite Plane.
Games are meant to be fun. It’s worth remembering that while the explicit objective of a game is for each player to try and win, the implicit goal is to enjoy that time spent with the other people playing. It’s necessary to calibrate with the group how aggressively competitive the experience is intended to be, and the pace of play (e.g. use of time limits for moves).
Be careful what to optimise for. Games are often problems of optimising for certain conditions or outcomes, and part of learning to play well is learning what needs to be optimised for. An example from the cooperative game Pandemic is that the victory condition is discovering a cure, not eradicating diseases. The temptation to work towards eradication ultimately is a distraction from the main goal.
Don’t hoard, don’t waste. Many board-games teach some resource management, be it optimising the use of turns, a currency, or pieces. Often the optimal strategy requires a balance to be found between miserly minimisation and spendthrift excess.
I have commented that an advantage conservative political parties have over progressives ones, is that there is only one way to maintain the status quo, but several ways to change. Therefore progressive parties are far more vulnerable to factions and infighting over disagreements of how to change, entrenching status quo bias into political systems. Perhaps Trump changes this dynamic by creating disinformation: if there are multiple versions of the status quo, there can be multiple ways to conserve it. Side note: I’ve been following the President’s Twitter feed, and Trump’s attempts at undermining the democratic process are frightening.
The Feeling of the Page
I tend to think that the medium of consuming text (printed page or screen) is trivial compared with the content, but increasingly the evidence is to the contrary. If something is more comfortable to read (e.g. font size) or the texture of the printed page is pleasant to the touch, the way the content is received is different. Valuing the subtle details of a medium and how it affects interpretation is something I can improve.
This week I’ve found myself gravitating to videos of drill instructors at boot camp. Craving that spartan lifestyle is for me the sign of decision fatigue as I sprint to complete projects at the end of a challenging year.
I’m about to embark on some holiday reading for personal growth, including Ray Dalio’s Principles. A 30 minute summary is provided in the video below, and more extensive notes to come soon.
I am thankful to enjoy working with really talented people. Musically gifted physicists, roboticist poets, athlete immunologists, and project managing dancers. One significant benefit of spending time with inspiring people is being close enough to see them fail. At a distance, from where we see our heroes and legends, the bar can seem impossibly high. This saps motivation: why attempt the unachievable? Seeing the daily struggle of what it takes to be great, makes it possible. Great people do not only raise the bar, they also set it within reach.
Quote I’m Pondering
“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.”
In captivity, John learned, in ways that few of us ever will, the meaning of those words – how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test – again and again and again. And that’s why, when John spoke of virtues like service, and duty, it didn’t ring hollow. They weren’t just words to him. It was a truth that he had lived, and for which he was prepared to die. It forced even the most cynical to consider what were we doing for our country, what might we risk everything for.
As the Trump coup slowly and painfully fades from the news cycle, Obama’s eulogy for John McCain is a reminder of what leadership can look like, from both sides of politics. This quote is a reminder that from positions of immense power, and crippling powerlessness, not to forget the significance of the immediate decision that is before us.