I remember playing snakes and ladders as a kid with my grandmother. For those of you who may not be familiar with the game, it’s a board game played with a die. The aim of the game is to get to the top of the board by following a road. Each roll of the die determines how many steps you make. Scattered along the road are snakes and ladders: ladders are short cuts that take you further up the board quicker and snakes make you slide back to a lower position. I would get really excited whenever I landed on a ladder and would delight in seeing my grandma slide backwards down a snake – especially since she played along and made funny faces whenever it happened.
Life is a lot like this game. We all follow a road that is strewn with setbacks and successes. Each day, we roll the die by the way in which we use our time. In life, unlike the game, there are much fewer ladders and many more snakes, and, to make matters worst, they are all hidden. Our ability to read and understand them determines our fate and the fate of others.
As humans, we have evolved from prairie-roaming mammals to what we are today; we learned to walk on two legs in order to see danger approaching. Our success has been our ability to control the elements around us. First, we learned to make tools out of stone; then, we mastered fire, metal, electricity, etc. We have always lived in a society where humans have fought for and controlled each other: the elders, the church, the kings, the emperors, the dictators and the warlords. Today, the players are the CEOs and politicians, but it’s the same game; it’s all about control. The difference is that the game is now a lot more sophisticated and people are being taken advantage of.
Developing the skills and intuition to read the road in front of you is a lifelong process. However, I believe that by following five principles you can hedge your chances of success:
1) Do something you like doing. If you can’t get passionate about your work, you limit your chance of success. Try the motto: “If you can’t get into it then forget it”.
2) Stand up for what you believe in. It’s okay to change your mind along the way as you mature, but never sell out. Selling out might seem like an easy ticket but, ultimately, there is no satisfaction in it, only an empty life.
3) The future is so bright you have to wear shades. Every day, we are being bombarded with more and more information. Filtering this information properly is a daunting task. Not only is everyone seeking our attention, but also we are being brainwashed, programmed to think crap like “shopping saves you money”. (Ever noticed that often the “total spent” on your bill is hard to find as it’s in small print, whilst the “amount SAVED” is in large bold font?) There are dozens of other examples. The challenge is to build awareness so that you can see through the scams and bullshit – and avoid them.
4) Don’t live beyond your means; credit is bad. Only use credit in situations where you are certain about your return on investment. And only in rare circumstances is a car an investment. Cars depreciate; they cost money to operate and to maintain. Don’t buy a car on credit unless it’s a truly great 0% finance deal. You should aim to make your money work for you rather than you working for your money.
5) Things don’t make you happy; it’s what you do with them that counts. You might think it’s cool to own a Jimi Hendrix guitar, but if you can’t play it it’s useless. And even if you can play guitar, you will never get the same sound Jimi got out of it. That’s because a guitar is just an instrument that musicians use to express themselves; it’s the person that counts, not the guitar.
Francis Lambert – Zabok, 18 July 2013