Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

If you can’t win the game, change the rules

I suppose my blog title is an ancient saying but I can’t find any evidence. There is, however, a related quote by “Peter Diamandis, Founder of X Prize Foundation & Cofounder of Singularity University: If you can’t win, change the rules. If you can’t change the rules, ignore them.

The rule in any competition (eg, business, sports) is to win. Wiki: “A draw or tie occurs in a competitive sport when the results are identical or inconclusive.” Principles, like fair play and level playing field, are usually meaningless when you lose the game. Nobody remembers the losers (eg, SMH).

The absence of principles – and/or even rules – in a competition is further illustrated by these sayings:

  • Don’t bend the rules – change the game (eg, source);
  • Do not play their game. Change the rules. (brand marketing slogan);
  • Rules are meant to be bent, stretched, creatively interpreted and yes, occasionally broken (LinkedIn);
  • Gaming the system (Wiki).

We don’t like when rules change mid game (Medium-2020). Still, changing laws are a common example. American Business Law Journal-2003: “Changing the rules in the middle of the game: how the prospective application of judicial decisions related to intellectual property can promote economic efficiency”.

That ABLJ article suggests that changing laws are meant to improve the competition. However, changing tax laws are usually negative for taxpayers. Hence, it’s common practice that there is no retroactive effect in changing laws, despite some exceptions in criminal law (eg, from legal to illegal).

A 2023 BPS article highlights the human habit to adhere to some rules while ignoring others: “There are some rules in life that carry severe consequences. Most of us wouldn’t commit fraud, for instance, or steal from a friend. But other rules are both frequently broken and rarely have consequences.”

“A study published in Cognition looks at rules that fall within this category: instances where it’s unclear whether punishment will actually happen, or where actual enforcement seems to be somewhat random. It finds that these so-called ‘phantom rules’ are punishable in a way that is frequently ambiguous and often based on personal factors.”

British Psychological Society, 6 March 2023: The psychology of selectively-enforced ‘phantom’ rules

Our mixed view on rules (probably) relates to these (contradicting) principles in life: cooperation versus competition. While human cooperation in our society requires rules, these rules are considered an obstacle in any competition (eg, business, sports). Hence, our habit of cherry picking.

“There’s a quote that says, “If you can’t win the game, change the rules.” So change some rules. Decide on your own game, the kind of game you might actually like to win. And win it.”

A quote by Johnny B. Truant, an American writer

The Name of the Game (1977) by ABBA
band, lyrics, video, Wiki-band, Wiki-album, Wiki-song

What’s the name of the game?
Does it mean anything to you?
What’s the name of the game?
Can you feel it the way I do?

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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