Throughout our lives we have the opportunity to play two games.

In one game, which AJ Leon refers to as monopoly, we roll dice, pass go, and accumulate ego inflating accolades, assets, and status. The first game is simple. Follow the rules. Do what you’re told. Maybe you’ll get rewarded with a corner office, a cushy salary, and really nice car.

The second game is one in which you choose your own adventure. You make the rules up as you go along. It’s filled with unplanned destinations, detours, and unexpected walks down the scenic route.

Art is the decision to play the second game, make decisions and take chances in the face of uncertainty

I had a friend who called me a few years ago and asked me if he should go to Harvard. The starting salary when he was done would be substantial (enough for most of us to live lavishly). He wanted the variety of the second game with the the guarantees of the first. But you can’t experience the variety of the second game with the guarantees of the first.

For many years I played the first game. The stupid part was that I wasn’t even good at it. I was actually terrible at it. All I did was seek safety and security. And as I sought out safety and security all it did was fill me with fear and anxiety.

Fear of the day I’d eventually be fired.

Fear of the looming layoffs.

Fear of explaining to my next employer why it didn’t work with the last one.

And because I was constantly working from a place of fear, I was paralyzed, doing just enough to get by. I wasn’t even trying to win, just stay in the game, and just survive. One last roll of the dice in the first game and I was out for good, I’d lost. So I ended up playing the second game because I didn’t even have a seat at the table anymore in the first game.

Once you’ve played the second game, it’s nearly impossible to go back to the first. And if you manage to end up back at the first, you go into it knowing one thing.

As Morpheus said to NEO in the Matrix:

They will never be as powerful as you because they live in a world that’s based entirely on rules.

I’m the host of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Subscribe to the podcast viaiTunes or Stitcher.

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