Monopoly and the Lessons of Life
We’ve all played the classic game of Monopoly at one point or another in our life. For some, it is nothing less than a family tradition and a group activity without which no social gathering would be complete.
But Monopoly is much more than a mere board game. There are so many lessons of life to be learned — not all of which I would necessarily agree with, but that’s a subject of another post. One of the greatest lessons to be learned from playing Monopoly was shared several years ago by Christian minister and author John Ortberg. The applications of this story, however, go far beyond any religious or philosophical boundaries. It is a lesson in priorities and one of the greatest lessons of life I’ve come across in a long time. Following is the story as told by John himself.
Now, my grandmother was a wonderful person. She taught me how to play the game Monopoly. She understood that the name of the game is to acquire. She would accumulate everything she could, and eventually she became the master of the board, and eventually every time she would take my last dollar and I would quit in utter defeat. And then she would always say the same thing to me. She would look at me and she would say: “One day, you’ll learn to play the game.”
One summer, I played Monopoly with the neighbors almost every day, all day long. We played Monopoly for hours, and that summer I learned to play the game. I came to understand the only way to win is to make a total commitment to acquisition. I came to understand that money and possessions are the way that you keep score, and by the end of that summer I was more ruthless than my grandmother. I was ready to bend the rules if I had to in order to win that game, and I sat down with her to play that fall.
I took everything she had. I destroyed her financially and psychologically. I watched her give her last dollar and quit in utter defeat.
And then she had one more thing to teach me. Then she said:
“Now it all goes back in the box.
All those houses and hotels — all the railroads and utility companies, all that property and all that wonderful money — now it all goes back in the box.”
I didn’t want it to go back in the box.
Now she said, “None of it was really yours. You got all heated up about it for a while; but it was around a long time before you sat down at the board, and it will be here after you’re gone. Players come, players go, but it all goes back in the box — houses and cars, titles and clothes, filled barns, folded portfolios, even your body.”
Because the fact is that everything I clutch and consume and hoard is going to go back in the box, and I’m going to lose it all. There’s not much of an ROI on that. You have to ask yourself: when you finally get the ultimate promotion, when you have made the ultimate purchase, when you buy the ultimate home, when you have stored up financial security and climbed the ladder of success to the highest rung you can possibly climb it, and the thrill wears off — and it will wear off — THEN WHAT? How far do you have to walk down that road before you see where it leads? Surely you understand it will never be enough.
So you have to ask yourself the question:
It’s not money. The answer is not in markets. The answer is not socialism, anarchism, libertarianism, conservatism, communism, or any other “ism”. The answer emerges from the continuous unfolding of nature. The answer emerges from our growing ability to provide abundance. We need only to go beyond those things which serve to separate us, like religious and ethnic divisions, economic classes, political ideologies and nations. The hands of the many must join as one and together we’ll cross the river.
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