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The rules of the game

I've played football for as long as I can remember. And I've been watching football regularly for about the same amount of time. Fifteen year, give or take a few. And last week, I was watching the game between Liverpool and Manchester City. As it happens often enough in such games, there was a penalty call which had some doubt around it. Was it a penalty? Was it not? Although video replays made it very clear that it was, it was still a point that ardent fans could argue over after the game.

One of the commentators asked the other after watching the replays, "How do you feel about VAR (Video Assistant Referee)?" and the response was, "I'm totally against it. What would we talk about at the bar afterwards if everything was so clear cut?"

That's how minimal the uncertainty is in football, when it comes to the rules, of course, and not the results. The results have a lot more uncertainty which makes for such entertaining viewing.

This is the same with any sport. The rules are very clear. The players know exactly what they need to do in order to win the game. The only uncertainty is around what the other team is going to do, so it is simply about which team can do better at the strictly defined rules of the game that leaves for very little wriggle room.

But, in the world outside of sports, it is not as straightforward. When it comes to promotions and bonuses at work, excelling at relationships, getting your works published, being chosen for a role in a movie, etc, the rules of the game are not at all strictly defined.

We need to spend as much effort or more in understanding the rules of the game than we spend in getting good at what we do.

Growing up, I always had it in my head that the real world would be more like the world of sports, where there would be strictly defined rules of the game that I just had to adhere to and do my best within in order to excel.

But, experience is among the best of teachers, and now I know that I have to not just master what I do but also master the rules of the game.

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