Bill Williams is a psychologist who used his background and personal research to become a successful trader. In his book Trading Chaos (Wiley, 1995) he explores the reasons why 90% of traders are losing money on the market. Here is one of his opening statements:
Life is a Game in which We Make What Is Not more important than What Is
This is one of the things you could ponder over for the rest of your life and reach Enlightenment without reading any further. I nevertheless recommend you revisit this material often, your understanding of it will evolve over time.
Since this statement is certainly puzzling right now, let me elaborate.
Life is a Game refers to the fact that Life has many components, too many components to be understood and dealt with. The only way to live a harmonious life is to Play the Game.
We Make refers to the fact that we have choices, make choices or choose to limit our choices. The life we have is of our own Making.
What Is refers to what is Happening Right Now, what is Here and Now.
What Is Not refers to everything else.
Let’s elaborate a bit further.
Life is a Game
People who make the most money are not working. Artists play instruments, actors play parts, athletes play games, investors play the system. Playing is more natural yet impossible to explain and define so a robot could do it. When a ball come their way, baseball players, tennis players, basketball players, soccer players will absorb and analyze an incredible amount of information, draw conclusions, execute actions that they are not even aware of. Trying to explain, break down, recreate this process so a machine could do it is a futile exercise. When you try to do such thing, you work, when you just kick the ball, you play. Playing is what we do when we absorb all the information and let the outcome happens naturally. If one lives Life any different way, one will be miserable.
To be able to live Life properly, Life must be played. Life is a Game.
In which We Make
You can turn it any way you want, you have the life of your own choosing. Even with a gun on your head, you can choose how to spend the rest of your life: taking a bullet or doing as asked. Choice is yours. We say we have no choice when we consider only a limited amount of possibilities and that selection is usually preordained by our upbringing, by the very things we want to uncover and fix through the process of Self Recovery. We even choose the choices we consider. The filters are defined by our beliefs, convictions, religious views, social convention, personal opinions and other hidden certainties engraved inside our mind. This set of filters is our Paradigm.
Look at what is happening Right Now, what is Here and Now.
The clothes you wear, the temperature of the air, the screen or page you look at now, these things belong to the realm of Here and Now. The impression these words are having on you, how your feet are under you, your breathing pattern, that is Here and Now. How much money you have in the bank right now, who you are involved with in your life at that moment, that is Here and Now.
What Is Not
That is what we think about, dream about, how we interpret events, what we expect, how we think it should be, what we remember it to be. All that is Not Here and Not Now. It is somewhere in the future, in the past or in the Neverland of fantasies that will not happen, did not happen, may or may not have happened in the past, may or may not happen in the future.
It is Not Here and Not Now and we tend to make it more important than what is Here and Now.
Since this is certainly still very cryptic, let’s look at a few examples.
Fear of flying.
The plane takes off, the person is in her seat. The plane is flying yet the person is petrified and very very uncomfortable. She may say she finds it unnatural for humans to fly, may recall a relative lost in a plane crash, may have heard news of air travel fatalities, whatever it is, it is Not Here and Not Now. It is somewhere else in her head in another time, another dimension. Right Now, the plane is flying and she is in a seat, alive, breathing, but not any of this is relevant to her, because she gives more importance to What Is Not (her thoughts about flying) than What Is (she is alive in her seat)
As you are chewing food, flavors appear, blend with the other juices inside your mouth to make even more new flavors. But while all that is occurring, your attention is on spiking your next bite with your fork, anticipating its flavor combination or adding a condiment so the next bite will be more flavorful. The chewing part is Here and Now. The spiking part is Not Here and Not Now. But our attention is constantly ahead of what will happen next instead of what is happening now. Of course that example assumes that you are not talking, reading or watching TV as you eat. Also interesting is how much anticipation you put into that meal as you were preparing it, focusing on how delicious all that Will Be. But not only your attention is passing to the next step once you actually eat, you also missed the joy of the preparation since you were Not There but somewhere else in the future. Again that is assuming that the entire experience has any importance to you and you do not just feed yourself mindlessly while doing something else.
People lost in the wilds die of shame!
In the movie The Edge (1997), Three people are stranded in Alaska’s wilderness. The main character played by Anthony Hopkins makes an interesting comment: That most people lost in the wilds die of shame!
That is true. Many will ponder on how they got there, ask themselves whether they deserved such fate, how could things have turned out differently. Doing so is not only using valuable time and resources but also undermining morale and blocking them from seeing solutions to their ordeal.
Because they give more importance to What Is Not (their thoughts, regrets, feelings or fantasies of different paths to different outcomes) than What Is (what is the situation and its possible remedies).
There is no need to be lost in wilderness to have this attitude. We do that all the time when facing new circumstances. Why me? Why is that so? That is not fair. That is not the way it is supposed to be, etc.
When we start to swap these priorities, Life becomes a Game to Play.
In a game, what is important is where the ball is Now, not where it should be, should have been, could have been, used to be in the past. Miss the ball and you lose. If you think about where your feet should be or how you should kick, that type of thinking is too slow and totally unadapted to the task. Let your feet do the job, just play.
You will notice that losers can always explain at length what, where, why, it should, could, used to be differently. Winners just marvel at what happened.
Life is a Game in which We Must Make What Is more important than What Is Not in order to live fully.
How that is done is explored in the Practices section.