My wife and I recently binge watched all 9 episodes of Squid Games over the period of a week. We were introduced to it by our son and daughter-in-law, when we were visiting them in Boston.
The Squid Games offers three choices that I want to share with you that can shape your life and those around you. These are Take Aways that I encourage you to look out for and to use in life and leadership. These are some of redeeming elements from watching the series – to help you and me live with greater focus and passion – and greater success. I’ll do my best to not share any spoilers, but if I do – I will try to warn you first.
Here are the lessons:
This Squid Games showed me the side of what life looks like when someone is down and out. It’s a biopic of our world in the midst of covid, and unrest. Each of the Green track suited characters in Squid Games (the players), including maybe even the Pink suited PlayStation / StormTrooper like workers (the referees), are desperate in some way. Life has NOT gone their way. They have all endured hardship, disappointment, challenges, broken relationships, and more. But what’s interesting is the face that people choose to put on despite the challenges, and broken relationships. They still have a desire to be respected. Yet, they are desperate.
As the show goes on, the characters that we are drawn to, are the ones who practice empathy. Whether it’s the mom of a missing son, the main character’s compassion for the North Korean immigrant, or the old man willing to give up all his marbles. Empathy matters. It’s something we all have the opportunity to practice. The players of the game practice empathy.
In Squid Games, there are a collection of finite games with an objective and outcome that is sought after. There are alleged rules to each game played. A start, and an end. A finish line.
If you watch closely, when each game is really over, there is often a little bit of a letdown by the players who remain. Is it survivor’s guilt? Maybe. But I think it’s largely just pure exhaustion. It’s what things look like after a state of overwhelm when playing a finite game. This is true for any of us.
Think about how this plays out in the real world for you. Sure, it may feel good to win at what we go after, but how long does that feeling last? And what does the other side of overwhelm feel like for you? Winning can be exhausting. Where’s the joy in that.
When we try to live up to the grind and live up to trying to experience a new win every day, eventually it’s going to take its toll. But I have some good news.
One of the characters, the billionaire architect, reveals something profound at the end of the Netflix series, that made me think.
“I never forced anyone to play the game. Everyone chose to play on their own accord.”
I love that line. We all choose to play. It’s our choice. But the game doesn’t need to be finite. It can be a different game. I can’t help but wonder, what if the players in the Squid Game, chose to play with a different set of rules and order.
Then billionaire architect says, in one his flashbacks.
“There’s no way watching [life] can be more fun than playing it yourself.”
I couldn’t agree more, but we don’t find real joy in the finite game, do we? After all, the memory of a victory is never enough. It doesn’t last. We can only find joy by playing an infinite game.
In an Infinite game, there are “no rules, no defined outcome,” just relationships, and the opportunity for impact. Simon Sinek wrote a whole book on this, that I highly recommend. In the infinite game, we are here to help others play. To help others win. That’s an infinite game mentality.
Think about it. With finite games we experience challenges and frequent disappointments, and we have to reset our game board every day. But when we play the infinite game we experience joy, wonder, growth, and new opportunities despite the challenges. It allows us to light tomorrow with today! And that leads us to point #3.
Every one of us, I believe, is seeking real hope. Maybe even on a daily basis, at least subconsciously. Yes, hope may not be a strategy, but it sure as heck is a vision, isn’t it?
People need a vision for their life. With a vision, we can then plot out a course. Each of the characters in Squid Games is desperate for hope (a vision for their life), and they are scrambling to find a plan to see a vision come to life that’s different than the vector that they are currently on.
The problem with vision, is that it can be selfish, which is part of Finite Game thinking. That’s the struggle point in Squid Games from the very first episode. We see how people are often driven by a selfish desire. It’s not until the end of the movie that the main character is given a vision that’s not so selfish. And when that vision comes, he finally comes alive. It’s like he becomes Neo, in the Matrix. Recall that Neo finds himself, when he realizes his purpose is to help mankind.
Maybe that’s the opportunity for you and me in how we can help others too. A Vision is only worthy if it values life and relationships. Any other vision is futile, selfish, and is destructive. Our opportunity is to help people cast a vision that’s bigger than themself – that paints a world where they add value to others. That’s how we can offer real hope.
So far, we have identified three things to look out for in this Squid Game called life.
But there’s one more takeaway. At the very beginning of the movie series, it shows us how young Korean children play the actual game called Squid. And in that game, there’s a winning team. Not just one player – but multiple. It’s about a team, that works together. And they celebrate together.
Winning alone is never enough. Take time to also celebrate with others. As my colleague Larry shares, “Participation without fellowship is just a transaction.” I love that truth. The concept is simple: Fellowship with others in their winning moments AND all along the way – the whole journey.
When you think about it, every day is a win as you soon as you first get up, and put your feet on the ground. Why? Because I believe there is a God who keeps the game going . He is Infinite. He offers Empathy and Real Hope for all of us. And, best of all, the Bible says He wants to celebrate the wins with us.
How cool is that?
By and large, my wife and I really enjoyed the series – despite the gruesomeness. There’s something compelling about it that offers these great life lessons I just shared.
We started our watch of it in native Korean audio – with English subtext. The first thing I noticed was the amazing quality of the acting. Each actor was so believable in their role, so mesmerizing, it captivated us from the start. And the creativity of the story, the premise, catapulted us further to watch it. It became a game in itself.
Eventually by the 4th episode, when we’re back in our Virginia home, we switched it to the dubbed English voice-overs. The hope was that it would allow us to better track with the characters, and it helped some, but it also took something away. The Voice-over actors just weren’t as good, so you’ll lose a little bit of the emotional reaction – the integrity of their performance. Yet, we persisted through finishing out our journey with the dubbed English.
There were only a few seconds we had too fast forward through. We just had the remote in hand to skip ahead. Hope that helps!
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