This is the life we have been pre-programmed to live here in the United States…
– preschool at 4
– kindergarten at 5
– elementary school until 11
– middle school until 14
– high school until 18
– college until 22
– low-paying job upon graduation
– mid-level manager by 30
– executive by 40
– retire by 50
– second career until 70
– real retirement.. pina coladas and a beach house after that
That is the American Dream, right?
This dream began in 1765 when a little-known French general argued the need for a musket with interchangeable parts. If the parts from one musket could be used in another, he reasoned, repairs could be made more quickly and gun production could be cheaper and more efficient. Upon this premise, the Industrial Revolution was born. Artisans and craftsman soon took jobs in factories and all of us became cogs in the wheels of a production machine. But someone still needed to manipulate those cogs, to provide vision and leadership to the masses. The world still needed creatives, it still needed innovators, it still needed “players.”
Napoleon Bonaparte said, “In this life we are either [players] or pawns; emperors or fools.”
Since I was a young boy, I have been intrigued by the game of chess. It is a game of strategy and wit. A game of endless possibilities within the confines of very limited options for each move. Unlike conventional artistic expression, chess gave me the opportunity to be creative without the eye-hand coordination necessary to paint, sculpt or draw. By manipulating the pieces, I could use my math and logic skills to create a whole different kind of art.
Recently, I discovered a beautiful parallel hiding beneath the black and white pawns on the board — a parallel that gave me insight into the “aristocracy of creativity” during the Industrial Revolution and the transition to today’s creative culture.
Pawns are people who reflect the status quo. Players create the status quo.
Pawns do what they’re told. Players think outside the box.
Pawns are replaceable cogs. Players are irreplaceable thought leaders.
Pawns are responsible for themselves. Players understand and harness the gifts and talents of others.
Pawns make a minimal impact. Players have a ripple effect.
Pawns are reactive. Players are proactive.
Pawns want to march across the board and become a queen. Players want to be a master.
Look closely at each parallel … which one are you?
The sad fact that stems from this parallel is that the American Dream, as described in the first paragraph, has become the life of a pawn — as dictated by the players. The exciting fact is that our ability and opportunity to become players is more prevalent than ever!
We must change this fictitious American Dream to meet our current realities or we will never be able to realize it. We will never have the autonomy we desire, the mastery we work so hard for, or the purpose we crave if we don’t leave the life of a Pawn and pursue the life of a Player. This means you cannot keep relying on someone else to tell you what to do. Difficult, I know… but it’s so worth it.
Here are a few additional insights for future discussion here on the blog…
1. There is no path on which the pawn can become a player by becoming a better pawn.
2. A player does not need to have been a pawn in order to understand their function.
3. Players must be led differently than pawns.
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