Years ago, Suneel, the founder and CEO of Rise, and I were taking a walk. I was the Head of Growth and we were discussing different revenue strategies. We could do anything to move revenue numbers — focus on top of funnel user acquisition, increase product retention, improve brand awareness — but we couldn’t do everything at once.

He turned to me and shared advice from his friend, Adam Nash.

“The most important thing is to know what game you’re playing and how you’re keeping score.”

While just a footnote in our conversation, it has proven to be a powerful analogy for business and life.

The business use case is easy to understand. What’s the goal for the quarter? Launch new marketing programs to increase new user growth by X? Ship product enhancements to increase 90 day retention by Y? They’re different games, both valid, with different scorecards.

When it comes to Life, the games are less obvious.

Some of my best friends are 30, others are 60, and we all view life differently.

Here are some examples of games we play –

  • Family — Measured by romantic dates, a wedding, a house, kids, good schools
  • Money — Measured by salary, investments, assets
  • Impact — Measured by lives touched, improved, saved
  • Power — Measured by level of influence, title, perception by society
  • Enjoyment- Measured by smiling, laughing, enjoyable trips
  • Health — Measured by physical fitness, physique, capabilities
  • Enlightenment — Measured by inner-peace, profound mediations, clarity

The list goes on… they’re infinite variations.

Take Blake and Robin, they recently started dating. Blake is playing the Money game and Robin the Enjoy Life game. Blake’s version of success is working hard, getting a big promotion, and cashing out. Robin is more interested in the here and now — having as much fun as possible, traveling the world, and spending time with friends. Without discussing their goals and what’s important to them, they’re bound to run into trouble.

While it’s easy to assume that everyone is playing the same game, the reality is, each of us has a slightly different scorecard.

Consciously or unconsciously, we all play games and prioritize our goals. It’s possible to play multiple games at once, but it makes tradeoffs and life decisions more complicated — just like in business.

When I was younger, I had a few friends burn out of the tech world, move to India, and study yoga. The tech grind was too hard and exhausting. I’m not going to lie, I judged them. I wondered why they didn’t suck it up, work harder, and make themselves more successful.

Only recently did I realize that they were playing different games. They were playing the Enjoy Life and Enlightenment games — keeping score in profound meditations, blissful moments, epic dance parties, and inner peace. They had no interest in increasing ads-served, stock options vested, and revenue generated. I couldn’t see that when I was younger.

Recently, a friend asked why I wasn’t building another venture-backed startup, instead of Soundboard (coaching for startup CEOs) and Weekenders (mindful digital detox weekends). He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t working on a company with a billion dollar potential.

I had to explain that that I’m currently playing the Enjoy Life game. I keep score by the number of lives I touch, smiles per day, and moments of “OMG life is SO awesome!” He’s always played the power and money game. And, to his credit, he’s done quite well. He just assumed that I was playing the same game. By his scorecard, I’m failing. By mine, I’m doing great.

The beauty of life is that we get to choose our game and we can change it over time.

It behooves us to be mindful about the game we’re playing, the games others are playing, and what’s most important to us in life. It’s easy to stumble onto someone else’s court, but in reality, we have choices. We’re in control of our experience.

So, what game are you playing and how are you keeping score?

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