Principles: A Minute to Learn…

Everything in life is governed by principles.

To understand the power of this statement, I find it useful to think a board game: Othello. Othello went into production in the 1970s, and was based on the almost identical Reversi, that was invented in England in the 19th Century. Whilst I’m a poor player, I have always found Othello fascinating. To me, its appeal is aptly summed up by the marketing slogan that was printed on every box:

A Minute to Learn. A Lifetime to Master. Slogan on Othello Board Game

The brilliance of Othello is one of a number of seemingly simple, yet delightfully complex, games. The rules really are very simple indeed – simple enough for an 8-year-old. At the same time, the game is deep in strategy. And there are so many variations of play that it is impossible to develop a system that can guarantee a win every time.

Well, that is pretty much how principles work. Principles are simple “rules” that tell you how the game of life works. For example, “You reap what you sow”, is a very simple idea: simple enough that a child can understand it.

At the same time, there are endless variations on how this rule plays out in the “game” called life:  in friendship (if you want friends, be friendly), in finance (you invest money to reap money), in gardening (to get daffodils you plant… well, not geraniums), physical development (you build muscle – the ability to act – through action) and in learning (you have to employ understanding to develop greater understanding).

And to achieve the best outcome in each of these areas, there are various strategies that need to be learned. In the financial realm, for example, you need to learn where to invest, when to invest, and how to invest. The better you learn these strategies, the better you’ll play, and the more likely you are to achieve your goals.

Things in life – like things in Othello – can get as deep and as complex as you like. But beneath it all, the principles – the rules – are always simple, and will always remain the same.

But here’s the rub: even if you get your rules and strategies and play well”, there are still no guarantees. Despite what some may say, you simply can’t predict how any game will go. No matter how good a player you are, you can still get taken by surprise. From time to time, an investment may go bad,  and now and then a friendship may turn sour. That’s just the way it is, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Fortunately, this is another area where life is like Othello: when you lose a game, you can clear the board and play again. And every time you play, you learn a little more. And every lesson learned is a step towards a win.

So here is my advice on how to play your best game yet:

  1. Get to know the rules (there are a few more in life than in Othello).
  2. The more strategies you learn, the better you can apply the rules.
  3. Learn from your opponents (in life these are almost always circumstances, not other people!)
  4. Above all, play and play and play again.

And always remember this: Othello is supposed to be fun. As is life. So here I go – off to enjoy another game.


Image by Paul_012 (Own work) licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

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