Trending on Netflix

This article is about the first episode of the #1 trending show on Netflix called The Squid Game. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the show, go ahead and skip this article. I don’t want to ruin it for you. It’s a pretty good show.

I wanted to write about the red light/green light game in the show. This is a game many of us have played as children. Perhaps it was part of our pre-conditioning to the game of life itself. In the show, the premise of the game is simple. When the rule maker calls green light you run towards a finish line. When the rule maker says red light you must freeze. If you move during the red light period you will lose. In the Squid Game episode, you don’t only lose but are “eliminated.”

There is a timer. You got 5 minutes to make it to the finish line and win. If you don’t, you also lose or are “eliminated.”

Red light/green light is the game of adult life. It is also the game scenario of any major battle in war. There are many important things you can learn from watching The Squid Game red light/green light game and I encourage you to think about it carefully.

Imagine The Squid Game red light/green light game was put in a different story. Imagine the American Civil War and the game players are required to make it across a field to the “finish line” or past the enemy. Imagine Union soldiers in uniform in battle. The red light/green light game is the story of what can happen in that battle and the quick assessments and decisions that must be made. Remember, the field of victory is won by the man of action. The field of defeat or failure is given to the man of inaction or the coward who retreats. I’ll talk about this later. There are really only three groups of people on the playing field: men or women of action, men or women of inaction (those who are frozen), and men and women of retreat (those who succumb to panic and fear). In life, it is really just the doers, the dreamers, and the cowards.

If you are young and you are reading this, which one will you choose to be? I’ll explain more in a moment.

Ok, so studying the red light/green light game carefully from the beginning, we see that the players are conditioned with fear, panic, anxiety a little before the actual game starts. They are put in a strange new environment together. They are assigned numbers and taught a few things ahead of time. They are given some time to interact together which makes them collectively question things. Right away, we see who the super villain is of the group and we see the one who is being bullied by the super villain. This will come into play later.

The contestants are run through a strange new environment that appears to consist of standing in long lines and going up levels and having to take photos to be identified. Right away, we also meet the cocky sure-fire and comedic fools who will attempt to lead right off the bat in the red light/green light game and fail completely while the others watch. Their “elimination” will drive a pivotal moment in the game when the players all realize the true stakes of the game and must decide to either freeze, progress forward, or run back to the starting line.

I would argue that this red light/green light game is like the game of adult life. Instead of 5 minutes, you are given 5 decades to get to the finish line of winning, or retirement. You must progress through the green light moments and be cautious and smart and stop during the red light moments. You must not get caught. You must not get disabled. You must not run back to the starting line of returning back home to parents after failure or returning too much to school for degree after degree or professional studentship after failure in employment or returning back to your hometown in the face of shame……etc. etc. you get the point. You only got five decades. You need to be progressing through each decade steadily like a turtle….not like the fools out front or like the hare in the Aesop Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Stay in the middle. Don’t be at the front. Don’t be at the end.

It’s a little bit like that other game from our childhood, that board game called Chutes and Ladders. In Chutes and Ladders, you got 100 spaces to move up to the end. You spin the wheel. Some spaces you land on will have small ladders. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and get on a tall ladder all the way to the top. But there are also slides or chutes. Some of the slides just go down a few levels. There is one terrible dreadful slide that goes all the way down to the beginning. It is super frustrating……but you can still win the game if a lot of luck is on your side and you are smart and take very good calculated risks.

So back to red light/green light….you should be making slow and steady progress like the turtle throughout the decades but there are some players who freeze in inaction early on or later throughout the game, perhaps they can’t make up their mind about life goals or perhaps when they see a loved one down on the ground either eliminated or almost eliminated. Those people can still win the game but it is much much harder for them and they need lots of luck, brains, and moxy. They gotta take big risks.

Ok so what are the other very important things we learn about the Squid Game red light/green light game as it correlates to the game of adult life. We learn that the pre-game of being in a strange new environment, standing endlessly in lines, going up levels and such…..it’s very similar to childhood or schooling. It also, whether intentional or not, serves to place panic, anxiety, and even dread in the players.

The word “panic” itself comes from the mythological creature Pan. He was said to play strange music. Panic originates from ancient times when during battles between two opposing forces, one or the other or both sides would announce their presence far before being seen on the battlefield through the use of sound or music. Imagine being a Roman soldier encountering the Barbarians of the Germanic tribes and over the crest of the opposite hill while you stand in file for war, you hear the loud beating of ominous drums. These drums are intended to scare you or make you panic long before you actually see the faces of the soldiers on the opposing side. The Barbarians would use other similar tactics to instill fear…..such as war paint or carrying creepy totems or human skulls on stakes, or carrying terrible weapons with spikes and chains and stuff.

The whole point of panic is to get half the players retreating and giving up before the action even starts and then there’s a good portion of the players that are just frozen in terror between retreating or pressing forward.

Ok, so we’ve already established that there is a pre-game that intentionally or not will get you scared and adrenaline coursing through your body ahead of time. We’ve established that on the field of play, the greatest problem you face is fear, panic, or anxiety. We’ve talked about how bad retreating is or moving away to get a fresh start in the fight or flight response or perhaps giving up on a goal and heading back to your hometown. We’ve talked about the importance of slow, steady progress that is smart. We talked about the fools out front of the pack who only serve as lessons to the rest of us of what not to do and drive the pivotal moment of intense fear or dread when they fail or are eliminated horribly. And lastly, we learn that prisoner 456 freezes in inaction for a large portion of the 5 minutes on the timer but he resumes moving forward. We learn that he can still win and cross the finish line but he needs a lot of luck, smarts, and to take risks.

But what are the really smart and strategic things we learn from watching The Squid Game red light/green light game?

We learn that family, friends, neighbors…..community or rather other people who feel devotion to us……this is very important. Remember that prisoner 456 is the older brother to the younger man in the game who convinces prisoner 456 to stop freezing and start moving forward or he will be eliminated by not crossing the line in the 5 minutes deadline. The younger brother who feels a devotion to the older brother because the older brother helped him go to college and helped raise him, returns the favor by taking a calculated risk to hide behind another player and tell prisoner 456 two important things. First, he tells him to move or he will lose or die. Second, he tells him to survive, prisoner 456 should hide behind the body of another player as he progresses forward. This is very smart.

What does this mean in the real world game of adult life?

Don’t be the fool at the front nor the sloth at the back. Hustle. Find a mentor. Find someone to get behind that can help you progress forward. Keep moving behind them as long as you can whether it’s a parent or boss or supervisor or teacher or coach. Also, stay to the middle. Be smart. Move fast on a green light. Watch for red lights and be prepared to stop long before the red light is called. Red lights in the game of adult life can be jail, bad jobs, divorces, etc. There are many avoidant behavior paths too that inactive people or retreating people engage in that can make things way worse like substance abuse or procrastination activities.

So prisoner 456 starts moving forward but he is hindered by someone that is shot and on the ground pleading for help. Also later in the game, prisoner 456 himself trips and almost falls but is saved by prisoner 199 who takes a calculated risk to be altruistic and save his life. For this, prisoner 456 will owe prisoner 199 a favor.

Calculated risks of altruism are good in the game because they can help us later when others pay back favors to us. But too much risk for a person that is really in trouble can lead to our detriment or demise even. In the red light/green light game, prisoner 456 determines the first time to ignore the bleeding man on the ground. He is already too far gone. He can’t be helped. Whether in war or life, you have to triage and do a quick assessment of who you can help and who is too far gone. Be altruistic. Develop good karma that can be repaid. But sometimes it is necessary to cut losses. I know that is harsh to say, but this viewpoint is from the perspective of winning the game. There are so many people in life that stop to help a loved one and just self-sacrifice knowing they are going down with the ship and that is their conscious choice. Eventually, they will lose the game.

In the Squid Game red light/green light game, there is a super villain and his bullied victim. As the game starts the bullied victim realizes how she can even sabotage or destroy the super villain but doing so will expose herself to potential elimination. She can easily move the super villain and she lets him know that. In life we can sabotage or out bad guys but it is important to realize that we should not lose ourselves in the process and get ourselves in trouble or develop bad karma as a result as well.

Now the most interesting player in the game is player 1. At the start of the game, it is established that he has a brain tumor and not much odds of living long. He has early trauma at the start of the game. Also, his will to win is stronger because he has less to lose and sorta a cavalier stance towards life. He probably thinks to himself, well it can’t get much worse. He leads the others in the game moving forward and he is cunning and steady. He also has almost a smile or half-crazed look about him that is sorta creepy.

What does this teach us about the game of adult life?

The best players are the ones that experienced early trauma in the game and feel like they have less to lose cause heck, it couldn’t get much worse, and their will to win or determination is very strong with almost a crazy tenacity. You will see these type of folks leading the pack in life. They went through bad, bad stuff early on. They learned a lot about life. They had to go through it to get to it ….so to speak and they have very strong drive and discipline. These are the people that grew up in terrible poverty or fought back from horrible illness or accidents or disability, etc. etc.

So morale of the story? Don’t pamper your kids. You may say to yourself, you are giving them a break and you are being kind to them. You are sheltering them from hardship. No, you’re not. You are making it way worse for them as adults when that pivotal fight or flight moment sets in and they might turn around and flee or freeze in inaction. Teach them early. Teach them while their young. Maybe you’ll give them a fighting chance. I don’t really recommend private schools and such cause they just pamper and protect kids. Put them in public school if you have too. I think Kevin Hart says it best in his new comedy show that private schools turn out soft, scared adults. To quote him directly, “private schools breed bi*****.” And well, he’s sorta right.

I think that covers everything I learned from watching the first episode of The Squid Game red light/green light game. It’s pretty fascinating psychology actually. Oh, and I guess one last point is that whatever actions you make, you will be observed by others. So make sure you make the right decisions…it may come back to help you or hinder you in the future.

So, if you’re young, please watch this part of the show and think about this admittedly long-winded review on the psychology of it. These tips can help you later in life whether you are a soldier on the battlefield or a worker at the office, etc. etc. Remember,

  1. Keep moving forward.
  2. Work steadily towards one goal….the finish line.
  3. Don’t be the first to lead the fray.
  4. Don’t be the last to follow.
  5. Find a mentor or guide to follow.
  6. Slow and steady wins the race like the turtle.
  7. Don’t forget you are on a deadline.
  8. You can freeze momentarily but don’t give up or retreat. He who hesitates is lost.
  9. Stop before the red lights. Be smart. Anticipate the moves of the rule makers.
  10. The only thing you really have to fear is fear itself. Panic, anxiety will ruin you. Stay calm when all hell breaks loose.
  11. You can start over later in life but you better have a lot of grit, good luck, and brains to cross the finish line.
  12. Don’t let the pre-game get to you and psych you out.
  13. Don’t be pampered in your youth and don’t pamper your own kids.
  14. Be altruistric but also triage who you can help and who you cannot.
  15. Stay away from avoidant things like alcohol, drugs, too much social media, video games.
  16. Those people you help in life will one day return the favor. Support your friends, family, neighbors when you can.
  17. If you face trauma, use it as fuel to move forward not as an excuse to be disabled.
  18. Victory comes to the men and women of action. Failure/defeat lies for the men and women of permanent inaction or permanent retreat.

Good luck and I hope you catch a lot of green lights in the game of life.

The Little Things

If anything, the pandemic has taught you to enjoy the little things. The parks are closed. The theaters are closed. Amusement parks and various forms of entertainment either closed or very restricted. You can’t really travel much. It’s a pain to go to the grocery store now. You’d rather just stay home. Thank god for the internet, right? It is nice to still feel some human connection as you toodle away on your computer looking at endless hours of YouTube video tutorials or maybe watch Netflix movies…..or rather…. the previews to the movies.

Does anyone else do this? You decide to watch a Netflix movie but you can’t really decide for sure which one and you know Netflix films kinda have either a hit or miss ratio……so you scour over endless previews searching for just the right and perfect one. Then, after about fifteen to twenty minutes, you hopelessly give up and switch over to regular cable. You wonder if you are the only one who does this?

So, anyway, back on topic…..enjoy the little things lately. Things like buying a parakeet at the local pet store to keep you company and speculating over whether to call him Sugar Ray, Steve Miller, or your son decides on the name Paco which means in Spanish the word “free.” And, you think to yourself of the Lynrd Skynrd song “Freebird.” Yes, Paco it is. Paco it shall be. Welcome to the family, Paco.

You don’t go out much anymore. Besides, it would be smart to save your earnings…you never know what might happen coming up. The local high school football game gets cancelled cause you hear the other team has half their kids in quarantine for COVID. Then, there’s your co-worker and his wife from work. Their whole family is in lockdown quarantine for having COVID. You heard he had trouble breathing for three days and you worry about them.

And…..

You realize you’re damn lucky to still be here…….to spend your evenings listening to endless hours of Def Leppard or Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin on YouTube. You love to watch the animal videos too. Can’t get enough of the funny cute stuff on social media and the endless corny memes.

You’ve gotten used to the solitude on the weekends. You’re not only enjoying the solitude now….you are extremely grateful for just the opportunity to have it.

So, crack open your favorite drink….whatever it may be. Find some goofy pick a card tarot reading or perhaps a makeup tutorial on how to overline your lips so you too can look like them sexy models (at least at home….your 65 year old mother would still get upset with you if you posted a sexy selfie on social media. Some things never change even during a pandemic.)

Find something at home to make you smile, to make you laugh, to make you feel alive, to make you truly grateful for being here in this moment on this circling planet.

Damn you, COVID. Damn you for what you’ve done to so many heartbroken families. Damn you for your cruelty and brokenness.

But thank you too, COVID. Thank you for making us realize we need to hug and cherish our loved ones as much as possible in this brief time we have here. Thank you for making us finally appreciate all those little, little things.

Can We Just Talk?

By J. Speer

No one knew what caused the green algae to spread across the pond, threatening the lives of the turtle pile.  It happened rapidly.  Some turtles suspected it was the rising temperatures.  No one really knew for sure but what they all knew for certain was that they could no longer stay in the pond as the green algae spread out like tentacles seizing nearly the whole habitat of the pond. 

The green algae were first spotted from the top of the turtle pile and orders were directed down amid the ranks of the turtles to watch that portion of the pond more carefully.  It was also ordered from the top that each turtle, one by one, must climb down from the pile and evacuate to the safety of the embankment.  At the embankment, the turtles assembled into groups based on familial connections.  Meanwhile, Yertle the Turtle at the bottom of the pile in the mud was feeling the pressure of trying to balance the turtle pile as they came down one by one.  He too was looking forward to escaping from the green algae that even he could see now from his low vantage point. 

Yertle had stayed at this low level most of his life.  He was used to the mud and over time he accepted it as his lot in life even as the other turtles shifted up and down all along the turtle pile all day every day.  Yertle really didn’t move up nor did he expect to.  His expectations had grown exceedingly low.  He was used to taking orders and he complied with little resistance. 

When the final turtles had climbed off his back and moved to the embankment, Yertle was happy to perhaps join them as well.  He felt an enormous pressure had been lifted for a time being.  He eyed his family of turtles happily as he trudged forward to the embankment. 

But the top boss stopped Yertle.  He said to Yertle that he needed to stay in the pond.  It was essential to the safety of the other turtles.  They needed food to continue feeding the turtle community and Yertle needed to bring the lilly pads from the pond one by one to the embankment for the turtles to eat. 

Yertle looked reluctantly back at the pond and the lilly pads near the spreading green algae.  He eyed the algae with concern and looked back to the top turtle. 

“Are you sure?” he asked hesitantly. 

“Yes,” said the top turtle.  “They need you to stay in the pond.”

Yertle was used to taking orders.  He looked again back to the green algae and then to his own family of turtles waiting on the embankment. 

“Ok,” he said and he slowly turned around to face the pond and wade back in. 

“You won’t be alone,” said the top turtle and he designated two other turtles from the middle of the turtle pile to also go into the pond.  It was a male and female turtle and they were designated the heroes.  They were told to find a way to stop the spread of the green algae on the pond.  The two nodded that they would do the task and then the three turtles went back into the pond together. 

The two turtles got to work right away.  They devised a smart plan to haul old and broken limbs from the nearby forest to the pond.  Using their teeth and working together as a team, they would drag the limbs across the green algae in the pond.  The green algae would then collect onto the limbs and leaves.  Carefully, they would work together to lift the green algae on the broken limbs out of the water and dispose of it far away from the pond in the forest.  They worked tediously day in and day out on slowly gathering limbs and clearing the algae and then disposing of the limbs in the forest.  The hot sun beat down of them as they worked but they never gave up.  They really were hero turtles. 

Meanwhile, Yertle was working just as diligently.  For being a turtle at the lower end of the pile, he was proving to be remarkably resilient and smart in evading the spreading green algae.  He swam about the pond all day long gathering lilly pads in his teeth to slowly take back to the turtle community.  He would get one lilly pad and drop it off at the embankment keeping his distance from the other turtles so he would not put them at risk of the green algae.  Then he would swim back into the pond and move around the green algae to get to another clean lilly pad. 

At first, he was greatly concerned about the threat of the green algae.  But as he worked and worked, he became quite tired and worn out even to the point he almost didn’t care if he got green algae on him.  But he was a smart little turtle and kept trying to be cautious and kept going. 

The three turtles would spend the nights on the embankment but away from the turtle community.  They looked often at their family during these times and their family looked back at them.  Sometimes, during the day, the three turtles would see the turtle community relaxing on the embankment and sunbathing.  They would get a slight twinge of envy but all three turtles kept going without much complaint. 

Things went smoothly until one day as the male and female turtle were dragging a limb across the green algae, the male turtle slipped and fell slightly into the pond very near to the green algae.  The female turtle called out for help as she gripped the end of the limb hard with her teeth.  The male turtle also clung on hard to the limb as best he could and kicked his little turtle legs rapidly to propel his shell away from the threatening algae.  She called again for help through her teeth but the other turtles in the community could not hear her. 

Yertle stopped collecting a little lilly pad and looked up from the pond to see the predicament.  He moved as quickly as a turtle can, which isn’t very fast at all, towards the two turtles.  Together, he and the female turtle backed up and pulled the heavy limb out of the pond. 

“Thank you,” said the little turtles and Yertle just nodded.  Then all three got back to work again. 

It took quite a long time to finally clear most of the green algae from the pond.  In the end, there was a great deal of disposed sticks deep in the forest away from harming the community.  The turtle community and top turtle applauded the three turtles for their effort.  They were all three rewarded with much praise although secretly they each would have preferred an increase in food rations for their families. 

The two hero turtles had erected a dam to hopefully contain as best they could the green algae.  It was not a permanent fix but at least the turtle pile could perhaps return to some semblance of normalcy.  The top turtles indicated to the others in the turtle community that they needed to return to the pile so the top turtles could scout the horizon for predators and other threats.  All the turtles, particularly the ones at the lower end of the pile, grumbled some but reluctantly agreed to go. 

Yertle the Turtle sighed to himself.  He was not ready to go back to the life he had before holding up the turtle pile while he sat in the mud.  It was not much fun and quite heavy and burdensome.  But, Yertle was used to that life and to taking orders so he headed out first from the turtle community to his place in the mud.

The other turtles from the community slowly one by one started to ascend the pile and Yertle could already feel the weight upon him.  He looked down dolefully into the mud. 

“Wait!  Please stop!” said the little hero female turtle and the male hero turtle beside her joined her.

“We’ve been talking an…we don’t think…..” and she looked at the other hero turtle for confirmation and he nodded.  “We think maybe we should talk and find another way to restructure the turtle pile.   And,” she continued slightly hesitantly, “Maybe we should work harder on protecting the pond.”

She looked down at that moment.  The other little turtles were in shock too.  They had always lived in the turtle pile.  They had always done things the way they had done them.  That is all they had ever known and they had never even considered a life beyond the turtle pile.  Nor did they know really what to do or how to start to protect the pond better.    

“I’m just saying, well……I don’t know for sure what to say or how to start this even.”   And she looked again at Yertle.  He nodded back from the mud. 

She cleared her throat and said finally what she was really thinking in her mind. 

“Well, can we just talk?”