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.

Gung Ho!

I’ve been reading Gung Ho! By Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Gung Ho is Chinese and means “work together.”

I was pleasantly surprised by the book. It was a good read.

The book is about a plant manager that only has 6 months to turn around the company and get it more productive or corporate will shut it down. The plant manager goes to the best department manager and is guided by his advice on how to Gung Ho his team, his co-workers in his department. There are three main components of his philosophy which are based on observations of creatures in nature:

1. The Spirit of the Squirrel – create a sense that the work being done is worthwhile. “First the work has to be understood as important. Second, it has to lead to a well-understood and shared goal. Third, values have to guide all plans, decisions, and actions.” Show the workers in your department how what they do helps others. For example, a dishwasher job may not seem glamorous but it is essential worthwhile work. One load of unclean, bacteria-infected dishes could wipe out a whole group of people. Always look at your job in terms of human impact. What this is really getting at is a powerful human emotion: self-esteem. View your work not as units produced but as impacting human lives and it will build your self-esteem. Another important aspect is to place values at the forefront. Values, not managers, should guide each worker’s behavior. Managers are leaders and they should not have to act like police. Each worker should demonstrate these shared values in the way they act and insist others to behave.

2. The Way of the Beaver – Look at the way beavers build a dam together. “Each beaver has a large measure of control over its own destiny. They decide how the work is going to be done. They operate like independent contractors…It’s up to each of them how the dam gets repaired. If they want to work at one end, fine. If they want to bring small branches, that’s great. They exercise their own best judgment.” Basically the message for managers in this one is to let the people who really do the work do the work. Set the goals and values, define the playing field and rules of the game, decide who plays what position. Then you have to get off the field and let the players move the ball. It’s tough to be boss without being bossy. It requires a high level of self-esteem. Another key aspect of this concept is respect for all the people in your department along with their thoughts, feelings, needs, and aspirations. Value individuals as persons and as a manager, keep in mind, that you should not give people work beyond their capacity. People want a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay so let them contribute up to their capacity. Let them feel challenged but not overwhelmed.

3. The Gift of the Goose – The department manager describes it like this, “Twenty of us have this work area and we run it like our own business. We’re responsible for quality, on-time delivery, and looking after our customers.” One important aspect of that attitude is to cheer each other on with words of encouragement much like geese honk to each other continuously while flying in V formation. Employee engagement is explained as E=mc2 or rather, enthusiasm equals mission times cash and congratulations. People need sincere, truthful recognition. This can be done with active affirmations such as telling people what a great job they do or presenting awards. Yet, it is done even better with passive affirmations. What is a passive affirmation? “A classic example is sitting on your hands, biting your tongue, and looking unconcerned and confident when a team member carries forward a tricky, complicated, and important project. Just the kind of project you excel at and every fiber of your body is crying out to take control or at least issue a couple of warnings about trouble spots. But you don’t. Your silence sends a very clear message – I trust you.” Recognition should be spontaneous and individualized. It is also important to cheer on progress not just results. At a football game the crowd doesn’t cheer only at touchdowns and neither should businesses operate that way. Cheer progress.

Well, it’s an entertaining book and a short read. I recommend it.

A Twist of Fate

I was having a really bad day.

I felt about as bad as Alexander….

It got pretty bad.

So I did something I don’t do enough. I talked to God and asked why he wasn’t helping me. I said, “This is too much, God. I just can’t carry this burden by myself. Could you please help me?”

It wasn’t much of a prayer but it was heartfelt, exhausted, and true. I’ll admit, I’m not much for religion anymore. I’ve seen my fair share of judgement from others and unkindness. It has left me quite bitter at times. But still, when push comes to shove and when my chips are down, I ask God for help.

I went back to work and it continued to be a terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad day. Plus it was raining.

But then something happened. I got to clock out and go home to my family. My husband informed me that some commissions from his sales would be coming in soon. Not much, but enough for us to cover Christmas presents for family in December. I also learned that my publishing company was almost done with my royalties report for the book Searching for Fire and they had direct deposited the amount owed from their website already. It made me feel better.

Next, I went to dinner with my husband and children and fortunately, through some good luck, we were put to the front of the line of folks waiting at the steakhouse. We had a nice meal and did a little Christmas shopping at Books A Million and Game Stop with the children and life seemed better.

Thank you, God for listening. Sorry I get frustrated and try to manage and control it all myself and then get overwhelmed and make a mess of things and end up begging for help again. Like a loyal friend, you come through time and time again. I so easily forget that I need to trust in you, God.

Anyways, I suppose I won’t move to Australia after all.

There was a Time

I like my job. I actually do. I know that I am lucky. There was a time though in my life when circumstances were very different. A time when late Sunday evening would bring me an ulcer just thinking about the upcoming work grind.

I wrote this short story back then. It is quite sarcastic with sharp wit. As they say, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Truth can needle sometimes as suggested in this quote:

In hindsight now at peace on a Sunday night, I can kinda laugh at this old comical short story. It is admittedly a little over-the-top but I still like it and kept it for some reason.

If I could impart any specific wisdom on younger generations entering the workforce, it would be this:

Be very careful deciding where to work. It can affect so much of your future and your family’s health and happiness. Do your research. Check your networks for referrals or check online for company reviews on Glassdoor, etc.

So here is the story with a short Far Side comic to go along with it:

Cube Farm

Disclaimer – This is a fictional story.  The names of these demons, er, people, I mean…have been changed to protect me from the not so innocent .

Satan:  “Welcome to Hell everyone!  Ha, ha…I bet you were expecting an Inferno.  Please, I expect everyone to be friendly here.” 

Me:  “Ok, well this place doesn’t seem so bad…”

Satan:  “Let’s set some ground rules, folks.  We’re all going to work closely together in a confined space for eight hours and you all must be nice or you get fired.  And just to make things entertaining, I’ve thrown some cleverly disguised demons in the mix.  Here we have Bitchy Brenda, No Deodorant Ned, Lazy Leo, and Power Hungry Peter with his inseparable sycophant Sidekick Sam.  They like to tag team. 

And let me introduce now my favorite demons.  First, we got Ball Dropper Brad and Blame Shifter Ben.  These two are very effective on their own but deliver a one-two knockout on unsuspecting new employees time and time again.  Their KO stats are simply amazing.  Ball Dropper Brad is notoriously bad at his work but is cute and charming so he gets away with murder.  If you give him a minor task, he will inevitably mess it up but he shows up at your desk flashing his pearly whites and giving a half-hearted apology.  You will be cast direct under his spell.  Trust me folks, it happens all the time to the new guys.  And you will take the fall for this guy though you don’t know why.  He’s like your favorite teddy bear…a teddy bear that makes mistakes all day long. 

Blame Shifter Ben works best at meetings.  The problem usually generates in his department but he quickly shifts the blame from department to department making everyone super defensive and uncomfortable and prolonging all meetings for all eternity. 

Now, let me tell you about the Queen of Quality, Demoness of Demons, Perfectionist Pam.  Good luck trying to get any work past that one.  Perfectionist Pam rejects 80 percent of the work she inspects but will reject 99.99 percent of the work if you are on a fast deadline.  If this little lady takes a personal dislike to you, let’s just say you will be crying to your mama in your pillow at night. 

Ah, and don’t forget Disdainful Debra.  She is the IT manager.  She only updates technology if she deems it cost-effective.  If she doesn’t like your department, you work on a DOS prompt system with malfunctioning printers.  If you need a computer repair, you must submit an automated request for repair which can take weeks or months to be fulfilled.  You must never rush her or she installs spyware on your computer to monitor your internet activity.  Meanwhile, she will send a company-wide policy notice indicating harshly that no one must use the internet ever.  Violators will be punished and put in stocks for the slightest infraction.  When she does finally show up for your repair, it will take her two minutes to accomplish and she will throw passive-aggressive barbs at your IQ level and technological inferiority. 

Disdainful Debra is a real peach just like Hot Potato Harry.  Harry is the “genius” Continuous Improvement outside consultant.  He isn’t an official employee so he doesn’t really work and trolls internet newbies on Reddit message boards all day on his laptop.  Harry takes the hardest workers and makes them do extra busy work called CI Projects which involve hours and hours of pointless meetings with odd questionable icebreakers and doodling while the employees secretly worry deeply about their regular work piling up back at their work stations.  He gives these employees long tasks to complete and when the employees do the work, he hot potatoes the tasks back to them to develop further.  This hot potato exchange continues on and on until the frustrated and dimwitted employee realizes that he or she must do all the extra work alone.  Once the work is done, the consultant smiles and packs up his laptop, his fat paycheck, and all his credit for the demoralized workers’ accomplishments.  He further informs the employees that he gets to leave the company unlike them and he’s headed to the Bahamas on a great vacation with his family. 

Remember folks, the only rule here is to keep calm and work no matter what or you’ll be out on the streets picking nits out of your children’s hair and sleeping in dumpsters. Any questions?  Ok, let’s get started.  Oh, and one more thing…I expect you to come back tomorrow and the next day and the next day, etc. etc. etc. again and again doing the same work for years. 

Years, folks, years..

…….until about five years before you’re expected to die.  And if you are lucky you might get a gold watch…correction, a gold plated and made in China, easily breakable fake watch.

Ok, let’s get the work week started. Any questions?”

Me:  “Oh no…”  (sobbing big wet tears).