There’s something about how Sir Alex Ferguson set out Manchester United to play games back in the day. It never felt serious or too tactical like with other managers. His philosophy didn’t have some quirky label. To me, it just felt like this: first and foremost, have fun and enjoy the game.
It’s an approach I wish my own team would adopt because I think we’d win more games. Ole Gunnar Solskjær, a former player of Ferguson has taken the managerial position at United and has reinstalled “the United way,” which as I see it is just playing for fun. There’s a natural intensity that comes out, with the intention to score goals and defend cleanly.
Just take a look at their record at the start of this season and compare it to when Solskjær took over. It’s like it’s a completely different team. Not only are they more efficient at the front, the back and the middle, it’s easy on the eyes. Everyone that watches the English Premier League and isn’t a Manchester United fan is going to be scared shitless if they keep this up.
When I adopt this in my own life, my word is there a difference. First of all, I feel different. I don’t take things too seriously. I roll with the punches. Secondly, I take “risks”. I put risks in quotes because in the old mindset I saw that taking action was almost always risky, because you never knew what was going to happen. In the new mindset, these actions are simply things you want to do. You aren’t terribly focused on the outcome.
Do you have any idea how shitty it feels to take everything seriously? Well, you probably do. I think most of us have done it at some point. And it’s a trap too because you might think that you’re being irresponsible by not taking things seriously. And then when things go awry, the self-fulfilling prophecy comes full circle. I knew I should’ve taken this seriously! Who knows what would’ve happened if I didn’t? Things could’ve been worse!
Or not. Here’s three examples that this is literally the only way I can live my life.
When I play Texas hold ’em, I’m largely risk-averse. I look at the betting behaviours of others, I look at the cards I’m dealt and I listen to my gut. Unfortunately, I miss out on a ton of opportunities and even if I have something that seems like a sure thing, it sometimes is. I’m no master but I do alright.
However, when I play with the mindset to just enjoy, I took more risks but did not yield to the sunk-cost fallacy; I was still able to read others but my head and my gut were in harmony more often. For the first time in my life I won a game with four-of-a-kind. I don’t think I’ve even seen it done before. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many factors out of my hands in poker, but you could say that about life, couldn’t you?
Whenever I’d play soccer with my friends, I knew that if I decided to win the game, then I’d already won (provided the skills of my opponents weren’t leagues better than my own; logic still has to prevail here). And yeah, I usually won.
I thought it was because I made the decision, but it wasn’t that alone. The games I lost were games I didn’t want to play. I forced myself to play, which meant that I wasn’t enjoying myself. Then again, there were games against harder opponents that I won but again, I enjoyed those games. The games I lost were because I was always scared of losing.
Finally, and probably the most obvious example, is my screenwriting. Writing from a place of effort versus a place of play is like night and day. It’s almost embarrassing that I’d ever approach a keyboard like I had an axe to grind.
Perhaps the biggest issue creative writers face is knowing what to say. You don’t want to invest in the story only to find out it leads nowhere or it’s not entertaining. Such a thought isn’t going to occur to the mind at play or the mind enjoying the process of unraveling. Even if you have an outline, things change. Pacing, character motivations, a new event popped into your mind that creates a wicked twist at the end of the second act; these are just a few things that can occur along the way and you have to be flexible.
It’s your story, to some degree. But it also isn’t. It’s almost as if it has a life of its own and you need to be receptive to what’s coming out. That’s easily achieved in the mindset of enjoying the process.
So while I hate to admit it, that man from Glasgow and his Red Devils from Manchester certainly laid a blueprint for how to win a game and how to win at life. The only reason one might not take this option to enjoy one’s day-to-day activities is because we’re not conditioned to. And the way to break out of it is to realize that if you want to enjoy life, that will never be achieved by worrying and taking everything seriously.