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The International Day of the Woman and Flo Kennedy

Today is International Woman’s Day. Most of what we are reading about is tied to sexual harassment issues and contemporary women seizing their power. The truth is that aside from Gloria Steinem there are few feminist pioneers that any of us can name.

Which brings me to the subject of “Flo” Kennedy. I met Flo in 1969 in my first year in college. I was an anti-Vietnam War activist at the time, still putting together my beliefs and activist impulses. She was somethng. Her’s was a life well lived.   I hope you will enjoy learning about her.




Florynce Rae “Flo” Kennedy (February 11, 1916 – December 21, 2000) was an American lawyerfeministcivil rights advocate, lecturer and activist.

Kennedy was born in Kansas CityMissouri, to an African-American family. Her father Wiley Kennedy was a Pullman porter, and later had a taxi business. The second of her parents’ five daughters, she had a happy childhood, full of support from her parents, despite experiencing poverty in the Great Depression and racism in her mostly white neighborhood. [1]The Ku Klux Klan being present in her neighborhood, Kennedy remembered a time in her neighborhood with her father having to be armed with a shotgun in order to ward off the Klan who was trying to drive her family out of the neighbourhood.[2] She later commented: “My parents gave us a fantastic sense of security and worth. By the time the bigots got around to telling us that we were nobody, we already knew we were somebody.”[3]

Kennedy graduated at the top of her class at Lincoln High School, after which she worked many jobs including owning a hat shop and operating elevators. After the death of her mother Zella in 1942, Kennedy left Missouri for New York City, moving to an apartment in Harlem with her sister Grayce. Of the move to New York she commented, “I really didn’t come here to go to school, but the schools were here, so I went.” In 1944 she began classes at Columbia University School of General Studies, majoring in pre-law and graduated in 1949. However, when she applied to the university’s law school, she was refused admission. In her autobiography Kennedy wrote,

The Associate Dean, Willis Reese, told me I had been rejected not because I was a Black but because I was a woman. So I wrote him a letter saying that whatever the reason was, it felt the same to me, and some of my more cynical friends thought I had been discriminated against because I was Black.

Kennedy met with the dean and threatened to sue the school. They admitted her. She was the only black person among eight women in her class. In a 1946 sociology class at Columbia University Kennedy wrote a paper that analogized the discourses of race and sex. “Kennedy hoped that comparing ‘women’ and ‘Negroes’ would hasten the formation of alliances.”

Kennedy graduated from Columbia Law School in 1951.

By 1954 she had opened her own office, doing matrimonial work, and some assigned criminal cases. She was a member of the Young Democrats. In 1956, she formed a legal partnership with the lawyer who had represented Billie Holiday in regards to drug charges. Kennedy then came to represent Holiday’s estate, and also that of Charlie Parker.

Kennedy used Intersectionality as her approach to activism. Sherie Randolph, in her book Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Radical Black Feminist, quotes Flo saying: “My main message is that we have a pathologically, institutionally racist, sexist, classist society. And that niggerizing techniques that are used don’t only damage black people, but they also damage women, gay people, ex-prison inmates, prostitutes, children, old people, handicapped people, native Americans. And that if we can begin to analyze the pathology of oppression… we would learn a lot about how to deal with it.”  Kennedy kept revisiting the same aim: “urging women to examine the sources of their oppression. She spoke of day to day acts of resistance that we can all take and hold her own arrests and political actions.”[8] Kennedy summed up her protest strategy as “Mak[ing] white people nervous”[2]

Kennedy often dressed in a cowboy hat and pink sunglasses Another trademark in public appearances were false eyelashes, which she referred to as her “Daffy Duck” lashes, and which she used to great effect. Kennedy had a summer home on Fire Island, and was a popular fixture on the social scene there, entertaining many activists whom she invited to visit her.

Kennedy held regular salons in her apartment on East 48th Street, off Fifth Avenue, in New York City. She would preside over networking and facilitate people meeting each other, sharing ideas, and was always coming up with projects. She would give tours of her apartment, directing guests to the “filthy room” and the “dirty room”.


Her activism began early. “Kennedy recalled being arrested for the first time in 1965 when she attempted to reach her home on East 48th Street and police refused to believe she lived in the neighborhood. From that point on, she focused her attention on combating racism and discrimination.”

According to Jason Chambers in his book Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry, “After graduating high school, [Kennedy] organized a successful boycott against a Coca-Cola bottler who refused to hire black truck drivers.”

She also worked as an activist for feminism and civil rights, and the cases she took on increasingly tended to be related to these causes. She was close friends with fellow Columbia law graduate Morton Birnbaum MD, whose concept of sanism she influenced during the 1960s.

Kennedy played a significant role in formulating the Miss America protest of 1968. The Miss America protest was used as a tool to demonstrate the “exploitation of women”. Randolph noted in her book, Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical, that the responsibility lay with Kennedy to recruit other black feminists to this protest. During the protest multiple women were arrested and Kennedy took on their cases as their attorney.

In the 1970s Kennedy traveled the lecture circuit with writer Gloria Steinem. If a man asked the pair if they were lesbians – a stereotype of feminists at the time – Kennedy would quote Ti-Grace Atkinson and answer, “Are you my alternative?” She was an early member of the National Organization for Women, but left them in 1970, dissatisfied with their approach to change. In 1971 she founded the Feminist Party, which nominated Shirley Chisholm for president. She also helped found the Women’s Political Caucus. Beginning in 1972 she served on the Advisory Board of the Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective, a New York City theatre group that produced plays on feminist issues. Kennedy’s “position on the role of black feminists was diplomatic without being evasive.

Kennedy supported abortion rights and co-authored the book Abortion Rap with Diane Schulder. The phrase “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” is sometimes attributed to Kennedy, although Gloria Steinem attributed it to “an old Irish woman taxi driver in Boston” whom she said she and Kennedy met. In 1972, Kennedy filed tax evasion charges with the Internal Revenue Service against the Catholic Church, saying that their campaign against abortion rights violated the separation of church and state.

Sherie Randolph outlines in her article, Not to Rely Completely on the Courts, that Kennedy was one of the lawyers in the Abramowicz v. Lefkowitz case, the class action suit that wanted to repeal New York’s strict abortion laws.] Randolph stated: “This case was one of the first to use women who suffered from illegal abortions as expert witnesses instead of relying on physicians.”  “These tactics were eventually used in the Roe v. Wade’‘ case, in 1973, which overturned restrictive abortion laws.” Kennedy was a lawyer for the Women’s Health Collective and 350 plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit about abortion in New York.

Kennedy established the Media Workshop in 1966, “[using] these session to discuss strategies for challenging the media and to stress the importance of sharing tactical information across movement lines.’  Kennedy and others would picket and lobby the media over their representation of Black people. She stated that she would lead boycotts of major advertisers if they didn’t feature black people in their ads. She attended all three Black Power conferences and represented H. Rap BrownAssata Shakur and the Black Panthers. Kennedy also represented prominent radical feminist Valerie Solanas who was on trial for the attempted murder of Andy Warhol.

After the 1971 rebellion at Attica Prison in New York State arose as a result of human rights abuse, the issue of solidarity arose between the black power movement and the feminist movement, often forcing activists to choose between the two. Kennedy addressed the discord that feminists had against those who supported both the black power movement and feminism by saying: “We do not support Attica. We ARE Attica. We are Attica or we are nothing.”

In 1973 Kennedy co-founded with Margaret Sloan-Hunter the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO),which also dealt with race and gender issues such as reproductive rights and sterilization campaigns that were aimed at specific races.

In 1977, Kennedy became an associate of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP).

WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organization. The organization works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of women-based media.



Once, to protest the lack of female bathrooms at Harvard University, she led a mass urination on the grounds. When asked about this, she said:

I’m just a loud-mouthed middle-aged colored lady with a fused spine and three feet of intestines missing and a lot of people think I’m crazy. Maybe you do too, but I never stop to wonder why I’m not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren’t like me.

In 1974, People magazine wrote that she was “The biggest, loudest and, indisputably, the rudest mouth on the battleground.

She was great at clever political slogans. A strong opponent of military and interventionist wars, especially the Vietnam War, Kennedy coined the term “Pentagonorrhea”.


Kennedy acted in the films The Landlord (1970, adapted from Kristin Hunter‘s 1966 novel), in which she played “Enid”, and the independent political drama Born In Flames (1983, directed by Lizzie Borden, in which she played “Zella”

Kennedy also acted in Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow alongside Morgan Freeman (1971, directed by Edward Mann)[21] and was seen on the TV series Some of My Best Friends are Men (1973).

Kennedy was one of many narrators in the second volume of a film entitled Come Back, Africa: The Films of Lionel Rogosin, which discussed African-American history as well as apartheid in South Africa. This film was created to “serve as a unique piece of African American oral history”.

In 1946, Kennedy wrote a monograph called “The Case Against Marriage”, which she later summarized in her autobiography:

…the idea being that marriage is a crock. Why should you lock yourself in the bathroom just because you have to go three times a day?

In 1986 on her 70th birthday, Kennedy had a birthday gala at the New York City Playboy Club, sponsored by Christie Hefner—daughter of Hugh Hefner and former CEO of Playboy Enterprises.

In 1997 Kennedy received a Lifetime Courageous Activist Award, and the following year was honored by Columbia University with their Owl Award for outstanding graduates. In 1999 the City University of New York awarded her the Century Award.


Kennedy contributed the piece “Institutionalized oppression vs. the female” to the 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings From The Women’s Liberation Movement, edited by Robin Morgan.[27] In 1976, Kennedy wrote an autobiography, Color Me Flo: My Hard Life and Good Times (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall), in which she wrote about her life and career. She also collaborated with William Francis Pepper on the book Sex Discrimination in Employment: An Analysis and Guide for Practitioner and Student.

She died on December 21, 2000, at her home in New York, aged 84.







These taken from my book “How to Hack Your Life Through Game Thinking”





If you are interested in avoiding colds and flu read the following articles. Lots of great wellness tips for when you need to travel on a plan.









If you have an interest in having a basic understanding of Applied Game Theory (and you need to) here is an interview I did with James Selman, a pioneer and innovator in Leadership research.


Just click below to watch the entire interview.




Listen here as Lewis explain the RealUGuru Project and how we can give up unnecessary struggle through visionary thinking in this insightful interview with award winning journalist Phyllis Haynes about the RealUGuru Project


Winning The Game Of Life: A Primer On Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Lewis Harrison is the director of the professional Coaching Training Program at the International Association of Healing Professionals


He is  founder of the RealUGuru Project Think Tank is a is a life coach, peak performance expert, writer, mentor, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem solving and strategizing  based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to study with Lewis Harrison. Begin by reading  Lewis’ books.

If you are an entrepreneur you will want to begin with his books on game theory and business success.  Here are two basic ones to start with:



The offerings on RealUGuru.com focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;



This blog is sponsored by the New York City Chair Massage Company at  www.eventschairmassage.com, supplying stress management services to event and meeting planners for trade shows throughout the United States 








Some of our best blogs from the past


How Wellness Coaches Solve Problems and Intuitive Solutions


Most people think logic and rational thinkers are the best problem solvers. The best Life Coaches and Wellness consultant know that intuition is a powerful tool for finding solutions.


Children usually play games as a diversion or for amusement, but as we get older we begin to engage in games of a more serious nature. Many of these games are designed to help us survive, prosper, or win competitively over an opponent or opponents.  Other games are created as a means of transcending some obstacle, or to solve a problem.  In order to play a game, a person must have some basic skills. Since all games are not necessarily competitive, some games may not require skills to win, but only to play.  Such games are known as games of chance.  As with all games, these games are based on some system of interactions between players, or one player and one object, such as a card or a ball.

Once you decide to live life as if it is a big game, you have a working model for creating greater benefits such as love, freedom, happiness, spiritual contentment and abundance. In order to win effectively, you must understand which particular game of life you are playing.  There are theologians, philosophers, psychologists, politicians, neurobiologists, economic behaviorists, military strategists, athletic coaches, physicists, entrepreneurs and mathematicians who research and study this all day long.  We are starting here with a very basic concept. The concept that life is a game and the more you understand the rules of the game and play well, the more you will win the game.  In some games, there will only be one winner. In other games, everybody wins.

Some people are resistant to the way I have chosen to use the concept of games. They express that using the word “game” to describe something serious like raising a child, having a parent die, or defining how one is supposed to treat starving refugees is disturbing to them. My use of the word “game” to describe a systematic approach to life is not meant to diminish the seriousness of any of these things. Calling each a “game” simply makes it easier for some individuals to grasp these concepts and place the raw life experience associated with each into an understandable form.  We all play games daily. Any systematic activity – from table manners to having sex, or going to church, temple, mosque or prayer room – could be considered a game. There are time-management games, priority-planning games, and goal-development games.  We all create formal supportive relationships with others based on a systematic approach to life.  These are games as well.

Some games are so serious we even create rites, rituals, and ceremonies. For them, games of this type might have rules and guidelines for how they need to be conducted.  Governments use the term “war games” to describe a very serious activity with consequences of life and death; there are rules and regulations related to human rights, the treatment of civilians in war, ethical rules in politics, and rules on how to create a wedding or funeral.  As you can see from these examples, any organized series of rules and regulations where human interaction is involved can be called a “game.”  You can use any word you wish instead of “game”. I’ll continue to use the common phrase, “playing the game of life.”

The key to solving any problem is to understand how the problem came to be. One of my books, a translation of the classic Chinese text the Tao te Ching consistently promotes the idea that the best way to deal with a big problem is to address it when it is a small problem. Here are some tips for solving a basic problem:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Can you solve it alone or do you require experts?
  3. Is there a specific group or person, who can make that problem disappear?
  4. If there is such a person ask them to remove the obstacle. It is unlikely that they will do it just because you have asked, but it doesn’t hurt to ask? Then ask! Occasionally events and circumstances will arise beyond your knowledge or control that might cause a decision maker to say “Yes” simply because they have been asked.
  5. Look between the lines and below the surface. If it involves contracts ask about the small print; have a lawyer skilled in this area review the contract; ask around about how the decision makers or the organization they represent have behaved in the past,
  6. Everything is negotiable. If you ask and are told “No” ask them what might bring them to “Yes”. Even better, if you have done your research you may already have that information.
  7. Turning a “no” to a “yes”. Sometimes you can get to a “Yes” if you make concessions in other areas that the decision makers might find of value in a way you might not have thought of. This, of course, works both ways. Possibly they might make concessions in other areas that you might find of value but they might not.
  8. Never offer exclusivity unless you must. Check contracts for this especially for second or third parties involved in a project. You may get along with the primary decision but do you want to be imprisoned in a “bad” business relationship with a second or third party you do not know and cannot control? I think not.
  9. Indemnification: In many situations, damage, loss or injury can arise. Are you prepared for this?
  10. Beware of anyone who does not believe in barter at any time, negotiating, or discussing changes to a contracts or addendums. There will be times when language needs to be added to contracts or other agreements. Make sure this is a possibility if needed.


By applying these simple tips within the context of game thinking we can learn to eliminate many problems before they become complex.

In Game Thinking, whenever possible it is best to solve problems through inductive and deductive reasoning or at the very minimum focused on logical and rational models. Many problems, such as ones best addressed through pattern language* are built around paradox, contradiction, and ambiguity. With these problems the more a logical the approach the less likely one is to find solutions.  Here, it is the ability to immediately access and apprehend intuitive knowledge without the use of reason that will make the resolution of a problem obvious. Intuition implies the ability to understand something immediately through instinctive feeling, without the need for conscious reasoning.

How can we intentionally connect to our intuition? Intuition may show up in many forms but researchers find that it is generally experienced in three specific ways, through:

  1. Physical sensations (kinesthetic)
    2. Emotions and feelings
    3. Symbols and images (mental)

Some individuals can see an indicator (a cue) or indicators in a particular environment where a wise and reasonable reaction or decision would be needed. This would automatically bring intuition into play. There is no use in seeking a logical explanation here. An individual with great intuitive gifts cannot explain what their intuitive experience is like. The more intuitive an individual is the less likely they are to be able to describe why they reacted or what prompted them at the time of the event to tap into their intuition. Some highly intuitive individuals can retrospectively plot their daily actions by recognizing clear and present cues and informational signals in the surrounding environment – cues that a less intuitive individual would never notice. Such an individual can make relatively fast decisions without having to compare options. And when presented with time pressures, high risk, and a changing environment, they can use intuition to identify similar situations and choose feasible solutions.

Most intuitives have the ability to recognize cues. Cues are types of signals. Some individuals are able to subconsciously recognize nonverbal facial cues (signals) and body language in others and respond quickly to these cues without much rational thought.

Logical problem-solving and intuitive approaches do not need to be in conflict. There are ways of integrating a systematic approach to making a decision with the intuitive approach. Two of the most well-known ways of doing this are the Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD) model and Decision Analysis or D. A.

The Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD) model is a blend of intuition and analysis and explains how people can make relatively quick decisions without the need to compare the various options available to them. In the Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD)  an individual with an expertise in a specific area of knowledge or experience may transcend the limitations presented by time pressures, extreme risk, and ever-changing boundaries and ground rules. Such an individual is able to accomplish this by using their life experience to identify and model similar situations and obstacles and intuitively choose the easiest and most feasible solutions.
Decision Analysis* is a form of Game theory which offers a formal systematic approach to making decisions. It consists of philosophy, theory, and methodology. Comparative Studies have shown that choices made through Decision Analysis are more accurate and more often than those made exclusively with intuition.

So one can say that Decision Analysis is superior to using intuition alone in making decisions or choosing a course of action. Of course, the point is not to say that one approach is superior to the other. The key here is to use intuition in an extraordinary way. The extraordinary person knows how to integrate the two.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that intuition is more than a review of courses of action or simply trusting an inner feeling. With intuition, a person may subconsciously explore past experiences and match patterns from the past in relation to present situations. Through this matching process, they are able to quickly choose the most effective and most easily applied course of action. It is mental simulation that presents the analysis aspect of a process which is conscious and deliberate

Often it is difficult to know if our intuition is correct, especially when the evidence indicates otherwise. Most of the time we will not act on what our intuition presents us with if the option offered seems totally irrational. On the other hand, the brightest among us will often tie ourselves up in intellectual and philosophical knots attempting to make the best decision on a purely logical or rational basis. We focus on what seems, rational, probable and sensible ignoring what our inner voice is telling us.

In solving a problem one need not choose between logic and intuition? It is not one or the other. If we choose what the mind tells us we soon find that untangling these mental knots requires more than simple deductive arguments. One cannot just point out the problems associated with some particular position. Instead, we must divert our attention from our problems long enough

to  become  aware  of our emotional agendas  and beneath

that, our inner intuitive sensibilities. When you have looked at all the variables, talked to the experts, applied the algorithms and still not come to a clear conclusion it is time to surrender to intuition. In such a situation it is intuition that will guide us in the right direction.
With some problems, we may not be able to logically understand what intuition may be guiding us towards. One cannot easily possess information based knowledge without a clear inference or the use of reason.  Still few would doubt that we sometimes have an immediate apprehension of an object by the mind without any reasoning process. Here intuition is an effective yet irrational way of gaining knowledge. Intuition provides us with beliefs that we cannot necessarily justify, and yet at crucial junctures in life, we often make intuitive choices with very positive results.

At times we all use intuition without really knowing what it is. No one really knows what is authentically intuitive and what only seems like intuition. Either way, there is this sense that gives us the ability to recognize nonverbal cues from others. When a person finely hones these intuitive senses they will gain access to know valid solutions to many problems.



If you have an interest in having a basic understanding of Applied Game Theory (and you need to) here is an interview I did with James Selman, a pioneer and innovator in Leadership research.


Just click below to watch the entire interview.




Listen here as Lewis explain the RealUGuru Project and how we can give up unnecessary struggle through visionary thinking in this insightful interview with award winning journalist Phyllis Haynes about the RealUGuru Project


Winning The Game Of Life: A Primer On Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Lewis Harrison is the director of the professional Coaching Training Program at the International Association of Healing Professionals


He is  founder of the RealUGuru Project Think Tank is a is a life coach, peak performance expert, writer, mentor, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem solving and strategizing  based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to study with Lewis Harrison. Begin by reading  Lewis’ books.

If you are an entrepreneur you will want to begin with his books on game theory and business success.  Here are two basic ones to start with:



The offerings on RealUGuru.com focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;



This blog is sponsored by the New York City Chair Massage Company at  www.eventschairmassage.com, supplying stress management services to event and meeting planners for trade shows throughout the United States 

















Master Life Coach Lewis Harrison Interviewed on Applied Game Theory by Leadership Visionary Jim Selman.


Last month I was given one of the greatest opportunities and honors of my life – the chance to be interviewed about my work in Life Coaching and Applied Game Theory by visionary and influential consultant, coach, and author. Jim Selman

James C. Selman (born February 7, 1942) has been and still is in the forefront in helping major companies embrace the concept” of “contextual management”. He formed Selman & Associates in 1976, and “began research into the nature of culture and large-scale systems change”. In 1984, he partnered with Werner Erhard to form Transformational Technologies, a consulting and training franchise operation, which served as the corporate division of Werner Erhard & Associates, with Selman as its first president. In his capacity there, he was noted to have said of his philosophy of management, “when we talk management technology, what we are talking about is a rigorously tested and challenged body of distinction for having access to whatever the phenomenon of management really is”.

In October 1987, Selman moderated a televised broadcast that featured Werner Erhard in discussion with top sports coaches John WoodenRed AuerbachTimothy Gallwey and George Allen discussing principles of coaching across all disciplines.  They sought to identify distinctions found in coaching, regardless of the subject being coached. In 1989, with the late Professor Roger Evered (U.S. Naval Graduate School at Monterrey), Selman documented the outcome in the first article on organizational coaching, titled “Coaching and the Art of Management”.  In another article, “Leadership and Innovation: Relating to Circumstances and Change”, Selman identifies six ways of responding to change.

Selman was described as “an enormously powerful man with a deep voice and a way of speaking that held people’s attention and inspired confidence”. Selman & Associates became Paracomm Partners International in 1988, which is active to present date.  Today Jim is the host and co-producer with Phyllis Haynes of the podcast and web program Possible Futures, conversations and commentary to explore ideas and decision making and their relationship to possible futures.

It was Ms. Haynes, (an award winning journalist) who is my good friend, and mentor and has been supportive of my work for decades that suggested to Jim that I be interviewed concerning my work in Applied Game Theory. The interview was a complete joy for me since one of my great passions in life is sharing applied game theory with influential thinkers.

If you have an interest in having a basic understanding of Applied Game Theory (and you need to) here is an interview I did with James Selman, a pioneer and innovator in Leadership research.


Just click below to watch the entire interview.




Listen here as Lewis explain the RealUGuru Project and how we can give up unnecessary struggle through visionary thinking in this insightful interview with award winning journalist Phyllis Haynes about the RealUGuru Project


Winning The Game Of Life: A Primer On Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Lewis Harrison is the director of the professional Coaching Training Program at the International Association of Healing Professionals


He is  founder of the RealUGuru Project Think Tank is a is a life coach, peak performance expert, writer, mentor, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem solving and strategizing  based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to study with Lewis Harrison. Begin by reading  Lewis’ books.

If you are an entrepreneur you will want to begin with his books on game theory and business success.  Here are two basic ones to start with:



The offerings on RealUGuru.com focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;




This blog is sponsored by the New York City Chair Massage Company at  www.eventschairmassage.com, supplying stress management services to event and meeting planners for trade shows throughout the United States 











Applied Game Theory and the Creation of Support triangles and Social Networks


Support Triangles

In the process of problem-solving and making effective

Each triangular slice has different toppings representing unique personalities, styles, talents, and perspectives on life and living that create the whole pie.




SENT BLOG 12-16-2017













It’s not known what causes narcissistic personality disorder. As with personality development and with other mental health disorders, the cause of narcissistic personality disorder is likely complex. Narcissistic personality disorder may be linked to:

  • Environment― mismatches in parent-child relationships with either excessive adoration or excessive criticism that is poorly attuned to the child’s experience
  • Genetics― inherited characteristics
  • Neurobiology— the connection between the brain and behavior and thinking

Risk factors

Narcissistic personality disorder affects more males than females, and it often begins in the teens or early adulthood. Keep in mind that, although some children may show traits of narcissism, this may simply be typical of their age and doesn’t mean they’ll go on to develop narcissistic personality disorder.

Although the cause of narcissistic personality disorder isn’t known, some researchers think that in biologically vulnerable children, parenting styles that are overprotective or neglectful may have an impact. Genetics and neurobiology also may play a role in development of narcissistic personality disorder.


Complications of narcissistic personality disorder, and other conditions that can occur along with it, can include:

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Problems at work or school
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Physical health problems
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior


Because the cause of narcissistic personality disorder is unknown, there’s no known way to prevent the condition. However, it may help to:

  • Get treatment as soon as possible for childhood mental health problems
  • Participate in family therapy to learn healthy ways to communicate or to cope with conflicts or emotional distress
  • Attend parenting classes and seek guidance from therapists or social workers if needed







Listen here as Lewis explain the RealUGuru Project and how we can give up unnecessary struggle through visionary thinking in this insightful interview with award winning journalist Phyllis Haynes about the RealUGuru Project





Winning The Game Of Life: A Primer On Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Lewis Harrison founder of the RealUGuru Project Think Tank is a master lifehacker, writer, mentor, success and wealth coach, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem solving and strategizing  based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to study with Lewis Harrison. Begin by reading  Lewis’ books.

If you are an entrepreneur you will want to begin with his books on game theory and business success.  Here are two basic ones to start with:



The offerings on RealUGuru.com focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;








This blog is sponsored by the New York City Chair Massage Company at  www.eventschairmassage.com, supplying stress management services to event and meeting planners throughout the United States












How to be Happy in One Easy Step



In my personal work as a success coach I often encounter clients who are basically unhappy though very successful financially. The challenge for them is that they associate success as the accumulation  of wealth and material things.


Materialism as a path to happiness and

contentment is a fool’s game.


I am no Luddite speaking here. The RealUGuru Project is housed in a 6,000 sq. foot 22 room Victorian Mansion and I live a life of material freedom, writing, teaching and as  the visionary anthropologist Joseph Campbell coined it I “live my bliss.”


So what is the point? The key to real wealth and happiness is to know what your essential emotional and physical  needs are and create a daily discipline that brings these things to fruition.


I do this through Lifehacking  and have a website dedicated to this process – TheLifehackGuru.com.


Another great webstite by a few Lifehacker  pioneers states it simply.  “The Lifehacker motto is Tips, tricks, and downloads for getting things done.”




In my research on living the good life I came across the following article. I hope you will read it.






Listen here as Lewis explain the RealUGuru Project and how we can give up unnecessary struggle through visionary thinking in this insightful interview with award winning journalist Phyllis Haynes about the RealUGuru Project





Winning The Game Of Life: A Primer On Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Lewis Harrison founder of the RealUGuru Project Think Tank is a master lifehacker, writer, mentor, success and wealth coach, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem solving and strategizing  based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to read Lewis’ recently published business books.

You can find books on game theory and business success here:



The offerings on RealUGuru.com focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;


Today’s  blog on Confirmation Bias  is supported by a grant from Events  Chair Massage –www.EventschairMasssage.com –  a company that offers Corporate Chair Massage and Stress Management Services to meeting planners, event planners, party planners and HR for Trade show booths throughout the United States.




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Open-minded people have a different visual perception of reality










Start here





If you are looking to maximize your influence and personal freedom you will need to become skilled at the very basics of social networking. The fact that you are reading this blog means that you have already entered the bloggesphere.


If you do not yet have a blog or regularly post on Facebook, Google Plus or other area’s in the social network please explore these tips to get you started.



  1. Before you begin make a detailed study of the major sites, platforms, and services where your desired audience can be located. Always keep in mind that each platform has its own personality. A one size fits all almost never works.
  2. Start a blog. The easiest way to start a blog is to go to WordPress.com. This site is free and will show you step by step how to create your very first blog.
  3. Your blog should be focused on the speaking to the audience that will align best with your long term personal or business goals.
  4. Ask yourself with each blog “What is in it for the person reading the blog?”
  5. Make sure your post is energetic and enthusiastic – filled with exciting details.
  6. Make the content inviting, accessible and interactive.
  7. Deliver plenty of bite-sized information, frequently.
  8. If possible create a two way conversation by asking them questions relevant to the blog. Simply blasting dense information at them is less effective than soliciting comments and input.
  9. Become an expert and be an essential resource for useful and informative videos, articles and facts.
  10. It is important to hold your vision. If you do not do this there is the risk that you will spread your message too thin. Concentrating your aim makes it easier to hit your target than using a scattered shot-shotgun strategy.
  11. Create content rich blogs. In the future the big media companies may have the power to filter, measure, and censor information flow in the name of revealing only what’s important and reducing clutter on the web.
  12. The best blogs involve an inspiring, motivating or informative story to frame the details offered. The most effective influencers have a narrative to keep the reader’s attention. A great story can better engage your followers on social platforms.
  13. Learn as much as you can about the application of virtual reality. All of the “giants of tech” are investing heavily in this for their platforms and in a decade or less VR be as familiar to social networkers as Facebook and YouTube are now.






Applied Game Theory:






Someone asked me about my approach to problem-solving. I explained it this way.


A Problem

Any physical, psychological or spiritual obstacle

which hinders the achievement of a

 particular goal, objective or purpose.


The Solution:

Harrison’s Applied Game Theory An umbrella term for thousands of game-based life strategies that combine logical, rational linear and intuitive strategies for solving problems.  Derived from classical game theory, HAGT integrates these approaches with emotionally based, often irrational, and non-linear strategies linked into sets by means of “patterns” of form or content.  The goal of HAGT is to maximize love, joy, freedom, clarity of thought, emotional balance, efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, personal contentment, inner wisdom, happiness, and success in daily life.


Harrison’s Applied Game Theory; i.e. mastering the art and science of strategizing.


A strong, defining element of Harrison’s Applied Game Theory is a strong sense of ethics and strategizing built around love, kindness, compassion and the desire to create win-win situations out of what often appears to be win-lose. This is where the concept of the Wisdom Path comes into play.

The Wisdom Path is a practical secular philosophy of living, relationships, and intellectual and spiritual inquiry. It offers those with a deep hunger for visionary thinking, and spiritual sustenance guidance in these explorations through the application of game thinking. Game thinking has much to offer those who live in a “state of longing”, or are imprisoned by existential angst and emotional confusion.

With a deep and profound respect for science and spiritual inquiry the Wisdom Path is free of dogma, hierarchies, rites, rituals, ceremonies, clergy, temples, churches, or other “so called” sacred buildings or sacred texts and holy books, the Wisdom Path offers basic guidance and a psychological and emotional safety net for spiritual seekers of all types. In addition, the Wisdom Path while, respecting the importance of rational and logical thought in the making of important life decisions recognizes that academic arrogance and cognitive bias passed off as knowledge or wisdom can be a great obstacle to clarity of thought.






Winning The Game Of Life: A Primer On Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Lewis Harrison – RealUGuru, is a master lifehacker, writer, mentor, success and wealth coach, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem solving and strategizing  based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST  at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to read Lewis’ recently published business books.

You can find books on game theory and business success here:



This course and all the offerings on www.RealUGuru.com  focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;


Today’s  blog on Confirmation Bias  is supported by a grant from Events  Chair Massage –www.EventschairMasssage.com –  a company that offers Corporate Chair Massage and Stress Management Services to meeting planners, event planners, party planners and HR for Trade show booths throughout the United States.




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Open-minded people have a different visual perception of reality





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Harrison’s Applied Game Theory (HAGT)

 An umbrella term for thousands of game-based life strategies that combine logical, rational linear and intuitive strategies for solving problems.  Derived from classical game theory, HAGT integrates these approaches with emotionally based, often irrational, and non-linear strategies linked into sets by means of “patterns” of form or content.  The goal of HAGT is to maximize love, joy, freedom, clarity of thought, emotional balance, efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, personal contentment, inner wisdom, happiness, and success in daily life.




Winning The Game Of Life: A Primer On Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Lewis Harrison – RealUGuru, is a master lifehacker, writer, mentor, success and wealth coach, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem solving and strategizing  based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST  at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to read Lewis’ recently published business books.

You can find books on game theory and business success here:



This course and all the offerings on www.RealUGuru.com  focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;


Today’s  blog on Confirmation Bias  is supported by a grant from Events  Chair Massage –www.EventschairMasssage.com –  a company that offers Corporate Chair Massage and Stress Management Services to meeting planners, event planners, party planners and HR for Trade show booths throughout the United States.




Preface                                                                                    vi

Author’s Forward                                                                  x

The Teachings of Lewis Harrison                                     xvii

Introduction                                                                          1

Understanding Applied game thinking                           3

How to Use This Book                                                         12


Part 1: The Basics                                                                  15

Part 1 Introduction                                                               16

·      More About The Wisdom Path                                      22

·      Problems                                                                              31

·      It Seemed Like a Problem at the Time                          36

·      The Art and Science of Meaning                                     39

·      Solving Problems and Intuitive Solutions                    45

·      Game Thinker Troubleshooting                                     53

·      Understanding Life as a Game                                       60

  • Toys, Games and Puzzles 62

·      Knowledge                                                                        65

  • Game Thinking Basics 69
  • Why We Compete 76
  • The Master Strategist 84
  • Competitive Games 91
  • The Nineteen Strategic Resources 97
  • Golden Rule Games 100


Part 2 The Art and Science of Strategy                             106

Part 2 Introduction                                                               107

  • Reciprocal Altruism 111
  • Tit-for-tat 119
  • Adult Games 126
  • What Makes a Game Effective 136
  • Who is John Nash and Why is He Important? 141
  • Randomness 145
  • Understanding How Game Systems Work 148
  • How Game are Created 152
  • Classical, Mathematical Game theory 154
  • So Many Games, So Little Time 158
  • Made Up Stuff 163
  • Stories 165
  • Game theory, Sacred Stories and Group Think 172
  • Society’s Games 178
  • Support Triangles 180
  • Not so “Common Sense” Strategies 185
  • Creating My Life Game 191
  • Dealing With Cheaters 194


Part 3 Applying Game Thinking                                       198

Part 3 Introduction                                                               199

  • My Journey 203
  • Holistic and Visionary Games 212
  • Holistic Self-Assessment 216
  • Do You Know What Game You Are Playing? 219
  • Coaching and Mentoring in the Game of Life 226
  • Applying Game Thinking 231
  • Advancing Your Studies in Game Thinking 236
  • Applied game thinking in the Media 238
  • Final Thoughts 248
  • Glossary 251


This book is going to change your life. Read it cover-to-cover and apply what it has to offer and I promise that you will see and experience the world in a new and much more positive way.  What is Applied game thinking (AGT)? It is a process where one maximizes one’s potential for success at the lowest possible cost even when other people, places, and things provide challenges and/or obstacles to doing so. On the most basic level, the millennial generation thinks of it as lifehacking.

AGT is strongly influenced by a concept called Game theory. Game theory has won researchers over a dozen Noble Prizes, explains the systematic and detailed study of interdependent rational choice. Game theory and AGT should be distinguished from another concept “decision theory*”. Decision Theory is the primary concept presented in “Volume 3 in the Teachings of Lewis Harrison, “Common Sense: Tips, Tools, and Strategies for Making Effective Decisions.  The distinction between AGT, game theory and Decision Theory is this:

  • AGTfocuses on daily life and how treating the world as a game can make sense out of the irrational, chaos of daily living.
  • Game theoryis for the most part, a formal mathematically-driven system based on the interactions of many rational players in a defined environment.
  • Decision Theory is  the   mathematical  study  of

strategies for optimal decision-making. Specifically, it is concerned with choices that need to be made when there are a number of options available, each presenting different risks or expectations of gain or loss depending on the outcome. Unlike AGT and game theory,  Decision Theory does not necessarily focus on the interactions between different players in a game-like situation nor does it necessarily integrate intuition, tacit knowledge and other non-linear factors which would likely be an issue with AGT.


Over time you will see that these distinctions can make a large difference over the types of choices you are likely to make. This book is not just about choices, and strategies for winning. It is also focused on love, compassion and living a happy and contented life. This is where the concept of the Wisdom Path enters the picture. The Wisdom Path is defined as a way of thinking that seeks to maximize love, compassion, clarity of thought, emotional balance, contentment and happiness at the lowest physical, mental and spiritual cost. In a sense, it is a form of game thinking  but a spiritual, rather than a material game.

This book merges the concepts of Applied game thinking* and the Wisdom Path so each flows into the other effortlessly, like two streams merging into each other as they flow into a larger pond.

Applied game thinking is very simple and easy to understand. It is an extremely “user-friendly” approach to life and living. The foundational concept of Applied game thinking is that the physical world is one big playing field and that daily life is a game that we play on this field. Essentially we are all players in this game of life in one way or another. As with most games, in the “Game” of life some win and some lose.

So think of the world as a chess board, a baseball field or a poker table in a casino. In any of these “game spaces,” there will be participants in the game. We call these participants “players”, or “agents”.

Most games are multi-player games. So like any game in the “game of life,” the players will be interacting according to the “rules” of the game. In most games, we expect the players to be honest though we know that games often have cheaters. This is why most games have referees and penalties for breaking the rules.

My goal in writing this book is to teach you to apply the same type of thinking you used in gameplay as a child. Whether you played checkers or Tic-tac-toe, the same game principles apply now as they did then. The concept of Applied game thinking, as simple as it may be, always references to ideas related to game theory* (GT). GT has been used to solve many complex and extreme problems through an understanding of the fundamentals of gameplay a person with common sense and the basic skills offered in this book can also  solve many daily problems. Understanding GT and game thinking will give you the necessary tools for making effective decisions in difficult and even adversarial situations.

In order to use this book effectively as a guide to your own life you do not really need to understand how the more complex ideas within GT work. However, if you do have  an  interest  in GT  there are explanations provided

throughout the book concerning various problem-solving scenarios where more complex applications may be useful.

To apply a useful metaphor here, think of how some people love to use mechanical devices but don’t really care how or why these devices work. That is what this book is about – Learning to apply game thinking tools to many different situations. These are, in fact, the thinking tools you have been using your entire life as you have played games of one type or another.

This book is easy to use. Feel free to skip around and  “cherry pick” ideas or chapters that seem to be of interest to you.

To learn more advanced ideas about Applied game thinking* (AGT*) and the Wisdom Path I have provided a glossary of words and terms at the end of the book. The glossary will be most helpful to you as you selectively choose the most beneficial items and ideas from what is available here.



Author’s Forward

The Greek philosopher Socrates stated:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”


Many people have never heard this quote, and if they did, it would not be of concern or of interest to them. They are perfectly content to live their lives unexamined. They eat, sleep, go to a house of worship, go to their job, watch television, play video games, marry, have kids and do what is generally viewed by society as living normal lives. They will experience ups and downs, as we all do in life, but they will survive developing strategies throughout their lives to do so. They are essentially content to live pedestrian lives and may even prosper by doing so.  If I was a person inclined to envy, I might be envious of them. Living life without thinking about what “Is,” and why and how what “Is” is can be a blessing.  Sadly, or fortunately, I am not wired in this way. I need to ask and explore art, truth, love, God, etc. The search for meaning is something that drives me and always has.

If you are one of those individuals that is always asking questions and exploring the meaning of things as you create efficient and effective strategies to survive, and even prosper, then this book is written for you. It is designed to give you a shortcut to success by the solving of problems, isolating challenges, and transcending obstacles through game theory and game-based thinking.  All you need to do to succeed is to use the tools I am offering you here.

Since I first saw “A Beautiful Mind” a movie about the life of John Nash, one of the pioneers of game theory, I have had a passion for game thinking and game-based strategies. Since I am not a mathematician, and the mathematics of subtraction, addition, multiplication and division is as advanced as my skills stretch in this area I was forced, early on, to explore the kind of common sense game-based strategies that could be learned and applied in day to day life without a calculator, computer or any but the most rudimentary mathematical skills.

In the beginning of my explorations I read as much as I could about poker, the game that first peaked Jon Von Neumann’s interest in classical game theory. Then I explored the concepts that defined simple puzzles, board games like checkers and Monopoly, competitive sports, and card and video games of all types. I observed and read about Tic-tac-toe, Checkers, Chess, Go, Jig Saw Puzzles, Scrabble, Black Jack, Rubik’s Cube, Tetris and more. I read as much as I could about the great strategists – those who had developed their concepts prior to the formal creation of classical game theory. I read about Hannibal’s campaign against Rome, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, The Prussian Military General  Carl von Clausewitz, Rommel, Simón Bolívar, the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, The French Revolution, Napoleon; and even the structure and organization of the Five Families – the major Mafia crime families that dominated organized crime in New York City for almost a century, and influenced organized crime in other major centers. I explored and studied Gandhi’s Campaign to free India from British Rule, Michael Collins and the British in Ireland, the strategies of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in the American South, Nelson Mandela’s successful struggle against apartheid and the global financial collapse of 2007.

My next step was to explore many pioneers in psychiatry and psychology who might have been familiar with and even applied game thinking to their work. It turned out that a number of these pioneers had explored game theory and game- based thinking in relation to the psychology of behavior and human interactions.

The two most prominent were Eric Berne (May 10, 1910 – July 15, 1970). Berne was a Canadian-born psychiatrist who, in the middle of the 20th century, created the theory of “transactional analysis” (TA) as a way of explaining human behavior. Berne’s theory of TA was based on the ideas of Freud yet they were distinctly different. Freudian psychotherapists focused on talk therapy as a way of gaining insight into their patient’s personalities. Berne believed that insight could be better discovered by analyzing patient’s social transactions, essentially their “intuitive applications of game thinking”.  Berne was among the first psychiatrists to apply game theory to the field of psychiatry. Another pioneer in the exploration of Game theory and its application to understanding human behavior was the psychiatrist and social critic Thomas Szasz.

I merged the ideas of von Neumann, Nash, Berne, Szasz and many other great thinkers with what I had learned exploring and studying games of chance, puzzles, and sport and board games. Interestingly, though I studied puzzles and many card and board games, I never had much of an interest in actually playing them. I was more excited at how these ideas played out in daily life. I studied game theory daily, reading any book I could find with the words “game theory” in the title, as well as any popular books on game-based thinking. I was especially drawn to the “Freakonomics” books by Levitt and Dunbar, the writings of Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Monroe Lewis  the prolific, American  non-fiction author and financial journalist. I even explored ideas related to creative and visionary thinking, especially books by and about Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – Feb 15, 1988) the Nobel Prize winning  American theoretical physicist known for his iconoclasticism, out of the box thinking, and clarity of thought and open inquiry.

One of my daily “mental exercises” was the study of prominent newspaper stories as if each story was a game.  As a professional writer and speaker, I knew that all games are essentially unfolding stories and that all stories have key elements that can determine structure: milieu, idea, character, and event. While each of these elements is present in every story, there is generally one, positive, or negative element that dominates the others.  I dissected each story exploring the various elements to be taken into consideration from a game thinker’s perspective. I asked:

  1. What is the story? Is it an attempt to discover something?; achieve something?; conquer an adversary, or maximize some untapped talent or potential?
  2. What is the environment where the story is unfolding? Is it a mountain?; A war zone?; The location of a natural disaster?; An archeological discovery?
  3. Who is in charge of the journey? Is it one person against various challenges or a group effort with a leader or decision maker in charge?
  4. What are the obstacles?; Is it nature against humans or human againsthuman?
  5. What is the end goal?
  6. Can everyone involved succeed in the quest or must someone lose if someone is successful?
  7. How does one know that the story has ended with success or failure?


In my early training as a success and life coach I had studied a concept called “Mind Mapping”.  A  Mind Map  is a diagram used to visually organize information.

Based on mathematical constructs known as spider diagrams (also known as “idea sun bursting“), a mind map is a hierarchical illustration that shows relationships among pieces of the whole. It is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.

Mind maps can be drawn by hand, either as “rough notes” during a lecture, meeting or planning session, for example, or as higher quality pictures when more time is available.

I soon learned that as with mind maps and similar constructs, in many games and gamer environments a solution to a problem could be isolated by creating a diagram, chart, grid or graph of some kind. These might include some diagrams or illustrations that might list pros and cons concerning the benefits of making one choice over another. Thus when I was exploring the elements in those news stories I might need to track thirty or forty stories at a time, defining the details, and the strategies employed. I then integrated all this into charts and graphs so I could follow the details as they became more complex. In time I began to see patterns and studied the concept of Pattern Language*, a method of describing good design practices or patterns of useful organization within a field of expertise.  I even went to jazz clubs to listen to Bebop music and explore the complex patterns and interactions among the players.  This is before I ever knew specific terms unique to game-based thinking and game theory.

I applied all of this to my own life, merging the theoretical and the recreational. I applied these ideas to my work as a life and success coach; to my business affairs; to negotiations and in dealing with those who wished to do me harm or manipulate me in ways that were not in my best interest. I studied, met, spoke and corresponded with experts on human behavior. In time I became more successful in every way; in my business affairs, in my family relationships, in my spiritual life and in my role as a mentor and coach. People noticed the difference and commented on it. I did this with ever greater efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. I eliminated unnecessary struggle from my life and radically increased the quality of virtually every aspect of it. This all came to be, I have no doubt, because of applied game thinking.

Over the years, I eventually produced and cataloged close to 20,000 pages of material on personal development, human potential, human behavior, spirituality, life hacking and game thinking. One afternoon, while speaking with one of my mentors about this material the suggestion was made that I organize it and publish it as the “Teachings of Lewis Harrison” – a “pay it forward” of sorts for others who might be seekers like myself. Initially, I resisted; it seemed a bit narcissistic to name a body of work after oneself. In time, it became clear to me that though these might be called “The Teachings of Lewis Harrison”, what the work consisted of was important knowledge and wisdom that had been passed on to me by others. These teachings would now become a gift that the reader of these books could pass on to others as I had done. It made sense.

Publishing this series of books would have been impossible even a decade ago being that the structure of the publishing industry would not allow it. Today with e-books, and other “print-on-demand” platforms available to any writer, it is possible to share one’s ideas, gifts, and passions with others. All that is required is a little discipline, clear intention, and understanding of the technology and some game thinking skills.


The Teachings of Lewis Harrison

This is the tenth in a series of books on human potential and personal development. This series, titled, “The Teachings of Lewis Harrison.” is the culmination of decades of exploration, research, study, introspection, and meditation.

Volume 1 in the series “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times” integrates wisdom from the Zen and Taoist traditions while reframing them for the individual living in a complex multi-cultural, globalized, high-tech, postmodern reality.

After Volume 1  was published, many of my students in the Wisdom Path Community asked if I could write the next book drawing from the source work I used to create the first Volume. I had already begun this project in 1972, though I had put it aside.  Their request motivated me to complete the comprehensive macro-analysis of Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching that I had begun over forty years earlier. This work is foundational to the Wisdom Path.

Before we begin this exploration it may be of use to understand why I explore such a wide range of subjects in this series – from Chinese philosophy to Game theory?

I have been a seeker of knowledge for as long as I can remember. I was raised as an observant Jew in the Bronx, in New York City. I received formal religious instruction in the local synagogue from teachers who as much as I can recall had plenty of information about rites, rituals, and ceremonies but little wisdom concerning spirituality. Being fair to them all it is possible that they had great wisdom but hid whatever actual wisdom they had from their young students.

From as far back as I can recall I was an outsider of sorts. I was often being reprimanded for asking the “wrong questions” at the “wrong time”, of the “wrong people” in the “wrong places”, for the “wrong reasons”. This was painful for me and in response, I acted out in dysfunctional ways.  One well-meaning psychologist diagnosed me as having “behavioral issues”.

I attended New York City public schools.  In my earliest school days I was often sent to the back of the classroom where I absorbed the words and ideas I discovered in the encyclopedias that lined the back walls. There I would sit by myself “out of the way”. Even here I would listen to what was being taught and I insisted on asking questions. “What is the purpose of memorizing a long poem and reciting it back if you don’t understand what it means”, I would often ask. Many teachers called this disruptive. Nevertheless, I continued to ask questions and continued to be reprimanded. At the end of the school year, they would automatically move me onto the next level no matter how poor my grades or test scores might be.

This attitude of my teachers towards the inquiries of this very “disruptive” young man might have resulted in the shutting down of an inquisitive mind – however, it didn’t. As I progressed from grade to grade I became deeply knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, though none of them had much to do with what was being taught in class. I became a very knowledgeable young person with very poor grades. From the time I entered public school until my second or third year of college – a period of about nineteen years – I struggled both socially and academically.

Luckily for me, and possibly the result of some divine intervention (if such things exist), there were two great gifts I received in those days of my youth. The first gift was having two loving, unique and extraordinary parents. My mother was the child of Polish immigrants. My maternal grandfather was a kind man who had found a trade as a tool and die-maker and who would bring me strangely shaped “home-made” wooden blocks to play with. They were larger than the store bought kind and they were uncolored. I would use crayons to make my own designs. These larger undefined wooden forms may have been the source for my need to create my own reality and color it as I pleased. My mother had a fearless independent streak about her. Her mother as the case with most women at the time was a homemaker and a full-time parent. My mother was always looking to break loose from that “prison” of patriarchal thinking.  My father first saw her at a basketball game in a Brooklyn gym in 1942. She was 24 years of age, stood 5’9’, and was the center for the otherwise all-male basketball team – They soon married. A dental hygienist by training, she had married late for the times (the early 1940s). As a mother, she spent much of her time “dragging” me to various cultural events including museum openings, the zoo, Broadway plays and musicals, the opera, lectures on natural history, the botanical gardens and more. We would ride the city bus from the Bronx, through the Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, down through Harlem, and onto Fifth Avenue where all the Art museums were and the rich people lived.

This very organic learning process was a counter-balance to the trouble I was always getting into in school. When she wasn’t keeping me out of trouble she spent her remaining time volunteering to teach children with cerebral palsy to swim at the local YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association). She instilled in me, at a very early age, the importance of serving others.

One of the highlights of my youth was being old enough (thirteen years of age) to join her in teaching these same children to swim. Through all of this, she was baffled by her “very strange” poorly behaved and underachieving child, and she often cried about it.

She was a spiritual seeker and didn’t know it. She read volumes of biographies of the great, the near-great and the not-so-great seeking to learn as much as she could; Possibly the secret to greatness? Of course, she already had the secret.

My father, the son of Polish-Russian immigrants sold home furnishings to black people in the 1940’s through the early 1970’s. His roots in this community came from his father, a lawyer by training who had left Russia in the first decades of the twentieth century to avoid the Czar’s army. Dad’s father, my grandpa, was either seeking to avoid being conscripted into the Czar’s army or abused by it. I never learned which. My father’s father opened a cigar store on the corner of 125th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem during the “Harlem Renaissance”. His wife Lily died in the “Flu” epidemic of 1918 and he quickly married her first cousin, whose only child was born with Down’s Syndrome and sent to an institution. This woman, who I know as my paternal grandmother, “Grandma Rose” raised my father in the backroom of that store. When he was old enough he left Harlem and spent a few years living a life defined by an unfocused wanderlust. He began selling home furnishings to Black people and continued to do so until his passing at seventy-six years of age. He did this at a time where racial segregation was the norm. Bigotry made no sense to him and he certainly had no intention of paying any attention to the practice. His base of operation was a small showroom in the Eastern part of NYC’s Greenwich Village, the home of many Eastern European Immigrants. By the early 1960’s, this area was slowly becoming the center of the new “hippie” counterculture and I got to see it unfold on weekends when I came to his shop and watched him do what he did.

He  later moved his  base  to the  heart  of  New York’s

“Chinatown”. In both the Greenwich Village location and Chinatown, he brought his network of Muslim Imams, Roma (Gypsies), and black preachers who would direct their congregations and families to him. He sold carpets, chandeliers and mass produced paintings for a wide range of artistic tastes. He often went to their homes carrying stacks of product catalogs… and me. I got to know the “King of the Gypsies”, and my father sold him a sofa. He knew the Imam of the Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 7 on 116th Street in Harlem. They might have taught that white people were blue-eyed devils but my dad was the cool Jazz Jew with the discount home furnishings. Often we would drive up to the Catskill Mountains and visit with dad’s good friend Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates,   (October 11, 1907 – December 8, 1998), a one-legged tap dancer and acclaimed entertainer. Bates had lost a leg at the age of 12 in a cotton gin accident in the South. He subsequently taught himself to tap dance with a wooden peg leg. Bates performed on The Ed Sullivan Show 22 times, and had two command performances before the King & Queen of England in 1936 and then again in 1938. He later opened a resort in the Catskill Mountains that catered to the great black entertainers of the day. My dad introduced me to many of them.

As I passed through my adolescence into my teen years I spent most of my time learning ways to survive school and metaphorically speaking, swimming off of the mainstream. I went to school every day yet my real life was among Chinese people, American blacks, Caribbean immigrants “fresh off the boat”, Hispanics, Christian Ministers, entertainers, Gypsies, Muslim Imams, Jazz musicians and a wide range of eccentrics, deep thinkers, and people who lived life on the edge. Many of them made up their own rules for how to not only survive but prosper physically, emotionally and spiritually.

From the very beginning, I was instilled with an understanding of “fairness”. My parents always had a deep sense of fairness and compassion towards others, especially towards the disabled, ethnic minorities and the disenfranchised. They were not political people yet they were willing to stand up for what was right and fair. They both had a natural “edge” about them and there was something about my father that demanded respect

without being threatening to anyone. As much as one might sense of a very eccentric Aikido master.

He was vibrant and alive with a passion for tennis. He claimed to have studied violin at the Julliard School of Music and had a violin in the closet that he never played. It sat next to stacks of old 78 rpm records that he also never played.

Being around my mother and father, two extraordinary individuals as well as my older sister, Lily, created a foundation of inquiry, independent thinking, and the willingness to ignore authority in the quest for truth. My parents did not suffer fools lightly and I was raised by them to think the same way. This also made me appear very strange to what Lao Tzu refers to, without any sense of elitism or irony as “ordinary” people.

A strong foundation for my personal development came with what I would describe as the second invaluable gift I received – visionary, out-of-the-box thinkers who were willing to mentor me.

From the moment I entered public school at five years of age, there was always some generous stranger who would recognize that there was something unusual, unique, and possibly extraordinary about me and they would take me under their wing.

This happened often and does to this day. It might be a porter, a teacher, a wealthy businessperson, or psychologist I met while I was driving a taxi.

One of my earliest mentors was Ella Davis, a Georgia-born domestic worker that came once a week to our home and planted many important seeds of wisdom in me just by being who she was. She and my mother became close friends and just before her passing in around 1999, she flew to NY to attend my wedding to my extraordinary wife Lilia, close to forty years after she entered our family.

As I slowly edged into adult-hood I met Vincent Collura, a mystic shaman barber in the small Southern Catskill Mountain town of South Fallsburg. I met him in 1969. I just happened to be out seeking a haircut and stumbled into his shop. I got the haircut and did not see him or even think about him for another three years as I flailed aimlessly through the last of my teenage years. When I did reconnect with him through Dan Novak, a mentor in college, Vincent took me under his wing and over the next twenty years planted most of the seeds in me that have endured and enabled me to become the mentor, teacher, and friend to others that I am today.

These were books and teachings primarily related to human potential, economics, mysticism, psychology, shamanism, and personal development. To avoid falling into the trap of “fluffy” New Age thinking we also put in many hours exploring and studying Logic.


This prepared me for what was about to happen … Game theory


In 2005, a friend took me to see the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, the  2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics Soon after this, I began watching a television police drama, Numb3rs. The series revolved around an FBI agent and his mathematical genius brother. These two brothers would solve crimes by using insights based on the mathematician brother’s personal knowledge and by integrating mathematical models based on available information about the crime and the criminals. In addition to these basic characters, there was a number of game thinking characters. There were the mathematician’s friend and former mentor who was a theoretical physicist and cosmologist. There was also the father of the two main characters, a former urban planner. In addition,  from episode to episode there was a behavior specialist, a lawyer, and various other scientists and social scientists. It was while watching Num3ers that I first learned of the theory of games.  I also learned that this was one of the most efficient, effective and productive ways to explore economic behavior in multi-person decision contexts. Since humans are essentially social animals this form of thinking clearly had relevance to applications to strategic behavior, industrial organization, macroeconomic policy, environmental economics, international economics, and the internal organization of firms

One of the key elements of the show was that the characters, particularly the mathematician brother, would describe various mathematical theories. He might mention Zero-sum Games*, or Cognitive Emergence Theory*.

This presentation on the show of actual mathematical theories, by name, with the equations written out on chalkboards, caught my attention. I could see in a way that was never shown to me in high school (or more likely it was but I wasn’t paying attention) how mathematics is applicable not just to solve crimes but to solving problems in everyday life.  The people who created this show were serious about wanting this interest to peak in the viewers of the show and it certainly peaked in me. They often, I later learned, named temporary characters on the show after famous mathematicians.

During the commercial breaks on Numb3rs, I would search the internet for various mathematical concepts that had been mentioned on the show. By doing this I learned two key things:

  1. Math is an essential element of virtually every aspect of everyday life. It is used to make a milkshake, boil an egg, tell time, handle money and predict the weather.
  2. To understand and use math, it is not required that one understand what are- for many of us- intimidating formulas and equations.

Whether you were aware of it or not, anytime you think logically or rationally, you are thinking mathematically. Common sense is a form of mathematics. I became enamored with the idea that virtually every organized system of living could be defined and named. I began spending hours-daily-researching various mathematical ideas, their application to daily life; and their application to the lives of those who had created these, organized, and named these ideas.

One of the mathematical concepts often mentioned on the show was “game theory”, the idea that mathematical concepts or systems can be used to explain why and how individuals and organizations strategize, i.e. make decisions when one person (or more than one other person) might affect the outcome of a decision. This was further fascinating to me since, as a fairly unconventional person, this was what I had been doing most of my life.  I had never thought of it in that way, but game theory had been my tool for survival.

During this period of watching these television shows, my wife and I were invited to a Thanksgiving dinner. Sitting next to me were two elderly physicists. A husband and wife, they were a bright, lively couple, in their late 80’s. The conversation went from subject to subject, including the movie A Beautiful Mind about John Nash. We also spoke about Richard Feynman, the Noble Prize Winning American physicist, who was known not only for his for his work in quantum mechanics but also for the vibrant, enthusiastic, adventurous and spirited way he lived his life.

It turned out that the couple had known Nash during their professional years, and had both worked on projects with Feynman. Slightly embarrassed, I mentioned that, as poor a math student as I had been in school, I was fascinated by game theory, as well as practical math in general, and I described some of the research I had been doing. I was surprised when he asked me,

“So have you come up with any ideas of how to apply this information?”

“Yes, I have. I use it my business all the time”.

    I then began to explain how I was leveraging the value of certain human qualities like time, information, influence, and clarity of thought so that one could know when the value of one of these was at its highest or lowest and use them effectively to solve a business problem or maximize a particular competitive situation. I was shocked at his sincere interest. A physicist asking me about game theory? He asked me many questions, some of which I could answer, but others required more study and research.

During the conversation, I asked him how many different forms of game theory there were? How many different forms of business games could there be?

He smiled and said, “Thousands, maybe millions.”

“Where can I find a list of them?” I asked.

“There is no one comprehensive list.” He responded.

“How can this be?”

“Because most of life can be defined as a game – A stockbroker cares about stockbroker games but may have no interest in retail, wholesaling, customer service, the business of medicine or auto repair.”

“Everything is a game?” I asked.

“I don’t know about everything, but certainly most things can be experienced as a game. I don’t think romantic love is a game but relationships certainly are. I don’t think spirituality is a game but formal religion certainly is.”

He continued explaining game theory to me in detail, making sure that I was following what he was saying.

  “Game theory was originally a mathematician’s term but here in the 21st century, it has become an umbrella term for thousands of systematic behaviors. Any defined, recognizable, rational approach to any interaction including relationships in business, spirituality, competition, sports, romance, and even interactions with nonhuman players such as computers, animals, and plants can be considered a game.”

“What is my next step?” I asked him.

  “Look,” he said with a smile as he placed his hand on top


of mine. “You have something special here. You are not an academic and you haven’t even come to this knowledge…this passion you have through traditional channels. It is unlikely that you will teach this in college. It is unlikely that most people would even understand what you are doing. Academics will question it, others will be jealous, some will ridicule it, and still others just won’t understand it. Still, what you are doing here, it is more than worthwhile – it is an extraordinary thing. You can serve others if you play the game right.”

I was overwhelmed. I felt validated, supported and excited about the possibilities ahead. I thanked him for his time – we spoke almost three hours – and I left the party floating on a cloud, went home, and began to create a manual about game thinking, a simplification of many of the ideas drawn from game theory combined with what I had learned during my years with Vincent.

It is almost a decade since that Thanksgiving and twenty-five years since the passing of Vincent, my shaman-mentor. The work has gone through many forms and phases. It is a massive work in progress. Of course, I am more than ever still a seeker and student.

Throughout my life, I have studied and spent time with many great committed and generous mentors, and teachers; Some of them in greater depth and, for greater lengths of time than others. At this stage of my life, I am still being mentored, both formally and informally.

Over the years I had produced close to 20,000 pages of material on personal development, human potential, human behavior, spirituality and game thinking. One afternoon, while speaking with one of these mentors about this material the suggestion was made that I organize it and publish it as “The Teachings of Lewis Harrison” – a “pay it forward” of sorts for others like myself. Initially, I resisted. It seemed a bit narcissistic to name a body of work after oneself. In time, it became clear to me that though these might be called “The Teachings of Lewis Harrison”, what the work consisted of was important knowledge and wisdom that had been passed on to me by mathematicians, physicists, military strategists, poker players and spiritual teachers. These teachings would now become the teachings of the reader if they chose to pass it on, i.e., pay it forward – as I had done.

Publishing this series of books would have been virtually impossible to do even a decade ago being that the structure of the publishing industry would not allow it. Today with e-books, smart devices and other “print-on-demand” platforms available to any writer, it is possible to share one’s ideas, gifts, and passions with others. All that is required is a little discipline, clear intention and an understanding of the technology.

This book is drawn from the 20,000 plus pages I have spoken of. Little of this is original work. I have simply explored what I have gathered through the years from many mentors and teachers.

By organizing this work as a series of teachings, I hope to be a portal for the visionary, innovative, creative thinker, and outsider who seeks to merge love and ruthless introspection with a life of joy, celebration, generosity, compassion, wisdom, and service to others.

Yes! this book is long but it has everything you need to know about Applied game thinking and the Wisdom Path neatly packaged in “Bite-sized pieces”.   Let’s begin by creating a new template for how you think and how you observe and interact with the world.


…Now  close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Keep your mind as blank as you can as you do this.  As blank as the following page. Then we can begin with an exploration of certain qualities that define virtually all

human behavior and use that to build your game thinking.






It is my experience that there are certain qualities that define virtually all human behavior. One of these qualities is to strategize ways to maximize untapped potential and do so at the lowest possible physical, emotional and economic cost. This is even more important when interacting with others.  Within the Wisdom Path Community where I am the senior teacher, this is called Applied game thinking because it mimics the thought and behavior patterns we exhibit when playing games.

My guess is that these thought and behavior patterns are genetically driven  These qualities include competition, the tendency to form hierarchies in groups, the need to serve others in order to serve our own self-interests (reciprocal altruism*) and the need to give and receive love.

As I have stated earlier one way to view these human patterns is as a game.  In such a game, the more one prospers at the lowest possible cost to themselves and others win. Prospering does not need to be defined only in financial or material terms. It can relate to emotional well-being, clarity of thought, service to others and in many other ways.

Much of life is driven by sets of ideas and numbers that describe the past, present, or future things. This is particularly so concerning strategic interactions between two or more individuals in situations containing set rules and outcomes. Game theory is the process of observing these interactions and modeling them so that one may make effective decisions. Applied game thinking is a simplification of these game theory concepts.

In life, we often model or copy what we have seen or experienced before. This process is often known as “modeling” among game thinkers and strategists.     Though the title of this book references to problem-solving ultimately it is not about problems as much as it is about applications and solutions.

In an ideal world, game theory would be a waste of time. The extraordinary person would simply do what Lao Tzu, the great Chinese–Taoist Sage did. Once he realized that most people were just clueless, and would never get “It”, he left town, went to a mountain community with a gatekeeper and hung out with all the other wise men and woman, visionaries and sages. There they could all live their lives motivated by love, emotional balance, clarity of thought, compassion and personal contentment. Visionary thinkers of this type have no interest in living a “zero-sum life” motivated by anger, greed, lust, vanity, attachment, ego and ordinary thinking. The type of thinking that seems to motivate many.

Sadly we do not live in an ideal world. We have to deal with other people, many of them dysfunctional to the max. In addition, we must confront our own inner demons. All this leads to problems that might have been avoided. Whether it is genetics that defines the games we

play or how we play them, play them we must.



Understanding Harrison’s Applied Game Thinking

Applied Game Thinking is my refinement, codification, and expansion of the ideas presented in Von Neumann’s original game theory system. I have already explained my learning process towards becoming a game-based thinker. After twenty years of exploration I am comfortable enough with the ideas that frame this work to have integrated a multidisciplinary grouping of concepts (systems) drawn from my own studies of logic, the social sciences, Zen thought, shamanic states, irrational emotional motivations, cognitive biases and quantum thinking to explain why and how individuals and organizations strategize. Much of how this book was created came out of the generous mentoring and friendship I received from Dr. Harvey Slayton, an Engineer, and Physicist who had played poker with Jon von Neumann when they were both involved with the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos during and after the Second World War.

Dr. Slayton showed me how, over the  years, game  theory had come to be used in a number of disciplines and could easily be applied by virtually anyone to make individual choices in everyday life. Through Dr. Slayton I was introduced to how Game theory had become a tool for strategizing within economics, politics, sports and international affairs.

Today it is well known that the economic application of game theory can be a valuable tool to aid in the fundamental analysis of industries, sectors and any strategic interaction between two or more groups or individuals who need to strategize to create maximum benefit at the lowest possible cost.

In early 2016 I was sent an invitation to a going away party for my friend Gerry Allyn. I had met Gerry in 1986 when she attended a seminar I was teaching called “Make Choices, Not Excuses.”  She soon became my best student, my #1 fan, and would occasionally assist me with the teaching and expansion of my work. As our lives moved on from project to project the years had piled up and Gerry now in her late 80s had decided to move from NYC to California to get out of the cold and be near her family.

The party was a delight, filled with love for Gerry and a chance for those who were close to her to meet each other. Gerry had told one of them about my work and she asked me with serious interest to explain the various aspects of game theory to her as if she was a nine-year-old child. It had never occurred to me to do this. It would require the elimination of terms specific and seemingly essential to game theory; words like “information trees, zero-sum games, and utility”.  I did this. It was a lot of fun and a bit of an epiphany. This book is the end result of that project.

The goal of this book then is to do the same for you. To start at the very beginning and explain game-based thinking and all of its elements in a way that will enable anyone, even a nine-year-old to apply the principles to the successful resolving of challenges, the solving of problems and the transcending of obstacles.

By following the system offered in the book you will be able to solve any problem if it is actually solvable. In addition, many problems that previously seemed impossible to solve will fall into the realm of the obviously solvable. In the beginning, rather than focusing on the more sophisticated elements of Game theory,  these chapters will focus on the general concept of games and how we learn and play them in childhood. Later this is merged with the elements that comprise game-based thinking. Later still, as we encounter problems of greater complexity we will explore, learn and apply some of the more specific elements of what is known as “Classical Game theory”. This can be a very exciting exploration and when you complete this book there are more advanced applications for game thinking and game theory in other volumes of my teachings. In my experience, we can all prosper if we are willing to put our old ways of thinking aside and make a conscious decision to see life as a game. If we do this the next step is to learn how to play the game and develop game strategies for winning this game of life. I call the process of learning, accepting and applying these ideas Applied game thinking* (AGT*). I am often asked, “How did Applied game thinking come about?” AGT is based primarily on Game theory. Game theory explains why and how individuals and organizations strategize, i.e. make decisions when one person (or more than one other person, place or thing) might also affect the outcome of the decision. Though humans and other creatures have been playing games and solving puzzles since the beginning of time it was only in the 1930’s when John von Neumann (December 28, 1903 –February 8, 1957) developed the concept.

Von Neumann was one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century.  A renowned,   visionary, Hungarian-American pure and applied mathematician, physicist,  inventor, computer scientist, and polymath he had made, and would make, major contributions to a number of fields, including;  geometry mathematics, functional analysis,  philosophy, physics,  topology, numerical analysis, hydrodynamics, programming  quantum statistical mechanics, decision science, economics,  computing,  architecture,  and self-replicating machines

In addition to all these skills and talents, Von Neumann had a well-honed sense of humor. He was known to enjoy off-color Yiddish jokes and Limericks and played German marching music so loud in his office at Princeton University that it caused the guy in the office down the hall to complain… The name of that guy? Albert Einstein.

Von Neumann was also a skilled poker player. At a particular point in his brilliant career, he began to explore the obvious and subtle elements that made a person a winning player. From his poker experiences, he developed an interest in how people strategize in certain environments especially game environments.  This was not a simple task, yet Von Neumann was the man for the job. To develop a true understanding of game-based strategies one needed the ability and knowledge to study mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent, rational decision-makers. These were scenarios where the outcome of a participant’s choice of action depended critically on the actions of other participants.

Von Neumann understood that the same elements used in poker and many other games could be applied to economicspolitical science, and psychology, as well as logiccomputer science, and biology.  Originally, his explorations focused on games where someone wins at the expense of others (the loser). These win/lose scenarios came to be known as zero-sum games*.

Before game theory became a well-known concept, and before von Neumann had written anything substantial about the subject the journalist Oskar Morgenstern had already published a paper on the subject.  Morgenstern decided to show it to von Neumann because of the latter’s interest in the subject. Von Neumann read the paper and liked it. He told Morgenstern that he should put more detailed explanations in it. This conversation was repeated a number of times, with Von Neumann eventually becoming a coauthor. The paper when published was highly detailed and over 100 pages long. It was further expanded into a book. Von Neumann’s 1944 “The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior“ (written with Oskar Morgenstern) was revolutionary. It changed the thinking of many economists and psychologists concerning human behavior and economic decisions. The public interest in this work was such that The New York Times ran a front-page story on the concept and the book.  Here was a book where a “world-class” mathematician declared in simple and understandable terms how economic theory could be applied to how the everyday world worked. To more sophisticated mathematicians and economists, he showed extremely sophisticated ways to apply mathematics to economic predictions in their own language.

There was something here for everyone. Of course, no one could say that the concept of game theory was original. There had been many game-based thinkers long before Jon Von Neumann developed and published his book. Still his ideas regarding the application and exploration of combined strategies in win/lose games was revolutionary. Von Neumann had taken existing ideas in mathematics and applied them to individual and group interactions.  He realized that mathematics could be used systematically to analyze strategies for dealing with competitive situations where the outcome of a participant’s choice of action would depend critically on the actions of other participants.  It was obvious to von Neumann as it would be to most of us that most “Games” tend to be non-cooperative, meaning that there are winners and losers and at certain times one winner and many losers.

Over time von Neumann took the concept of games to a new level. He explored win/win games involving several players.  These were games where no one had to lose and in fact, one player who was sure to win could help another player win as well, and more quickly. He called these cooperative games*.  The great football coach Vince Lombardi might have questioned von Neumann’s interest in cooperative games. Lombardi was quoted as saying

“If winning isn’t everything why do we bother keeping score?” As a teacher of cooperative game thinking my reply is that “… it isn’t that winning isn’t everything, it’s that in life you get to win bigger and score more points if you can arrange the game so everyone wins!”

In the second edition of his book, von Neumann provided information which allowed statisticians and economists to make complex decisions when there was a limited amount of information available. Something most of us must deal with daily

Today von Neumann’s book is considered the groundbreaking text that created the interdisciplinary research field known as game theory – a subject we will be discussing at length throughout this book as a foundation for Applied game thinking.  Von Neumann’s work was truly revolutionary in the world of decision-making and problem-solving. He mapped out and created a foundational template for problem-solving using game thinking. Many other visionary geniuses have expanded and built upon his work.

Over the years Von Neumann improved and extended his ideas defining games and the strategies one could apply in games based on various factors.   I have built on von Neumann’s ideas and simplified them so anyone can use them in applying game thinking just as we would with simple games with like checkers or Rock-paper-scissors. These ideas can be applied in your own life, possibly on your job, in relationships or in friendships. To apply this type of thinking you must ask yourself.

  • What is my end-game?
  • Am I  playing a win/win game where everyone can win (marriage) or a win/losegame where someone wins and someone loses (checkers or chess)?
  • Do the players in thelife game I am involved with or competing in making their moves sequentially as in checkers (they move, then you move etc.) or simultaneously (you make your move at the same time as the other player) as in Rock-paper-scissors?
  • Do all the players have access to the same information (as in chess) or so some players have access to information that the other players do not have (Poker or Bridge).


If you can view life as a game you can create and maintain an abundant lifestyle.  For the most part, the purpose of this book is to show you how to play a life-game where the winner achieves success, financial independence, clarity of thought, emotional balance, spiritual fulfillment, personal contentment, and happiness. This is a game that you engage in rather than standing on the sidelines and observing as a spectator.

Thank you, Dr. Von Neumann, Dr. John Nash, and Dr. Harvey Slayton.  Thank you to all the geniuses who have refined and continue to refine this visionary and practical approach to problem-solving.

Thanks for allowing me to share what I have learned and experienced with you. Stay the course and do not lose faith or hope. Have no doubt – you will do well.

This is your time! If not now, when? If not you, who? Make the Choice to play the game of life fully.







Lewis Harrison with his friend and mentor,

mathematician, physicist and engineer, Harvey Slatin Pioneer of the Manhattan Project 2012 –  Dr. Slatin used to play poker at Los Alamos with

Jon von Neumann and Richard Feynman







How to Use This Book

You are most likely familiar with jigsaw puzzles. A jigsaw puzzle requires the assembly of often oddly shaped interlocking and tessellating pieces. Each piece usually has a small part of a picture on it; when complete, this puzzle produces a complete picture. This book, “Applied game thinking and the Wisdom Path: How to Solve any Problem” is Volume 10 in the series, “The Teachings of Lewis Harrison” and is a primer on how to win the game of life.       The structure of this specific book in the series is like a Jigsaw puzzle.  All you need to do is place the pieces in the right location and you get the complete picture of how to solve a problem. It requires some attention to detail and a bit of patience but the benefits are worth the effort.

In game thinking each piece of a “problem” has a small part of a conceptual picture in it; when complete, a jigsaw puzzle of ideas produces a complete picture. Often this is a solution to a complex problem. In some cases, more advanced puzzles appear that seem to be based on contradiction, paradox, and ambiguity. In these conceptual puzzles non-linear, intuitive, and seemingly irrational strategies may be needed to in order to get all the pieces to fit together.

Throughout the book, you will find asterisks “*” after certain word and phrases. These asterisks refer to some concepts that cannot be explained in a few words and so a specific name or phrase has been accepted in the lexicon of expert decision makers and game thinkers.

As you read through some chapters, especially the ones specifically about Game theory* you may need to refer to the glossary. This actually is the short cut to understanding how some complex problems* and extreme problems* get solved.   Why such a  large glossary to achieve this goal? A glossary offers an alphabetical list of terms with the definitions for those terms. Our simple glossary is just a defining dictionary that will enable any newcomer to understand the specialized language of game thinking. With this small working vocabulary and definitions for important or frequently encountered concepts, you will become highly skilled in working your way through game-thinking culture and creating effective “winning: strategies for your own life. Rather than my repeatedly explaining specialized “game-based” words and terms, if you get stuck you will know to simply look up  words  with  the “*”  in  the  glossary  to  access explanations of concepts relevant to strategizing and general game-based thinking in all its forms.

As a final thought…When I discuss how much game thinking and game theory continues to influence how I live my life I am often asked, “Can’t you just live your life in the moment without being concerned with all these details about strategy, next moves, and competitors?”  The answer to this question is “Yes” and “No”.

If one has no desire to achieve anything extraordinary in life than what this book offers will be of little use to you, and most likely a waste of your time. However, for one who seeks physical and emotional security, and wishes to make a measurable difference in the world then game-based thinking is essential.

I am not obsessed with game thinking. These ideas need to be applied with a sense of balance. An obsession with game-based thinking is not desirable, especially if it interferes with one’s ability to create loving and caring relationships. Still, in my experience,  the individual that does not consciously embrace game thinking as a foundation for their interactions with the world around them is likely to suffer and struggle unnecessarily.

Thanks for reading the book. I celebrate your willingness to think in new ways and take the risk to give up your unnecessary struggle and take the next important steps in your life through applied game thinking.
















Part 1

The Basics












Part 1 Introduction

Life is about making choices.  What we are concerned with here is the merging of applied game thinking with intuition and emotional factors in decision making. Let’ first do a review of what we already know about game thinking.

To begin with, game thinking is not a singular system. Rather, it is an umbrella term for the use of games, game-like solutions and systematic concepts in non-game as well as game contexts. Game thinking includes a wide range of different intuitive and logically based approaches to competition and problem-solving. Many concepts including Classical Game Theory*, Gamification*, Economic Behaviorism* Political Science, Serious Games* and the general strategizing that define much of daily life can all be defined as forms of game-based thinking.

In order to understand game thinking one must understand the basic concepts of games and why they are systematized as they are.  Over the decades Classical Game Theory has had a huge influence on disciplines that range from biology to economy and social sciences.

As I explored the many articles, books and on-line courses on game-theory it became clear that the best and most interesting ones required strong mathematical skills.  Many individuals have attempted to explain game-theory in layman’s terms. These have usually been “pop culture”  presentations that though fun to read have been of little actual depth, clarity, applicability or practical value.

As a young person, I was always a poor math student as well as an underachiever. Nothing really grabbed my passion. I have always wondered how, this being the case, I developed my knowledge and practical expertise in game thinking? As I often mention in interviews I do with the media I have always been an unconventional person. I was a strange child with few friends and primitive social skills. Because of good parenting by an unconventional mother and father I reached adulthood without ever being arrested, institutionalized, or sent to Special Ed. classes. I was beaten up occasionally, never went on a date, flunked every mathematics course I ever took and barely got out of high school. I was smart enough to go to a college with a pass/fail system and to quit the classes I was failing before I failed them. I eventually got my bachelor’s degree after seven years and four colleges. I think you get my point. Academically, Bart Simpson was a genius compared to me, and kids called me “Crazy Louie,” as did my peers in junior college. Who could know that with this history I would end up creating a system based on mathematical game theory? Who could know?

I am still not very skilled at mathematics. I can add, subtract, divide and multiply, but not much more, and yet I can look out my window at the deck, the flowers and clouds in the sky and sense, both intellectually and intuitively, the elegance of the mathematics that can be used to give meaning to it all. Still, much of my skill as a game thinker comes from studying, meeting and speaking with people who have mastered some basic element of game thinking. My skill in game thinking eventually enabled me to work as a consultant for the filmmaker and social activist Michael Moore on his television show, the “Awful Truth”. I later attended a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on the Middle East and watched as negotiation and political strategy unfolded in real time. Later I was part of a team that included Tony Robbins, George Forman, Barbara Corcoran, future U.S President Donald Trump and other influencers in creating Wealth Expo’s throughout the United States in the first decade of the 21st Century.

I have met the stage mentalist “The Amazing Kreskin”, and have corresponded with many game changers including the social psychologist Howard Gardner, the developer of  Multiple Intelligences Theory*. As I mentioned earlier I spent as much time as possible with mathematical physicist and engineer Harvey Slayton. I later met and became friends with Orest Bedrij who was director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at M.I.T. and the leader of the team that produced the first successful soft moon landing.

Not being an academic I was at times overwhelmed at my knowledge of game theory and my ability to apply it in my daily life. Over time I became an evangelist for game-based thinking, gamification, and game theory and wrote two books about my work. Still, I was confronted with a challenge I found quite difficult to transcend. The challenge was that whenever I would speak about these ideas, I could see people’s eyes glaze over. The phrase “Game theory” would make some of them fearful that I was going to overwhelm them with complex ideas. Some would say to me “Why can’t you just live life? Why does everything have to be a game or a game strategy?”

All of my work, the philosophy of the RealUGuru Project – www.RealUGuru.com – and the Wisdom Path, have formed a foundation for my work in game-thinking. It has all been focused on serving others. Clearly, Game theory and game thinking are powerful tools for mastering the “material” aspects of life.

Part 1 of this book is my best attempt to simplify Game Thinking. I hope you enjoy learning about it. At times it may feel like a sort of  intellectual roller coaster ride, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, an existential hug, a slap in the face, some ice water over your head, an assault on what you thought was true but isn’t, and a transformation into a new way of living your life. Still, I promise you, the journey will be worth it. Among the many Volumes in the series “The Teachings of Lewis Harrison” this is one of those that require time, patience, and critical thinking.

Some people are intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually lazy. These individuals tend to struggle and suffer unnecessarily.  This book is for that extraordinary individual with a hunger for knowledge or who at the very least is motivated by the pain of psychological and spiritual longing. As a teacher, mentor, speaker and coach in the area of personal development and human potential I have found that that there are generally two types of extraordinary people:

  1. Those that “go with the flow” and adjust to circumstances as they present themselves.
  2. Those that see life as a game requiring different strategies to survive and prosper.


Neither of these is superior to the other. They are just different.  If you enjoy this book and have an interest in a more “laid back, go with the flow” approach to life I recommend reading other books in the series including  “An Introduction to the Teachings of the RealUGuru”, “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times –  Volume 1 “ and “Tao te Ching: A Macro-Analysis of Lao Tzu’s Classic Work – Volume 2” in the Teachings of  Lewis Harrison. If you wish to explore the structure of problems and how we make decisions I recommend “Common Sense: Tips, Tools, and Strategies for Making Effective Decisions – Volume 3” in the “Teachings of Lewis Harrison”.

This book is drawn from those 20,000 plus pages I have gathered since I first developed an interest in game thinking. Little of this is original work. These notes cover a wide range of subjects including Asian philosophy, natural healing, cultural anthropology, systems theory, Aboriginal shamanism, quantum physics, magic and slight of hands techniques, stage mentalism, hypnosis, theoretical mathematics, economics, body-mind studies, holism, Pattern Language, Multiple Intelligences Theory, Economic Behaviorism, Game theory, theology, Semantics, Somatics, Semiotics, and many other the teachings of the Bal Shem Tov, Rumi’s Sufism, metaphysics, Zen, Taoism, and more.

Thinkers have explored the idea of games and game-based systems for centuries, Three great strategists, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus the Roman Military political and military leader, Sun Tzu the great Chinese philosopher, and Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli the political and humanist thinker, as well as other political and military strategists throughout history were in a sense pioneers in game theory even if they didn’t use the term. Still, the concept of game theory codified in the twentieth century was the most comprehensive attempt to integrate logic, mathematics and human decision making and codify them so that they could be studied systematically.

By studying these master strategists and relating their ideas to games I created a series of teachings. Through this book and the application of game-thinking I hope to be a portal for the visionary, innovative, creative thinker, and outsider seeking to merge love and ruthless introspection with a life of joy, celebration, generosity, compassion, wisdom, and service to others.

I have few fantasies in my life, but one that I enjoy exploring occasionally, a type of simple pleasure, is that long after my bones have turned to dust, some seekers will come across this book and all the books that are part of this series and enter the portal to a new way of being because they have applied what was passed on to me and from me to them. As you read this book please keep this in mind, that one does not need to be skilled at mathematics to explore different ideas related to the games humans play and the choices they make.

Socrates stated that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” If you have an interest in examining your life and living it well, then welcome to Game Thinking and the life strategies process it explores.


More About  The Wisdom Path

The Wisdom Path is open to all teachings built on love, compassion, and clarity of thought.  Though it uses the “Teachings of Lewis Harrison” as a fundamental guide to living well, my teachings are largely based on the works and ideas of many visionaries, many whom I had the honor of studying with personally. The most influential visionaries have included Jon Von Neumann, John Nash, Vincent Collura, Buckminster Fuller, Virginia Satir, Albert Ellis, Joseph Campbell, Dan Wiener and others.

There is also a loosely connected international community and online network of those involved in this work known as the Wisdom Path Community.  I formed this community in 2012. I  felt there was a serious need for a merging of important streams of thought including post-modernism,  game theory, Zen, meditation, and collaborative intelligence.  By integrating the ideas of numerous visionary thinkers and teachers from various mystic traditions and integrating these with cutting edge ideas from the arts, mathematics, and physics I felt something extraordinary would come into being.

Based on my experiences and those of the mentors, peers, and students that are the founding core of the Wisdom Path Community we have defined certain basic elements and patterns that we believe humans seem to have in common. Among these are:

  • Competitiveness, even in playful environments.
  • Hierarchies, where each person finds his or her pace in the group. Some of these positions being authoritative while others are generally more permissive.
  • Reciprocal Altruism, where we serve others at our own expense in the expectation that they will reciprocate in kind in the reasonable future.
  • Faith in something. How can we ever know that anything is absolutely so? We can tell ourselves it is so, but there is no way to ever know for sure.
  • Love and compassion
  • Being active social creatures and seeking community.


If we mature in a healthy, balanced and functional environment and understand game-thinking, we can usually integrate these elements into a life of contentment and service. Of course, this is seldom the case.

Many spiritual, religious and even academic communities maintain a rigid, dogmatic structure built around distinctions between believers and non-believers, and insiders and outsiders.  In the Wisdom Path Community, we call this “Tribal Thinking” and we believe the more this way of thinking can be minimized the better for everyone.

For us, Applied game thinking is a way to create more effective, efficient, productive and enlightened community. This may be a community in a shared physical space or a metaphorical community that many of us experience in social networking. The defining qualities that link all those who are part of this work are love, compassion, and kindness to others through a process of personal reflection, introspection, meditation, and contemplation. None of these defining qualities requires tribal thinking. It is one thing to connect with others because we share common interests and another thing altogether to exclude others based on the fact that they are different from us in some way. We are all different in some ways and similar in others. What connects us all is the ability to love and serve one another.

One of the challenges for any community, especially for those focused on clear thinking, emotional balance, and intellectual and spiritual inquiry is to transcend the inclination to create and embrace a tribal mentality. Where tribal thinking dominates patterns, automatically come into play that can lead to cognitive biases, imbalance, and disharmony.  One’s life begins to revolve around the community and anything outside of the community may be labeled as invalid, bad, evil or to be avoided and rejected. This can happen in a university setting just as easily as it can arise in a spiritual or religious setting.

In these academically, psychologically and at times physically gated communities often exist in the same ethnic, social, political, academic and cultural  “neighborhoods”, and form cliques that reject “outsiders”. These communities separate themselves from the “outside” world or see their specialized community as superior or dominant over the larger community.  In these situations, community members may even be discouraged from going to the authorities when community members violate the rules, laws, or codes of conduct or even common and wise moral statutes of the larger group.

How can we truly explore who we are and the meaning of life through meditation, contemplation, introspection, and meditation when our lives are entirely consumed through a commitment to some group?

If  one discards  the  idea  that  the world is a huge game

space and we are all players in the game of life we soon begin to ignore inward contemplation and critical thinking for inward focused tribal thinking. We soon become prisoners in some rigidly delineated social hierarchy. Here certain people rigidly rank above and below others whether they deserve it or not. More often than not in religious organizations, this plays out with certain male leaders, ranking above non-ranking men, then women, and children. This is either reinforced as a tribal tradition or is based on a religious mandate.

The dark side of inward focusing in exclusive and unnecessarily hierarchal communities is deceit, repressive and false morality, judging of members, cover-ups of abuse of authority (often of a sexual nature), and hypocrisy. Ultimately the “tribe” seems to care more about protecting its financial and institutional standing supporting then it’s most vulnerable members who may be inclined to make poor life choices.

No matter how advanced you may be, or think you may be concerning your intellect, emotional balance, psychological clarity, or spiritual affairs, the fact remains that each of us must explore how the appropriate application of game thinking can expand our individual talents, and personal resources, and help us create our best life. So why the Wisdom Path?

In recent years it has occurred to me that now, in ways never possible before, I could create a network of people interested in strategic thinking, spirituality, personal development and human potential using my writings as a basic link “a pattern language” for them.

It wouldn’t be another religion, or even another philosophy or theory.  You couldn’t actually join it, and there would be no dues, rites, rituals, ceremonies, dogma, holy books, clergy, gurus, sacred texts, guilt, shame, judgment, tenure, associations to join or inner circles of influence. It would just be a “Path” that a person would journey upon at their own pace and yet they would not be alone. My teachings, drawn from the teachings of others much wiser than I, would serve as a basic guide and, support those who might find some truth in my work and use it as part of their support system. It would be an evolving, inclusive Path – a vehicle for exploration and growth based on inner wisdom and game theory.

The Wisdom Path draws its main precepts from many great teachers and influencers. The list includes the great Taoist Masters Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu; the great teachings  of Gautama Buddha; the Sufi mystic Rumi; the Life of love and sacrifice attributed to Jesus of Nazareth; the combination of bliss, joy, celebration and intellectual wisdom of the Bal Shem Tov the founder of Hasidism, the teachings of Aurobindo Ghose, and Jiddu Krishnamurti,  the many important stories and koan’s within Zen and Chan Buddhism; the research into altered states of consciousness of the neurology pioneer John Lilly; and important thinkers in mathematics, economics, and game theory, including Jon von Neumann and John Nash.  This path also integrates the innovative ideas of Ernst Mach, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Buckminster Fuller, Joseph Campbell Scott and Helen Nearing, Thomas Leonard, Jacob Moreno and others.

As I have mentioned,  The Wisdom Path is not concerned with rites, rituals, ceremonies, sacred texts, Gurus, Churches, temples, hierarchies, “Perfect Masters”, or “cult” thinking. I am referring to any system which venerates one particular individual, idea or object.

The thing to remember is that once we get past the need to survive we often find that we lack the skills needed to create a life of happiness. We soon become aware that we must find some way to get access to them.

Some of us have become part of the Wisdom Path community because we were inspired or motivated to do so. Others found the information they needed to move forward in life. However, we get there a time comes where it is clear that we cannot move to the next level without love and support. That is the purpose of the Wisdom Path Community, to provide that support through mentors, peers, social networking, the formation of small study groups and educational materials. Each of us has strongly felt needs in our daily lives. Some involve attitude, economics, discord in interpersonal relations, or a sense of spiritual emptiness. The teachings that lie at the foundation of the Wisdom Path Community are practical and offer concrete solutions for carrying on a life of love, mental clarity, emotional balance, compassion, kindness, and service to others. It is a community where one may find mutual support without judgment or any pressure to abandon one’s native culture or religious beliefs.

As the name implies, what the Wisdom Path and the Wisdom Path community are concerned with are the nature of “wisdom” and how wisdom in thought, word, and deed can be harnessed to game thinking to more efficiently, and effectively create a  life of love, emotional balance, clarity of thought, contentment, happiness, generosity, compassion and service to others.

As applied in daily life the Wisdom Path is an expression of spirituality, through the art of conservation and balance. Conservation and balance is a harmony that exists in the middle point that lies between two polarities; between macrocosm and microcosm; between inner peace and the external world of action/interaction.  It is as if there is a dance going on between the Wisdom that lies within us, and the way we live our lives.  When the mind initially becomes aware of spirituality, or even feels what we often call “the pain of longing,” one of the first inclinations it has is to either become rigid and dogmatic about religion, or the opposite; discarding the  rites, rules, and rituals we have created throughout time in some imitation of what we think spirituality might be. Many of us can only guess at how our own mental processes define our lives and guide our actions.  We look for wisdom to take some form or create some action, never realizing that the power of it lies in its tranquility and formlessness.  In its application in daily life, conservation and balance invoke discretion, foresight, circumspection, the exercise of good judgment, common sense, and even caution. On the Wisdom Path, the mind that gathers knowledge and information, and the mind that expresses wisdom are, in reality, two distinct entities, each tied to the other as two ropes might be tied in a knot.  It is at this subtle knot that the conscious and the unconscious come together. Through meditation, contemplation, and introspection, we soon realize that it is non-being that creates all being.  Consider the idea that one must follow the mind if it is to function properly and efficiently.  It is through introspection, contemplation, and finally sitting in meditation with a “blank mind,” that one learns to cultivate spiritual wisdom while at the same time mastering the Game of Life.  As I began to formulate the ideas that would become the Wisdom Path Community I began to receive messages from around the world. They were usually from people who had heard me speak to a group or seen my videos on YouTube. Many heard of my work through social networking and asked if there was some community existing around my work?  In response I suggested as a daily practice they begin exploring the foundations of the Wisdom Practice.  These pillars are designed to give us a non-dogmatic framework by which to walk the Wisdom Path and create a life of joy and success. These pillars are:

  • Meditation
  • Wisdom stories
  • Chop Wood, Carry Water – Doing what is needed.
  • Sing, Dance, Laugh, Love.
  • Applied game thinking.


When you put these into practice you will have a life fulfilled through  timeless wisdom.



A normal part of living is dealing daily with problems. Without a doubt, the most effective way to deal with these challenges is through applied game thinking.

Before one can solve a problem it is essential that we understand what exactly a problem is? We often speak of problems but in reality, there is no single definition of what a problem is. Some definitions include:

  • Any situation which is unwelcome.
  • Any challenge that needs to be dealt with and overcome.
  • An inquiry into some question to which the answer is not obvious.
  • Some process we have chosen to engage in that is difficult to achieve or accomplish.


The most common words used to define a problem include; jigsaw puzzle, trouble, worry, hiccup, setback, catch, predicament, stumbling block, hitch, plight, misfortune, mishap, misadventure, snag, pest, drag, dilemma, quandary, headache, nightmare,  drawback, obstacle, hurdle, nuisance, bother, pest, irritant, thorn in one’s side/flesh, vexation, pain, riddle, difficult and pain in the neck.

The concept of “a problem” can be observed from a  number of perspectives. On a basic level, we can categorize a problem by;

  • The type of problem it is;
  • The cause of the problem;
  • The level of difficulty in solving the problem.


There is no one approach that is best for categorizing problems. Various problem-solving models will work best in specific situations. In addition, many categorizing systems have been supplanted by other models or overlap with them. Nevertheless, the underlying principles remain valid – a problem is an unwelcome situation that needs to be dealt with and overcome. One thing is clear; we cannot allow a negative attitude, an attachment to short term gratification, resignation or disillusionment to interfere with the process of solving a problem.

One of my mentors often said, “To be disillusioned you must first have illusions”.  Many problems arise because we project our own agendas and biases onto the agendas and biases of others with whom we feel a sense of rapport or connection. In the end, when we do this, we are often disappointed and problems rather than being solved are made worse.

Often what we perceive to be clarity of thought is nothing more than wishful thinking. In order to solve a problem with the least expenditure of energy, there are a number of things to keep in mind. To begin with, it is essential that one recognizes that without precision, focus and timing i.e. a system, one will struggle unnecessarily. In addition, most systems have their own critical times and resonances. The key to effectiveness in solving problems is to work with the natural timing or rhythm of a system rather than in opposition to it.

One of the basic rules of physics is that it takes more force to apply the same pressure to a wide area than to a smaller specific point.  This applies to problem-solving as well.  The more focus you have in defining a problem the less energy is needed to solve it. Here are some essential rules to keep in mind as you expand your game thinker, problem-solving skills.

  • Define the problem.
  • Develop good timing. What might not work with a particular person, place or time might work for another person, place or time? It is a valuable skill to know when a resource reaches its peak value, for when it does that is the time to apply use it.
  • Be Innovative: You must search for, think of or listen to an idea. Explore it, mull it over and then transform that idea into action.
  • Address the obvious first: It is always easier to pick the low hanging (obvious) fruit first. Sometimes there is no low hanging fruit. This may occur for any number of reasons. It may be too early.
  • Patience is required – at times, it may be worthwhile to allow this fruit to grow.  “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and small initial steps are easier to implement.


One basic way to define problems is by exploring their level of complexity. Doing this often enables us to access to the appropriate resources and skills needed to solve them. I generally define a problem as either:

  1. Basic (A Challenge),
  2. Complex (Obstacles),
  3. Extreme (Requiring a team of experts)


Understanding the difference between these distinctions can make all the difference in reducing unnecessary struggle in your life.  Let’s explore each of these.

  • A Basic Problem– A problem that can be solved by common sense or by learning a basic skill. Going to the store to buy milk or turning off a dripping faucet would be examples.
  • A Complex Problem:This is a biological, genetic or physical factor that prevents one from getting from one physical or metaphorical place to another – Think of a boulder in the middle of a road. One would deal with that obstacle by going over, under around or through it. If these options are not effective, we can attempt to transcend the obstacle in some innovative, creative or intuitive (non-linear) manner.
  • An Extreme Problem: These are oftenbased on the merging of many complex variables. In addition a false belief (Cognitive Bias*) often comes into play. False beliefs are the source of most problems – basic, complex and extreme. With cognitive biases individual accepts that a statement/group of ideas is true or that something exists when it is not true or doesn’t exist.


An example of this is the botched 1961 U.S. invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The best and the brightest advised President Kennedy to do something that ultimately failed miserably. How did this happen? As a group, they presented ideas to the President based on misinformation, misdirected assumptions, arrogance, poor planning, biases, and self-delusion. It was a plan that was destined to fail due to its “False Belief Based Model”, yet it was launched anyway with disastrous results.

Think of three problems you have created for yourself in this same way. One of the great challenges in life is the situation where we want everyone to “win” and prosper and yet we are confronted with an individual or group who has been trained, or chooses to see the world as a win/lose proposition (zero-sum game*).

The truth is that there really is “enough” for everyone Unless a visionary thinker chooses to isolate themselves they must engage the world good or bad. With great skill, they can create strategies that not only allow them to survive and prosper but also to serve others. With this knowledge and wisdom, they can both psychologically and physically “disarm” those committed to a zero-sum way of thinking and even limit the ability of such a person to spread their negative ideas and influence.

At times, these negative thinkers cannot be restrained through gentleness, requests for collaboration, or the respecting of established or agreed upon boundaries. They seem to have a need to “cheat”, taking what isn’t theirs and at times to doing so violently.

In a world like this one needs strategic tools to avoid violence whenever possible. In addition one must be able to change a negative thinking person’s  words and deeds through subtle influence, stealth and effective, efficient, and productive strategizing. By addressing common, everyday problems applied game thinking can help create solutions and an abundant and inclusive environment.

In more complex and even extreme scenarios the ability to used applied game thinking can give an individual so advanced an arsenal of strategic tools that even the most skilled, evil cheater, can be easily outwitted and disarmed both physically, emotionally and intellectually. Here even the most extreme problem can be solved if it is in fact solved.

It Seemed Like a Problem at the Time

What seemed obvious to me in my study of games and game-based strategies was that most individuals seem to go through life on automatic pilot. They develop their personal patterns of likes and dislikes and pretty much live life in a rigid format, which rests on a flimsy foundation of some story they just made up. They don’t really notice much unless it causes them some discomfort that cannot be ignored or easily removed. This is what we have come to call a “problem.”  Looking at this closer, I began to see the systematic ways that one might observe various types of problems. In creating my own life game, I saw that there was a difference between a problem that just came upon you, for instance, a drunk driver crossing into your lane on the highway – versus a problem you created such getting fat from eating junk food.

I saw the first example as a problem and the second one as a self-created obstacle. To an ordinary, unaware person, obstacles and problems would most probably appear to be the same. However, to a person with awareness, intention, and a sense of mission and purpose, the distinctions between the two would be clearly apparent.

I looked at my own life history and could see a distinction between what had truly stood in my way in achieving certain goals, and my perceptions about the problems and obstacles that had stood in my way.  I saw that without awareness, obstacles and problems would seem the same. I also saw that an individual with a mission or life purpose would be an extraordinary person, a person who would need a more specific language, the type of language I speak about in the chapter “So Many Games, So Little Time.”

In the formal sciences like mathematics words and terms with very specific definitions are often required. When we combine these languages or dialects with deductive reasoning we are able to create a system, by which some well-formed specific formulas, rules, and codes for solving problems can be created. In other words, the creation of specialized language is a key element of any game. Initially, I thought this idea might be too complex to wrap my thoughts around, but I soon realized that what defines any profession, culture, religion, or group is specialized language-specific words and phrases unique to that particular culture, or game. Think about cowboys, boxers, neuroscientists, chefs, advertising executives, investment advisors, soldiers, prostitutes, philanthropists, prison wardens, the clergy, and artists. They all use specialized words and phrases. Even non-verbal cues like body language might have one obvious meaning in one group and a different meaning in another.

It seems obvious that a person with a sense of purpose and a mission to fulfill would need to have a specialized language as well. I decided that a good place to begin would be to distinguish things that happened to me, which I will call obstacles, from those things I had obviously chosen to create – problems.

I made the definition even more specific. I created the ground rule for my new life game that a basic  “problem” is the direct result of limited, and ordinary thinking, whereas complex problems (obstacle) was a “real” situation or circumstance that needed to be overcome or transcended.

Using the concept of rational and logical thought I began to refine what made something an obstacle. I defined it in this way:

“An obstacle is some person or circumstance that seems unrelated to anything I have consciously done and which reduces my effectiveness, limits my freedom, brings me some level of discomfort and keeps me from getting what I want or need irrespective of my attitude about it.”


I immediately saw that in order to be effective, productive, and to have the love, freedom, kindness, abundance, emotional balance, effectiveness and spiritual contentment I desired I would have to be able to see problems and obstacles and how they came into existence with greater clarity, focus, and intention. Game Thinking seemed like an easy way to go about this.

In my years as a shaman’s apprentice one of my teacher’s would joke: “On the day that you master game thinking and advanced game theory and are able to merge both with love and compassion, you’ll be banned from hell.  If you happen to show up at the gates of hell the devil will get a restraining order against you…and if you happen to get past the gates of hell the Devil will call God, and pay her to keep you out!




Game Thinker Troubleshooting

One of the great constraints for many great game thinkers is that though they are skilled at developing winning strategies they are not very skilled at avoiding errors in judgment. One cannot be an effective strategist and problem solver unless one has a mastery of both skill-sets.

In order to develop these skills we must have a profound understanding of numerous concepts drawn from game theory and design thinking including; collaborative intelligence*, critical mass*, tipping points*, ripple effects*, Black Swans*, the Butterfly effect*, Support Triangle*, Cognitive Bias*, Trembling Hand* and other elements.

Within the Game Thinking community, there are troubleshooters whose job it is to check the understanding of experts and specialists for mental errors. Any skilled game theorist knows that the more brilliant, knowledgeable and expert a specialist is, the more likely they are to make some error, often a small one, that can have a major impact on any system especially a game space.  These are individuals, often experts themselves who are skilled at focusing on just the types of thinking errors certain experts are likely to make.  Acclaimed experts often are confused, and even annoyed as to how someone as respected and knowledgeable as themselves could possibly need someone less acclaimed and knowledgeable looking over their shoulders and making suggestions. Any serious strategist soon comes to appreciate these troubleshooters.

The more acclaimed a person is in a specialty the greater the likelihood that they may come to see themselves as infallible experts. This is when they get themselves into trouble.  Where ever there is genius at work, there will be judgments made with some level of uncertainty.  Taking this stream of thought to the next level, wherever there is an opportunity for human fallibility and preventable human error, an error will eventually take place.

There a number of reasons why skilled individuals make mistakes that have major ripple effects that can cost millions of dollars, and often lead to death and destruction. These include:

  • Failing to see that information received from other experts on their own team or project was unreliable.
  • Paying attention mainly to what they were asked to pay attention to, thus missing some bigger picture.
  • Failing to notice what they were not directly asked to notice.
  • Addressing a small problem without realizing that the problem is an indication of a much larger problem.


The reverse also happens. In this situation, an expert deals with the larger problem without realizing that there is a very small, seemingly irrelevant constraint at the source of the larger problem. When either a large or small problem is ignored one may win the battle but lose the war.

Troubleshooters often train experts to notice small details in an environment that they might not have noticed before. They ask “Is something missing that is usually there?  Has there been a change in an old pattern without any apparent reason or explanation for that change?” Any skilled mentalist and magician can tell you that there is a lot to be learned about people and situations by careful observation.

The great challenge for most experts is that they tend to notice only what they were trained to notice.  This is especially so among engineers and medical doctors.

One of the great challenges here is information bias, a type of cognitive bias that involves a distorted evaluation of information. An example of information bias is believing that the more information that can be acquired to make a decision, the better, even if that extra information is irrelevant for the decision.  This is a common problem among physicians who may attempt to properly diagnose what are actually fictitious diseases.

Experts often isolate a constraint* in a system without considering statistically that there must be another cause more likely for that constraint than what appears on the surface. Many game thinkers think statistically but not statistically enough. They seldom think that probabilities apply to their situation, problem or game scenario. Even more so, most ordinary individuals don’t believe statistical probabilities apply to them.  Most drunk drivers don’t think the statistics that show that they are more likely to be killed if they drive under the influence than if sober, applies to them.

I have many brilliant friends that believe that things are absolutely in alignment with their beliefs and find statistical analysis to support these beliefs. The problem is that they are not skilled statisticians. Even if they were statisticians these are not individuals likely to reach out to a game theorist troubleshooter to verify that their  “numbers” and the conclusions they have reached from those numbers are correct. Often my friends are wrong and the statistics they have chosen are wrong as well. The specific problem here is they have ignored the “representativeness heuristic*” when making judgments about the probability of an event under uncertainty. It is just one of a group of heuristics (simple rules governing judgment or decision-making) proposed by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the early 1970s.

Experts, more than anyone else, need to be conscientious when defining the source of a problem. Often what seems obvious to an expert will be used by them to explain the core constraint and all the related elements that seem to be rippling out from that constraint. Just before this expert acts on what seems obvious, it’s important to bring in a trouble shooter.  This backup expert will help the decision maker just before they act. Often what first came to mind was correct, yet this is not always the case and if the original expert is wrong the consequences can be grave.

Kahneman and Tversky discovered long ago that a person making a prediction can only be allowed to ignore statistics that question a conclusion if they are completely certain they are correct. In a complex game scenario, one can never completely be certain about anything. This is why a skilled game thinking troubleshooter can be invaluable.

Let’s review as well as explore this idea further.

   Game Thinking Troubleshooting*  (GTT)  is a form of problem-solving applied to repair strategies or solve problems or processes in any game space or system. It is a logical, systematic search for the source of a problem or constraint in order to solve it, To renew or recreate a winning strategy the first step is to identify the symptoms of the problem. Determining the most likely cause of a problem is a process of elimination—eliminating potential causes or constraints. Finally, GTT requires confirmation that the solution restores the strategy or process to its peak state.

As we discuss throughout this book, a system can be described in terms of its expected, desired or intended behavior. Events or specific strategies are expected to generate specific results or outputs. A simple example of this might be selecting the “print” option from various computer applications. This is intended to result in a hardcopy emerging from some specific device. Any unexpected or undesirable behavior is a symptom that there is a problem. So GTT is the process of isolating the specific cause or causes of the symptom. Frequently the symptom is nothing more than a failure of the strategy to produce any results. (Nothing was printed, for example). Corrective action can then be taken to prevent further failures of a similar kind. But what action is it best to take? There are many ways to determine this and they are explored throughout this book.

Some of the most skilled game thinking troubleshooters recognize that one of the sources of a problem or constraint in a game space is a result of failed “tools”. Here a GTT*  may need to use methods drawn from forensic engineering in tracing a problem or constraint. Forensic engineering is the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended. The consequences of this type of failure are dealt with by GTT through the application of the law of product liability.

In Game Thinking there is a wide range of analytical techniques available to determine the cause(s) of specific failures. Corrective action can then be taken to prevent further failure(s) of a similar kind. Preventative action is possible using failure mode and effects (FMEA)* and fault tree analysis (FTA*) before full-scale production takes place, and these methods can also be used for Failure analysis*.

Usually, troubleshooting is applied to something that has suddenly stopped working, since it’s previously working state forms the expectations about its continued behavior. So the initial focus is usually on recent changes to the system or to the environment in which it exists. (For example, a printer that “was working when it was plugged in over there”). However, there is a well-known principle that “correlation does not imply causality”. For example, the failure of a device shortly after it has been plugged into a different outlet doesn’t necessarily mean that the events were related. The failure could have been a matter of coincidence.  Therefore effective troubleshooting demands critical thinking and at times expertly crafted and understood statistical analysis rather than magical thinking or amateurish forms  of number crunching.   It’s useful to consider the common experiences we have with light bulbs. Light bulbs “burn out” more or less at random; eventually, the repeated heating and cooling of its filament and fluctuations in the power supplied to it cause the filament to crack or vaporize. The same principle applies to most other electronic devices and similar principles apply to mechanical devices. Some, though not all failures are part of the normal wear-and-tear of components in a system.

A basic principle in troubleshooting is to start from the

simplest problems first. This is illustrated by the old saying. This is an expression of the maxim, the KISS principle* (Keep it simple, stupid!). This principle results in the common complaint about help desks or manuals, that they sometimes first ask: “Is it plugged in and does that receptacle have power?”, but this should not be taken as an affront, rather it should serve as a reminder or conditioning to always check the simple things first before calling for help.

A GTT could check each element in a system one by one, substituting known, good components or approaches, for each potentially “suspect” one. However, this process of “serial substitution” is ineffectual (degenerate) when components are substituted without regard to a hypothesis concerning how their failure could result in the symptoms being diagnosed.

Simple and intermediate systems are characterized by lists or “information trees*” of dependencies among their components or subsystems. More complex systems require more sophisticated approaches


Understanding Life as a Game

Many people just can’t seem to wrap their heads around the concept of game thinking no matter how simple you make it. Often in the past when I described game thinking and Game theory to people I got blank stares or responses of “Huh?” “What?” and “I don’t understand what you are talking about”.  Possibly the limitation was my inability to describe the concepts simply and understandably. Clearly, the fundamentals of game thinking made sense to me, even if it didn’t make much sense to most of the people I described it too. Even those who enjoyed watching the television show Numb3rs or game-based crime dramas often had little interest in game thinking though it was the center of every show’s storyline. They liked the crime stories yet the type of thinking that seemed to solve the crimes was of less importance to them.

This lack of interest never made sense to me since many of these same people enjoyed chess, football, boxing and other competitive sports –  and one of the first things we do as children are learning to play sports and games. It could be said that many of us love to play but aren’t concerned with the elements of “play”.

There are many theories about why play and games are so central to human development. Most social scientists believe that games are a universal part of human experience and are present in all cultures.

For a very young child games become a tool for learning how to function in the world. As we develop physically, mentally, and emotionally, it is the skills we gain from gameplay that enable us to create a functional reality. Over time we learn to develop goals, understand rules, challenges, interaction, ethics, cheating, fair play and strategizing.

In order to survive in the world, we must make sense of it all. There are few absolutes known of how this comes about. It seems that humans are “hard-wired” for certain things such as crawling, walking the development of language, and game playing. These become part of who we are at a very early age. Other elements such as competition, hierarchal behavior, reciprocal altruism, and faith develop later though many experts believe we are hard-wired for these as well.

Two things that seem pretty obvious in our lives are that from the very beginning we need help at:

  1. surviving
  2. prospering


There is little we can do to survive and prosper without the support and guidance of others. In fact, as children, we know very few of the ground rules for social behavior without being taught. One of the first things we learn to do in life is to distinguish between leaving our toys lying around and putting them where they belong in an orderly fashion.

In time we developed basic social relationships with others. We learned there are ground rules for what is and is not acceptable, and that there are also consequences for violating the codes that define these. In other words, we learned pretty early “how to play in the sandbox” by listening, seeing and speaking …and soon learned how to play games with rules, costs and benefits.

Toys, Games and Puzzles

Usually, the earliest children’s games involve building sand castles at the beach, playing with invisible friends, or playing games like tag rock, paper scissors, or hopscotch.  “‘Traditional’ games”, have, “not only failed to disappear but have evolved into new versions.” Many video games are based on simple ideas drawn from childhood games.

As simple games become more sophisticated they help children learn by example from other children, and can be played without reference to written rules. These games are usually played by those between the ages of 7 and 12, with some latitude on both ends of the age range. These games have been passed from child to child, generation to generation, and informally by word of mouth.  Most interactive children’s games include at least two of the following six features in different proportion: physical skill, strategy, chance, repetition of patterns, creativity, and vertigo.

Examples of some of the most popular children’s games include apple bobbing, playing “catch” with a ball, Blind Man’s Bluff, Hopscotch, Doctor, House,  Jumping Ropes, Play in a Sand Box, Kick the Can, Marbles, Leapfrog, etc.

At a particular point in our mental, emotional and physical development we begin to express the need to compete. Competition is, in general, a contest or rivalry between two or more organisms, animals, individuals, and economic or social groups.  Soon after we learn to play games we learn about puzzles. We may begin with simple games like Candy Land and simple jigsaw picture puzzles. We eventually move on to more complex puzzles and, or games like tic-tac-toe, Monopoly, and chess. Some of these games involve just two players while others involve multiple players and even teams. It doesn’t take long before we realize that in some games everyone wins and in others, there are also losers.

A few years after we make this discovery one of the cruel realities of life takes place.  Our parents often  tell us that “it is time to stop playing games and get serious about life.” This is most unfortunate since it would have been better for us, them, and the world to have us continue playing games and becoming more skilled at strategizing as we played these games. Sadly, many of us move on in life getting jobs we do not love, working under incompetent management in layered corporate hierarchies. We become prisoners in a “life game” from which there seems no way to win.

We are trapped in the game of life even as we ironically continue to root for sports teams, play poker, watch Poker Championships and join On-line Fantasy Leagues. We go on vacations to Las Vegas and throw our money away on games of chance when if we knew how to apply game thinking we could win millions of dollars in a day. Given that we live in highly complex social environments, many of our most important decisions are made in the context of social interactions. Sadly, in spite of research showing over and over again that game thinking is one of the most effective ways to make good decisions we do not apply game thinking when making these decisions. Simple but sophisticated ideas drawn from game theory* have been used to study social decision-making in a laboratory setting.  In addition a variety of neuroscience methods has been used to probe the underlying neural systems that create these patterns. This approach is informing our knowledge of the neural mechanisms that support decisions about trust, reciprocity, altruism, fairness, revenge, social punishment, social norm conformity, social learning, and competition. Neural systems involved in reward/reinforcement, pain/punishment, mentalizing, delaying gratification, forgiveness, revenge and emotion regulation are commonly used for social decisions. Many scientists are now exploring the role of the prefrontal cortex in prudent social decision-making, at least when social environments are relatively stable. In addition, recent progress has been made in understanding the neural bases of individual variation in social decision-making.







Much of what defines game thinking is built around the accumulation, organization, and application of knowledge. Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness or understanding of  someone  or something,  including facts, information descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience, education, perceptiondiscovery, or learning.

Knowledge can refer to a theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with a practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can also be more or less formal or systematic.  Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes including perception, communication, reasoning, and intuition. One of the important concepts concerning knowledge and game thinking in all its forms is “Mutual Knowledge”. Mutual knowledge is a fundamental concept about information in game theorylogic, and the process of accumulating knowledge especially with regard to methods, validity, and scope of how this takes place (Epistemology). It is this investigation that allows and enables us to distinguish justified belief from opinion.  A game or event has “mutual knowledge” if all the players know that the event occurred. However, mutual knowledge by itself implies nothing about what players know about other players’ knowledge or strategies. Thus it is possible that an event is mutual knowledge but that each player is unaware that the other players know it has occurred. Another, stronger notion related to types of knowledge is called “ Common knowledge.” Common knowledge is a knowledge that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community in which the term is used. Common knowledge need not concern one specific subject, e.g., science or history. Rather, common knowledge can be about a broad range of subjects, such as science, literature, history, and entertainment. Often, common knowledge does not need to be cited with footnotes. Nearly everyone agrees that it is so. Common knowledge is distinct from general knowledge. The latter has been defined by differential psychologists as referring to “culturally valued knowledge communicated by a range of non-specialist media”, and is considered an aspect of ability related to intelligence. Therefore, there are substantial individual differences in general knowledge as opposed to common knowledge.

The assertion that something is “common knowledge*” is sometimes associated with a concept in philosophy known as the fallacy argumentum ad populum (Latin: “appeal to the people”). The fallacy essentially warns against assuming that just because everyone believes something to be absolutely true, it is true. Misinformation is easily introduced into rumors by intermediate messengers. This is especially true concerning social media and the propagation of memes* and RTPs*.

In broader terms, common knowledge is used to refer to information that an individual would accept as valid, such as information that many users may know. One example of this type of information might include the temperature in which water freezes or boils. To determine if information should be considered common knowledge, you can ask yourself who your audience is. Are you able to assume they already have some familiarity with the topic, or will the information’s credibility come into question?

Many techniques have been developed in response to the question of distinguishing truth from fact in matters that have become “common knowledge”. The scientific method* is usually applied in cases involving phenomena associated with astronomy, mathematics, physics, and the general laws of nature. In legal settings, rules of evidence generally exclude hearsay (which may draw on so-called “facts” someone believes to be “common knowledge”).

Conventional wisdom” is a similar term, also referring to ostensibly pervasive knowledge or analysis. The challenge in all this is that many individuals really cannot distinguish between common knowledge and fake news.

Examples of common knowledge include:

  • Parisis the capital of France.” Many capital cities are considered common knowledge by most people.
  • “The Moon orbits the Earth.” Observation of the moon shows us that this happens. In addition, scientific findings give confirmation. At various periods in history, it was regarded as common knowledge that the Earth is flat and that the Sun orbits the Earth, although these theories were later found to be false.
  • “It is dangerous to mix ammonia and bleach.” Though both common household chemicals, accidents involving the mixing of ammonia and bleach are rare because the potentially lethal danger in their chemical reaction is a widely circulated cautionary tale.
  • “The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants American citizens the right to refuse to answer any question in a court of law that would endanger incriminating themselves.” “Pleading the Fifth”, for example, is a phrase commonly used in American colloquial speech, and even in such popular media as the sketch comedy series “Chappelle’s Show” Thus it may be regarded as common knowledge in the United States.







Game Thinking Basics

Now that we know the concepts behind game theory and Game Thinking it’s time to take the next steps and think about the fact that all games are built on four basic principles.

1) A choice

2) An event

3) An outcome

4) A payoff. This might be money, points or some other payoff. In HAGT a payoff is known as a utility*.


To be a successful player in any game, especially in a competitive situation, requires strong intuitive skills and, the ability to gather, organize, remember or store ever larger amounts of data. In the 21st century the organizing of large amounts of organized data (data sets*) is known as Big Data*. You may not realize it but Facebook and other social networking platforms couldn’t exist without Big Data. When you use an on-line dating service like Match.com, or other platforms like Twitter, or Linkedin you are engaged in the use of “Big Data*” and are part of that Big data as well. These systems of information are so large and complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate to deal with them. The term “Big Data” often refers simply to the gathering and organizing of information. These data sets* are so large and complex that traditional data processing applications are totally inadequate to deal with them. Challenges include analysis, capture, data curation, search, sharing storage, transfer, visualization, querying, updating, and information privacy.  Big data can be the boon or the bane of a game thinker, for by applying certain techniques for evaluating this data one can in a sense see the future. Through predictive analyticsuser behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytic methods that extract value from organized information, one can estimate with ever greater accuracy what is likely to happen in the future and how it is likely to happen.  Accuracy in gathering and organizing big data may lead to more confident decision making. And better decisions can mean greater operational efficiency, cost reductions, and reduced risk.

Analysis of data sets can find new correlations, spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on.  Scientists, practitioners of media and advertising and governments alike, and effectively address challenges and problems with large data sets in areas including Internet search, finance, and business informatics. Scientists encounter limitations in e-Science work, including meteorology, genomics, connectomics*, complex physics simulations, and biological and environmental research.

You may not realize it but when you are playing fantasy football or using analytics to succeed in the stock market you are applying “Big Data”.  When you buy a specific brand of candy bar with your debit card and the next day you go on-line to research something and there is a banner advertisement for that very candy bar on your computer screen “Big Data” is being applied to you.

The ability to use Big Data tools through Game Thinking is not as complex as you might think. To create effective game strategies only requires the most basic math skills: subtraction, addition, division  and multiplication. These are skills that most seven-year-olds would understand.

In basic game thinking, there are certain things you want to keep in mind. These include:

  • What is the name of the game you are playing?
  • What is the defined environment of this game?
  • What are rules of the game – i.e. the core elements that define the type of game you’re are playing.
  • What are your own beliefs concerning the game?
  • How to re-frame a game -Your perception of the game and the various elements in it.
  • What is your end-game?
  • Choosing your strategies.


Let’s explore a few of these


What is the name of the game you are playing?: In sports or on a board game this is obvious. You can look at the board or the playing field and guess fairly easily. Is the “game space” a football field, a ping pong table, a chess board? Some game spaces are physical while others are conceptual. For instance, my friend is a professional networker. For her, the entire world is her game space. Where ever she is she can network. The name of her game is “Networking” and her game space is any place where there are two or more people that do not know each other. Her game space is “The world”.

   Some people think they are playing a particular game or not playing any game at all while it may be clear to you that they are playing a specific game.

   There is a saying in Game-based thinking that in any game that is long enough and which involves enough players“ there are likely to be cheaters. If this is so there are likely two primary types of cheaters:

there are two kinds of cheaters; evil cheaters and stupid cheaters. Some “stupid” cheaters do not even know that they are playing a game and thus do not even know they are cheating. This might be a person with poor manners Imagine that you are carrying two bags of groceries as you leave the store right behind them and they let the door swing right back into you without holding it open. The game here might be called “Manners” or more specifically “Social Intelligence”.

  • What is the defined environment of this game?: Is it a board,? Is it a playing field? Is it a set of pieces as in Rock, Paper, Scissors?
  • What are rules of the game?: This includes the core elements that define the type of game you’re are playing.
  • What are your own beliefs and ideas concerning the game?: How you perceive all the various elements of the game. This how you “frame” the game.
  • How to re-frame a game?:This includes your perception of the game and the various elements you may choose to “re-frame” the game.
  • What is your end-game: What is the result you are seeking when the game ends?
  • Choosing your strategies:  This is the essence of game-based thinking. What is the problem to be solved; the number of variables involved, the challenges or obstacles presented and how is “winning” defined. The level of skilled strategies needed become progressively sophisticated from Tic-Tac- Toe, to Checkers, onto Chess, then “Go” and into a  complex game space like the “Community of Nations” or in a game of “Geopolitics”.  Geopolitics can get very complicated with very sophisticated strategies formed using computer algorithms.


As complex as game-based thinking can get the principles of applying these ideas are pretty basic. For instance, most players in a game, have the same goal – to win at the lowest possible cost. In the game of life, it can be described as maximizing one’s potential and resources at the lowest possible cost.

If you look at interactions between different individuals as well as individuals and groups and even individuals and technology it seems that there are only six factors for determining the best strategies for winning, no matter how sophisticated the game space is. These can be posed as questions.

  • Is this a game where someone has to win at the expense of another? This is called a win/lose game*.
  • Is this a game where everyone has the opportunity to win? This is called a win/win game*.
  • Do all the players have access to the same information? These are known are “perfect information games”. Chess is such a game. It can get pretty complex when the games are complex and the players very skilled.
  • Is this a game where others have information that you lack and can’t get access to or vice-versa. These are called “incomplete” or “imperfect information* games”. The two most common examples of imperfect information games are Prisoner’s Dilemma* and The Diner’s Dilemma*.
  • Is this a sequential game* where one player makes a move and then the other player makes the next move?
  • Is this a simultaneous game* where all of the players are making their individual moves at the same times as all the other players? Rock-Paper-Scissors is a real life example of a simultaneous game. Both players make a decision at the same time, randomly, without prior knowledge of the opponent’s decision.


An example for the question “Do all the players have access to the same information?” would relate to Chess. In this game there are a specific number of pieces; a specific number of squares on the board; and two players to make the finite number of moves available. How many moves are possible? You’d be surprised.  You certainly could not count the possibilities out on your fingers. There are 9 million different possible positions after just three moves for each player in Chess – After four moves?  There are over 288 billion different possible positions after four moves each. It gets mind boggling. The number of distinct 40-move games is far greater than the number of electrons in the observable universe.  Thus knowing more of these moves than most of the people playing against you, would make one a chess master. There may be a vast number of possible moves but if you have the time, the guidance and the talent it is possible to learn many more of them than any other person or even all of them. This is another example of a “complete” or “perfect information game*”.

One way that games are defined is by the concept of “sums”. As we have discussed, in many games there will be

winners and losers. By defining how one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss we can more effectively understand the game and also strategize more effectively if we are participant’s in a particular game.

Let’s begin our exploration of sum games with Constant sum games*. These are games where the total (sum) of the benefits, winnings etc. (payoffs) to every player are the same for every set of strategies. All competitive games are constant-sum games but not all constant sum games have winners or losers.  The combined wealth or assets of the players remain constant, though its distribution shifts in the course of play. The two most common sum games are zero-sum games* (win/lose) and non-zero-sum games* (win/win).

So there you have it. Look at any game and if you are skilled enough you can see if it is “win/lose” or “win/win/”; “complete” or “incomplete”; “sequential” or “simultaneous” or a combination of these various elements. The clearer you can see all this the more likely you are to win the game.



Why We Compete

There are many reasons why human beings compete. One of the most likely is that we may be genetically “hardwired” to do so. For instance, in times of scarcity, we may need to know what will be required of us to survive. One of the easiest ways to determine this is to compete in play or through games with others of our gender, age, weight class etc.  In nature most living creatures compete for;  territory, a niche, resources, goods, a mate, prestigerecognitionawards, group or social status, leadership, and profit.  One of my favorite movies and teaching tools concerning competition is Quest for Fire. This is a brilliant adventure film adaptation of the 1911 Belgian novel by J.H. Rosny. The story  is set in  Paleolithic Europe (80,000 years ago), with its plot surrounding the struggle for control of fire by early humans as they compete with nature, other tribes a lacking of essential skills needed to succeed, which they must accumulate in their struggle to survive and prosper like the film because it is one of the most powerful primal illustrations of how competition occurs naturally between living organisms who are co-existing in the same environment

For example, animals compete over water supplies, food, mates, and other biological resources. Humans usually compete for food and mates, though when these needs are met deep rivalries may also often arise over the pursuit of wealth, power, prestige, and fame.

In life, we soon learn that there will be competition whenever at least two parties strive for a goal which cannot be shared – where one’s gain is the other’s loss. The earliest experience of this in childhood is one child taking another’s toys, or not sharing.

For a developing child competition is expressed in simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe, Checkers, Rock-Paper-Scissors and soon expands into sports, and video games of ever greater complexity.

Early on we begin to think, that competition and cooperation are oppositional but it is much more complex than that. From a positive perspective, competition may serve as a form of recreation or a challenge provided that it is non-hostile. On the negative side, competition can cause injury, and loss to organisms involved, draining valuable resources and energy from them. In the human species competition can be expensive on many levels, not only in lives lost to war, physical injuries, and damaged psychological well-being, but also in the health effects from everyday civilian life caused by work stress, long work hours, abusive working relationships, and poor working conditions, that detract from the enjoyment of life, even as such competition results in financial gain for those at the top of the hierarchy.   Unless we are playing a game where everyone can win we have entered a zero-sum game.

Competitive games and the many strategies applied within them have been studied in several fields, including traditional psychology, family therapy,  sociology, and anthropology. Social psychologists, for instance, study the nature of competition, investigating the natural urge of competition and its circumstances. They also study group dynamics, to detect how competition emerges and what its effects are.  Sociologists, meanwhile, study the effects of competition on society as a whole. In  addition anthropologists study the history and prehistory of competition in various countries and cultures. They also investigate the ways that various forms of competition have manifested in various cultural settings in the past, and how competition has developed over time.

Many philosophers and psychologists have identified a competitive trait in most living organisms which can drive that particular organism’s actions. This trait is viewed as an innately biological and which coexists along with the urge for survival. Competitiveness or the inclination to compete has become synonymous with aggressiveness and ambition in the English language.

More advanced civilizations integrate aggressiveness and competition into their interactions  as a  way to distribute resources and adapt. Many plants, for instance, compete with neighboring ones for sunlight. Stephen Jay Gould the great  American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, as well as other influential researchers, have argued that as one ascends the evolutionary hierarchy, instinctual competitiveness becomes less innate, and more a learned behavior. The same could be said for patterns of co-operation. In humans, at least, both co-operation and competition are considered learned behaviors because the human species can quickly learn to adapt to environmental pressures.

Consequently, if survival requires competitive behaviors, the individual will compete, and if survival requires co-operative behaviors, the individual will co-operate. In the case of humans, therefore, aggressiveness may be an innate characteristic, but a person need not be competitive at the same time. An example of this might be climbing Mount Everest or scaling a cliff. On the other hand, humans seem also to have a nurturing instinct, to protect newborns and the weak. While that does not necessitate cooperative behavior, it does help.

The word “competition” also applies to econometrics. the comparative measure of the ability and performance of a group to sell and produce/supply goods and/or services in a given market. Predicting changes in the competitiveness of business sectors is becoming an integral and explicit step in public policymaking. Within capitalist economic systems, the drive of any enterprises is to maintain and improve their own competitiveness.

Competition can have both beneficial and detrimental effects and there are many academic disciplines that have focused on how and why we compete in order to make sense of interactions  among various species.  One of the first disciplines to explore competition was sociology – the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society as well as the study of social problems. Later on this exploration became an important element of economics and in recent years much important research in the area of competition has been conducted by evolutionary biologists.  Evolutionary biologists view inter-species and intra-species competition as the driving force of adaptation and ultimately of evolution. However, some biologists disagree, citing competition as a driving force only on a small scale, and citing the larger scale drivers of evolution to be abiotic factors (termed “Room to Roam”). Richard Dawkins, (born 26 March 1941) the English  ethologist, evolutionary  biologist,  and   author prefers to think of evolution in terms of competition between single genes, which have the welfare of the organism “in mind” only insofar as that welfare furthers their own selfish drives for replication (termed the “selfish gene”).

In times of abundance, surpluses are irrelevant.  In times of scarcity, it is hard to know what is enough.  Each of us sees the world differently.  Our perceptions control the calculations we make to determine what is “enough.”  They may seem quite reasonable, sensible, and rational, but they are also reinforced emotively, and with a different intention than might ordinarily  seem logical. Understanding this, it makes greater sense to see that it may actually be easier for us to compete than to live a life free of competition.  Some researchers believe that we may also be genetically predisposed to a type of group behavior where it is essential to track the wealth of others and then compare it to our own level of wealth.  Such a practice might serve as a far-reaching means of assuring self-survival in the face of unknown future shifts and changes in the group dynamic, particularly in relation to hierarchical behavior patterns.

Concerning survival, the ability to recognize patterns has been an invaluable tool in the cognitive arsenal of humans, especially in relation to competition.  Strong assessment skills can help you to recognize patterns.

In order to prosper in a competitive environment, we need to have the ability to analyze and anticipate what a competitor is likely to do as well as take into consideration the actions of the other players. Game Thinking and the application of strategic games is an efficient and effective way to do this.  As one applies these skills it becomes easier to look at the different ways to determine a best or dominant strategy. This includes analyzing what happens when we change the game from simultaneous (where everybody acts at the same time) to sequential (where players move sequentially after each other).

Some Social Darwinists embrace the theory that competition also serves as a mechanism for determining the best-suited group; politically, economically and ecologically. What any game thinker understands is that as we mature, we are likely to see that in the real world mixtures of cooperation and competition are the norm.  For the innovative, efficient, effective, productive, creative and collaborative game thinker, competition is seldom required. Optimal strategies to achieve goals in an environment where everyone wins can be learned both intuitively and mathematically through Game theory and other approaches to applied game thinking.

Since the time of Adam Smith the exploration of competition has been a major tenet of market economies, and today it is often associated with business. Most companies compete with at least one other firm over the same group of customers. Also, competition inside a company is usually stimulated by creating improved products and services.

So where does all this competitiveness lead us? As games become more complex and competition more sophisticated, new classes, categories, strategies, and systems develop to maximize the potential of each player. Some of these games become so complex that scientists and statisticians have had to develop computer models and programs to explore millions of potential interactions and strategies among thousands of players. The mathematical approach to applying basic trial and error skills in these game spaces are called “meta-heuristic algorithms*”. This is a fancy way of saying that a decision maker is using basic math applied through a specialized computer program that can plow through massive amounts of data in a trial and error fashion.

It is unlikely that you will ever need meta-heuristic algorithms to solve one of your personal problems.  Just as you can drive a car, or fly on a plane without knowing the technical elements of how either functions, one can solve many problems without needing any more than the basics we have discussed in this chapter. However, for any situation that is complex one can always find a mathematician or statistician to explore the next level of problem-solving and applied game thinking.

Game playing may be something we do as a diversion, for entertainment amusement, exercise, as a distraction, for recreation, as a sport, or as an activity to pass time but ultimately game thinking can make the difference in the quality of life we get to experience on every level.

In psychology and ethology  play is includes a wide range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated  activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment.  Play is commonly associated with children and juvenile-level activities but occurs at any life stage, and among other higher-functioning animals as well, most notably mammals.

Many prominent researchers in the field of psychology, including Melanie KleinJean Piaget,  William James, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Lev Vygotsky  have viewed play as confined to the human species, believing play was important for human development and using different research methods to prove their theories.

Play is often interpreted as frivolous; yet the player can be intently focused on their objective (end-game), particularly when play is structured and goal-oriented, as in a game. Accordingly, play can range from relaxed, free-spirited and spontaneous through frivolous to planned or even compulsive.  Play is not just a pastime activity; it has the potential to serve as an important tool in numerous aspects of daily life for adolescents, adults, and cognitively advanced non-human species (such as primates). Not only does play promote and aid in physical development (such as hand–eye coordination), but it also aids in cognitive development and social skills, and acts as a stepping stone to game thinking. Remember:

  1. As children we soon learn that in some games everyone wins but in other games – competitive games – some people get what they need and more (the winners) and some people don’t (the losers).
  2. We also learn that in order to win these win/lose games certain factors come into play including skill, creativity, innovation, strength, and luck.
  3. In time all these elements begin to define how we live our lives day to day.





The Master Strategists

A skilled game theorist will see any problem as nothing more than a challenge to be transcended,  – a “game” to be won. Since there are usually other players involved with different intentions the skilled player needs to create a win-win situation even when other players are intent on winning at the expense of others. One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with strategic thinking is to play chess or poker. These are the games of strategy.  My favorite pioneers in strategy theory and applied game thinking include Nicollo Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and, Morihei Ueshiba. Let’s explore each them.

Nicollo Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was an  Italian philosopher/writer, and one of the main founders of modern political science. His small treatise, “The Prince” is read by virtually anyone interested in power, influence, and strategies. Machiavelli also published a book, The Art of War, about high-military science.

Long before Machiavelli wrote the Art of War, Sun Tzu, a military strategist in the sixth century China wrote a military treatise of the same title. Sun Tzu’s work consists of 13 chapters, each devoted to one aspect of warfare, and within these chapters, there are 47 core principles that underlie the most effective strategies.

Morihei Ueshiba, (December 14, 1883 – April 26, 1969) was a pioneering martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial art of Akido.   Ueshiba’s system is the one most concerned with compassion ethics, win/win scenarios. Akido is a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Uesheba teaches that one needs to have compassion for one’s attacker. This is expressed by one of his core principles – to have concern for the well-being of the attacker and whenever possible disarm or disable them without doing them harm or causing them to be injured.

Aikido is often translated as “the Way of unifying (with) life energy ” “unifying with ki”  “the way of peace.” or as “the Way of harmonious spirit.” Ueshiba’s system allows the practitioner to defend themselves by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than resisting it head-on. In this way, even a physically small or weak person is capable of disarming a large, physically strong person. This is done by gently redirecting or “leading” the attacker’s momentum by gently but skillfully applying entering and turning movements. These techniques are completed with the addition of various throws or joint locks.

Machiavelli’s,  Sun Tzu’s and, Ueshiba’s systems all were created before the terms Game Thinking or  Game theory came into existence and yet all three offer approaches that though different in action and perspective, can each employ the essence of game thinking effectively. Like Machiavelli,  Sun Tzu understood the importance of positioning when developing a strategy. Of course in The Prince, Machiavelli was less concerned with war specifically and more concerned with political culture. Ueshiba is the Master of dealing with an immediate and potentially violent win/lose confrontation both “winning” and allowing the opponent to survive (a form of winning), hopefully with a better attitude and behavior in the future. Let’s explore the differences between the three approaches?

Machiavelli: His ideas were revolutionary for the time and for many they still are revolutionary today. First and foremost he had no illusions about politics. He felt that it is a rare situation to find a purely idealistic politician who is also successful. He further understood that it is rare even in the most democratic societies to find completely “clean” politics, selfless-noble civil servants, and, or legislation that is free from some hidden agenda and results from government policy that serves all. For him, the natural reality of political culture is self-protection tempered with reciprocal altruism, mistrust of the opposition and the need to use power and influence to maintain stability, and support the status quo while serving society. To those who see themselves as spiritually motivated, and democracy as a stable idealistic form of government Machiavelli’s ideas may border on the offensive. Essentially they are written to instruct a prince in the obtaining and the maintaining of power and influence.


Sun Tzu: Though this brilliant strategist focused on creating strategies for war his ideas are of great value in any competitive situation.  In fact, Sun Tzu’s Art of War has been used effectively by leaders as diverse as Napoleon, Mao Tse Dung, and General Douglas MacArthur, as well as stockbrokers and salesman of every type. One of his core ideas was that one’s position is affected both by objective conditions in the external physical environment as well as subjective opinions of competing players in that environment. This is a very sophisticated understanding of game theory before the term “Game theory” and gamification even existed.

Some are critical of Sun Tzu’s ideas because no matter how valuable the information in Sun Tzu’s writings may be, they claim he is promoting mass violence, murder, and pillaging. To believe this is to misunderstand what he is saying. Actually, his Art of War is more concerned with how to fight wars without actually having to do battle than it is with violence. The goal of the book is to guide a competitor to outsmart, outmaneuver and outlast one’s opponent so that physical violence is unnecessary. It is for this reason that this work has become the “Bible” for many interested in Game theory and Gamification models as well as the study of competitive social behavior in general.


Morihei Ueshiba:  This master of the win/win game understood that sometimes one has little time to strategize. In such a case the skill must be developed to get the desired result compassionately and with as little thought and energy as possible. It is here that the skills of both physical and “mental” Akido are most important.

One can take many different approaches to complex problem-solving and I am not willing to say that one approach is superior to another.

I have personally found that there are a number of concepts and principles in Sun Tzu’s Art of War that is generally accepted by most skilled strategists, and are in alignment with my studies in Applied Game Theory and Gamification. Any ordinary individual can use these ideas

to be successful in competitive environments. Many game theorists focus on ten of his key points for succeeding in competitive situations. I have reinterpreted them a bit and added my own spin to using the concept of teams or groups to replace Sun Tzu’s concept of armies.

  1. Goals:A game thinker strategist must have end-games (goals) and the means for assessing and comparing key factors. Here Sun Tzu focuses on the following five fundamental factor.

(a)  The end results you are seeking.

(b)  The climate – The weather and the seasons.

(c)  The physical environment you are competing in

specifically the terrain, leadership, and the managing and utilization of resources.  Before anything else can take place the effective strategist must assess and compare these key points. Any deviation from this is guaranteed to produce failure.

  1.  Risk Analysis:No matter how skilled an individual is, they cannot succeed in a competitive environment if the cost of winning ultimately bankrupts them.  Here Sun Tzu explains the economics of competition. This includes not only the ability to assess and compare key factors while taking action but also taking economical and beneficial action.
  2. The Plan of Attack:Here  Sun Tzu defines what makes a team strong or weak.  Counter-intuitively he minimizes the importance of size or numbers focusing more on unity, skill among team members and commonality of purpose as the primary tool of success. He also places great value on forming strong alliances with other groups against a common adversary.
  3. Tactics: This strategy recognizes the power of seizing opportunities as they arise rather than expending valuable resources in attempting to create opportunities. By waiting for opportunities you can more effectively defend what you already have (defending existing positions) and create an emotionally grounded, low-stress environment that will more easily enable you to act at exactly the right time. This philosophy reflects the idea, “Success happens when preparation and opportunity meet”.
  4. Momentum: When one is able to conserve one’s energy and use it at the most appropriate time, a natural rhythm comes into play. The formula here is Creativity and timing = momentum. Momentum wins the battle.
  5. Maximizing Personal Strengths:This is my own category title, not Sun Tzu’s.  In my studies in Applied Game Theory and Gamification, I focused on how an individual might isolate their natural talents and skills and apply them to gain benefits at the lowest possible cost. Conversely, tremendous opportunities may arise if an individual is able to isolate relative weaknesses of an opponent as well.
  6. Maneuvering in Confrontation:Sun Tzu is adamant that whenever possible it is best to avoid direct conflict even in a situation where your opponent is intent on having such a conflict come about.  It is essential that one be aware of the costs and dangers of such engagement and have the essential skills to succeed or win such a confrontation when it is forced upon you (when one is between “a rock and hard place”).
  7. Responding to Black Swan Events:A Black Swan Event is what happens when seemingly minor, irrational, or improbable and unexpected events take place with substantial consequences. The master strategist must be able to respond successfully to these shifting circumstances.
  8. The Tools of Attack: This addresses the use of technology and the general use of circumstances and environment to outwit an opponent. It also explores how to use circumstances and the environment against an attack.
  9. Information:Here Sun Tzu discusses the importance of developing and managing good information sources. He is especially interested in information resources that your opponent is unaware of.


Once you understand and can apply the philosophies of Nicollo Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and, Morihei there are a number of things one can do to become a skilled problem solver. These include:

  1. Reading the news and seeing how real life strategies are applied to solve real-world problems.
  2. Studying with a Strategy Coach and exploring the hundreds of strategies in my books.
  3. Using self-assessment tools to explore the obstacles in your life. Then determining which of Sun Tzu’s or Machiavelli’s ideas would be of help.
  4. Practice, practice and practice some more.
  5. Teaching the work to others.



Competitive Games

It is my belief that excluding issues of faith, authentic spirituality, and the expression of love there is little in life that does not involve individuals strategizing in order to benefit in some way from human interactions and from specific circumstances.

It can be said that when we switch from ordinary thinking to game-based thinking we are in a sense creating a new game-based reality.  We soon recognize that it is important to explore and understand various competitive behaviors and examine how to use them to improve the quality of our lives.

Competition is an act that is motivated by the desire to win.  In its least productive form and among common and ordinary thinkers most  competition is seen in adversarial terms.

In spite of what was discussed in the previous chapter one may inquire, …”is it really necessary to compete?  Wouldn’t a person who thinks in visionary terms transcend this need?”

I do not have a definitive answer to this question.  Maybe we are hard-wired to compete. Maybe it is something we are genetically inclined to do. It is not an exaggeration to state that when faced with more than one choice, all living creatures act in ways in which they perceive and/or believe that their best interests will be served.  If elements in Darwin’s  concepts  concerning natural selection are correct, then it can be fairly stated that we are inclined to make status and influence-based choices as a means to reproductive success.  There may be something in us that says, “Having above-average status, income, influence, and power will increase the odds that we will attract a more desirable mate and help our children and those in our primary group (tribe) to have a comparative advantage in relation to their peers.”  Once we earn more and possess more than we need to survive, all wealth becomes comparative.

One of the greatest benefits of knowing of, and embracing game-based thinking is that as we prosper in life and encounter adversarial relationships we can learn advanced skill sets. These might include competitor analysis and other tools to help us to strategize. We begin to ask ourselves “what is the strategy of our adversary?” and look at the different ways to determine a best or dominant response to it. In this way we can anticipate and take into consideration the actions of the other players. Often we will need to analyze what happens when we change the game from simultaneous (where everybody acts at the same time) to sequential (where players move alternately after each other’s moves).

It is not unfair to state that humans are competitive as an expression of self-interest. So much so that at times these status-driven choices may appear to be illogical, irrational, nonsensical and just plain wrong to others.  Nevertheless, the choice will be made based on self-interest.  Often this choice may relate to the fact that humans not only have competitive tendencies but also hierarchal tendencies. Thus, what may seem like an irrational choice may be totally rational when seen through the eyes of a person seeking to rise above others or gain power and influence.

Though it is likely that we are all competitive in some way we are not equally so, and certainly not for the same reasons. When you are on the Wisdom Path* you tend to feel less tension between your fundamental needs and your short-term wants, thereby reducing the number of things you would feel the need to compete for. If you do not know who you are, then your wants and needs are often at war and it is therefore natural to measure your success by comparing yourself to others.  So let us not act too quickly in condemning competition.  How you choose to compete depends on who you are, and what, why, where and how you are motivated to act.

The positive side to competition and hierarchal thinking is that a healthy, balanced, perspective allows a person to assess their relative ability to survive compared to others within or outside a particular community or group.

Ultimately life is not a win/lose proposition. If there is only one slice of pie and ten people want it, the smartest of the bunch will simply go out and buy or bake another pie and sell it to the other nine people. Competition seems pointless in a prosperous, expanding culture – especially in a culture where a person could theoretically master all of their personal talents.

Often, competing with others can create potentially problematic situations.  On the darker side, purely zero-sum* forms of competitive thinking can cause us to pay excessive attention to the superficial possessions. These can include wealth and the status of others as a reflection of our own wealth, success, talents and accomplishments, rather than paying attention to our core and  primary feelings and needs.

In times of plenty, this point is a valid one, however, in times of great scarcity, a moderate amount of competitive thinking can be quite valuable. By noting how our peers or superiors are faring in the natural economic cycles of abundance and scarcity, we can assess the minimum amount required for our own survival.  In abundant times, competition also helps us to define how much of a surplus is really necessary to store in reserve for the future.

Learning to strategize is important because it allows one to be competitive while reducing unnecessary stress.  The unclear thinker is likely to believe that something bad might happen to them at any time. Strategizing through game-based thinking reduces this fear and often replaces it with laughter. With these skills in tow competition need  no longer be the unpleasant affair it is for many people.

In my experience the skilled game thinker often has a well-formed sense of humor to go along with inner wisdom and the ability to solve complex problems. From an evolutionary perspective, the pleasure that comes with laughter has encouraged the development of pattern recognition and other unique perceptual and intellectual abilities in humans.

Let’s explore in greater depth how a skilled competitor might develop an ability to recognize patterns and thus create a personal sense of psychological security? Let’s say that you can afford to buy a new boat, take a vacation to Europe, or install a home entertainment system just as your neighbor can.  Being able to afford the same things may give you a sense of psychological security that comes with knowing you can compete with others economically, whether or not you need to do so at that time.  Even if financial stress were to arise, you would have the sense/knowledge that you are equally capable to handle it as your neighbor.  If you have an understanding of conservation and balance*, this will be a realistic perspective concerning your sense of security.

If an individual does not have an understanding of the concept of conserving and leveraging available resources they may experience unnecessary struggle and suffering in a competitive environment. Ultimately for such a person altruism is irrational and competition is the highest ideal.  Keep in mind that what is presently your surplus could easily become a deficit should uncontrolled external factors such as war, a banking collapse, a stock market meltdown, a mortgage crisis, severe inflation, or a recession arise.   If you do not plan for unexpected occurrences then you may expect the worst.
In order to live the best life possible, we must accept the notion that everything we do can be judged against others.  At times it serves our best interests to make these judgments.  How we compete as members of a larger society influences our survival, success and failure.  Paying attention to those in our group that are in an equal or slightly higher position than us (what is commonly called the pecking order) is an affirmation of the wisdom of choices we have already made.  The extraordinary person understands that there is a way to combine a spiritual approach to living while remaining competitive and having well-honed game thinking skills. They understand that if they don’t completely immerse themselves in a journey to inner wisdom, a journey defined by meditation, introspection and altruism, then the need to constantly compete and compare will psychologically imprison them.  It is true that we all live in relationships where we are destined to judge and be judged in relation to others.  Even so, “every man for himself”, though an effective strategy in the short term, is a highly ineffective practice for living well over an extended period of time.  Ultimately, you end up living in a predatory environment that alternates between a zero-sum game* and economic anarchy.  This attitude towards people and life is a dark place to reside and in the end can lead to unhappiness, discontent and self-destruction..
Fortunately, any one person’s judgment does not define our happiness, fears, failures, successes, love, and ability to survive. Judgment often arises from intention, clarity of thought, emotional balance and our ability to interact effectively with individuals and groups of individuals as competing and supportive members of a larger society.

The wise competitor balances the concept of winning at all costs to understanding the importance of maintaining stable competition. The competitor that doesn’t understand this risks “choking off some of their own air supply” through a toxic brew of arrogance, narcissism, and an undeserved sense of entitlement.











Golden Rule Games







Part 2

The Art and Science

of  Strategy





Part 2 Introduction

Once one understands the fundamentals of game thinking the next step is to put it into action. In order to be a master strategist one needs to become familiar with “game language”.

The concept of game language is an essential element of game thinking.  Game language is a type of dialect. It is a specifically defined and rigidly applied organization of words and non-verbal cues (including body language) communicating detailed specific ideas in a highly defined, specialized group.  Put more simply, if you get three individuals together and have them interact consistently, they will, in time, create a specialized language. This is not a complex or difficult concept to understand. If you are a football fan, a ballroom dancer or listen to Rap music there is a specialized dialect reflecting each of these ways of thinking.

If you spoke Pig Latin as a child, then you have already used a specialized language game. In Pig Latin, which by the way has no connection to pigs or Latin, the first consonant (or consonant cluster) is moved to the end of the word and an ay is added; thus, computer yields omputer-cay and  pig yields ig-pay). The object in this language game is to conceal the meaning of the words from others not familiar with the rules.  Essentially Pig Latin is a specialized language game which is used only for its English connotations as a “strange and foreign-sounding language.”  A side note – Pig Latin is not just for kids. Apparently, historical researchers have discovered that Thomas Jefferson wrote letters to friends in Pig Latin.

I began to explore the structure of games I also began to consider how the words we use influence each person’s reality. I wrote what I understood about the mind and how it uses language to create reality. I asked myself, “Can the mind think without language?” Where do feelings fit into this? My thoughts unfolded as such:

  • All human beings think.
  • Every thought has a physical response.
  • The link or bridge between thought and behavior is language (specifically language composed of words, numbers, and symbols).
  • Each person’s experience of the world is defined by the way they think and use language.
  • There is little objective  reality in life. What we generally experience is the collective reality created through common meanings given to commonly used words and phrases through ordinary living.
  • Much of this language used in ordinary life is based on the words and other communication skills learned from observing and interacting with others living in common ordinary and pedestrian lives.


I delved ever deeper into the concept of specialized language. This was not some idle exercise. I was exploring the life-game  I was going to create for myself and the very concept of Applied game thinking.

This led me to the writings of the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. I had been asked to study him in college but I was intellectually lost in the very first paragraph of his brilliant “Philosophical Investigations”.  His earlier book,  “Tractatus Logico Philosophicus” was even less accessible to my unformed intellect. It wasn’t that his ideas were that difficult to understand, but it was my own thinking that was clouded and unfocused.  Rereading his work opened a door in my head that made all I had been exploring in game theory come together.  His ideas served as a “skeleton key,” enabling me to understand any idea or belief if viewed through the “lens” of GT.

With an understanding ofk game language, one has the opportunity to choose how to live in the context of Applied game thinking – by rules, codes, and standards. One can decide whether he or she wishes to live a pedestrian life of habit and reaction or experience a life of purpose. No matter what life game we choose to create for ourselves, the words and phrases we use will influence the social, emotional, and intellectual experiences we have and set the fundamental patterns of our lives.

An ordinary person will use the pedestrian language required to play an ordinary game, as they live that type of life.  An extraordinary person cannot survive in such an environment. They need, to live an extraordinary life with others with similar needs. They create the game language required to engage a strategy related to such a game.

Each of us will be ordinary at times and extraordinary at other times, but there are some who are on a journey to be extraordinary as often and consistently as possible. For such a person, the game they choose and the players they choose to play with will define how ordinary or extraordinary the game they create will be, and how specialized the language used will be in order to play that game. In my mind, it takes an extraordinary individual to decide to live life as a game and do so for the purpose of making the world a better place to live.  Let me define the ordinary and the extraordinary person via game thinking.

   An Ordinary player: A person who unconsciously behaves in a basic manner without concern for clarity of thought and spiritual intention. This person acts out general social norms in their daily life habitually, only changing their behavior to match changes in these social norms. They are not generally concerned with moral or ethical dilemmas and seldom examine the meaning of their lives. They question little and have concern for less.

   An Extraordinary player: Any person that consciously behaves in a simple and basic manner as they act out general social norms when appropriate in their daily life. They seldom or never do so habitually. The extraordinary person will change their behavior to match changes in these social norms if it serves their own actualization process and society as a whole. They are concerned with moral or ethical dilemmas and often examine the meaning of their lives, questioning much, and with great concern.

It is essential that you seek out, as well as study in detail the lives passionate of   and extraordinary individuals.   They will   influence your life as a game thinker in many important ways.



Reciprocal Altruism

A key element in win/win games is reciprocal altruism. Here a player acts in a manner that temporarily reduces the benefits they receive and their chance of winning the game while increasing another player’s benefits and even their chance of winning. The first player does this with the expectation that the other player will act in a similar manner at a later time in the game or possibly in another more important game.  Reciprocal altruism is different than any other form of altruism especially the concept of “selfless” altruism. Generally, when most people think of the word “altruism” they are thinking of a person who commits an act of kindness without expecting anything in return. In reciprocal altruism, there are some conditions. Let’s apply this concept to business. In a traditional business exchange, one good or service of a specific value is transferred to another for some form of specific payment.

It is assumed in the concept of reciprocal altruism that an act of altruism will be reciprocated in some way, even if how it will be reciprocated cannot be specifically defined at the present moment. This type of agreement is also different than many business agreements or contracts. In most business agreements the terms are specifically defined by what good or service is to be offered, what is to be paid, and when and how it is to be paid.  In reciprocal altruism little or none of this is defined.  There is an assumption that some reciprocation is to take place but what is to be paid and how and when, for the most part, remains undefined. The study of reciprocal altruism is a mixture of hard science (Paradigm) and soft science (Social Paradigm). The concept of reciprocal altruism was first introduced in 1971 by Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologist, and sociobiologist, in a paper “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism”. In this paper, Trivers discussed Reciprocal Altruism* as a mathematical concept. Like any business arrangement, reciprocal altruism requires that the value of the benefits exchanged must be greater than the cost of what is being offered. This concept of greater benefit is known as a “surplus of cooperation.”  In other words, the beneficiary must perceive that the gains they are about to receive are meaningfully greater than any cost they might incur to receive these benefits. This process is often driven by shifts in a particular relationship and the environment that surrounds and influences the individuals or groups in that relationship.

Let’s explore the distinctions between different forms of altruism in greater depth as we review what we have already discussed in life. Usually, a purely altruistic act is usually done and forgotten. In reciprocal altruism the process is different. Here there is thought that stored in the memory of the original benefactor, that if the situation is reversed the act of altruism should be reciprocated by the original beneficiary. Of course, if the original beneficiary fails to reciprocate in the short run there is not much a benefactor can do. However, the benefactor might choose to withdraw future acts of altruism. One might say in such a scenario that the beneficiary of the original act of altruism has cheated on the social contract. In fact, in Reciprocal Altruism theory, this is why such an individual is called a “cheater*”.

In order to deal with cheaters, a skilled game thinker must use assessment tools to isolate those who might be cheaters or non-reciprocators before they even have a chance to cheat. Once these assessment tools have been used and the potential cheaters isolated the original benefactor would need to have a system of mechanisms and influence strategies to either gently nudge or forcibly coerce the cheater or potential cheater into reciprocating appropriately. Interestingly there are strategies that might be used to get a cheater to reciprocate. The easiest and most effective strategy is to withdraw or withhold the benefits desired by the cheater until they reciprocate. An example of effective reciprocal altruism might be any situation where teamwork is involved.  Individuals are expected to contribute to the team or group in some way and receive benefits from the team.

Any highly effective, efficient and productive team can control cheaters or compel them to change their behavior by isolating, injuring, exiling,  removing them, or taking other sanctions against them.  Social scientists, again, call this “moralistic aggression”.

In recent years Reciprocal Altruism has become more important in game-based scenarios especially those involving technology and social networking. In social networking and Internet File Sharing communities, for instance, there is an assumption that people who share files or information they may have will somehow benefit from the actions of others who receive these files (are allowed to download them)  or receive information. Those cheaters who receive a file or information and later refuse to share it with others are known as “leeches” in internet-based communities.

Though some may see Reciprocal Altruism as rather selfish and manipulative, it is important to distinguish between selfish and self-full.  If you are an idealist and believe that most people are consistently kind and generous without cause or reason, then I would agree with you.  In my experience, people act altruistically because it serves them or their group personally, or reinforces some believe they have such as “it is good to be charitable.”  Unless you live your life exactly like the idea we create of Jesus or Buddha, it is best that you create a life based on a mix of pure altruism with a healthy dose of reciprocal altruism defined by contractual agreements.
Reciprocal Altruism can easily be explained and supported mathematically as an effective game strategy. According to Robert Trivers, Reciprocal Altruism (RA) ultimately serves as a type of Complex Regulating System – meaning that in order for a functional system to exist a number of factors must be in place and resonate with other related factors.  I will list them as follows:

  1. An acceptance of the concept: That there is a process in nature (known as natural selection) that results in the survival and reproductive success of individuals or groups who are best adjusted to their environment and that leads to the perpetuation of genetic qualities best suited to that environment. (From 2010 Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
  2. Natural Selection:That this process of natural selection favors within each individual, a multi-faceted internal psychological structure that naturally regulates certain behaviors; particularly the tendency to give, the tendency to cheat or leech, and the manner in which an individual responds to giving or cheating.
  3. Emotional influence on altruistic habits:The likelihood, based on the emotional balance that an individual likes others, easily forms social relationships and friendships, and is willing to act altruistically towards likable acquaintances.
  4. Moralistic aggression towards cheaters and leeches:Cheaters and leeches are naturally inclined to take advantage of positive emotions and altruistic behavior. In order to survive and serve the community, natural selection has allowed us to develop a protective mechanism to minimize the influence of cheaters and leeches.  This mechanism is known as “moralistic aggression” and is discussed earlier in this chapter.
  5. Sympathy and gratitude:Without a sense of gratitude, how could one regulate any responses to the altruism of others?  Pure altruism can be confusing.  With a sense of sympathy and gratitude, we have an approach to respond in a sensitive manner to the cost and benefits of these acts (cost/benefit ratio).  Sympathy motivates a benefactor to act altruistically to the situation of the beneficiary.
  6. Guilt:When cheating is observed, the end of a reciprocal relationship is often the result with an even greater cost to the cheater.  In certain situations, it is important to maintain a relationship even with a cheater.  The process of natural selection may automatically pressure the cheater to make amends for the transgression, as well as convince the benefactor(s) that cheating will not be repeated.

    In this sense guilt or shame is a motivator; guiding people to compensate and reciprocate with certain behavior in the future.  Guilt and shame thus become powerful tools for maintaining and expanding the quality in our relationships and may even save relationships that, without guilt as a factor, would have disintegrated. Among individuals who generally exhibit emotional health, certain conditions may arise
such as depression as a mechanism to enhance sincerity and reconciliation.

  1. Subtle cheating:This is a complex area to explore since most of us admire honesty, and yet it is a fact that all humans will act deceptively or lie at some time. When a person cheats subtly what they are in essence doing is mimicking altruism. The benefit of this type of behavior is that one may influence others to one’s own benefit by behaving or “acting” in a particular way with  other intentions. Subtle forms of cheating may involve false moralistic aggression, false guilt, false sympathy, and other types of cheating behavior for the purpose of awakening sympathy.
  2. Trust:Natural Selection favors those with an ability to recognize, detect, isolate and resist moralistic aggression.  This also ties into the factor of emotional balance since it is known that individuals who perform altruistic acts without an emotional awareness are likely to be more dependable in the future.
  3. Partnerships:Altruistic thinking tends to breed compassion and empathy.  This naturally leads to rapport and feelings of friendship.  We are more likely to create reciprocal relationships with those we feel friendly towards than with those we do not.  The application of the Golden Rule – doing unto others as you would have them do unto you – can be a powerful tool for the creation of love, wealth, and freedom. Interestingly, one of the easiest ways to create a friendship with a perceived enemy is by being generous to them. This, of course, must be done with a clarity of thought and wisdom but it can be an effective tool for promoting reciprocal altruism.
  4. Multiparty Interactions:By reaching out to others, and by creating friendships with acquaintances and greater intimacy with friends, one can learn the skills and strategies needed for being a better reciprocator and for dealing with cheaters.  You may also learn more about the role of competition and hierarchal behavior in the art and science of reciprocal altruism and how to create effective systems to expand reciprocally altruistic activities within the community.
  5. Developmental plasticity:This concept says that what is considered altruistic will vary from culture to culture.  Thus, we learn about appropriate responses from the larger community.  All of our relationships are influenced by change and the fact is that ecological and social conditions vary widely in different places and eras.  The ability to shift altruistic and cheating qualities as needed can give one individual an advantage over another. Developmental plasticity is also a solution to many extreme problems and can create strategies for complex games.

Because the effectiveness of altruistic behavior is influenced by so many variables in situations and relationships there is no simple system that could address them all. An understanding of even one subtle element of reciprocal altruism can discourage anti-social behavior and cheating and support compassionate behavior.
To see how  impactful of how impactful even a small shift in the environment may just observe the ripple effect caused by a person placing just a “Tablespoon of Olive Oil in a Lake .” Type into your search engine “Tablespoon of Olive Oil in a Lake” and watch this video on YouTube.








Often times a player must continue in a cooperative relationship with a cheater or another player who does not reciprocate the way it was assumed they would. In such a situation a skilled player must strategize to maintain the reciprocal relationship while making sure they receive the future benefits they are expecting or deserve.  Such a strategy is known as Tit-for-tat*.  Tit-for-tat Theory describes a type of reciprocal altruism where an agent (an individual, group, player or some other living creature) will initially cooperate, then respond in kind to another’s previous action whether such behavior is cooperative or uncooperative. A skilled game thinker will describe this in specialized game language as a “game-theory mechanism which is subject to a payoff matrix similar to that of a prisoner’s dilemma.”

Let’s explore this game language description in greater depth. In a game where there can be more than one winner, it may be said that the participants in a Tit-for-tat process are partners in a mutually beneficial process. In Tit-for-tat behavior, there is an assumption that the players (agents) in the game (interaction) will be mutually – sometimes alternately — cooperative. Here are a few thoughts to consider when exploring this concept:

  • In a particular point in a game, one of the players (known as parties or agents) in the interaction may cease to act in a cooperative manner.
  • When this lack of cooperation is discovered, the other player (agent) will cease cooperating as well.


This concept of Tit-for-tat is not limited to humans but exists in the plant and animal kingdom as well.  It is often studied in the field of evolutionary biology. With humans, Tit-for-tat behavior is also known as “super-rationality” in biology, zoology and other related disciplines.

In a way Tit-for-tat is nothing more than “equivalent retaliation*” an idea first introduced by Anatol Rapoport and Robert Axelrod around 1980.

There are four key elements that make Tit-for-tat so  effective in    social relationships;  and in both cooperative and uncooperative games. This is especially so in relationships where competition and hierarchal behavior is involved.

  1. The opposing player automatically cooperates unless provoked.
  2. When provoked, the player retaliates.
  3. Once they have retaliated the player quickly forgives and returns to a cooperative relationship.
  4. A player must have a good chance of cooperating again with the other player. The player must have a good chance of competing against the same opponent several times in order for the process to continue successfully.


Teams of computer scientists, economists, psychologists and game theorists have explored many complex games and have consistently found that the influence of each player’s actions on other player’s actions has made Tit-for-tat one of the most effective applications of Game theory and yet these are not solid, mathematically verifiable and scientifically based studies. Most of these studies have been informal. In some situations where certain  teams were  expert in the application of complex game theory, they were able to outperform players limited to Tit-for-tat Theory. However, for individuals dealing with ordinary social and competitive relationships, Tit-for-tat was the most consistently effective game. Over time Tit-for-tat theory  has been  found to be  extremely useful  for researchers  developing game  theory based  strategies.

The key factor for a Tit-for-tat strategy to be effective is often nothing more than effective communication.  This is no easy accomplishment considering that communication is almost always imperfect and a language is an imperfect tool for communication. This is one  of the problems  for the  Tit-for-tat approach  to  Game theory. Often communication between players is not clear and Tit-for-tat loses its effectiveness when there is a communication breakdown or even a small misunderstanding.

The tit-for-tat theory seems to work less effectively when applied to individual competitions and hierarchal relationships than with groups of competitors. This is most likely because the more players there are in a game the more effective a Tit-for-tat strategy becomes. The greater the number of interactions that take place in a Tit-for-tat game the easier it is to read patterns of behavior in  opponents and  to map out  the potential  for certain  moves or moves or actions rather  than other  moves or actions.

The fewer players there are in a game, the greater difficulty there is in reading and mapping out the potential patterns  of the   players,  thus the  less effective  the  Tit-for-tat strategy   becomes. Tit-for-tat is a very effective strategy for those interested in creating proactive altruistically based communities as well as for those who must deal with competitive and hierarchal environments. Though one might think of Tit-for-tat as a strategy for adversarial situations the truth is that it is equally if not more valuable in cooperative environments. This was actually a surprise to many game theory researchers when they first explored the concept of Tit-for-tat.

At the end of the day, those who cooperate in human relations are more successful than those who choose to cheat. Scientists have created many different competitions, each designed so that various teams could create strategies based on cheating as a way of winning against those using Tit-for-tat theory. In every competition the Tit-for –tat players won over the cheaters.

Researchers have always been fascinated by the balance between individualistic approaches to survival vs. how groups of humans and animals have chosen to live in partially or totally cooperative societies.

Many of my student’s ask me to present a real life scenario where some misunderstanding or flawed communication would reduce the effectiveness of a Tit-for-tat game. In a competitive or hierarchal environment, an individual or group must interpret many different events related to a Tit-for-tat game. Any error, even one error in either player’s interpretation of one of these events can lead to a never-ending sequence of negative Tit-for-tat responses leading to the crippling or destruction of all the players in the game.  In such a “spiral of destruction” each side believes that it is playing by the rules of the game, and actually cooperating, while believing that it is the other side that is cheating. Believing that it is being forced to protect its own interests by the cheating of the other side, each side, believing it has no other option, is coerced by the very structure of Tit-for-tat strategy to repeatedly punish the opponent. These opposing players, seeing themselves in the  same position, will attack an opponent in kind as an act of self-preservation with the expectation  that the  other player will be influenced to play by the rules and cease and desist from cheating behavior. As this destructive cycle of Tit-for-tat elevates, each player attacks the other as punishment for cheating. Meanwhile, each side perceives that the other is the actual cheater and that they are playing by the rules of the game. Both sides believe that they are innocent players defending themselves from the destructive or stupid behavior of the opposing players who are either evil in intent or who are just too stupid to recognize the destructive result of their actions. Each side believes it would cooperate if the other side would only be cooperative and each side believes it must act in self-defense against an evil or stupid cheater. It is this pattern that happened  in the  cold war  between the  Soviet  Union and  the  United  States. and in other global conflicts.

There are many unusual applications of Tit-for-tat theory in real life situations. Whether they thought of it in these specific terms Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. applied Tit-for-tat and Tit-for-two-tats in their campaigns for human rights. Game theory experts have also detected Tit-for-tat in  the spontaneous non-violent  behavior,  called “live and  let live”  that took  place during the First World War.  Tit-for-tat can be adjusted to compensate for misunderstandings that lead to many different types of conflicts. There are two ways to compensate for this limitation.

  1. Tit–for two-Tats:Similar A more forgiving Tit-for-tat.
  2. Tit-for-tat with Forgiveness: In this strategy, the player who believes their opponent is cheating (defecting from the game) chooses to cooperate on the next move in spite of their opponents cheating.


The reason why a person might continue to “play fair” knowing  that the opponent is not and may not choose to do so in the future is that it gives the opponent a chance to correct their defective behavior. The opponent may not be evil or stupid, rather, they may have misunderstood a communication on what the rules of the particular Tit-for-tat game are?  Once they are convinced  that there  has been  a  miscommunication or a misunderstanding, they are likely to shift back into cooperative behavior. In such a case the destructive cycle ends and a productive Tit-for-tat cycle is renewed. A skilled game thinking strategist must determine if and when a cheater will end their deceptive behavior and return to a Tit-for-tat cycle. The exact probability that a player will respond with cooperation depends on who the individual players are in the game or what the composition of the game is. Some of these games can become quite complex.

Imagine a Tit-for-tat game where a player cheats or misunderstands the rules of the game (defects) and yet their opponent continues to cooperate. In time the cheater must cooperate or the opposing player must stop cooperating, otherwise, there will no longer be a Tit-for-tat interaction. If both players cheat while taking action against the other for cheating, the game must eventually devolve into a destructive cycle unless one or both agents shift and at least occasionally stop cheating.  If the Tit-for-tat game is  to continue,  then both  players will  begin to  alternately cooperate  and intentionally  cheat. The end result of this alternating pattern of cheating (defecting) and cooperating is that the Tit-for-tat game continues while producing diminished benefits (a lower payoff) for each player – lower than either would have received if both were to cooperate continually. If you have an interest in exploring this in greater depth research the individual writings on game theory by John Nash, Robert Axelrod and Richard Dawkins. You may also wish to research various life strategy games related to reciprocal altruism and Tit-for-tat.

  • Chicken (game)*
  • Christmas truce* and the Golden Rule*
  • Deterrence theory*
  • Mutual assured destruction*
  • Nash equilibrium* and Prisoner’s dilemma*
  • Quid pro quo*
  • Tit for two tats*                    
  • Trigger strategy*
  • Virtuous circle* and vicious circle*


In the end, a life game is about fulfilling human potential!


Adult Games

The games adults play can take a variety of forms, from competitive sports to board games and video games. Let’s explore these in greater depth since the more you understand these games the better.

Sports: Many sports require special equipment and dedicated playing fields, leading to the involvement of a community much larger than the group of players. A city or town may set aside such resources for the organization of sports leagues.  Popular sports may have spectators who are entertained just by watching games. A community will often align itself with a local sports team that supposedly represents it (even if the team or most of its players only recently moved in); they often align themselves against their opponents or have traditional rivalries. Certain competitive sports, such as racing and gymnastics are not actually games by definition. such as despite the inclusion of many in the Olympic Games.

Lawn games: These are outdoor games that can be played on a lawn; an area of mowed grass (or alternately, on graded soil) generally smaller than a “field” or pitch. Variations of many games that are traditionally played on a pitch are marketed as “lawn games” for home use in a front or back yard. Common lawn games include horseshoes golf, croquetboccelawn bowls, and stake. Lawn games usually little physical exertion, usually simply placing, picking up and moving game pieces. Most of these games are, thus, played at a table where the players are seated and on which the game’s elements are located. A variety of major game types generally falls under the heading of tabletop games. It is worth noting that many games falling into this category, particularly party games, are more free-form in their play and can involve physical activity such as Mime, The basic premise here is still that the game does not require a large area in which to play it, large amounts of strength or stamina, or specialized equipment other than what comes in the box. Some games sometimes require additional materials like pencil and paper that are easy to procure.

Dexterity and coordination games: This class of games includes any game in which the skill element involved relates to manual dexterity or hand-eye coordination, but excludes the class of video games (see below). Games such as JacksPaper football, and Jenga require only very portable or improvised equipment and can be played on any flat level surface, while other examples, including pinball, billiardsair hockeyfoosball, and table hockey require specialized tables or other  self-contained modules on which the game is played. The advent of home video game systems largely replaced some of these, such as table hockey, however air hockey, billiards, pinball, and foosball remain popular fixtures in private and public game rooms. These games and others, as they require reflexes and coordination, are generally performed more poorly by intoxicated persons but are unlikely to result in injury because of this; as such the games are popular as drinking games. In addition, dedicated drinking games such as Quarters and Beer Pong also involve physical coordination and are popular for similar reasons.

Board games: These games use a tool a board on which the players’ status, resources, and progress are tracked using physical tokens. Many of these games also involve dice or cards. Most games that simulate war are board games (though a large number of video games have been created to simulate strategic combat), and the board may be a map on which the players’ tokens move.

Virtually all board games involve “turn-based” play, where one player contemplates and then makes a move, then the next player does the same. Here a player can only act when it there their turn. This is opposed to “real-time” play as is found in some card games, most sports, and most video games.  Some games, such as Chess and Go, are entirely deterministic, relying only on the strategy element for their interest. Such games are usually described as having “perfect information”*; the only unknown is the exact thought processes of one’s opponent, not the outcome of any unknown event inherent in the game (such as a card draw or die roll). Children’s games, on the other hand, tend to be luck-based, with games such as  Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders where few or no decisions need to be made. By some definitions, these are not even games since there are no decisions made that might affect the outcome.  Many other games involving a high degree of luck do not allow direct attacks between opponents; the random event simply determines a gain or loss in the standing of the current player within the game, which is independent of any other player. A “game” such a roulette then is actually a “race” by definition rather than a game.

Most board games combine strategy and luck factors;. For instance,  the game of Backgammon requires players to decide the best strategic move based on a rolling of two dice. Trivia games have a great deal of randomness based on the questions a person gets. Many of these board games popular in Germany are notable for often having rather less of a luck factor than board games popular in other countries.

Board game categories include race gamesroll-and-move games, complex abstract strategy games,  word games, and war games, as well as trivia and other elements. Some board games fall into multiple groups or incorporate elements of other genres: Cranium is one popular example, where players must succeed in each of four skills: artistry, live performance, trivia, and language.

Card games: These games use a deck of cards as their central tool. The cards may be a standard Anglo-American (52-card) deck of playing cards (such as for bridgepokerRummy, etc.), a regional deck using 32, 36 or 40 cards and different suit signs (such as for the popular German game “Skat”),tarot deck of 78 cards (used in Europe to play a variety of games known  as Tarot, Tarock or Tarocchi games  games), or a deck specific to the individual game (such as  Set  or 1000 Blank White Cards).  Uno and Rook are examples of games that were originally played with a standard deck and have since been commercialized with customized decks.  The game is played with a small selection of cards that have been collected or purchased individually from large available sets.

Combined Board and Card games: Some board games include a deck of cards as a gameplay element, normally for randomization or to keep track of game progress. Conversely, some card games such as Cribbage use a board with movers, normally to keep score. The differentiation between the two genres in such cases depends on which element of the game is foremost in its play; a board game using cards for random actions can usually use some other method of randomization, while Cribbage can just as easily be scored on paper. These elements as used are simply the traditional and easiest methods to achieve their purpose.

Dice games: Dice games use a number of dice as their central element. Board games often use dice for a randomization element, and thus each roll of the dice has a profound impact on the outcome of the game, however dice games are differentiated in that the dice do not determine the success or failure of some other element of the game; they instead are the central indicator of the person’s standing in the game. Popular dice games include YahtzeeFarkleBunco, and  Poker dice. As dice are, by their very nature, designed to produce apparently random numbers, these games usually involve a high degree of luck, which can be directed to some extent by the players through strategic elements of play and through tenets of probability theory. Such games are popular as gambling games; the game of Craps is perhaps the most famous example, though Liar’s Dice and Poker dice were originally conceived of as gambling games.

   Domino and tile games: Domino games are similar in many respects to card games, but the generic device is instead a set of tiles called dominoes, which traditionally have two ends, each with a given number of dots, or “pips”, and each combination of two possible end values as it appears on a tile is unique in the set. The games played with dominoes largely center around playing a domino from the player’s “hand” onto the matching end of another domino, and the overall object could be to always be able to make a play, to make all open endpoints sum to a given number or multiple, or simply to play all dominoes from one’s hand onto the board. Sets vary in the number of possible dots on one end, and thus of the number of combinations and pieces; the most common set historically is double-six, though in more recent times “extended” sets such as double-nine have been introduced to increase the number of dominoes available, which allows larger hands and more players in a game. MugginsMexican Train, and Chicken Foot are very popular domino games. Texas 42 is a domino game more similar in its play to a “trick-taking” card game.

Variations of traditional dominoes abound: Triominoes are similar in theory but are triangular and thus have three values per tile. Similarly, a game known as Quad-Ominos uses four-sided tiles. Other games use tiles in place of cards; Rummikub is a variant of the Rummy card game family that uses tiles numbered in ascending rank among four colors, very similar in makeup to a 2-deck “pack” of Anglo-American playing cardsMah-Jongg is another game very similar to Rummy that uses a set of tiles with card-like values and art.

Lastly, some games use graphical tiles to form a board layout, on which other elements of the game are played.  In each, the “board” is made up of a series of tiles; in Settlers of Catan, the starting layout is random but static, while in Carcassonne the game is played by “building” the board tile-by-tile. Hive, an abstract strategy game using tiles as moving pieces, has mechanical and strategic elements similar to chess, although it has no board; the pieces themselves both form the layout and can move within it.

   Pencil and paper games: These require little or no specialized equipment other than writing materials, though some such games have been commercialized as board games (Scrabble, for instance, is based on the idea of a crossword puzzle, and tic-tac-toe sets with a boxed grid and pieces are available commercially). These games vary widely, from games centering on a design being drawn such as Pictionary and “connect-the-dots” games like sprouts, to letter and word games such as Boggle and Scattergories, Solitaire and logic puzzle games such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

   Guessing games: A guessing game has as its core a piece of information that one player knows, and the object is to coerce others into guessing that piece of information without actually divulging it in text or spoken word. Charades is probably the most well-known game of this type and has spawned numerous commercial variants that involve differing rules on the type of communication to be given, such Pictionary, Catch Phrase Taboo, Phrase, and similar. The genre also includes many game shows such as Win, Lose or Draw, Password, and $25,000 Pyramid.

Video and electronic games: These are all computer or micro-processor-controlled games. Computers can create virtual spaces for a wide variety of game types. Some video games simulate conventional game objects like cards or dice, while others can simulate environs either grounded in reality or fantastical in design, each with its own set of rules or goals.

A computer or video game uses one or more input devices, typically a button joystick combination on arcade games; a keyboard, mouse or trackball (computer games); or a controller or a motion sensitive tool., (console games). More esoteric devices such as paddle controllers have also been used for input.

There are many genres of video games; the first commercial video game, Pong, was a simple simulation of table tennis. As processing power increased, new genres such as adventure and action games were developed that involved a player guiding a character from a third-person perspective through a series of obstacles. This “real-time” element cannot be easily reproduced by a board game, which is generally limited to turn-based strategy*; this advantage allows video games to simulate situations such as combat more realistically. Additionally, the playing of a video game does not require the same physical skill, strength or danger as a real-world representation of the game, and can provide either very realistic, exaggerated or impossible physics, allowing for elements of a fantastical nature, games involving physical violence, or simulations of sports. A  computer can, with varying degrees of success, simulate one or more human opponents in traditional table games such as chess, leading to simulations of games played by a single player.

In more open-ended computer simulations, also known as sandbox-style games, the game provides a virtual environment in which the player may be free to do whatever they like within the confines of this game-space. Sometimes, there is a lack of goals or opposition, which has stirred debate on whether these should be considered “games” or “toys”.  SimCity is an example of such a toy.)

Online games: These have been popular since the earliest days of networked and time-shared computers. Early commercial systems such as Plato were famous for their games as for their educational value.

Modern online games are played using an Internet connection; some have dedicated client programs, while others require only a web browser.  Some simpler browser games seem to appeal to women and the middle-aged that otherwise play few video games.

Role-playing games: Role-playing games RPGs), are a type of game in which the participants (usually) assume the roles of characters acting in a fictional setting. The original role-playing games—or at least those explicitly marketed as such—are played with a handful of participants, usually face-to-face, and keep track of the developing fiction with pen and paper. Together, the players may collaborate on a story involving those characters; create, develop, and “explore” the setting; or vicariously experience an adventure outside the bounds of everyday life. Pen-and-paper role-playing games include, for example, Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS.

The term role-playing game has also been appropriated by the video game industry to describe a genre of video games. The experience is usually quite different from traditional role-playing games. Single-role player games include Final FantasyFableThe Elder Scrolls, and Mass Effect. Online multi-player games, often referred to as Massively Multiplayer Online role-playing games, or MMORPGs, including RuneScape, EverQuest and 2Guild Wars. The most successful MMORPG has been World of Warcraft, which controls the vast majority of the market.

Business games: Business games can take a variety of forms, from interactive board games to interactive games involving different props (balls, ropes, hoops, etc.) and different kinds of activities. The purpose of these games is to link organizational performance to business improvement, often in the context of team building.

Simulation games: The term “game” can include simulation or re-enactment of various activities or use in “real life” for various purposes: e.g., training, analysis, prediction. Well-known examples are war games and role-playing games. The root of this idea may originate in the human prehistory in which children’s games mimic the activities of adults to a significant degree: hunting warring, nursing etc. These kinds of games are preserved in modern times.





What Makes a Game Effective?

In order to become a skilled game thinker, it is important to understand what makes a game effective or ineffective, entertaining, motivating and even inspiring.

Let’s integrate some of the game thinking ideas I have already presented into a more formal structure. As I mentioned earlier, in order to play effectively in a game, the players need to have strategies and plans for action.  Just as the rules need to have consistency, each player of the game is likely to adopt a strategy that he or she thinks is most effective. This player is unlikely to change that strategy.  The ability of a player to create an effective consistent strategy will be defined, in part, by their understanding of the rules and of the perceived strategies of a rival or opponent.

The most effective games have rules that exist for a reasonable period of time. In sports, this would be the nine innings in baseball, the four quarters of football etc. These time frames and other specific factors in a game are important, for if the rules of a game are always changing, then it becomes difficult for the players to develop effective strategies that will allow them to excel.

As you can see, creating a game either for recreation or as a system for living can initially be difficult since the understanding of the rules within a group in relation to a particular action may change organically and intuitively without any active discussion or agreement about these changes within the group.

Let me simplify what I just said. Some people cheat during a game or change the rules and neglect to tell you that they have changed the rules. Anyone who is married will understand this. In the “game of Marriage”, partners will often accidentally forget things or intentionally act in ways that break the rules of marriage. This can be expressed in small ways: being a slob, forgetting to take out the garbage, or saying “I have a headache,” when sex is desired by one partner even through the other partner doesn’t actually have a headache. Some people cheat so blatantly that they threaten the very existence of the game itself.  These individuals may be ejected from the game. In the game we call marriage, this is called divorce.

Remember, in order to play a game, there must be players; a time frame for the length of the game; defined and enforced rules; accountability among the players when the rules are broken; and there must be a general understanding among the players that consistently breaking the rules may lead to the weakening or destruction of the game.

Up to this point, we have spoken about games and game theory as umbrella terms for how people strategize as they interact.  But this conversation about games is important to how the world works. In fact, one can observe virtually all human interactions and measure how and why people strategize. The skilled game thinker will observe where and how a particular game is placed and the strategies being employed. So if a great, highly effective game is not an easy thing to design the next natural question is “what are the features that make a game and its application relevant to game thinking and specifically game theory?

Anytime we have a situation with two or more players involving known payouts or quantifiable consequences, we can use game theory and game thinking to help determine the most likely outcomes. In order to study any game and its application, it is useful to understand the essential features that make a “game” relevant to game theory. Part of what I have done here is to research the technical terms that might be used by a mathematician or game theory expert and sought out simpler English words to describe the same ideas. This means that though some ideas may appear complex and excessively “wordy” if you read each sentence carefully and slowly it will make perfect sense. At those times where the explanation is not clear just go to the back of the book and look for an explanation of the word or term in the Glossary.

If you were to create a game and invite others to play it with you there are seven elements you would need to integrate into the structure for the game to be viable.

  1. Game
  2. Players
  3. Strategy
  4. Payoff
  5. Information
  6. Set
  7. Equilibrium


All games will have at least some of these seven features and win/lose games (zero-sum games*) are likely to involve all of them. There are actually more elements than just these seven, however, these are the key ones. Let’s do a short exploration of each as well as a more in-depth exploration of the concept of equilibrium*, a key element in game-based strategies.

   Game: Any set of circumstances with a result dependent on the actions of two of more decision makers (“players”)

   Players: In any game related to game theory there must be at least 2 individuals interacting. These individuals are called “players”. Any of the two who makes a choice in a game or who receives a payoff from the outcome of choices.

   Strategy: A complete plan of action a player will take given the set of circumstances that might arise within the game. In a game, each player chooses from a set of possible actions. These actions are known as pure strategies.   They are named as such because they are never random but follow a specific logical move or action that a player will follow in every possible attainable situation in a game

   Payoff: The payout a player receives from arriving at a particular outcome. The payout can be in any quantifiable form, dollars, benefits or some utility.

   Information: The details, facts and specific variables available in the game.

   Information Set: The information available at a given point in the game. The term information set is most usually applied when the game has a sequential component.

   Equilibrium:  The point in a game where both players have made their decisions and an outcome is reached.

Of course in this book, we are not talking solely about mathematics, economics, and politics. We are talking about how people structure their day to day lives and respond to other people, places and things in the process of doing so. Keeping this in mind, as you create your new life game, or tweak the one you are living, please focus on that which you are passionate about and remember that emotions can be helpful in:

  • Isolating and understanding what parts of our external environment are essential.
  • Surviving in dangerous situations.
  • Understand the consequences of our actions.
  • Giving us a sense of time and space to shift behaviors to achieve certain goals.
  • Giving us value in delaying gratification for achieving certain goals.
  • Creating an environment for introspection.
  • Creating an environment where conscious, subjective, and intuitive awareness can expand, especially concerning the behaviors of others.




Who is John Nash and Why is He Important? 

Game theory came before the public consciousness through the award-winning book and film “A Beautiful Mind”. Biographical presentations on the life of John Nash. In the film, Nash is under extreme pressure to publish, but he wants to publish his own original idea. His inspiration comes when he and his fellow graduate students discuss how to approach a group of women at a bar. Some of the students proclaim that “every man for himself” is the way to go but Nash argues that a cooperative approach would lead to better chances of success. We know this as a win/win situation. Nash called it a non-zero-sum game*. From this event, Nash developed a new concept of governing dynamics and published an article on this. On the strength of this article, he was offered an appointment at MIT.

As you explore the many and varied elements of game theory and applied game thinking in all of my books you will often hear Nash’s name mentioned especially in relation to the term Nash Equilibria or Nash Equilibrium. In order to effectively use game-based thinking in sophisticated situations with skilled competitors or adversaries, it is important to understand this concept and how it came to be.

In 1948, John Nash, then a 21-year-old Princeton grad student was studying Von Neumann’s ideas concerning game theory. The question that came to his mind was, “what is the best strategy to use in a game when I am aware of what another person’s strategy is likely to be?” In the language of a mathematician, this would be described as “solving the problem of finding equilibria in a game where there is a potential for everyone to win.”  A game where everyone has the potential to win and no one has to lose is called a “nonzero-sum game*.”  Nash came upon this idea and a solution. Ultimately it would win him the Nobel Prize, almost fifty years later after he published a paper on his ideas. This paper was written just a few years after Von Neumman and Morgenstern published their book on game theory.  Today Nash Equilibria* is one of the most important foundational ideas of game theory.

Let’s explore Nash’s ideas in greater depth. In any game, there is a consistency of the rules of play and of the strategies of the players that can be expected in a defined game. Experts in the study of games, game thinking, and game theory, have named this assumed consistency of rules and player strategies “equilibrium.” Many creative equilibrium concepts have been developed (most famously the Nash equilibrium) in an attempt to capture this idea. The question a student of game theory and game thinking might ask is this,

“Nash showed what the best response would be in a Win/Win nonzero-sum game but what of a win/lose zero-sum game. A game where there can only be one winner?”

He also showed that when addressing the question of equilibria in win/lose games one need not worry about what the benefit of winning would be for an opponent. All that was relevant was the strategy(s) the opponent might choose. Why is this so? The reason is that the opponent’s payoffs* are implicitly known in that they will always be diametrically opposed to yours!  So in a win/win (nonzero-sum game*), when computing the “equilibrium strategies*”, you have to consider what the opponent’s payoffs are.  On the other hand, in a win/lose (zero-sum) game you are not concerned with the payoff, only your strategy. This might have seemed a small distinction but for experts whose job it was to formulate game theory based strategies in war and in the marketplace this concept was revolutionary.  It became clear that this slight difference could cause a decision maker to choose a different strategy than they might have if they did not possess knowledge and an understanding of the “equilibria” concept.  Thus this approach became known among mathematicians as a “solution technique” and the effective strategies created through this type of thinking became known as  “Pure Strategy Nash Equilibria*

As you can see, any individual seeking to create a strategy in a game will need to explore where a Pure Strategy Nash Equilibria fits in the process. To clarify this concept let us say that among game thinkers Nash equilibrium* is the name applied to a set of strategies which represents mutual best responses when compared to other available strategies.

Assuming that in a specific scenario (game) the other players will make what seems to them to be rational choices one might say that “every player is playing his or her part of a Nash equilibrium, and no player will have an incentive to unilaterally change his or her strategy.”  In those games where players choose a single strategy without randomizing* (this is known by game theory experts as a pure strategy*) a game can have any number of Nash equilibria.

Another, simple explanation of Nash Equilibrium is the idea that if most players in a strategic game think logically or at least rationally then the optimal outcome of any game would be one where no player has an incentive to deviate from his or her chosen strategy after considering an opponent’s choice. Overall, an individual can receive no incremental benefit from changing actions, assuming other players remain constant in their strategies.

I have a personal interest in Win/Win games, the type of games explained by Nash, and though I am skilled and tend to succeed in win/lose scenarios I always tell my students that there are five fundamental techniques to win a game and do so without it being at the expense of others.

  • Get essential information
  • Gather influence
  • Increase your income
  • Reduce your expenses.
  • Gain wisdom and whenever possible make those choices that not only serve your own interests but which serve the interests of others.





Throughout this book, we have been exploring the basics of games, Game theory and game-based thinking.  As I mentioned earlier in the book, when we are children we learn by watching others and also make things up as we go along. By trial and error, we soon learn that some of these attempts work out OK and others fail. Over time our memories, as well as common sense, slowly guides us into making the best choices about what to do or not to do in certain life game situations. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a simple system one could learn through a game thinking playbook? This would be a  playbook one might refer to when complex challenges arise without the complex mathematical ideas inherent in GT? Well, there actually is and it is called Lewis Harrison’s Applied game thinking* (HAGT*).

This is the system I created by combining what is known about games, problem-solving and strategic thinking. It is a system that will make it easy for you to strategize and make wise choices when you are in a situation where there other individuals whose own choices can affect the outcome of your own strategies.  Unlike the classical mathematical game theory of Jon von Neumann HAGT does not assume that other  players in scenario (game)  are logical or rational. In fact, more often than not they are likely to be emotionally driven by many factors that cause them to act illogically and irrationally.

Of course, if you can create a playbook for dealing with the illogical and irrational as well as the logical and rational you can succeed against virtually any challenge. In my experience excluding things like love, the emotions, art, the study of truth and such, there are very few problems that cannot be solved through the effective application of HAGT.

As a young student, I was impatient to understand the contradictions  I saw in various accepted concepts related to game playing. These concepts often contained many details that had to be understood and mastered in order to finally make sense.

I soon learned that if one can look below the obvious, what initially seems random and chaotic suddenly presents itself with a subtle and elegant order.

One of the great challenges for a game thinker is the randomness that often results when the same actions or strategies seem to produce different responses. The simplest example of this might be tossing dice, tossing a coin or a what game theorists call a “drunken man’s walk*” (Brownian motion*).  For those on the Wisdom Path* as well as any person who has done much introspection, there is nothing random. Everything happens as it should. This is as defined by a set of laws which cannot always be understood. Often these laws are so subtle that they are just accepted as “so”.

Let’s explore an example known in many cultures – the tossing of a coin.  The person tossing may be the same; but when they toss the same coin a number of times, their effort or the result of that effort will not be the same. This reflects the truth that life is about change. Thus in the time that passed between the first toss and the second one many events may have taken place i.e. the wind, rain, the magnetic influence of the earth’s poles etc.   The key factor in addition to change is that one can never assume that one can toss the coin under the identical circumstance. To think otherwise is the worst example of cognitive bias*.  To assume that the position of earth and the heavenly bodies will have no effect on the coin is ignorance. Thus randomness is both real and unreal.

Advanced game thinkers often study Bifurcation* and Chaos* as a means to understanding the various obvious and subtle elements of randomness.  A saying used by some scientists to describe all this is that: “Probability is a nice mathematical tool but in reality, it is the legitimization of our ignorance.”










Understanding How Game Systems Work

As was mentioned in the definition of “games,” all games are types of systems.  A system is an established group of interdependent details or parts such as physical items, ideas, or principles. These elements form a complex whole and maintain their existence by interacting regularly, harmoniously, orderly, and methodically over time to perform a task.

If you can see the order in a physical item, a group of ideas, or principles you now understand the system. In this way, everything in life can be viewed as a type of system. This is true for anything from how a person might safely chop a tomato with a sharp knife to put a space station in outer space. Much of life consists of a rhythmic interlocking of different systems. Even this book is a system build on a foundation of other interlocking systems. To win the game of life, it is invaluable to understand what systems actually are, how they function and why they are important.

On the most basic level, some things in life cannot function and cannot be understood without the categorizing of and the creation of distinctions between different things. This is the value in systems. It is for instance, by understanding the differences in the biological systems called a “dog” and a “cat” that we know how to behave when presented with either. If you don’t understand this system you might get bitten or scratched.

Let’s look at systems in a bit more depth. When you observe any system you will notice that the individual elements of the system will exhibit many possible behavior patterns that are specific and natural to that part of the system.  For instance, the rear part of the system that we call a “dog” will wag while the front part of this same system may “bark.” These patterns will reflect the unique history and qualities of each individual part of that system. In the same way, for instance, in the system that we call “the family,” there may be a mother, father children, and grandparents – all behaving as a mother, father, child or grandparent might be expected to behave.  In recent years the definition of the system we call “family” has evolved. We now have interfaith, interracial, international, multicultural, single parent and same- sex families.

There are experts that spend their time exploring unique histories and unique qualities that lead to certain behaviors. This study of systems and all the elements and behaviors in these systems is called “Detail Complexity.*”

Let’s review some of what we have already discussed and added some specialized game thinker language to the mix. There are four systematic categories of games we focus on within HAGT. These are:

  • Win/Lose games which we call Zero-sum games– In these games, each player benefits only at the expense of another (more formally the total benefit to all players in the games must add to zero).  Chess and Poker are zero-sum games -there is only one winner and the winner takes all.
  • Win/Win games which we call Cooperative games –These are games in which the players may freely communicate among themselves before making game decisions and the players may make bargains to influence those decisions. In cooperative games, some outcomes are good for all players or bad for all players. A food co-op, a farmers market, and even marriage would be examples of cooperative games. Politics has elements of cooperative games and zero-sum games combined. As the date of an election comes closer, the most effective politician will have the skills to shift from one game to another quickly, as the situation demands.
  • Complete-information games also called perfect information games  –These are games in which each player has the same game-relevant information as every other player.  Chess is a complete information game.
  • Incomplete-information games also called imperfect information games –These are games in which not every player has the same game-relevant information as every other player.  Poker and the type of game theory applied to “con men” and “insider traders” are examples of this type of game.


Why are these distinctions in games so important? Because they help us to choose the most efficient, productive and effective strategies from our playbook.  For example, anyone skilled in game thinking must play any game with the thought in mind that one of the other players may be a cheater, unethical in some way or has evil intent.  This is why countries have intelligence services, banks have security guards, and computers have firewalls. No matter whether there are cheaters or not, or the game is simple or complex, all games exist for gaining an end or achieving a result. Thus, some activity, procedure or strategy must exist for gaining that end or achieving that result.

As we discussed earlier in this book, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This is a wonderful concept for creating meaning in life. Of course, it is helpful if one has a system for examining one’s life. This is where the concept of life games comes in. One could, if they wished, decide to see life as a collection of many different games and systematized activities. Most of these are played to gain some benefit for you or for a group with common interests that you may have joined. Either alone or with this group you will strategize, and make decisions that will lead to a desirable outcome even in an adversarial environment that appears to be engulfed in chaos and randomness This is precisely what we have come to call the “Game of Life.”





How Games Are Created

Now that you understand how systems work and that all games are types of systems the process of integrating game thinking into your life should be that much easier.

To begin, remember that all games have rules or there couldn’t and wouldn’t be a game. But how are the rules that define a specific game created?  Usually, some authority (occasionally the players themselves) creates the rules of the game. If the required number of players is willing to play by the established rules then there is now “a game.” Sometimes the game is named before rules are created and sometimes afterward. Basketball, baseball, commodities trading, mortgage brokering, and democracy, are all types of games. As I mentioned earlier in virtually all games there will be players who cheat, violating the rules either intentionally or accidentally. To prevent the rules from being broken and thus reducing the quality of the game experience and the benefits for the winner, the creator of the games will create guidelines for enforcing the rules. The role of enforcer will often be played by the creator of the game, but more often than not, will be delegated to another person such as a referee, the police, or to the judicial system.

It can be generally stated that the more aware, flexible and visionary the members of the group creating the game are, the more enjoyable the game will be and the greater the benefits.

As I mentioned earlier in order to play effectively in a game, the players need to have strategies and plans of action.  Just as the rules need to have consistency, each player of the game is likely to adopt a strategy that he or she thinks is most effective and is unlikely to change that strategy.  The ability of a player to create an effective consistent strategy will be defined, in part, by his or her understanding of the rules and of the perceived strategies of a rival or opponent.

The most efficient, effective, productive and even enjoyable games have rules that exist for a reasonable, limited period of time. In sports, this would be the nine innings in baseball, the four quarters of football, the four years from one American presidential elections to the next one. This is important, for if the rules of a game are always changing, then it becomes difficult for the players to develop effective strategies that will allow them to excel.

As you can see, creating a game either for recreation or as a system for living can initially be initially difficult since the understanding of the rules within a group in relation to a particular action may change organically and intuitively without any active discussion or agreement about a change taking place among the members of the group where the game is being played.  And then there is always that issue of some people cheating during a game, or changing the rules and either honestly or conveniently neglecting to tell the other players that they have changed the rules.   Remember, in order to play a game, there must be players, a time frame for the length of the game, defined and enforced rules, accountability among the players for breaking the rules and a general understanding among the players that consistently breaking the rules may lead to the weakening or destruction of the game.



Made Up Stuff

This categorizing of the sciences was a good start for ordering the world but was still limited.  For the pioneers of game theory, it made perfect sense to design classical, mathematical game theory as a logic-based approach to strategizing. The assumption in doing so, of course, was in believing that  when players are likely to behave rationally that is where one begins to create strategies. However,  this approach is limited for dealing with real world problems, challenges, and obstacles. For one thing, most life experience, and what we believe to be true, is anything but science. It may involve family history, emotions, intuition, legends, myths, cultural influences, social pressure, body chemistry, genetics, subconscious and unconscious motivations, and all manner of unseen motivating factors all merging to create belief systems and behaviors that run from the barely sane to the saint-like.

I call these beliefs “made up stuff,” because that really is what they are. I believe, and of course, I may be wrong, that there is a “belief gene” – a genetic hard-wiring in all human beings that force us to have faith in something, anything. If I am correct in this belief, then there is no arguing this fact. The question isn’t whether or not you are going to believe in something. It really is, what are you going to choose to believe in? Of course, if you believe in something that few others believe in, you will be viewed as strange or crazy by the majority of people in the society you live in. In a democratic flexible society, you will simply be marginalized with others who are as different as you are. If you live in a more dogmatic and rigid society, you might be put in jail, institutionalized you or simply killed. If you are wealthy, successful or convincing in some way, you will be seen as eccentric, and, over time, possibly even a visionary.

The truth is most people live lives based on stuff that was made up by someone else. We could, of course, just make up any nonsense we want and call it “reality”; however, this can get lonely and unpleasant. At best you might end up existing in a tightly knit community of visionaries protecting and defending each other from the dysfunctional majority.   Just as there is probably a belief;

This is what we are all up against. Most of us want what we believe to be love, wealth, happiness, freedom, and spiritual contentment. The answer of how to get it is right in front of us in some effective, functional, fun game. The problem is that we are deluded, lost and confused and we believe in stuff that may or may not make any sense. We even create or join communities with others who believe the same stuff. Then we communally deny the obvious evidence that what we have come to believe is true is actually absurd.

In order to understand why we do this, it is useful to understand the concept of, and the connection of, stories, legends, myths to our own misguided biases.



Human beings are hard-wired to create relationships with other human beings. Part of this process is creating,  retelling and sharing stories.

Now, there is more than one type of story. How many categories of a story are there? It depends on your reference point. In the western societies stories are generally categorized as either factual (non-fiction) or the invention of the author (fiction).  In traditional African culture and Asian societies, this distinction has been less important.

If the facts in a story are not that important, how can one tell what is truth and what is fiction? There is a saying that history is written by the winners. Even in a story where the facts are verifiable, you must remember that you never get all the facts; thus, the story you are being told is a selective presentation of a story. There are probably other facts in the same story that you are not aware of, and which would change the entire flavor, scope, and purpose of the story if told. This is one of the reasons why many of these societies have fewer concerns with historical accuracy and a greater concern for the relevance of the story as an expression and reflection of the ever-unfolding community identity.

I remember going to the Alamo in Texas. The story of the Alamo is one of the great American historical events. Most people go through the exhibit in an hour or two.  I was there for nine hours looking at all of the various sections of the museum.  It became apparent to me that although the “factual” history of the siege of the Alamo was accurate, the meaning of it all was totally different from what I had been taught.  As much as the story is about heroism against overwhelming forces, there is much unsaid in history books about slavery, genocide and the lust for land.  The Alamo is factual, but most of what it represents is just made up. History can be accurate, but when viewed from a different angle that accuracy takes on a completely different meaning.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of ways to make up and tell a story some fact based and others sounding fact-based (Fake News).  There is narration, historical accounts, recitals, tall tales, parables, drama, comedy, legends, jokes, historical events, autobiography, biography, scripts exposés, journalism, confessions, myths, anecdotes, etc.

What links all of these forms, other than the fact that they are all stories? That’s it! They are all stories. I was reading a book about John Gallishaw a well-known writing teacher in the early 20th century. Among Gallishaw’s  students was the young anthropological pioneer, Joseph Campbell. Gallishaw taught that there are two fundamental types of storytelling.  One type of story is that in which a decision needs to be made, and the narrative is internal and psychological.  The second type of story is a tale in which something must be accomplished. It is built around external events that either moves the process forward or become obstacles to the journey told in the story. I like this model, as it relates to the core of what HAGT is all about.

The truth is that to be a human being, in definition, is to be a storyteller. Each of us has a story to tell. It is automatic. When you describe the life you are living, what you are doing is telling a story. We all have memories of the things that have happened to us.  For many of us, the only sense of self we have is the story we have created.

There are many people who actually lack any sense of who they are separate from the story they have created. The story they tell is actually the game they have created. They play the “wife” game, the “husband” game, the “employer” game, the “employee” game, the “baseball fan’ game, etc. There is nothing wrong in this. The problem is that most people do not realize that that is what they are doing.

Let us say that I am unhappy with life.  If much of what I think of as my personal factual history is simply a mix of fact and fiction filtered through my memory, am I not simply a prisoner of my self-created past?  If I realize it is all a type of game, then I have the freedom to reinvent who I am – to look at the facts of my past as I remember them but from a different perspective. This might be scary for many individuals. It is as if you are telling them, “Who you think you are, is not really who you are.” It all goes back to what I described earlier. What I am saying is that each life is like a movie. It is based on what you remember as being true. It does not matter whether it is true or not- only that you believe that it is true.

Let’s explore this in greater depth. It is important to do so, for, by doing it, you may quickly see that life really is a game. If you think about it, it becomes clear that at some point in time we all remember things that we had forgotten. Even when we remember these events clearly, there is always the chance they might not have happened as we remember them.

Have you ever reminisced with a friend or family member about some event and this other person had a totally different recollection of what you remember? I’m not implying that your life is simply some book or movie in your head or that anything and everything you remember as happening might not have happened at all. What you remember happening probably did happen.  It was just remembered by you in a particular way. This same event may be remembered differently. by others.  In fact, looking back at that event, you might realize that the memory you have in your mind was seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old child if that is how old you were when the event took place.

Let me re-state what is so essential to HAGT.  You really can re-invent your story and thus can re-invent the life game you have chosen to play. You can re-invent the game of your life and by doing so you can experience a type of freedom that you never imagined possible.

Confirmation bias, a major factor in the development and choosing of losing game strategies often is fed by the stories we create and success.  Of course, there are stories and then there are REALLY BIG STORIES. Many geneticists believe that not only are we hard-wired to tell stories, but that we are hard-wired to hunger for a connection to our source – what theologians and physicists alike call the “First Cause.” Combine the two, and what you get is the creation of and the sharing of sacred stories or myths. The word “mythology” (from the Ancient Greek word, mythologa, meaning “a story-telling” or a legendary lore) refers to a type of sacred story. This often a merging of various folklores and legends that a particular culture believes to be true.  Myths often use the supernatural to interpret natural events and to explain the nature of the universe.

A myth may not be factual, but it may be true. It does not matter if the story at the base of the myth is true or false.  To the culture within which the myth has evolved, it is by definition “true.” Most groups cannot exist without some sacred story that embodies a way of making sense of the world. This story needs to describe how the world came about, how the culture was created, and the beliefs, ways of questioning, and concepts that have defined the group reality. The sacred myth answers all of these questions. It is the myth that represents a collectively held belief within a group; even if that belief has no basis in reality.  Thus, for some particular culture, it is true even if not factual. It is this foundation that gives the group a reason to play the game, even if they are loath to acknowledge that it is a game that they are playing, a game of made up stuff.

Sometimes a group or community story originates as a misinterpretation of a misdirected sacred ritual.  I say misdirected because the ritual from its very inception is in contradiction to natural law.  Since human beings are hard-wired to believe and to have faith in something – anything – certain beliefs, whether accurate or unsupported by logic or evidence, will be created as sacred stories by individuals and groups. These stories will usually be presented as, “God said ‘this’ or ‘that,’” or “The Bible said ‘this’ or ‘that,’” etc., etc.

Myths are often referenced to the religious or spiritual life of a community and are often reinforced and empowered by that community’s educational, political and religious elite. In America, these elites would include the media, government, and the major religions.

Of course, in a secular society, some myths have religious elements, and others do not; but most myths embody a belief in the supernatural.  If they didn’t they would just be stories or legends like the ones we tell about Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Elvis, the Beatles and Ronald Reagan.

A myth can be many things.   In the broadest use, it may refer to a personal or collectively-created, ideologically-based form of received wisdom. Aside from its sacred elements, a myth may also reflect many of the political, economic, psychological, sacred and social truths that need to be told in a society. In its most repressive or misdirected form,  a myth it can turn into the Spanish Inquisition, racial segregation,  or reflect a  way of connecting facts that produce believable but most likely inaccurate conclusions.  Unlike myths, fairy tales, legends, and general stories may have little or no connection to political, economic, psychological, or sacred subjects.  Myths, on the other hand, usually involve gods, near-gods, or something that has a sense of sacredness in it.  This is why myths are often called sacred myths. Without the spiritual element and the influence of a religious hierarchy, the line between a sacred myth and a mere fairy tale would be less easy to decipher.

So what does all this have to do with game theory? When looking at life through the prism of game theory, it becomes apparent that myths serve as the foundation for important and influential games; They begin with “Jesus died on the cross, that God spoke to us on Mount Sinai and that Mohammed was a prophet of God”. Some legends state that Elvis Presley was the first rock n’ roll star etc.

There is a difference between a legend and a sacred myth. A sacred myth is distinctly different from a factual legend, fiction, fairy tale, anecdote or folktale, though the concepts may at times overlap.  Many myths are similar to fairy tales in that both are set in the past, often before recorded and critical history began.





Game theory, Sacred Stories and Group Think

It is very difficult to create a new game for one’s life or to set the foundations for a new narrative when are hard-wired to tell stories that reinforce our connection to our primary social group.  It is even harder to defy a sacred story that defines the group we have grown up in. In some groups, you are killed if you rebel or attempt to change or rewrite the prevailing sacred story. So Christian, Jewish or Muslim parents usually produce and raise children that grow up to be Christians, Jews or Muslims.  It is true that more often than not, the “fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree;” thus, the creation of a sacred story or a myth, or the acceptance of an existing one, is a natural thing to do.  It takes a rare and unique series of events, circumstances and motivating factors to turn the child of a butcher into a raw food ethical vegetarian, or the child of a progressive libertarian thinker into a dogmatic ideological fascist, or communist.

But there is an interesting element in all of this storytelling and myth-making that empowers us to create a new game – to tell a new sacred story.  This element is the fact that sacred myths are not rigid and static. Though many of those individuals in powerful positions would like to keep them static, mythological stories will change over time because they both influence and are influenced by the culture within which they exist. As a culture evolves so do these myths and we, as part of the culture, evolve with them. A great example of this is the U.S. Postal Service issuing a stamp with Malcolm X’s image on it. At one time in America you could not find a public figure considered more divisive and a threat to the status quo than Malcolm X, but there he is, many years after his assassination on a postage stamp.

The content of myths may reflect changes in a particular culture.  The game you create as an individual, and with others, help create that change.  Think about history. As the First Nations (Native American tribes) moved across North American in response to the influx of European-based peoples, the sacred myths of these people were transformed.  The geography was different, as well as weather patterns, the types of plants and animals available for food, clothing, and shelter, and the competitors for those plants and animals.

Sacred stories also change because people of a particular tribe, group or culture will often place differing meanings and interpretations on the elements of a particular story, legend, myth, rite, ritual, ceremony, or place.  As tribes come together through conquest, commerce, and migration, myths change.

Many myths exist in multiple versions, even in the same culture, just as different cultures have different myths with a similar element.  For instance, virtually every civilization has a deluge myth; some story of a great and horrific flood where great waters rise unexpectedly and rapidly.  Mercilessly, the water sweeps away all in its path.  Death and destruction become mixed with legendary acts of heroism and tales of miraculous survivals. Noah’s Ark is the most familiar of these for Christians, Muslims, and Jews but similar stories exist in many other cultures as well

How you choose to relate to one of or any of these sacred myths will profoundly affect the type of game you will use to create your life, and who you choose to play with. A myth has spiritual significance for the individual who tells it and also connects that individual to a specific group.

The appreciation over the last few centuries of a systematic understanding of logical thinking that culminated with  Francis Bacon and the scientific method seemed to make the very concept of myths increasingly irrelevant.  In recent decades, however, the human tide of attachment to sacred mythology has been recognized as an important adhesive factor in a healthy functioning society. Much of this sacred mythology is new, being expressed through various new age philosophies and groups. Just think about the sacred mythology applied to the the Woodstock festival in 1969.

As with most myths, the story and the origins of what happened at that time and of that festival have become obscure or completely rewritten.  In a hundred years, Woodstock, like many other stories, legends, and myths, will become one more part of an oral tradition- many of which were written after they were in existence for hundreds, even thousands of years.

The singer Arlo Guthrie has often said jokingly, “If you remember the 60’s you probably weren’t there.” Interestingly, Arlo’s father, Woody Guthrie, has become a legend of mythic proportions, as has his disciple, the Nobel-Prize winning poet and musician Bob Dylan.

Some individuals, especially cultural icons have been turned into mythological figures. Places like Concord, the Alamo, Gettysburg, the Stonewall Inn (where the Gay Liberation movement is traced to), Robben Island and the site of the World Trade Center are held in awe and treated with near-reverential attention or admiration primarily on the basis of often repeated stories (some true, some false, and most exaggerations). These very real places were host to sometimes idealized versions of actual events. This pattern is common among music and sports fans relating to certain musicians and athletes. The process is further institutionalized by the creation of various specialized Halls of Fame or secular temples to these individuals.  In modern times some individuals will hire professions (publicists) to create myths about themselves.

The new technologies combined with multiculturalism and the expanding global economy have reshaped many legends and sacred stories in ways that could never have been conceived.  Both orthodox and unorthodox stakeholders in different ideas and objects of meaning are being forced to come in contact with each other. No matter how great the resistance, time and these very changes will reshape many of these sacred group stories, often removing the “sacred’ from them. Whether these shifts are imposed from outside, or happen as a natural evolution, these shifts will take place. In time, every personal and group story or game may:

  1. Lose its importance and simply fade away.
  2. Either be absorbed by, or dominated by those creating a different game (sacred story).
  3. Morph into a new creation (game) that reflects the new elements of a newly forming culture.
  4. Take on even greater meaning and status than before. This is especially so with myths related to the “First Cause” and the creation of a group or culture.

Let’s play a game. I’m going to make a statement based on a belief that many people have in common, or which contradicts some of these beliefs.  What is your belief concerning each of these statements? I am not offering my opinion on any of this. I am only asking you to observe your own reactions to what I have said here. Clearly, the acceptance of sacred stories may totally define the games we play in life.

Here goes…..

  • About 5,000 years ago God created the universe in seven days. On the sixth day, he created first a man (by blowing the breath of life into his nostrils,) then a garden and later a woman from a part of his body.
  • There is a God.
  • Everything in the Bible is literally factual.
  • We are born in sin.
  • Jesus’ mother Mary conceived him without having intercourse.
  • There was a man named Jesus. He died. His heart stopped. His brain stopped working. He came back to life three days later.
  • An individual with one black parent and one white parent is a black person who has a white parent rather than a white person with a black parent.
  • A physiologist, an anatomist, and an endocrinologist will have a different definition of what defines a person as a male or female.


Whatever your response to any of these statements may be, and whether or not they are factual, the truth is that someone else who does believe that one of these statements is true thinks something you believe to be true is absurd and borders on the ridiculous.

You see, we all have our own reality games, don’t we? Who is to say, whose reality is the best one? Who is to say that some two or three thousand years old sacred story or sacred text isn’t just some made up stuff?














Society’s Games

In our modern, increasingly multi-cultural world, many different myths (made up games) with common underlying themes can co-exist.  Some have been created in response to similar natural phenomena, or even a common source.  In time, some of these myths may come together and naturally merge to create new myths. Today, there is likely a tech genius living in Central Africa who considers himself/herself Christian, Gay and loves punk rock music. Each of these is a way of being in the world and of seeing the world that could not easily have co-existed even thirty years ago. Now there is probably an online Meet Up group for such an individual.

In this high-tech digital world, we are living in a place where any person or individual, can create an instant myth through the manipulation of the media, or through some other tool of influence.

There are magazines on every supermarket shelf specializing in the “spreading” of legends and various forms of fake news that have been created by media and marketing experts. The conceptual artist, Andy Warhol, spoke of everyone having their “fifteen minutes of fame”.  Even so, there is no specific system for the creation of myths.  Myths, at least those with any staying power, are neither invented, nor accepted, nor rejected.  They simply are formed by individuals and groups of individuals, often without any specific conscious intention, in response to the need for a specific narrative within a specific community.  Most myths take many years, usually centuries, to create, and are not-so-easily destroyed or transformed, even when there are no facts to support their existence, and much evidence to question their validity.

The best and the most influential stories possess a symbolic meaning for a culture and society at large.  This guarantees the long-term survival of these stories.  When these stories take on a mythological quality, they provide a link for connecting cultural institutions of a group (tribe, city, state, or country) with universal truths.

Both individuals and groups need a reason to exist and these reasons may not hold up well under a logical, fact-based scrutiny.  A myth does not need evidence or verifiable facts to exist.  They are based instead on a communal, often self-created reality (game) reflecting historical echoes and representing much more.  This can be a good thing, especially in a highly functional, compassionate community.

Today the expansion of self-help groups, personal development programs, the human potential movement, a myriad of non-traditional therapeutic approaches and the general questioning of authority, has created an environment where individuals can explore the existing myths and stories of a group, and choose the group they want to be part of  even creating their own story- their own game. This is a good thing.


Support Triangles

In the process of problem-solving and making effective choices it is invaluable to have a collaborative support team to eliminate unnecessary struggle and to maximize human potential.  Within the Wisdom Path Community, we often speak of “support triangles” (ST). A support triangle is any group of three people who come together in the agreement to consistently support each other in being extraordinary. Usually, these groups meet weekly or monthly to motivate, inform, and inspire each other.

We all need a sense of community and what can be better than a group of people with a common proactive vision? Because of the push and pull of daily living as well as the reactive and negative messages around us, it is easy to have breakdowns in maintaining consistency in the fulfillment of our visions.  One of the core natural laws that guide our behavior is the desire to connect with others, to create community.  The Support Triangle is a powerful tool for creating productive, effective, and abundant environments.

Effective support triangles can help anyone transcend a personal crisis. Many people have very difficult lives and are truly committed to being more effective in every way.  Humans by nature get some gratification from helping or serving others.  It is often true that one person’s effort is more or less insignificant unless he or she is linked with others, all striving to the same end.

The concept of a support triangle is actually based on models called “Master Mind Groups*”. This concept was developed by Napoleon Hill, author of the book “Think and Grow Rich.”  Hill defined the mastermind as a “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” His concept of the “Master Mind” was inspired by Andrew Carnegie, a wealthy steel magnate who was his mentor. According to Hill:

   “Mr. Carnegie’s Master Mind group consisted of a staff of approximately fifty men with whom he surrounded himself for the DEFINITE PURPOSE of manufacturing and marketing steel.  He attributed his entire fortune to the POWER he accumulated through this ‘Master Mind.’”

Since the publication of Think and Grow Rich in 1937, the idea of mastermind groups has grown and evolved to become a staple tool of  many successful and influential individuals. There are many  benefits to having a supportive mastermind group.

  1. You have a group of people to help you succeed.
  2. You get the benefit of differing perspectives, input, and feedback.
  3. They can bring you resources and connections that you might not have had..
  4. You receive accountability and inspiration from the group, thus enabling you to maintain focus in achieving your goals.


Napoleon Hill went so far as to say there was a mystical quality created when a mastermind group was formed. He said: “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.”  In other words, your ability to create things in the world is increased by having that invisible “third mind” of the mastermind group. Clearly he understood the concept of synergy*.

Within the Wisdom Path and throughout all of my writings on the importance of forming Support Triangles is often spoken of. It is recommended that as each of us explore game-based thinking we:

  1. Always seek  out  individuals with  a positive attitude who are also seeking to improve the quality of their lives, are good listeners, and who seem to have some basic common sense.
  2. Introspect but still connect. Realize that many friends (and strangers who will become your friends) are truly and earnestly eager to help you at this time, even if they have never discussed such a subject with you.  Don’t be a loner. Reach out to others.
  3. When connecting with  individuals and groups with a positive attitude who are also seeking to improve the quality of their lives, share the concept of a Support Triangle without pinning people down to joining.  Mention how common the concept is in most societies.  Speak of the simplicity of the work required–just an hour or two once per week, or per month.
  4. Always keep in touch with the members of your Support Triangle. As the one who has formed the Triangle, it is your responsibility to keep your two partners interested until they are firmly established in the rhythm of my own mentoring and coaching process.
  5. Encourage members of your triangle to form other triangles. Your own leadership qualities can be developed and expanded by taking on the responsibility of encouraging them to do so. Bring this matter to their attention and provide whatever help and inspiration you can to support their efforts.  It is only in this way that the “garden of visionary seeds” that you are planting can grow and spread from support triangle to support triangle with little effort.
  6. Expand beyond one triangle. This reduces the chance that you or  others  will form cliques.


As your work within a Support Network expands and produces greater benefits it should become increasingly easy for you and the members of your triangle to experience miracles of abundance, love, freedom and self-actualization. These miracles were always there but have become visible through the magnifying power of Support Triangles. The personal example of a life lived in right relationship with others is inspiring and infectious.

Thanks to technology and social networking it is not necessary for the members of your Support Triangle to live in the same place as yourself.  A  can conduct conference calls, a three-way phone call, or make use of cutting-edge technology to facilitate the process. You can also form of Support Triangles for business brainstorming, one for sexual issues, one for personal healing, and one for multi-cultural interaction. Multi-cultural support triangles can open you to an entirely new reality. There you can create and expand intellectual and social interactions with individuals of different races, religions, and cultures. In this way you will also will expand your world view.  Here you can reduce the chance that you will unexpectedly accept racial or ethnic stereotypes in your life or allow them to breed and spread through you onto others. A person committed to this idea must rely heavily on the knowledge of others.

Ultimately we must first understand knowledge within the context of our understanding of reality in order to apply it successfully.  We cannot let fear of the unknown or the irrational demands or expectations of others to interference in our judgment.  This is especially so if we want to create and live the best life that we possibly can.

Being extraordinary requires a dedication to logic and reason, a well-honed intuition, the freedom to act on one’s choices, the wisdom to seek wise counsel,  and more than anything else, an effective Support Triangle to make life more abundant for everyone.

I like to think of support triangles like a huge pizza pie. Each triangular slice has different toppings representing unique personalities, styles, talents, and perspectives on life and living that create the whole pie.


Not So “Common Sense” Strategies

There are certain approaches to solving problems that are extremely effective. Over time however they may lose their effectiveness as problems become more difficult.  Let’s explore this issue.

A key element in HAGT is the integration of concepts drawn from behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and social psychology. As problems become more complex people’s individual biases tend to cloud their rational thinking processes. Behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and social psychology  are import to the development of strong game thinking skills. It is through these disciplines that we can learn why when we are left to our own devices we are apt to make irrational choices. Whether it is confirmation bias, information bias, various fallacies and systematic errors this often appears to be the case. It is almost impossible to transcend all of these biases. Still we can be more efficient, effective and productive by being aware of these biases and seeking solutions to these constraints. That’s a powerful and important discovery.

Much of HAGT is built on common sense, – These are simple, efficient rules which people often use to form judgments and make decisions to solve basic problems. Often known as “heuristics” these are mental shortcuts that usually involve focusing on one aspect of a complex problem and ignoring others. These rules work well when dealing with basic and some complex problems however they can lead to patterns of poor decision making (systematic deviations)  when these cognitive biases* are embedded in the decision making process.

Heuristics have been shown to affect people’s choices in situations like valuing a house, deciding the outcome of a legal case, or making an investment decision. Heuristics usually govern automatic, intuitive judgments but can also be used as deliberate mental strategies when working from limited information.

“It was renowned cognitive scientist  Herman Simon who originally proposed that human judgments are limited by available information, time constraints, and cognitive limitations. He called this “bounded rationality”.

In the early 1970s, psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman  demonstrated three heuristics* that underlie a wide range of intuitive judgments. These findings set in motion the heuristics and biases research program, which had a great influence on game theory research. This research program studies how people make  what seems like common sense  real-world judgments and the conditions under which those judgments are likely to be unreliable. This research challenged the idea that human beings are rational actors, but provided a theory of information processing to explain how people make estimates or choices. This research, which first gained worldwide attention and a large following among game theorists in 1974 with the Science paper Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases“, has guided almost all current theories of decision-making. Although the originally proposed approach to heuristics has been challenged by many important thinkers this research program has changed the field by permanently setting the research questions.

This heuristics-and-biases tradition only becomes problematic when dealing with more complex and extreme problems.   In their initial research, Tversky and Kahneman proposed three heuristics

  • Availability
  • Representativeness
  • Anchoring and adjustment.


Let’s explore each.

  • Availability: Called “evaluation heuristics” these are used to judge the desirability of possible choices. Let’s explore Tversky and Kahneman’s three heuristics In psychology, availability is the ease with which a particular idea can be brought to mind. When people estimate how likely or how frequent an event is on the basis of its availability, they are using the availability heuristic. When an infrequent event can be brought easily and vividly to mind, people tend to overestimate its likelihood. For example, people overestimate their likelihood of dying in a dramatic event such as a tornadoor terrorism. Dramatic, violent deaths are usually more highly publicized and therefore have a higher availability. On the other hand, common but mundane events are hard to bring to mind, so their likelihoods tend to be underestimated. These include deaths from   suicidesstrokes, and diabetes. This heuristic is one of the reasons why people are more easily swayed by a single, vivid story than by a large body of statistical evidence. It may also play a role in the appeal of lotteries: to someone buying a ticket, the well-publicized, jubilant winners are more available than the millions of people who have won nothing.


Tversky and Kahneman offered the availability heuristic as an explanation for illusory correlations in which people wrongly judge two events to be associated with each other. They explained that people judge correlation on the basis of the ease of imagining or recalling the two events together.

  • Representativeness: This  heuristic   is  used when making judgments about the probability of an event under uncertainty. It is one of a group of heuristics (simple rules governing judgment or decision-making). To repeat;  Heuristics are judgmental shortcuts that generally get us where we need to go – and quickly. They are not perfect and occasionally  send us off course. Heuristics are useful because they use effort-reduction and simplification in decision-making. On the other hand when they are used by the police to prevent crime they are often distorted by ethnic biases on the part of law enforcement.
  • Anchoring and adjustment::This heuristic is used in many situations where people estimate a number as a starting point.  According to Tversky and Kahneman’s original description, it involves starting from a readily available number—the “anchor”—and shifting either up or down to reach an answer that seems plausible.  In Tversky and Kahneman’s experiments, people did not shift far enough away from the anchor. Hence the anchor contaminates the estimate, even if it is clearly irrelevant.  It is common to say that it is not wise to make assumptions. ‘Anchoring and Adjustment explains this concept in detail. Here you have a cognitive error (anchoring) where an individual’s fixates on a target number or value – usually the first one they get, such as an expected economic forecast, a price, or an important statistic concerning a point of view, an alternative reality, or a conspiracy theory that that goes against the mainstream,  or price.  Anchoring occurs when an individual makes new decisions based on the old, anchor number. Giving new information thorough consideration to determine its impact on the original forecast or opinion will help mitigate the effects of anchoring and adjustment.

So to review this,  The anchoring and adjustment heuristic describes cases in which a person uses a specific target number or value as a starting point, known as an anchor, and subsequently adjusts that information until an acceptable value is reached over time. Often, those adjustments are inadequate and remain too close to the original anchor. Anchor values can be self-generated, be the output of a pricing model or forecasting tool, or be suggested by an outside individual.

An example of anchoring and adjustment as an influence technique. A politician or ideologue of some type  will often offer a seemingly irrational and unsupportable statistic. One that everyone agrees (accept the person stating the statistic) is unrealistic. Then the person who made the statement, when questions backs off a bit.  Because the original statistic is an anchor, the final statistic will still tend to be inaccurate  but a bit more defendable . Used car salesman often do this, as do both Donald Trump, Alex Jones, the fake news promoting radio talk show host, and others in influential positions.  Used car salespeople know that the final price of sale will tend to be higher if the begin with a higher anchor than if they had offered a fair or low price to start. In finance, the output of a pricing model or from an economic forecasting tool may become the anchor for an analyst.

People’s valuation of goods and the quantities they buy, respond to anchoring effects. In one basic example when a stack of soup cans in a supermarket was labeled, “Limit 12 per customer”, the label influenced customers to buy more cans. In another experiment, real estate agents appraised the value of houses on the basis of a tour and extensive documentation. Different agents were shown different listing prices, and these affected their valuations. Anchoring and adjustment has also been shown to affect grades given to students. Numerous studies have implied that anchoring will affect the sentences in criminal trials. These are not just juries that have made these biased judgments but trial judges with, on average, more than fifteen years of experience.




Creating My Life Game

Most of what goes on in life is greatly influenced by perspective. People generally make up as their personal realities or accept realities imposed upon them and I am not immune to this pattern.  Understanding that this was the case created new possibilities for me. As I continued to explore my personal ways of thinking and studying game theory brought back a memory of a mental exercise I had learned in a human potential and personal development seminar I attended back in the 1980s. The seminar leader had said to a room filled with individuals seeking new ideas, personal growth or a bit of wisdom,

 “Imagine that the rest of your life is like a movie. There will be a producer, a script of a story, a director, a lead actor, a supporting cast, makeup, costumes, and thousands of other details.  The movie will be shot on a location chosen by the producer and various changes will take place as the film-making process unfolds. Now let me remind you to imagine that this movie is your life: YES, YOUR LIFE! What is it going to be, where is it going to take place, and who is going to be in the supporting cast? Are you prepared emotionally and physically for the various unexpected changes that may arise?”


I liked this game.  It was perfect for the type of person I was. Someone who didn’t follow the rules and who had a difficult time fitting  in nicely in school and with childhood social groups.

Throughout my life, I have walked to the beat of a different drummer. I have always been a rebel. Early on I rebelled against anything, but in time I became more selective.  As I have grown I have often struggled with authority when the ordinary and the status quo failed to make sense to me.  The one thing I always had was good mentoring from those who understood who I was, and what I was about. Most of these individuals were rebels as well and had learned to create their own path without rocking the boat too much. These were my mentors.

So what kind of movie did I want my life to be? I initiated conversations with various friends and colleagues on the subject. We would get together or speak on the phone exploring real-world scenarios that would reflect some of the ideas I had come across while reading about game theory: The rise and fall of Rome, the great African Empires, Colonialism, The BP oil spill, the election of an African-American as president of the United States, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the major religions, new age ideas, monogamy in marriage. We explore which of these were zero-sum games, cooperative (non-zero-sum) games, complete information games or a combination of the three? Then I began exploring some of the important thinkers throughout history including the teachings, writings, and ideas of Plato (particularly the ideas attributed to Socrates), Sun Tsu, Machiavelli, Jane Addams, Joseph Campbell, Helen Keller, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lao Tzu and the Taoist Masters, the Bal Shem Tov, the Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi, Eleanor Roosevelt, The Christian Mystic Meister Eckhart, the Sufi Mystic-Rumi, Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, J. Krishnamurti, Buckminster Fuller, Milton Erickson, Joseph Campbell, John Lilly and many others. The writings and ideas of these great thinkers and innovators became an integral part of my exploration of game theory.

All of this brought to me the concept of life games as a sort of truth, not in a rigid dogmatic way, but as an effective path to having the best that life had to offer at the lowest possible cost.  The different categories of science,; these important thinkers and teachers;  all of the individual and group realities and all of the absurd realities that people had accepted for their lives showed me that Game theory could be an invaluable tool for isolating a particular truth in a particular human interaction. I developed a series of mottos that helped me create the “movie of my life” – the game I wanted to play. Among my favorite game theory mottos and, cliches were:

   “The truth you ignore will come back to bite you in the ass.”

“In a tornado, even a turkey can fly.”

“Say ‘yes’ to everything unless the cost is too high.”

   “Watch birds – Glide with the wind. Don’t be a wing flapper.”

“Life is not a place to learn lessons. It is a place to hear    messages – ignore the message you will learn the lesson.”

“Life will always bring the truth.  You will either get there voluntarily or get dragged there kicking and screaming.”


I realized that there had to be meaning or a goal or vision in which to apply these ideas.  There needed to be intention and significance to the game I was going to create; otherwise, all these mottos would be little more than cute but empty motivational and inspirational aphorisms.



Dealing with Cheaters

In creating and organizing HAGT, dealing with cheaters* has become a major element of my strategizing. I’m always surprised when a “so-called” skilled game player complains that another player has cheated but can’t really prove that it is so. Often these strategists don’t understand the difference between a cheating strategy and a “Trickster strategy”. In a Trickster strategy a player thinks, acts, and behaves in ways that are outside the norm, are paradoxical, counterintuitive or ambiguous.   Initially, these strategies would appear to be cheating but when addressed or studied they are found to be within the rules and acceptable within the game structure, even if just barely so.  This can be very frustrating for traditional players using traditional strategies. The highly skilled game thinker and strategist may make certain moves that seem to be the right move but at the wrong time. They may apply skills or resources in situations where they would seem to be ineffective. They may seem to lose every subgame* while winning the end game.  Donald Trumps’ race for the American Presidency appears to have all of the elements of this type of strategizing. Of course, whether he is actually a cheater or just a skilled game thinker will not be known for four or even maybe eight years. Ultimately the American legal and political system will provide that answer.

Much of my work in Applied game thinking is based on the concept that in any zero-sum game there is likely to be a player who understands the rules and intentionally breaks them as a strategy to win in spite of the consequences. Part of what many cheaters hope to gain is an undue reward for behavior that violates the rules of the game. Legitimizing such behavior offers an undue reward, blunts motivation to play fair, exacerbates complacency and fuels conflict with other cheaters and with those who have chosen to play by the rules.

The most effective cheaters have already decided that even if caught the benefits of cheating are greater than the penalty for being caught. In HAGT strategies are designed with the assumption that in a game with a large enough number of players, and a large enough payoff that at least one and likely more than one of the players is likely to cheat. There are many ways, however, the most common include  lying, telling half-truths, manufacturing information, disseminating Fake News, engaging in  procedural manipulation, outright deception,  intentional omission and the avoidance of truthful information

With rare exception, liars and cheaters present subtle clues called “leaks” that indicate their likely thoughts and behavior. This is because most of us believe that it is desirable to be truthful though doing so might not always seem to be in our best interest or serve our strategy for winning. Still lying and cheating or the intention to do so can often cause psychological distress.  Recently social scientists have developed ways to program computers to isolate the linguistic tics and leaks that indicate psychological distress. Most of this research has been conducted for the purpose of detecting depression and suicidal thoughts in teen speech but it can also be applied to flushing out cheaters and liars in game environments.

John Pestian, a psychiatrist and expert in biomedical informatics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, developed the app that helps mental health experts detect depression and suicidal thoughts in teen speech.  The technology that is the foundation of these apps – machine learning algorithms – relies on an understanding of distress patterns that Pestian’s team has isolated through research on speech and psychology. What master stage mentalists know is that what is core to all of this are thought markers*.” Thought markers indicate a person’s state of mind as expressed vocally and acoustically. An example of a thought marker would include “Vowel spacing”.  This refers to ways of pronouncing and articulating words that render speech more or less garbled. Reduced vowel space makes speech sound less intelligible, articulated, or clear. Recent research has shown that stress can influence motor control function especially speech production. Pestian investigated whether a machine could spot distinct mental illnesses based on vowel space frequency patterns. For the game thinker scanning for nonverbal cues of lying and cheating can help detect patterns through the app. Pestian developed a program called SAM, or Spreading Activation Mobile.

Master cheaters and liars can go unnoticed in human exchanges but can be isolated with computational analysis. SAM’s analytic abilities were tested on the vocal characteristics of 379 subjects. The technology correctly classified subjects into one of three groups related to teen depression and suicide:

  1. Suicidal,
  2. Mentally ill but not suicidal,
  3. Controls

The app produced with 85% accuracy.  In a game setting, the app might work by a competitor recording another player’s conversations. Of course, this brings in ethical and legal issues.  That being said, the app can then scan for thought markers signaling lying and or cheating. It’s searching for the very things not commonly picked up on or understood in conversation, like vocal intensity, speech rates, and voice fluctuations.

The platform also detects the more subtle differences between indications of angst and genuine psychological distress. Pestian is working now on extending the algorithmic analysis to visual cues, collecting video data on gazing; a tendency to avert eye contact can indicate psychological distress, he says.

But machines can only go so far in addressing the problem, he notes, even if they pick up on subtle clues humans miss. For the game theorist,  this means that the technology is not going to stop a player from lying and cheating.  The technology can only say: We have a liar or a cheater here and any strategy we develop in this game will need to take the likelihood of this into consideration.

Going deeper into the foundations of Pestian’s work and the development of SAM, the Spreading Activation Mobile one would need to understand the concept of “spreading activation*” This is something that does not lie within the scope of this book.



Part 3


Game Thinking






Part 3 Introduction

In HAGT* the strategist must integrate information based on rational as well as irrational thinking.  Usually, the best way to begin is to focus on the most common games most of us are likely to encounter in our daily lives.    I have presented them throughout this book for the most part with the names that are used by most Game theory experts. I have also included some examples of the application of these categories to make them easier to understand.

When you live your life with intention it soon becomes obvious that you must interact with others who are aimless, cheaters, tricksters or who have an intention contradictory to yours. When we understand the foundation and application of GT and game thinking we now have the tools needed to maximize our potential, especially when strategic interactions between others and ourselves arise.

It is easy to define GT and Applied game thinking in mathematical and logical terms. These approaches to decision making are more profound than this and require that one stretch one’s thinking a bit. In entry Entry # 32 of the classic Chinese book  Tao te Ching, the author and great Chinese Sage Lao Tzu seems to explore the merging of chaos theory and game theory when he states that

 “People take what is the pure “Unnameable”

And create categories and such.”

We have already discussed many different approaches to organizing games. In order to apply HAGT and classic game theory appropriately and effectively in dealing with more complex and even extreme scenarios, one must understand the various features that help one define a “class” of game and the elements that define that class of game in a specific way.  After all, you would not bring a football to use in a baseball game or a golf ball to a ping pong game.

There are many ways to organize and categorize games. There is no one approach that is exclusive or the most effective. Some games may have elements of two or more categories within them. For instance, there are similarities between American Football and World Cup Football (called Soccer in the United States) but they are different sports. There are also similarities between various paddle sports including; tennis, racket ball, squash, Ping Pong (Table Tennis), Pickle Ball, and badminton.  Yet all of these have elements that distinguish one from the other. So it is also with “Life Games”.

Once one understands all of this it is easier to isolate the variables of specific classes, categories or sets of games. It is also easier to see and see what combination(s) of features from one class of game or another any particular game possesses, and ultimately it is that much easier to make wise decisions.

Let’s review and expand on the features that exist in most games.  We have mentioned them before and are doing so again with a few new elements added.  It is an understanding of these features and how to address each that we will need in order to develop the necessary skills for becoming effective strategists in the game of life.  They include:

  • The specific game space or playing field
  • Sub games
  • Number of players
  • Dealing with Cheaters
  • Length of the Game
  • Strategies per player:
  • How to Strategies in a Game Space
  • Rules of Play


Let’s explore each of these:

   The specific game space or playing field: Examples include a cocktail party, a Chess attending a college, or filing your taxes.

   Sub games: Sometimes smaller games exist in larger games. These smaller games are called sub-games. One of the greatest examples of a sub-game graph is the individual innings in a baseball game presented on a scoreboard.





My Journey

Over the course of a decade, I focused on exploring and studying every aspect of GT that I could understand and apply to my daily life.  If understanding an idea involved mastering complex mathematical calculations I embraced as much as I could, on the simplest of levels which usually wasn’t that difficult. I then moved on. Sometimes felt as if I was lost in the desert. I had discovered this amazing idea, an idea that influencers of every stripe; politicians, economists, military strategists, and billionaires were applying but which the ordinary person, just living life without much critical thinking couldn’t care less about. It wasn’t much better with academics. They couldn’t care less about it either if it wasn’t part of their specialized discipline. In spite of this resistance or disinterest, I continued studying and gently preaching at cocktail parties and social events. I created a free course on game-based thinking that many signed up for but few completed. My mentors assured me that it wasn’t the quality of my work that was the problem. It was that most people were “lazy thinkers” and were unlikely to embrace such a new and radical concept. They might have loved the movie “A Beautiful Mind” but as I mentioned earlier it was unlikely that they would actually explore the ideas that John Nash pioneered.  I just didn’t and couldn’t understand it. Game theory was so elegant and basic an idea.  It showed me that in certain human interactions where there are likely to be winners and losers, not only are people likely to make “rational” choices concerning their own course of action but that if each player knows all of the possible rational strategies of the other players, that no player will have anything to gain by changing their own strategy. To understand this concept might influence how a person might avoid traffic jams at rush hour, save money on food shopping, deal with liars, cheaters and rule breakers, and even get free plane tickets and vacation packages.

I was alone in the wilderness, applying game-based thinking in every way I could.  The results were clear to me. My income increased, and my expenses went down. My businesses expanded and I was able to create jobs for others and contribute time, energy and resources to various philanthropic projects.  My wife and I left the hustle and bustle of New York City for a beautiful old Victorian Mansion in the Farm Belt of New York State. With these experiences and personal life changes as well as through the support of my mentors and friends, especially Jack Lentchiner, Harvey Slayton, Orest Bedrig, and my wife Lilia I continued researching and writing about game-based thinking in all of its forms.

I was finally contacted by Justin Sachs, at Motivational Press who subsequently published two books I had written on game thinking for business, “Gamification for Business” and “Building Your Business in the New Digital Reality.”

The books generated little interest. People would say to me “Game Thinking? Over my head”.  In spite of this, I would talk about these ideas with anyone who would listen. In time something did happen. Now and then I would be contacted by those I had “evangelized” for game theory years before but who at the time had shown little interest. It seems that over the years scenarios had entered the lives of these talented, intelligent and influential people that were challenging, overwhelming and difficult to resolve successfully. Something I had said in our conversations about game theory had stuck in their heads. Some little voice had whispered, to them “If you had listened closely to what Lewis had to say, you wouldn’t be dealing with these challenges now.”

In time people began to hire me as a “Game Thinking Coach”.  Often their problems dissolved like magic. I do not claim any great talent on my part in making this happen since none of these ideas are mine. I have “stood on the shoulders of Giants” slowly and methodically deconstructing ideas and converting the academic language of economists, statisticians, and professional gamers into a basic and understandable format.

The big breakthrough for me came when I had to apply my skills in game-based thinking to a real life situation – a situation where someone might die if the wrong strategies were applied.

The story begins is a small Middle Eastern Restaurant in Greenwich Village, The Olive Tree Café. The owner was Israeli and many of the workers were Arab. It is a warm and friendly place where many students from NYU would congregate. They would show Charlie Chaplin Films on the wall and had a Comedy Club in the Cellar called appropriately “Comedy Cellar”.

One evening my wife Lilia and I had gone there for dinner. The waiter was a very warm and intense young man. He had the “buzz cut” one might expect to see on a Highway patrolman or a marine and was wearing a black short sleeved shirt. His face and body were muscularly chiseled and on his upper bicep were the letters “C.A.F.”. For some intuitive reason, I blurted out, “So when were you in the Central African Republic?” He looked up immediately as if he had just encountered an old friend.

“Have you been there?” He asked. “No, but I’ve read a lot about it.”

“Closest thing to hell on earth.” He added.


We learned that he had been…was a mercenary. In his words “One of the good guys”. Apparently, he was often hired to go to places where no one else would or could go. Not the U.N, not the Red Cross, No NGOs. It was, of course, a bit complex as these things tend to be.

He was usually hired to protect whatever organized civilization might be there on the ground. Occasionally he ended up protecting villagers from rape, burning, and pillaging.

“How does that work,” I asked.

He replied that he would go out into the jungle with villagers for various tasks or projects. He would be the only white face for miles around. Occasionally he and the villagers would encounter a male with a weapon, a black male.

  “The general rule,” he said “Was that if the villagers did not recognize this person and he would not or could not answer basic questions about what he was doing in the area, clearly and quickly I would order him to ‘Drop your weapon. NOW!’”

“And if he didn’t respond the way you needed him to?” I questioned.”

“I shoot him!”

He saw the surprised look on my face and added: “In much of the word the reason why good people get to sleep quietly and peacefully in their beds at night is that there is another good person standing outside of their door with a gun.”

The point was made. There are many people in the world with evil intentions and committed to a win-lose view of the world.

We spoke further as he went about his work and we continued with our dinner. I told him about my explorations, studying and writing about game-based thinking and game theory.

As we were about to leave he handed me his phone number and said: “If you get really good at this game theory stuff, you’ll likely need to call me for advice.”

    “Thanks” I replied with a smile, adding “I doubt I will ever see a situation where I need armed mercenaries.”


On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, known as Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines hit landfall in many areas of South East Asia. It was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded devastating a wide swath of Southeast Asia. We now know it was the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing at least 6,300 people in that country alone. It is also the strongest storm recorded at landfall.

Lilia was born in the area hardest hit by the storm. Luckily most of our family were safe but many had to deal with food waters, houses whose roofs had blown away and a decimated infrastructure. I heard the same from various contacts I had throughout South East Asia.

After a few days, we learned that her dear friend’s village had been cut off by the storm.  It was a village that abutted the ocean and after a week they had still not received any help from the government or from aid organizations. Reports indicated that they were running low on food and fresh water.

Following daily newsfeeds, doing research, and making phone calls we soon learned that the government in  Manila had offered a weak response to the tragedy – completely slow and inadequate.  In addition, in spite of their best efforts, the Red Cross and U.N. could not get to the village because of highway robbers.

Initially, it was a story I was observing from a safe distance but I knew I was about to become part of the story. After another week it became clear that our relatives and their friends might die of starvation and disease.  The obstacle was clear, “highway robbers”. I and my support triangle* discussed the situation and I began to map out the scenario from a game theory perspective. I called my “mercenary acquaintance” about the situation and asked for his advice.

Let me explain the end result of those conversations. In this country families are large. Many families have twelve children. Family members often move into different spheres of society. In some families, siblings may be farmers, lawyers, politicians, taxi owners, teachers or small scale entrepreneurs.

My mercenary friend made many suggestions, some rather extreme. I do not want to get too specific concerning who said what, who made what decision or who directed the process.

This is however what happened from the perspective of game-based thinking:

  • We gave the project a name; created a page for it on Facebook, and posted pictures of the devastation on the FB page.
  • We created a bank account specifically for the project.
  • Through phone calls and social networking, we asked for a donation from friends, associates, and acquaintances.
  • Donations began to pour in of $10 and $25 donations.
  • After much research, we found a distant cousin of Lilia’s, an Evangelical Minister with many siblings; five or six who were in the military.
  • We obtained a working van and used the Minister’s contacts to buy bottled water, rice, coconut juice and Spam,  making the purchases through cell phones and Paypal.
  • The word was passed on through the soldiers to their friends into the jungles and onto the ears of the highway robbers that this van was coming through and that those guarding it had “shoot to kill orders”  if attacked.
  • Finally, the van was sent to the provincial capital which had been badly damaged in the storm. From there it was onto the damaged roads to our little village.
  • The van arrived safely to the village and the supplies we are told saved many lives.
  • A week later the U.N. and the Red Cross arrived. They were greatly surprised that our “team” was already there doing what needed to be done, at least for a small segment of the local population. We were told that the officials were baffled by who we were and how we had gotten there since we were not an NGO, nor a government organization.


In the end, everyone had won in this game, even the highway robbers. What had started out as a “zero-sum, sequential, imperfect information game” had been transformed. The robbers had received fair warning of the end game and had responded wisely. I assumed, right or wrong that they were simply people who might have been affected by the storm as well…but they had guns and had used fear and intimidation to have their way.

I remembered what my mercenary friend had said:

“In much of the word, the reason why good people get to sleep quietly and peacefully in their beds at night is that there is another good person standing outside of their door with a gun.”

It was later that I learned that this was a paraphrase of a quote from Winston Churchill.

I realized at that moment that game thinking and game theory were wonderful gifts for making the world a better place if used by the right people and applied in the right way.

Over the next few years, I continued to study, research, and write about game theory and game-based thinking. I would give talks on the subject and would occasionally be hired to mentor or coach others on the ideas, classes, and categories of different types of strategic games.

Each year, when it was time for the Nobel Prize in Economics to be awarded it would often go to someone who had developed another important concept in game theory. In addition, many Nobel prizes had been awarded specifically for new solutions to old problems that had been solved by game theory. This is what had taken place in 1970, 1972, 1994 (three recipients), 1995, 1996, 2005 (two recipients), and 2007 (three recipients). Clearly, game theory and Game Thinking was the model for how the future would be perceived.









Holistic Self-Assessment

It is unlikely that one can become self-actualized without coaching, mentoring, on using specific tools, techniques and strategies for dealing with the emotions.  Some revolutionary approaches have developed in the area of  self-assessment  and emotional integration in the last century. Among the ones used in HAGT  include movement re-education, psychodrama, drama therapy, emotional release bodywork, inner child work, journal writing, Gestalt therapy, psychotherapy, group therapy, and various methods and techniques in the theater arts.

The roots of many of these approaches, especially holistic self-assessment, can be traced to the early development of the social sciences, merged into the ideas of the 19th century Russian theatrical pioneer, Konstantin Stanislavski. A holistic self-assessment is not something you can do by using questionnaires or testing-based technology. The key here is to ask yourself some serious questions, and watch how you answer these questions. I like to call this process “ruthless introspection.” It is a combination of personal inquiry and dialogue in which we explore and question the stories, legends and myths that we have created or accepted, and which, at times, have psychologically enslaved us.  have come to enslave you. This “ruthless introspection” includes not only an evaluation and internal exploration of our physical, mental and emotional strengths and weaknesses, but also our wants, needs, desires, obsessions, emotional pain and spiritual longing. It is not simply an intellectual inquiry either. It may involve journal writing, meditation, contemplation, introspection, storytelling, hypnosis, trance work, creative visualization, inner child work, prayer, joining a support group, and the guidance of a specially trained psychotherapist and a skilled life coach.

These are all valid methods of assessment that are generally ignored or rejected by mainstream clinicians and those committed to a more rationalistic approach to human potential, wellness, and self-actualization.

In my own holistic self-assessment process, I was greatly influenced by the concepts of body awareness and self-dialogue. Much of HAGT is derived from and influenced by these concepts. Some of the most important theorists in these integrative areas include: Wilhelm Reich, Carl Jung, Moshe Feldenkrais, Ida Rolf, Rudolf Steiner, Randolph Stone, Alfred Korzybski Milton Erickson, Virginia Satyr and Ira Progoff.  Dr Progoff, a peer and friend of Joseph Campbell, is known for his development of the Intensive Journal Method while at Drew University. Progoff was particularly interested in how Jungian ideas could be used to explain the lives of ordinary people.

I found that by applying these holistic self-assessment tools daily, I could harness my mind and body ever more effectively, and turn  both  into tools for playing the game of life with greater skill and with less unnecessary struggle. This brought me back to those Nineteen Strategic Resources, I discussed earlier in the book. I saw that I could prosper just by living with greater clarity, and with  more loving and nurturing, and could create more powerful and caring relationships.  I became more compassionate and generous as my income increased – all at a lower and lower cost. It was as if every action had required little or no action at all. I eventually learned there is a word for this experience in Mandarin Chinese –  “Wu wei.” Translated as the “action that has no action” it is a combination of the power of positive thinking, the law of attraction, an altered state of consciousness state and a peak experience all rolled into one.  With practice one soon learns to effortlessly monitor each of the Nineteen Strategic Resources* while  interacting with the environment, recognizing which of the resources has the greatest or lowest value and potential at any moment,  and  then isolating or utilizing each accordingly. This is not just an intellectual or intuitive process. An effective mental self-assessment will include the key psychological and physical activities of a person’s daily life, as well as requiring a tallying of those intangible factors that contribute to the overall quality of any on-going process of self-assessment. As this is done we actually begin to understand all of the stories, legends and myths that have enslaved us as we become free of them.

As we master the art and science of physical, mental, and emotional self-assessment and continue to practice each consistently, it will bring us a clearer perspective of how we and others might respond to varying conditions and circumstances in our environment. With this information we can better predict future situations and create the appropriate game-based strategies..

Why are Support Triangles, the  Nineteen Resources, and Self-Assessment so essential to becoming a skilled game-based strategist? Because humans are social animals by nature and must maximize their social, and emotional intelligence in every way possible in order to survive and prosper.

Do you Know What Game You’re Are Playing?

So let’s apply all this that we have explored concerning the game of life, strategizing and Applied game thinking.

Let’s create another game, one that is a bit different than the earlier one where you created your life as if it is a movie. In this new game, you imagine yourself as a combination corporate CEO, think-tank executive, world-class athlete, and efficiency expert. Now imagine that your quality of life is a specific project that you are committed to completing successfully. Who are the other players on your team? Who are the coaches? Who is the manager?

A core foundation to applying game thinking and game theory based strategies is the concept of coaching and mentoring. Just as any athlete or person of influence will have advisors and specialists to help them form important decisions, it is my belief that anyone who wishes to consistently increase their return on investment, reduce risk, increase the benefit, and consistently win at the game of life, must be coached and mentored consistently.

When you observe a game you are about to begin playing, it is useful to observe, create lists, and graphs and even add illustrations to describe all the perceptible and conceivable strategies that might exist or even unfold in that game. This is what students of chess often do and of course, in team sports, the coaches and managers usually have “playbooks”. In any playbook, there will be a listing of what is expected of each player – what each player or the coach might consider to be a “win” (payoff).   In HAGT there are certain game terms (part of the specialized language* we discussed earlier in the book)  commonly used to describe the type of game being played. For example, some games have a structure that includes all perceptible-conceivable strategies, and any corresponding “win” (payoff*), for each player. Such a game is called a Normal Form Game* or a Normal Game Model.  There are other games that have many explicit details of a number of important aspects, like the sequencing of players’ possible moves, their choices at every decision point, the (possibly imperfect) information each player has about an opponent’s moves when  making a decision, and the wins “ payoffs”  for all possible game outcomes. These games are called Extensive-form games* and can become very complex. They are not called by these names because they are difficult to understand but because there are just so many factors and elements involved that specificity is required to strategize effectively. These Extensive-form games include games of incomplete information* such as might come into play in the form of chance events such as acts of nature or Black Swan events. Examples of Extensive-form games include

  • Compensation and Incentives for workers.
  • Research and Development.
  • Monetary Policy.


This is where a very detailed playbook can become invaluable. Such a playbook may require not just charts, lists, and graphs but also specific data linked illustration known as “data trees*. In these illustrations, often called “trees” because that’s what they look like on paper, every point, potential play, and element in the game strategy is mapped out.  The outcome set that is mapped out of an extensive form game is called the “the set of tree leaves”.

To make it easier to understand all of the elements in either a normal form* or an extensive form game*, a skilled strategist might use different types of drawings or illustrations. The names used to describe some of the varying types diagrams and illustration of a game are:

  • Graph*(matrix*)
  • Connect the Dots (Dot to dot)


These diagrams need not be complex, they only serve to visually organize information. By doing so one can see various hierarchical and non-hierarchal relationships among various elements in a game, like pieces of the whole. These diagrams are often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are then connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those forms and images. These often appear as “upside down trees”.

A Graph: This a diagram illustrating the relationship between variable quantities, typically of two variables, each measured along one of a pair of axes at right angles.  One form of graph is a matrix. Here the graph is specifically a rectangular array of numberssymbols, or expressions, arranged in rows and columns.

Connect the dots: Also known as “dot to dot” or “ join the dots” this is a form of diagram often presented as a puzzle to be solved. Often a sequence a sequence of numbered dots is presented.  When a line is drawn connecting the dots the outline of an object is revealed.  In HAGT “connect the dots” enables a strategist to associate one idea with another – to find the “big picture”, or salient feature, in a mass of data.


Interestingly connecting the dots is a powerful tool for teaching very young children as well as for very sophisticated game theorists. For the former, it is a powerful tool for cognitive development and for extremely advanced game theorists this is a powerful tool for organizing complex data in a game.


Let’s explore this a bit more.

If you remember in elementary school we often used graph paper for various purposes including learning how to draw.  Graphical forms such as graph paper can be very helpful in laying out the structure of a game space, the position of the various players and even interactions between them. One of the best examples of what I have just described is a chess board. “big picture”, or salient feature, in a mass of data.


When mapping out a game graphically the game space, the players, and the potential sequence of moves are arranged on the diagram.  The more players, the more moves, and the more factors needed to determine who and how one has won, the larger and more complex the graph or tree is likely to be. The fewer of these elements there are the smaller the diagram is likely to be.


Now the next step:


To play a game and use diagrams to map out strategies the assumption is that the players  are rational.

This concept has been explored on many levels and the theory used to explain it is known as Rational Choice Theory*. Ultimately, all games, especially life games are about economics – benefits, and costs to be considered when making a choice. Rational choice theory is an economic principle that states that individuals always make prudent and logical decisions. These decisions provide people with the greatest benefit or satisfaction given the choices available and are also in their highest


self-interest. One of the words you will hear a lot among skilled game thinkers is “Utility*”.   The word “Utility” simply represents someone’s level of satisfaction. In a business situation (economics) it represents the satisfaction experienced by the consumer of a good or service. In Applied game thinking, Utility is something that represents the satisfaction a player wants or needs in a specific game.  Since it is rare that we can directly measure benefit, satisfaction or happiness from a good, service or game experience, economists and game theorists have devised ways of representing and measuring utility in terms of choices that are measurable. They have attempted to perfect highly abstract methods of comparing utilities by observing and calculating economic choices. In the simplest sense, utility can be accurately, if not perfectly revealed, by measuring people’s willingness to pay different amounts for different goods.

It is easy to think that all of this is over-kill, however, some problems are so complex or extreme that they require an exploration involving small, precise and limited details that need to be mapped out succinctly in some type of diagram.  Games of this level of detail are called “succinct games*” or a succinctly representable game. Here a game may be represented in a size much smaller than its normal form representation.

So as you can see, in order to know what life game you are playing you have to be aware of many elements and details and specific words and phrases that describe it.  Once you’re aware of all these details then it is often essential to create diagrams that map out all these relationships.

The one thing that seems to be constant here is that on every level we are dealing with information of one type or another.  As we begin to organize many variables and specific types of information we begin to speak of “information sets”.  An information set* is a collection of different elements that have something in common for a particular player, and which establishes all the possible moves that could have taken place in the game so far, given what that player has observed.

As we continue our exploration of applied game thinking it will become obvious that some games are so complex that they require a simple, easy to understand and easy to apply logically based graphical system that can also make sense out of that complexity. That system, of course is game theory, and the graphical illustrations for game theory are “Game Trees*”. Game trees can be used to illustrate strategies and moves from the most basic to the most complex games.



Coaching and Mentoring in the Game of Life

In the world of chess, competitive sports and other forms of gameplay anyone looking to apply their skills more effectively are likely to have a coach.  This is so for Applied game thinking as well. Anyone in the world who is a success in their chosen field, or in a specific area of interest, started out being mentored or coached. This is true for everyone on every level of greatness.  Tiger Woods, Meryl Streep, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Golda Meir, Savion Glover, Josh Grobin, Morris Dees. Even now, when they are at the peak of their talents, they are being coached, mentored or advised by others. Remember:

  • Kings and queens have ministers.
  • Great leaders have ministers and advisors.
  • Great athletes have both trainers and coaches.
  • Financial investors have statisticians.
  • Artists have mentors.
  • Corporate executives have Board of Directors.


It is only the most ordinary people, those of limited vision, who believe they can achieve a goal and fulfill their vision without the services of a professional advisor or coach. Doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers, auto mechanics, and even entrepreneurs can all benefit from the services of a life or specialty coach.

Coaching/mentoring is a process where a specifically skilled individual helps others to experience maximum effectiveness and achieve peak performance. A coach/mentor can assist a person with transitions in business life, personal life, and in the process of self-actualization. In HAGT, without a coach/mentor, the game just cannot be played effectively.

In the game of life there will be many messages and lessons.  There is no such thing as failure-only a continual process of steps. All of us can do better and at one time or another, we all make poor choices. These poor choices can send us into a downward spiral.

For each of us there is a next step-some untapped emotional, spiritual, physical, economical potential. We all have some unfulfilled potential. Inch by inch, step by step, day by day, with the correct intention and proper guidance, we can become our full, authentic, realized self. Clearly, it is wiser and better to take these steps with a coach/mentor at one’s side, than trying to go it alone. We all need support. An effective coach can give us that support.

An effective coach/mentor is a quick-thinking, passionate, and generous person with a deep appreciation of delayed gratification, and with a very specific set of skills which may include knowing how to:

  • Ask the right questions.
  • Listen to you and only speak when it is best to speak.
  • Empathize with your conflicts while maintaining effective boundaries.
  • Use strong critical thinking skills and be consciously respectful of your own stories, myths, dysfunctional games, religious and faith-based beliefs, age, gender, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation and abilities.


In my experience the most effective coaches and mentors have a history and understanding of their own failures and successes. They also possess a profound knowledge of using the lessons they have learned to effectively overcome a variety of complex and overwhelming obstacles.

The coaches and mentors I have worked with in my life have offered me guidance and wisdom in so many ways. Among the gifts they gave me are:


    A regular and consistent system for self-assessment.

   A system for building a strong personal foundation.

   A process for determining what I really need.

   Assistance in setting believable, achievable goals.

   Support in defining my values, beliefs and personal style.

   Guidelines for developing an active game plan for all my current and long-term goals and dreams, including one enabling me to be financially comfortable.

   Assessment skills for measuring my personal progress.

   A time frame and a formal coaching agreement within which to act on my goals.

In creating my personal life games, I have always sought master coach/mentor with the ability to apply many disciplines and skill sets including: Psychology, Trancework and Hypnosis, Linguistics, Physics, Business Management, Sports Training, Creativity Studies, Art, Communication,  Negotiation,  Professional Speaking,  Motivational Training, Mentoring, Values assessment, Behavior modification, Behavior modeling,  Goal-setting, Sociology, Time management, Priority planning, Physics,  Psychotherapy,  Career counseling, Creative visualization,  Theological inquiry and more…

All of these, combined with intuition, and street smarts, have given me the life I have always dreamed of.  Effective coaching can support a person in living the life they desires, and in feeling enlivened, and inspired.

Coaching and mentoring can provide support in taking the next step. Motivation, inspiration, information, influence, greater effectiveness, freedom, wealth, clarity, spiritual focus, better health, validation, networking resources, and expert advice. Ultimately it depends on your intention and commitment to the process.

To get the most out of coaching and mentoring we must be ready, willing and able to take actions and experiment along the way. If you are ready, game theory based coaching/mentoring can help you to recreate your story from a new perspective.  The ability to build a powerful narrative is an essential tool for creating a life filled with love, freedom, and contentment.  This new narrative will enable you to articulate a clear, concise and focused vision of the world. Furthermore, it will to make your sense of your personal life history and help to define who you are. It is essential, that you define who you are before others who do not really know you, and who do not understand you do so. An effective coach/mentor can assist you to discern:

      What is going on, and why?

      Where are you developmentally?

      What specific help is needed?

      What choices need to make daily?

Remember, there has never been a person of greatness, excellence, wealth or achievement who did not constantly expand on their natural born gifts. More often than not, the expansion of greatness takes place under the influence of a mentor, advisor, or coach. Coaching based on HAGT is a system that gracefully integrates many theories and educational tools specifically in the areas of business, personal development, human potential and peak performance.  It is not one specific technique. It is a process that integrates many techniques into a unique template. It is a template that allows many different systems to work in unison without unnecessary tension and conflict.  One might define the process as an integrative for human potential.


Applying Applied game thinking

Effective coaching and mentoring combined with the application of Applied game thinking can help you move your life from:

Failure to Success
Struggle to Ease
Procrastination to Action
Seduction to Attraction
Being Alone to Community
Delusion to Truth
Being Right to Being Happy
Watching to Participating
Confusion to Clarity
Fear to Love
Knowledge to Wisdom

Disease to Wellness


Let’s continue our exploration of HAGT.  by pointing out that though it might seem otherwise, Though it might seem otherwise, humans are not usually motivated to avoid conflict, retreat by their rational assessment of the dangers involved, or even by their self-interest. Rather, they determine a common sense reason to avoid conflict by realizing that what makes sense for them to do is not an isolated piece of information but also depends on what will make sense for others to do in a group. Likewise competitors are usually aware of this as well.

Even a seemingly fearless individual may prefer to avoid conflict rather than heroically tempting injury or even death. Who, after all, would pointlessly, suffer damage or even death attempting to stop or defeat an adversary with greater numbers, skills or resources than one has access to?

How does it happen then, that people do risk injury and death in such circumstances? This is a case in which the interaction of many individually rational decision-making processes—one process per individual—produces an outcome no one intended nor could have even imagined. In other eras military leaders prevented this from happening by sinking all the landing vessels so there was no place to retreat to.  If a military force does not have the means to avoid this problem they can make the risk of desertion or abandoning a post, economically impossible: they shoot deserters. Here then standing and fighting is each soldier’s individually best and most rational course of action.  After all, the cost of running is going to be as be as high as the cost of staying

Let’s consider another scenario on the same theme but with different variables.

We find ourselves in a potentially threatening situation.  We are waiting for our friends or team members to come to our rescue and neutralize this threat. It may occur to us that if the defense is likely to be successful, then it isn’t very probable that our small personal contribution will be essential.

On the other hand, if we stay we run the risk of being killed or wounded—apparently for no point. But then we think again. If our adversaries prevail, then our chances of death or injury are even higher still and without any point, since our peers will be overwhelmed anyway. Based on this line of reasoning, it seems that we are better off running away regardless of who might win the confrontation.

If all within a group reason this way—which seems like a sensible way to think – since they are all in the same situation then defeat is the only result that can come about.  Of course, each individual in the group will likely be aware of this as well. s

The natural question is this – Does knowledge of this give us a greater incentive to remain where we are in such a  situation? The answer is “No”. It is just the opposite. The greater the individual’s fear that in the confrontation he and his group will lose, the greater the incentive to get out of harm’s way. Furthermore the greater their belief that the conflict may end in victory for his side without the need of any particular person’s contributions, the less sense it makes to stay and fight. If each individual anticipates this thinking pattern  on the part of the others, all will quickly emote  themselves into a panic, and their leader will have to deal with the chaos within their groups while being overwhelmed by the possibility of an attack before any attack has even taken place. There are many examples throughout history of a small group defeating a much larger and skilled group in a conflict of some type.

When examining games that are already set up, it is assumed on your behalf that the payouts listed include the sum of all payoffs that are associated with that outcome. This will exclude any “what if” questions that may arise.

The number of players in a game can theoretically be infinite, but most games will be put into the context of two players.  Earlier we discussed sequential games* where the players alternate moves. One of the simplest games is a sequential game involving two players.

If you are a skilled player in a win/lose (non-cooperative or zero-sum) game it becomes clear that one is more likely to win if one has a well-planned strategy or playbook. Among experts, this is called a “theoretic analysis*”. Here one observes the various elements that comprise the game and the events that are likely to unfold in such a game.

In game thinking, there is a concept called framing. It is a way to look at the Big Picture just like a picture frame defines the boundaries of a work of art. In Applied game thinking this means organizing a set of concepts and theoretical perspectives on how individuals, groups, and societies organize, perceive, and communicate about reality. Being that games are a very specific “picture” or “form of reality” one must engage in framing many different scenarios to see exactly what is being dealt with. There are two factors to be considered when creating a theoretical analysis to strategize or solve a problem.

  1. Structuring (framing): This defines a game in terms of the actions available to players and their payoffs as a function of actions,
  2. Application: Applying of various equilibrium notions for making various descriptive or prescriptive predictions.


For the skilled Game Thinker Application happens quickly once the structuring factors are defined. When Structuring (framing) the analysis a number of questions become important.

  1. Who are the players?Are they individuals, firms, groups, organizations, governments, ethnic groups, etc.
  2. What actions (strategies) are available to them? All actions that the players might take that could affect any player’s payoffs should be listed.
  3. What is the timing of the interactions?Are actions taken simultaneously or sequentially? Are interactions repeated?
  4. What is the order of play?Moving after another player moves may give one the advantage of knowing what the other player has done; it may also place the other player at a disadvantage in terms of lost time or the ability to take action.
  5. Information:What information do different players have when they take actions?
  6. Benefits:What are the benefits (payoffs) to the various players as a result of the interaction? Ascertaining payoffs involves estimating the costs and benefits of each potential set of choices by all players. In many situations, it may be easier to estimate payoffs for some players (such as yourself) than for others, and it may be unclear whether other players are also thinking strategically. This consideration suggests that careful attention be paid to asensitivity analysis*.


Advancing Your Studies in Game Thinking

It is often difficult for an individual not fully familiar with smart devices to fully grasp game thinking.  Yet once they see how much this way of thinking can reduce the stress and unnecessary struggle of daily living they are naturally drawn to it. The basics of Applied Game Theory can be learned, however the quickest, most efficient way  to integrate these ideas and practices is through models I have drawn off of  Language Immersion (LA), or simply immersion.  LA is a method of teaching a second language in which the learners’ second language  (L2) is the primary  medium of instruction. Through this method, the student of Applied Game Theory explores life through the perspective of game thinking. The main purpose of this method is to foster bi-awareness*, in other words, to develop learner’s communicative and perception competence or skill in a game thinking perspective,  in addition to their original analog thinking. Additional goals are the cognitive advantages of bi-awareness; being able to understand and respond to the operating models, values and thinking patterns of multigenerational players.

Since there is no formal structured ways of doing this Immersion programs in Game Thinking Education need to be self-designed and implemented.  The form that this will take will likely be  based on time spent exploring game thinking and interacting in game spaces and environments; learner age; emotional resistance to this new way of thinking; and the medium for exploring game thinking. In complete immersion, almost 100% of a person’s  time is spent  in applying game thinking in most interactive situations  excluding time devoted to the exploration, experience  and sharing of love, spirituality, and the arts. The primary goal here is to become automatically and intuitively functionally proficient in game thinking. Part of this process would include mastering game language; acquiring an understanding of, and appreciation for game thinking as a path to greater efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity.  This simple process is usually sequential, cumulative, continuous, proficiency-oriented, and part of an integrated learning sequence. Even after this approach is implemented, analog thinking can begin to dominate your thinking if you spend most of your time with emotionally challenged, dysfunctional and reactive individuals and are not actively engaged in personal development and human potential studies.

In partial immersion, you are aware of game thinking as a model. Here about half of the class time is spent exploring and learning subject matter using the specialized game language. The goals are to become functionally proficient in the second language, to master subject content taught in the foreign languages, and to acquire an understanding of and appreciation for other cultures, but to a lesser extent than complete immersion.

One of the key elements in the game thinking Immersion Process is to spend an hour or so each day playing video or board games, studying the plays and strategies in a sporting event,  reading books on game theory and strategizing, and watching films and following television shows built around game thinking. Many examples are presented in the following chapter.


Applied Game Thinking in the Media

The most skilled game thinkers can convert conflict based environments into cooperative ones most films and television shows that are based on game thinking and game theory use competition and conflict in a win/lose model as a central point of the narrative. One factor all these have in common is that they apply logical-rational-and mathematical theories in order to create a winning payoff.   Many of the best explorations of the subject are inspired by stories about “heists” or gambling. Among the best are those that describe the exploits of The MIT Blackjack Team. This was a group of students and ex-students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School, Harvard University, and other leading colleges who used card counting techniques and more sophisticated game thinking  strategies to beat casinos at blackjack worldwide. The team and its successors operated successfully from 1979 through the beginning of the 21st century and have influenced many of the most skilled game thinkers.

Reading these books and watching these films and shows is important for the aspiring game theorist soon realizes that by mastering applied game thinking you can control many important factors that you couldn’t previously. Here are some of the best books illustrating applied game thinking and game theory concepts:


  • Theory of Games and Economic Behaviorby Jon Von Neumann  with  Oskar Morgenstern.  This is the book that started it all. Without this book, people would still be strategizing and playing games. They just wouldn’t be doing it as well as they do,
  • Game theory: An Introductionby Steven Tadelis. If Lewis Harrison’s applied game thinking is just not-academic and linear for you then this is the college text book ongame theory you’ve been seeking. It introduces readers to the principal ideas and applications of game theory, in a style that combines rigor with accessibility.
  • A Beautiful Mindby Sylvia Nasar. This is a biography of Nobel Prize winning economist, and  mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr.  Nash’. His work and ideas are central to much of what is used in game theory. It inspired the 2001 film
  • The Evolution of Cooperationby Robert Axelrod – A solid book for exploring how cooperative societies develop and how they prosper particularly in politics.
  • Busting Vegasby Ben Mezrich: Inspired bythe

activities and strategies of the MIT Blackjack Team.

  • Bringing Down the House,by Ben Mezrich: Inspired by the activities and strategies of the MIT Blackjack Team.
  • The House Advantage: Playing the Odds to Win Big inBusiness  by Jeffrey Ma: About the author’s  time on the 1994 MIT blackjack team.
  • The Blackjack Life,by Nathaniel Tilton, a student of former MIT team captains Mike Aponteand  Semyon Dukach, detailing his experiences playing and being trained by the MIT Blackjack Team players.
  • Finite and Infinite GamesbyJames P. Carse. Carse is a religious scholar. This highly influential book is one of the clearest and concise presentations on observing life as if it is a game.
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue  Economist  Explores the Hidden Side of EverythingbySteven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.  This is a multi-media brand that began with a non-fiction book by an  economist and  journalist.  The books in the series, as well as the radio show and blog are a melding of game theory, applied game thinking, pop culture, and economics.
  •  Game-Changer:  Game theory and   the  Art of Transforming Strategic Situationsby David McAdams: Describes how a Game Thinker can change the game they are in.
  •  Liar’s Pokerby Michael Monroe Lewis
  •  The New New Thingby Michael Monroe Lewis
  •  Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Gameby Michael Monroe Lewis
  •  The Blind Side: Evolution of a Gameby Michael Monroe Lewis
  •  Boomerang: Travels in the New Third Worldby Michael Monroe Lewis
  •  The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Monroe Lewis
  •  Flash Boysby Michael Monroe Lewis


A note about Michael Monroe Lewis’ books: Lewis is an American non-fiction author and financial journalist. His books present a laser clear understanding of applied game thinking and game theory though he seldom mentions either term in his books.



A note about the books of Malcolm Timothy Gladwell:  Gladwell’s book like Moore’s have a clear understanding of applied game thinking and game theory, though he seldom mentions  either term in his books.  Gladwell’s books, articles and speeches often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences and make frequent and extended use of academic work, particularly in the areas of sociology, psychology, social psychology and applied game thinking


Here are some of my favorite films illustrating applied game thinking and game theory concepts

  • A Beautiful Mind– A  biographical film of the life of  Nobel Prize-winning economist,  and mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr. Nash’s work and ideas are central to much of what is used in game theory.  It is inspired by the book by Sylvia Nasar.  The film was acclaimed and won the best picture at the Academy Awards. Unfortunately, it does take liberties with the actual facts of Nash’s life. It is the film that peaked my interest in game theory and applied game thinking.
  • Lincoln LawyerThis is an American legal thriller film adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly,
  •  In the Name of the Father – Set in the period of the “Troubles” in the North of Ireland it is one of the best films illustrating “Prisoner’s Dilemma*”.
  • Rebel Without a Cause –One of the best films illustrating “Chicken*”.
  • Dr. Strangelove –One of the best films illustrating The“Hawk-Dove Game*”.
  •  Reservoir Dogs – One of the best films illustrating a“Truel*”. A truel is a duel or competition among three opponents, in which players can fire on  attempt to eliminate one another while surviving themselves.
  • The Warriors –One of the best films illustrating“The Stag Hunt Game*”.
  •  Waking Ned (Also known as Waking Ned Devine) –One of the best films illustrating The“Ultimatum Game*”.
  • Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan –One of the best films illustrating a“Lose-Lose Game*”.
  • Donnie Darko –A bit more complex than other films this one integrates elements of a specific type of lose-lose situation called a Catch 22*. It also includes elements of Quantum Game theory.
  • Sophie’s Choice –This is a no-win situation, known as aCornelian Dilemma* (CD). A CD is a situation, in which the player is forced to choose between two courses of action. Each one of them is mutually exclusive and will cause a negative consequence on the player or on someone close.
  • The Dark Knight –One of the best films illustrating a number of plot devices using classic dilemmas in game theory including theprisoner’s dilemma*, the cornelian dilemma*, and a new game called “The Pirate Game*” are prominent plot devices. The Pirate Game is a more complex version of the Ultimatum Game*.
  • The Usual Suspects –A simple game structure piled high with layers of deceit, twists, cheating, cognitive biases if every variety, and violence before pulling out the rug from underneath, when we learn that the “payoff” wasn’t what we expected.  A zero-sum, simultaneous, imperfect information game from top to bottom and side to side.
  • House of Games –Aheistthriller film built around many different elements of game theory merged into actual games, gambling, con men and the game of life. One of the treats is that its cast includes Ricky Jay one of the greatest sleight of hand artists in the world.
  • The Spanish Prisoner –This is anAmerican neo-noir suspense film. The film is premised around a story of corporate espionage conducted through an elaborate confidence game. In spite of the film’s title, the actual plot includes only superficial similarities to the Spanish Prisoner scam though there is much game thinking throughout the film.
  • The Game –An American mysterythriller,  it tells the story of a wealthy investment banker who is given a mysterious gift: participation in a game that integrates in strange ways with his everyday life. As the lines between the banker’s real life and the game become more uncertain, hints of a large conspiracy become apparent.
  • The Last Casino Loosely based on the activities of the MIT Blackjack Team.  This premise and features three students and a professor counting cards in Ontario and Quebec.
  • 21   Inspired by Bringing Down the House and the activities of the MIT Blackjack Team.


Here are some of my favorite films illustrating applied game thinking and game theory concepts

  • House of Cards –This is an American political dramaweb television series that uses elaborate game-based strategies to further the plot with new players added and removed as the narrative unfolds.
  • MacGyver –An American action-adventure television series. The show follows secret agent Angus MacGyver, as he works as a troubleshooter.  Resourceful and possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences, he solves complex problems by making tools out of ordinary objects, along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife. He favors non-violent resolutions and prefers not to handle a gun.
  •  Num3ers –An American crime dramaseries that follows a college mathematics professor and prodigy who helps the FBI solve crimes. A typical episode begins with a crime, which is subsequently investigated by a team of FBI agents led by the math prodigy who uses mathematical models, statistics,  game theory and game thinking to solve the crime. Double Down, an episode of Numb3rs concerned a counting group, led by a High School teacher, which launders money through casino winnings.
  • House –Also called House, M.D.,is an acclaimed television medical drama.   The series’ main character is an eccentric pain medication dependent  misanthropic medical genius who leads a team of diagnosticians at a fictional hospital.  The connection to Game Thinking immersion here is differential diagnosis; the distinguishing of a particular disease,  condition or problem from others that present similar features. Differential diagnostic procedures are used by physicians and other trained medical professionals to diagnose the specific disease in a patient, or, at least, to eliminate any imminently life-threatening conditions.
  •  West Wing –The West Wing is an American  serial

political drama television series. It received acclaim from critics, as well as praise from political science professors, former White House staffers and experts in Game Thinking especially those who study reciprocal altruism*, Black Swan Theory*, Theory of Constraints*, and Tit-for-tat*. In the years since its run, it has appeared on several lists of the greatest television dramas ever made. The Writers Guild of America also ranked it #10 in its “101 Best-Written TV Series” list.

  • The Mentalist –This is an American police dramamystery television series. The series follows Patrick Jane an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Although not an officer of the law, he uses his skills from his former career as a successful, yet admittedly fraudulent, psychic medium to help a team of CBI agents solve murders. Jane uses his skills to help them solve various crimes. His main focus is using his finely honed skills in cold readinghypnosis, and picking pockets. He also possesses powerful observational skill and a deep insight into the human psyche,  human behavior, game theory and game thinking.
  •  Lie to Me –An American crime drama television series. In the show, Dr. Cal Lightman and his colleagues accept assignments from third parties (commonly local and federal law enforcement) and assist in investigations, reaching the truth throughapplied psychology,  interpreting micro-expressions,  the Facial Action Coding System, and body language.
  • Breaking Vegas A History Channel documentary that tells the story of the MIT Blackjack Team, in its incarnation as Strategic Investments.
  • 12 Angry Men – A 1957 American courtroom drama that  tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubtThe film explores many techniques of consensus-building and the difficulties encountered in the process, among a group of men whose range of personalities adds intensity and conflict. In 2007, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film was selected as the second-best courtroom drama ever by the American Film Institute.
  • Lifeboat: A 1944, American survival thrillerdrama film directed by Alfred Hitchcock from a story by John Steinbeck. It is set entirely on a lifeboat launched from a sinking passenger vessel following a World War II naval attack. it’s focus is on issues such as zero-sum games, reciprocal altruism and  trust in a game space.






Final Thoughts

The fact that someone is a skilled game thinker or has a profound understanding of game theory does not guarantee that they will be ethical or moral players in the game of life.

Game thinking and game theory may explain, predict, and evaluate human behavior and even do so in terms of ethics and morality but it can’t control the nature of that behavior.

I am often asked why I call my work Harrison’s Applied Game Theory (HAGT) rather than just applied game theory or some other term? The reasons for this are very specific. In HAGT, the end game (payoff or utility) in engaging the process at all has already been defined – It is to, whenever possible:

  • Create love, compassion, clarity of thought, and emotional balance.
  • Build a cooperative environment out of win/lose scenarios.Build A better world.
  • To disarm and neutralize without violence those with evil intentions.


Much of what goes on in my head when I speak and teach  HAGT and classical game theory is divided between two ways of thinking.  On one side is a Zen-Taoist – shamanic mind dance based on being in the moment, surrendering the need to control what goes on around me, and living through the concept of We-wei – the action that has no action.

The other part of me needs to logically and rationally strategize my choices so I can do what needs to be done without interacting more than is necessary with toxic thinkers, psychological bloodsuckers, and drama addicts. For this second way of being I study and use game thinking as much as I can.

To reiterate all that we have discussed in this book HAGT is the future. You can observe it in how humans interact with each other and with their smart devices.  It is part of internet marketing, social networking, and international politics. It is a process of modeling – observing a set of ideas, behaviors, and numbers that describe the past, present, or future states of something particularly strategic interactions between two or more individuals or groups (players) in a situation containing set rules and outcomes. This way of thinking is more important than ever before As you can see and applied game theory can be applied to make wiser, more effective, efficient, and productive choices in everyday life.

This way of thinking has influenced how we shop and invest our hard-earned money. It elected Donald Trump President while all the “old school” pundits, and arrogant and misguided numbers-crunchers were pontificating how he could never win and why. While all this was taking place many game theorists were using Arrow’s Theorem* to predict exactly how he could and might win.

The economic application of game theory has become a valuable tool to aid in the fundamental analysis of industries, sectors and any strategic interaction between two or more firms or individuals who need to strategize to create maximum benefit at the lowest possible cost.

Remember, as depicted in the movie “The Matrix” the players in a game are not even always people. Players can be computer programs, companies, armies, dogs or other things. Each player wants something: Maybe a company wants to make as much money as it can, or a country wants to win a war. Sometimes the players work together, but often they are competing against each other.

I know that love and spiritual intention aside from game thinking is the most effective way to achieve goals, transcend obstacles, and reduce unnecessary struggles. Still, that being said unnecessary suffering, struggle, and discontent is the logical conclusion to any life built on cognitive bias, short-term gratification, lazy thinking and the unwillingness to realize that life really is a game.

Living your life without game thinking and an understanding of cognitive bias is like walking into one of those machines in casinos, roller rinks or bowling alleys where you have 30 seconds to grab as much money as you can, except all the money is fake.







Note: This glossary includes game theory jargon made Simple and all the game thinking words, terms, and ideas you will need to know to survive and prosper even in what is often a very hostile world.

Many of the words and terms in this glossary are not in the text of this book Still they are relevant to game thinking and exploring them will serve as an effective introduction to more complex and sophisticated concept core to Applied game thinking and game theory.



Activism: The use of direct, and at times confrontational, action in opposition to or support of a cause

Actualized Intention: At the moment I am ready, willing and able to act on a vision, it takes place spontaneously without discipline or willpower.

AGT: See Applied game thinking*

Algorithmic game theory: An area in the intersection of game theory and algorithm design, whose objective is to design algorithms in  highly strategic  environments to maximize the potential of a strategy

Algorithm: A defined process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer. In game theory, an algorithm serves as a highly effective, sequential approach to problem-solving. In an algorithm, there is usually a list of well-defined instructions for completing a specific task or solving a specific problem. The process will usually begin with an initial statement (state) or variable, and proceed through a well-defined series of successive states (steps), eventually ending with a solution to the problem (terminating in an end: state). Algorithms are often used for calculation and data processing.

Algorithmic Game Theory (AGT): This is a fusion of tools from computer science, classical mathematical game theory and economics. AGT enables a strategist to apply analytical tools from these three fields of study or vice versa as well as providing new conceptual perspectives at a very fundamental level.

Anchoring: Also known as  Anchoring Bias, this is the human tendency to overly trust information, especially the first piece of information that is available (this is treated as an “anchor), in decision making and negotiating.
Once an anchor is set, subsequent judgments are made by adjusting, and reasoning away from that anchor. Also, there is a tendency to interpret subsequent, additional and seemingly rational information around the anchor.
The “anchoring and adjustment” heuristic was pioneered by Kahneman and Tversky. AB is also called Focalism and is a form of cognitive bias similar to confirmation bias and status quo bias.

Applied game thinking:  The application of general idea drawn from game theory and game-based strategies to everyday life

Applied Mathematics:  A branch of mathematics that deals with methods that find use in the general and most essential elements of daily life, as well as in business, engineering, and all of the sciences.

Artificial Intelligence: The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Assessment: A data gathering tool, often but not always in the form of a questionnaire, which helps us or helps a trained professional to isolate key information in a system. For game-based strategists, it enables an individual to measure how they think, feel, might behave or function.



Backward induction: This is the process of reasoning backward in time, from the end of a problem or situation, to determine a sequence of optimal actions. It proceeds by first considering the last time a decision might be made and choosing what to do in any situation at that time. Using this information, one can then determine what to do at the second-to-last time of decision. This process continues backward until one has determined the best action for every possible situation (i.e. for every possible information set) at every point in time.

In the mathematical optimization method of dynamic programming, backward induction is one of the main methods for solving the Bellman equation. In game theory, backward induction is a method used to compute subgame perfect equilibria in sequential games.  The only difference is that optimization involves just one decision maker, who chooses what to do at each point of time, whereas game theory analyzes how the decisions of several players interact. That is, by anticipating what the last player will do in each situation, it is possible to determine what the second-to-last player will do, and so on. In the related fields of automated planning and scheduling and automated theorem proving, the method is called backward search or backward chaining. In chess, it is called retrograde analysis.

Backward induction has been used to solve games as long as the field of game theory has existed. John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern suggested solving zero-sum, two-person games by backward induction in their Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944), the book which established game theory as a field of study.

Basic Challenge: Any that can be solved with common sense or by remembering how another person or group was able to transcend the challenge (best practices*).

Battle of the Sexes: In game theory, this is a two-player, imperfect information*, non-zero-sum* coordination game*.

Bayesian game: A type of game in which information about characteristics of the other players (i.e. payoffs) is incomplete. Following John C. Harsanyi’s framework, a Bayesian game can be modeled by introducing Nature as a player in a game.

Bayesian models: Named for Thomas Bayes, an English mathematician, these are models and theories on how to make effective decisions when one has less information than would be required to make the optimum decision possible.

Bayesian Logic: Based on the ideas of Thomas Bayes, an English mathematician, Bayesian logic is a branch of logic applied to decision-making and problem-solving using inferential statistics*.

Bayesian-Nash: The use of applied logic to create strategies in Static Games* of Incomplete Information*

Bayesian probability:  Named for Thomas Bayes, an English mathematician, The Bayesian interpretation provides a standard set of procedures and formulae to perform this calculation.

Behavioral game theory: Analyzes interactive strategic decisions and behavior using the methods of game theory, experimental economics, and experimental psychology.

Bayes’ theorem: In probability theory and applications. This theorem shows the relation between a conditional probability* and its reverse form – For example, the probability of a hypothesis given some observed pieces of evidence and the probability of that evidence given the hypothesis.

Bear Raid: A cheating techniques in game-based thinking where a player intentionally applies strategies that make a competitor’s potential to succeed seem less than it actually is. This may be done by spreading false rumors,  fake news, or committing fraud of various types and forms in relation to the targeted player(s) especially ones that seem vulnerable. The term is derived from its application to certain illegal practices in the stock market.

Behavioral economic theory:  Behavioral economics, along with the related sub-field, behavioral finance, primarily studies the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, environmental and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals and institutions and the consequences for market pricesreturns, and the resource allocation.

Belief-Based Obstacle (BBOs): An idea or concept which is accepted as truth, fact or reality by an individual or group which may not be supportable by any logical or rational evidence.

Best Practice: A method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved by other means, and that is used as a benchmark.

Best reply (best response): In game theory, the best response is the strategy (or strategies) that produces the most favorable outcome for a player, taking other players’ strategies as given.

Big Data:  A broad term for data sets so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. The term often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics or other certain advanced methods to extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. Accuracy in big data may lead to more confident decision making. And better decisions can mean greater operational efficiency, cost reductions, and reduced risk.

Analysis of data sets can find new correlations, to “spot business trends, prevent disease, combat crime, and so on.” Scientists, practitioners of media and advertising and governments alike regularly meet difficulties with large data sets in areas including Internet search, finance, and business informatics. Scientists encounter limitations in e-Science work, including meteorology, genomics, connectomics, complex physics simulations, and biological and environmental research.

Bi-awareness: A duel way of observing and interacting with the world that integrates the “analog” perspective that was dominant prior to the 1970s and 1980s before graphic user interfaces began to dominate how people interacted with their environment

Black Swan: What happens when something seemingly irrational, improbable, unexpected, and inconsequential takes place that ultimately has substantial consequences.

Black swan events: A metaphor developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.

Boolean logic: Named after the nineteenth-century mathematician George Boole, This is a form of algebra in which all values are reduced to either TRUE or FALSE. Boolean logic is especially important for computer science because it fits nicely with the binary numbering system, in which each bit has a value of either 1 or lll0.

Bottleneck: A phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system including a game-based strategy is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources.

Bounded rationality:  The idea that in decision-making, the rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their mind, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision.

Brute-force Approach:  Usually applied to board games especially checkers and chess. This approach is the most obvious solution to achieving a “win”.  It’s about checking each and every possible path to get an answer and putting it in the answer box and validating it for conditions specified in the question. If it is validated truly, then it is the answer otherwise one needs to go for the next possibility.

Buffer: A person or thing that prevents incompatible or antagonistic people or things from becoming or sustaining constraints. The function of a buffer is to prevent these people or things from coming into contact with or harming each other.

Butterfly Effect: A theory that describes how changes in a cause will result in a larger effect than might have been expected?



Cake Cutting: Also known as Fair division, this is a problem of dividing a set of goods or resources among several people who have an entitlement to them, such that each person receives his/her due share.

Cash: Coin or paper currency of a recognized measurable value used to conduct business.

Catch 22: A paradox that states that, in order to overcome a certain scenario one must fulfill conditions that are contradictory.

Cause and Effect: That which induces something to happen and the response to that cause.

Cellular Memory: Energetic and vibrational patterns reflective of emotional and physical events (instead of the emotions themselves) that subconsciously influence our lives and which are stored in muscle, tissue, various connective tissue and other tissue systems in the body.

Cheap talk: In game theory, cheap talk is communication between players which does not directly affect the payoffs of the game. This is in contrast to signaling in which sending certain messages may be costly for the sender depending on the state of the world. The classic example is of an expert on middle east affairs trying to explain the state of the world to an uninformed decision maker (say, politician voting on an arms bill). The decision maker, after hearing the explanation may make a decision though he information offered actually had no relevance to the facts at hand.

Chess: A game of strategy for two players consisting of  16 pieces each played on a specialized graph-like designed checkered board.

Chicken Game: Also known as the “the Game of Chicken, the hawk-dove game or the snowdrift game, this is an influential zero-sum game* model of conflict for two players in game theory*. The principle of the game is that while it is for both players beneficial if the other player yields, their own optimal choice depends on what the other player is doing: If the other player yields, the first player will not wish to yield, but if the other player doesn’t yield, the first player does want to.

Choices: Things that may be carefully selected.

Chopping wood and carrying water: A Zen Buddhist concept of what it means to understand and, do what needs to be done;  as a guiding philosophy, for struggle free living. It is the essence of a “Be Here Now”, “Being in the Moment” or “Mindfulness” way of thinking.

Chronemics: The study of the use of time in nonverbal communication. Dr. Thomas J. Bruneau of Radford University who coined the term “chronemics” in the late 1970s to help define the function of time in human interaction: “Chronemics can be briefly and generally defined as the study of human tempo as it related to human communication. More specifically, chronemics involves the study of both subjective and objective human tempos as they influence and are interdependent with human behavior. Further, chronemics involves the study of human communication as it relates to interdependent and integrated levels of time experiencing. Previously, these interdependent and integrated levels have been outlined and discussed as biological time; psychological time; social time; and cultural time. A number of classification systems exist in the literature of time. However, such systems are not applied to human interaction directly.”

Clarity of Thought: Understanding what “IS.”

Classical Game Theory (CGT):  This is a strictly codified approach to game-based thinking and studies, often mathematically strategic interaction between individuals in defined game situations. Classes of these games have been given names. In most situations, strategists must deal with the most commonly studied games though there are many others as well.

Closed system:  A system (physical or theoretical) that doesn’t exchange any matter or interact with its surroundings, and isn’t subject to any force whose source is external to the system.

Coalition:  A collective of decision makers.

Cognitive Bias: A systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input.

Cognitive semantics: This is part of the cognitive linguistics movement. Semantics is the study of meaning.

It holds that language is part of a more general human cognitive ability, and can therefore only describe the world as it is organized within people’s conceptual spaces.  It is implicit that there is some difference between this conceptual world and the real world.

Collaborative intelligence: A multi-player, distributed system where each player, human or machine, is uniquely positioned, with autonomy to contribute to a problem-solving network.

Collective action problem: This term describes the situation in which multiple individuals would all benefit from a certain action, but has an associated cost making it implausible that any individual can or will undertake and solve it alone.

Collective intelligence: Also known as “collective predictions” this is a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration, collective efforts, and competition of many individuals. It is commonly used in consensus decision making. The term appears in sociobiology, political science and in the context of mass peer review and crowdsourcing applications.

Collusion: An agreement between two or more parties, sometimes to limit in open competition for their mutual benefit. It can be done honestly in some situations but more often than not it is a form of cheating and involves illegal and therefore secretive actions. This is usually done by deceiving, misleading, or defrauding others of their legal rights, or by obtaining an objective forbidden by law typically by gaining an unfair market advantage through fraud.

Combinatorial Games: These are two-player games with no hidden information and no chance elements. They include child’s play such as Tic-Tac-Toe and Dots

Combinatorial Game Theory: A form of game theory used to measure the complexity of a game specifically impartial games* which are sequential games* with perfect information*.

Combinatorial Prediction Game: A prediction game, based on a scenario where there are many sub-games* that are likely to have different outcomes and the total benefits gained in a particular combination of each sub-games will define the winner in the end game.

Common Knowledge:  An item of information in a game that all the players know it (it is mutual knowledge) and all of the players know that all other players know it and all other players know that all other players know that all other players know it, and so on. It is a useful concept in developing complex game-based strategies.

Common-pool Resource (CPR):  This is an item or concept consisting of a natural or human-made resource system (e.g. an irrigation system or fishing grounds), whose size or characteristics make it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from its use.

Compassion: Pity inclining one to be merciful.

Competition: An act that is motivated by the desire to win. In its least productive forms, it sees all competition in adversarial terms.

Complex Hierarchies: Many multiple layered hierarchies combined with other multiple, multilayered hierarchies which are directly linked at least at one point.

Complex Hierarchy: A hierarchal system composed of a combination of multiple hierarchies which may or may not be directly linked.

Complex Problem: A decision in which the decision maker will require additional information on which to base an evaluation of alternatives. These choices most often occur where the expended resources are great or the risk of failure is high.

Conditional probability:  The probability of an event ( A ), given that another ( B ) has already occurred.

Conformity Bias: a tendency to behave similarly to the others in a group, even if doing so goes against your own judgment.

Confrontation analysis: Confrontation analysis (also known as dilemma analysis) is an operational analysis technique used to structure, understand and think through multi-party interactions such as negotiations. It is the underpinning mathematical basis of drama theory.

It is derived from game theory but considers that instead of resolving the game, the players often redefine the game when interacting. Emotions triggered from the potential interaction play a large part in this redefinition. So whereas game theory looks on an interaction as a single decision matrix and resolves that, confrontation analysis looks at the interaction as a sequence of linked interactions, where the decision matrix changes under the influence of precisely defined emotional dilemmas.

Connectomics: The in-depth production and study of comprehensive maps of connections within an organism’s nervous system.

Conservation and Balance: The storage and effective use of the Nineteen Strategic Resources* 

Constant sum game: A game is a constant sum if the sum of the payoffs* to every player is the same for every set of strategies. In these games, one player gains if and only if another player loses. A constant sum game can be converted into a zero-sum game by subtracting a fixed value from all playoffs, leaving their relative order unchanged. These are games are games of total conflict, which is also called games of pure competition. Who wins and who loses can and may shift over time. The combined wealth or assets of the players remain constant, though its distribution shifts in the course of play.

Constraint: A limitation or restriction. In HGBT* it is any person, place or, thing that prevents a process, usually a sequential process, from reaching completion.

Contrite Tit for Tat: A specific form of Tit for Tat* where one chooses to reciprocate if you and another player are in good standing or if you are in poor standing and another player (a partner to the agreement) is in good standing. However, if you are in good standing and another player (a partner to the agreement)  is in poor standing you would choose not to cooperate.

Cooperative game:  A game where groups of players (“coalitions”) may enforce cooperative behavior, hence the game is a competition between coalitions of players, rather than between individual players. An example is a coordination game when players choose the strategies by a consensus decision-making process. Recreational games are rarely cooperative because they usually lack mechanisms by which coalitions may enforce coordinated behavior on the members of the coalition. Such mechanisms, however, are abundant in real life situations (e.g. contract law).  Theoretically, the United Nations would be an example of a cooperative game. An in-depth explanation for how these games develop can be learned by researching Reciprocal Altruism*.

Coopetition: Also known as Co-opetition “coopertition” or “co-opertition” where competitors, often in a zero-sum game* decide to cooperate.  This is a term that describes cooperative competition.

Coordination Game: Coordination games are a formalization of the idea of a coordination problem, which is widespread in the social sciences, including economics. It describes situations in which all parties can realize mutual gains, but only by making mutually consistent decisions.

Cornelian Dilemma: a situation, in which the player is forced to choose between two courses of action. Each one of them is mutually exclusive and will cause a negative consequence on the player or on someone close.

Counterfactual thinking: A term of psychology that describes the tendency people have to imagine alternatives to the generally accepted definition of reality. Humans are predisposed to think about how things could have turned out differently if only…and also to imagine what if?

Critical Mass: A mathematically specific definition of a socio-dynamic event which describes the existence of sufficient momentum in a social system such that the momentum becomes self-sustaining and fuels further growth. When critical mass hits even a small factor can produce a large effect.

Crowdsourcing:  A means for obtaining (information or input into a particular task or project) by enlisting the services of a number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet.

Culture: A particular society at a particular time and place and the symbols, heroes, rituals and other tangible or visual aspects and practices of that society.

Current reality tree (CRT): An element of the Theory of Constraints*. CRT is a way of analyzing many systems or organizational problems at once. Technically a “directed graph” it offers the strategist a means to identify root causes common to most or all of the problems. A CRT can greatly aid focused improvement of the system.



Darwinism competition:   A highly influential theory of biological evolution developed by Charles Darwin and others, stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.

Data Sets: A collection of data. In the research for mixed strategies* in game theory, it will often include a database table, or a single statistical data matrix*.  The term data set may also be used more loosely, to refer to the data in a collection of closely related tables, corresponding to a particular experiment or event.

Data Trees: Tree shaped forms for organizing and connecting information.

Data matrix: A  two-dimensional barcode consisting of black and white “cells” dots,  or modules arranged in either a square or rectangular pattern. The information to be encoded can be text or numeric data. Usual data size is from a few bytes up to 1556 bytes.

Deadlock: A game where the action that is mutually most beneficial is also dominant. Deadlock is considered the opposite of Prisoner’s Dilemma*

Decision analysis (DA): The discipline comprising the philosophy, theory, methodology, and professional practice necessary to address important decisions in a formal manner.  Decision analysis is a key tool in game theory because it includes many procedures, methods, and tools for identifying, clearly representing, and formally assessing important aspects of a decision. DA can help prescribe a recommended course of action by applying the maximum expected benefits to a well-formed representation of the decision. It can also help translate the formal representation of a decision and its corresponding recommendation into insight for the decision maker and other stakeholders. Graphical representations of decision analysis problems commonly use influence diagrams and decision trees.

Decision Analysis Tools: Systems, models, mathematical formulas and computer software specifically designed to address important decisions in a formal manner.

Decision Science: A discipline that deals with the application of advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions. It is often considered to be a sub-field of Mathematics which makes it of great importance both in classical game theory and in  Harrison’s Applied Game Theory. The terms management science and Operations research are sometimes used as more modern-sounding synonyms.

Decision Theory: See Decision Analysis*

Decision Tree: A decision tree is a decision support tool that uses a tree-like graph or model of decisions and their possible consequences, including chance event outcomes, resource costs, and utility. It is one way to display an algorithm.

Decision trees are commonly used in operations research, specifically in decision analysis, to help identify a strategy most likely to reach a goal.  See data tree* for an illustration of this type of tree structure.

It has many of the visual element of a mind map*.

Dependability: Trustworthy and consistent behavior.

Depth-first: In game theory, this term is generally applied to a Depth-first search (DFS) – an algorithm for traversing or searching tree or graph data structures*. One starts at the root (selecting some arbitrary node as the root in the case of a graph) and explores as far as possible along each branch before backtracking.

A version of depth-first search was investigated in the 19th century by French mathematician Charles Pierre Trémaux as a strategy for solving mazes.

Descriptive game theory:  The study of what people are likely to do rather than what the group norm is.

Dictator: A way of defining the potential of success of a strategy held by a player or player in a game.  A player is a strong dictator if they can guarantee any outcome regardless of the other players. A player is a weak dictator if they can guarantee any outcome, but their strategies for doing so depends on the other players and what their known strategies are. A game can have no more than one strong dictator. Some games have multiple weak dictators (in rock-paper-scissors both players are weak dictators but none is a strong dictator).

Differential Diagnosis: A medical term that describes a process by which a doctor distinguishes a particular disease or condition from others that present similar clinical features.  This can be applied to HAGBT* as a process where a strategist distinguishes particular challenges or obstacle from others that present similar features.

Digital Footprint: Data that is left behind by users on digital services. There are two main classifications for digital footprints: passive and active. A passive digital footprint is created when data is collected without the owner knowing; whereas active digital footprints are created when personal data is released deliberately by a user for the purpose of sharing information about oneself by means of websites or social media.

Dilemma analysis: See Confrontation Analysis*

Diligence: The necessity of giving sufficient attention to numerous details in order to avoid error and prevail against obstacles.

Diner’s dilemma: Also called unscrupulous diner’s dilemma (or just diner’s dilemma) this is an n-player* prisoner’s dilemma*. The situation imagined is that several individuals go out to eat, and prior to ordering, they agree to split the check equally between all of them.

Directed graph: Also known as a digraph or a directed network, this is a set of objects (called vertices or nodes) that are connected together, where all the edges are directed from one vertex to another. To see a graphic go to Wikipedia.

Dominated Strategy: A strategy seen as the most effective of many, and which dominates all other strategies.

Domino effect: A chain reaction that occurs when a small change causes a similar change nearby, which then causes another similar change, and so on in a linear sequence. The term is best known as a mechanical effect and is used as an analogy to a falling row of dominoes. It typically refers to a linked sequence of events where the time between successive events is relatively small. It can be used literally (an observed series of actual collisions) or metaphorically (causal linkages within systems such as global finance or politics.

Drama theory:  A problem structuring method of operations research. It is based on game theory and adapts the use of games to complex organizational situations, accounting for emotional responses that can provoke irrational reactions and lead the players to redefine the game.

Dummy player: A player whose presence does not make any difference.

Duopoly: A situation in which two suppliers dominate the market for a commodity or service.

Dynamic game: Also known as a repeated game this is a game where players interact by playing a similar stage game* (such as the prisoner’s dilemma*) numerous times.  The game is called a dynamic, or repeated game. Unlike simultaneous games*, players have at least some information about the strategies chosen by others and thus may contingent their play on past moves.


Economic behaviorism: Also known as Behavioral Economics this is the study of psychology as it relates to the economic decision-making processes of individuals and institutions.

Economic Equilibrium: A state where economic forces such as supply and demand are balanced and in the absence of external influences the (equilibrium) values of economic variables will not change.

Economic rationality: In game theory this is a strictly technical, not normative term to refer to a narrow and specific set of restrictions on preferences, i.e. defining the best choices that could be made in a particular game considering the available information. This was an essential concept in von Neumann and Morgenstern’s original version of game theory.

Economically rational action: The best choices that could be made considering the available information.

Educated guess:  A well-informed estimate of what is true or likely to happen based on experience or theoretical knowledge.

Effectiveness: A team (coalition) of players (or a single player) is effective if they can force a specific outcome to come about in a specific game.

El Faro Bar Problem: A model in Game theory that shows how (selfish) players cooperate with each other in the absence of communication

Emotion: A mental and physiological state associated with a wide variety of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

Emotional Balance: Equilibrium in feelings, thoughts, behaviors and other factors related to the emotions in the face of problems and obstacles.

Emotional Healing: The intentional activities designed to creating emotional balance in a person’s life.

Emotional Holding Patterns: Deep-rooted behavioral patterns specifically resulting from traumas experienced earlier in life.

Emotional Response Evaluations: Various systems for reading non-verbal cues especially facial and body movement, done as an indicator of emotional feeling.

Empirical: Based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

Endgame: The final stage of a game such as Go, chess or bridge, when few pieces or cards remain.

Engineering control theory: An interdisciplinary branch of engineering and mathematics that deals with the behavior of dynamical systems with inputs, and how their behavior is modified by feedback.

Equilibrium:  Equilibrium refers to a state where all the competing elements in a game are balanced, in a wide variety of contexts, and in the absence of external influences the values of the variables will not change. In Classical game theory*, equilibrium generally refers to Nash equilibrium*.

Equilibrium analysis:  In the market for any particular good, the decisions of buyers interact simultaneously with the decisions of sellers. The determination of equilibrium quantity and price, in these interactions is known as equilibrium analysis.

Equilibrium Notion: A notion which can be employed usefully in varying degrees of looseness. It is an absolutely indispensable part of the tool-bag of the economist and one which he can often contribute usefully to other sciences which are occasionally apt to get lost in the trackless exfoliations of purely dynamic systems.

Equilibrium Payoff: The benefits one receives in a non-cooperative game involving two or more players, in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only their own strategy.

Equilibrium Payoff:  The payoff at the end of a type of game where all the competing elements in a game are balanced, in a wide variety of contexts and in the absence of external influences the values of the variables will not change. In Classical game theory*, equilibrium generally refers to Nash equilibrium*.

Equilibrium point: The optimum balancing point in a changing environment. An example of an equilibrium point would be the optimum position of a market price that generates an equal amount of demand and supply for a product or service. Equilibrium is maintained by raising or lowering the price in response to changes in the supply or demand.

Equilibrium price: The market price at which the supply of an item equals the quantity demanded.

Equilibrium concepts: A solution concept in game theory in which all competing influences in a system (game) are balanced.

Equivalent retaliation: Another term for Tit-for-tat.

Escalation of commitment:  The tendency of decision makers to continue to invest, time, money, or effort into a bad decision or unproductive course of action because they have “too much invested in it. The expression “throwing good money after bad” is a reflection of this concept.

Ethics: The Conscious and intentional action that is both right and good.

Evolutionary game theory:  The application of game theory to evolving populations of life forms in biology. EGT is useful in this context by defining a framework of contests, strategies, and analytics into which Darwinian competition* can be modeled.

Evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS): This is a refinement of a Nash Equilibria. It states that any strategy if adopted by a group of players (a population) in a given environment, cannot be invaded by any alternative strategy that is initially rare. Stated another way, when a group accepts a certain behavior any slight “mutation” or “mutant pattern” will not be able to shift the strategy. It is relevant in game theory, behavioral ecology, and evolutionary psychology.

Extensive-form game: This  is a very detailed game where there are explicit details (representations) of a number of important aspects, like the sequencing of players’ possible moves, their choices at every decision point, the (possibly imperfect) information each player has about the other player’s moves when they make a decision, and the payoffs for all possible game outcomes etc. Extensive-form games also allow representation of incomplete information* in the form of chance events encoded as “moves by nature*”. This is given by a data tree*, where at each vertex of the tree a different player has the choice of choosing an edge. The outcome set of an extensive form game is usually the set of tree leaves.

Extensive-form game representation: Usually a game tree* that visually presents an Extensive-form game*

Externally Driven Obstacles (EDOs): An external force and/or event that presents an obstacle to the fulfillment of an individual or group vision.

Extraordinary person: A person that consciously behaves in a simple and basic manner. Such a person acts out general social norms when appropriate in their daily life, but seldom or never does so habitually. The extraordinary person will change their behavior to match changes in these social norms if it serves their own actualization process and society as a whole. They are generally concerned with moral or ethical dilemmas and often examine the meaning of their lives, questioning much, and often and with great concern.

Extreme Problem: Known by mathematicians as a combinatorial optimization problem, an extreme problem is a problem that has so many variables within its structure that a variety of experts are required to solve it. Usually, though not always, if an extreme problem is not solved it may lead loss of life and limb or chaos of one form or another for all who are affected by the problem.



Faith: A conviction that something is true or fact.

Failure mode and effects (FMEA): Failure mode and effects analysis. … This is often the first step of a system-wide reliability study. It involves reviewing as many components, assemblies, and subsystems as possible to identify failure modes, and their causes and effects.

Fault tree analysis (FTA): A top-down, deductive failure analysis in which an undesired state of a system is analyzed using Boolean logic* to combine a series of lower-level events.

Failure analysisThe process of collecting and analyzing data to determine the cause of a failure, often with the goal of determining corrective actions or liability.

Fake News: So-called “news websites”  that deliberately publish hoaxespropaganda, unsupportable conspiracy theories, disinformation, and nonsense using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. Unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political, or other gains. Such sites are often used by cheaters in game scenarios.

Finite extensive form game: A specification (description) of a game that has a specific beginning and end and which offers an explicit representation of a number of important aspects, such the sequencing of player’s possible moves, their choices at every decision point, the (possibly imperfect) information each player has about the other player’s moves when he makes a decision, and his payoffs for all possible game outcomes. Extensive-form games also allow representation of incomplete information in the form of chance events encoded as “moves by nature”.

Finite game: A game with a finite number of players, each of which has a finite set of strategies and a specific end point.

First Cause: That which causes everything else; the ultimate creative force or being behind the universe.

Flow: In HAGT* flow is a variable measured over an interval of time. Therefore flow would be measured per unit of time (say a year). It is an essential concept in systems dynamics*

Formal sciences: A system of gathering knowledge (research) using mathematics, logic, and statistics in a way that is so specific that one can correctly predict a reliable outcome consistently.

Forward induction: The notion that players in a game assume, even when confronted with an unexpected event that their opponents chose rationally in the past and will choose rationally in the future.

Fully explicit structure: The rules that define a game.

Function:  An activity, purpose or tool natural too, or intended for a person or thing.

Functional realities: These are systems of belief and action that work well in everyday situations.

Future Reality Tree (FRT): Also called a future state map this is a concept core to the Theory of Constraints*. The idea here is that some actions (injections) are chosen (not necessarily detailed) to solve the root cause(s) uncovered in the Current Reality Tree*.  Once this is defined it is that much easier to resolve the conflict between the current reality (as defined through the application of various assessment tools) and the likelihood of a  future reality as defined by various patterns and various Bayesian

models*. In this way, we can define the future states of the system and helps to identify possible negative outcomes of the changes (Negative Branches) and to prune them before implementing the changes.

Futurism: Using systematic thinking to recognize patterns in life and how to respond to the unexpected.


Game: An activity often for fun or entertainment where an individual or groups of individuals must strategize, i.e. make decisions that will lead to a desirable outcome. Most games involve other living players though there are some games such as the card game solitaire, where only one living player is involved.

Game-based Thinking: An umbrella term for any idea that uses the concept of games to create ideas or strategies.

GBT: Game-based Thinking*

Game Complexity: The discipline within game theory that helps a strategist define what skills will be needed to solve a problem or achieve a successful result.

Game Language: The specialized language or dialect used and understood by all the players and other agents in a game environment. In Baseball the word to “bunt” would be a type of game language

Game theory: Among scientists, it is the name used to describe mathematical concepts (systems) that explain why and how individuals and organizations strategize, i.e. make decisions when one person (or more than one other person) might also affect the outcome of the decision.

Today, (2017) game theory has become an umbrella term or ‘unified field’ theory for thousands of games, most being rational approaches to many different defined interactions including relationships in business, spirituality, competition, sports, romance and even interactions with nonhuman players such as computers, animals, and plants.

Game Thinking Troubleshooting (GTT): A form of problem-solving, often applied to repair strategies or solve problems or processes in any game space or system.

Game Tree: Usually an inverted tree-shaped diagram starting at the initial position within a game and containing all possible moves from each position; the complete tree is the same tree as that obtained from the extensive-form game representation*.

Game tree size: The total number of possible games that can be played: the number of leaf nodes in the game tree rooted at the game’s initial position.

Gamification: The concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.

Gamify: (transitive) to adapt (a task) or enact a personal or group reality so that it takes on the form of a game

Gause’s law: An ecological principle which holds that competition is maximal between species with identical needs.

Genetics: A discipline of biology; specifically, genetics is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms.

Genetics: A discipline of biology; specifically, genetics is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms.

Genghis Khan Strategy:  A strategy in GBT* where a constant aggressor must make war continually to gain resources.

Global games: Games of incomplete information where players receive possibly-correlated signals of the underlying state of the world. The most important practical application of global games has been the study of crises in financial markets such as bank runscurrency crises, and bubbles. However, they have other relevant and influential applications including investments with payoff complementarities,  beauty contests,  political riots revolutions, and any other economic situations which display strategic complementary patterns.

Globalization (or globalisation): Processes that increase world-wide exchanges of national and cultural resources.

Graph: A mathematically precise diagram representing a system of connections or interrelations among two or more things by a number of distinctive dots, lines, bars, etc.

Graphical Game: In game theory, the common ways to describe a game are the normal form and the extensive form. The graphical form is an alternate compact representation of a game using the interaction among participants.  It is a useful tool for exploring cause and effect and the ways in which certain actions or strategies may lead to certain outcomes based on different variables. In non-digital terms, like board games, almost everything that can be explored using a graph is a graphical game.  In a board game the instructions, the board, the game pieces, money, and even the box itself are all aspects of the game that the player interacts with have a graphical element. More formal graphical games there is usually a compact representation of a game using the interaction among participants and a measuring point.

Grand Coalition: The coalition containing all players. In cooperative games* it is often assumed that the grand coalition forms and the purpose of the game is to find stable imputations.

Grim Trigger:  A form of Trigger Strategy*   where punishment continues indefinitely even after the other player defects (cheats or changes a locked-in strategy) just once.

GT: Game theory



Hacker: Originally a hacker was an adherent of the computer programmer subculture that originally emerged in academia in the 1960s, in particular around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) and the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Hackers from this subculture tend to differentiate themselves from what they pejoratively call “crackers”, that is, those who are generally defined in the media “hacker”, and whose primary focus, be it for malicious or beneficial reasons, are weaknesses in computer security. Today the word hacker is commonly used by millennials as a term for a person who knows all of the shortcuts to get a successful result.

Hardwired: Something in human nature that is driven by internal forces, and that is distinct from intellect or conscious thought. These internal forces are driven by and are a reflection for the most part of genetic and biological factors and what is generally described in HAGT as natural law.

Harrison’s Applied Game Theory (HAGT): An umbrella term for thousands of game-based life strategies including those related to business, politics, spirituality, competition, sports, romance and even interactions with nonhuman players such as computers, animals, and plants. Most of the games within the model of Harrison’s Applied Game Theory combine logical, rational and linear strategies derived from classical game theory with irrational, non-linear and intuitive strategies linked into sets by means of “patterns” of form or content.  The goal of HAGT is to maximize love, joy, freedom, clarity of thought, emotional balance, personal contentment, inner wisdom, and happiness.

Heaps: An untidy collection of variables “piled” up haphazardly.

Heuristics: Simple rules controlling judgment or decision-making.

Hierarchy: A class of things; elements, grades, orders, values objects, entities and people organized into an order where one thing superior (above,) inferior (below, either vertically or horizontally), or further in or out or at the same level as something else.

Hierarchal behavior: Actions of both an individual and a group designed to find a place for the individual in the group so that that the individual and the group get their needs met while having a similar mission, or intention.

Hierarchal thinking: The contemplation upon the most effective way to find your place in a group so that you get your needs met while having a similar mission, intention or vision as the group.

Holism: The theory that living matter or reality is made up of organic or unified wholes greater than the simple sum of their parts.

Hot Game: In combinatorial game theora hot game is one in which each player can improve their position by making the next move.

By contrast, a cold game is one where each player can only worsen their position by making the next move.

Hubs:  Hubs are nodes within a network which have lots of links. (See nodes and networks).

Human Being: A man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from all other animals purportedly by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance

Human Capital: The stock of personality attributes, competencies, and knowledge contained in the ability to perform labor so as to create economic value. In HAGT*  this concept is essential to understanding the Nineteen Strategic Resources*

Human potential: The capacity to experience full development or the capacity for the complete development of usable resources.



Ideation: Structured brainstorming within gamification models for the purpose of producing new ideas.

Ig Nobel Prize: A parody of the Nobel Prizes that are given each year in early October for ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The stated aim of the prizes is to honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think”. The awards are sometimes veiled criticism (or gentle satire) but are also used to point out that even the most absurd-sounding avenues of research can yield useful knowledge. Organized by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), they are presented by a group that includes Nobel Laureates at a ceremony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater, and they are followed by a set of public lectures by the winners at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The name is a play on the words ignoble (“characterized by baseness, lowness, or meanness”) and the Nobel Prize.

Impartial Games: Games in which any action (play) available to one player must be available to the others as well.

Imperfect information Game: Also known as an incomplete information game. This is a scenario is a situation in which the parties to a transaction, or interaction have different information.

Input probabilities: The likelihood that something (s) will enter a game (system).

Imperfect information games:  Also known as Incomplete information games this is a  type of game where players may or may not know some information about the other players, e.g. their “type”, their strategies, payoffs etc.

However they know who the other players are, what their possible strategies/actions are, what their possible strategies/actions are, and the preferences/payoffs of these other players. Hence, information about the other players in imperfect information is complete.

Inductive reasoning: A logical process in which multiple premises, all believed true or found true most of the time, are combined to obtain a specific conclusion. Inductive reasoning is often used in applications that involve prediction, forecasting, or behavior.

Infection through RTPs (Regenerating Thought Programs): The process that takes place (as a direct result of our genetic and biological inclinations towards the creation of community) when we involuntarily absorb ideas and behaviors and then pass on these ideas and behaviors to others.

Inference: The act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true.  The conclusion drawn is also called an idiomatic. The laws of valid inference are studied in the field of logic.

Inferential Statistics:  Inferences about populations using data drawn from the population. Instead of using the entire population to gather the data, the statistician will collect a sample or samples from the millions of residents and make inferences about the entire population using the sample.

Infinite Game: A game where there isn’t any knowable beginning or ending. They are played with the goal of continuing play and sometimes with a purpose of bringing more players into the game. An infinite game continues play, for the sake of play. If the game is approaching resolution because of the rules of play, the rules must be changed to allow continued play. The rules exist to ensure the game is infinite. The best-known example is life. Beginning to participate in an infinite game may be involuntary, either because one has been forced to play against their will or because it doesn’t require conscious thought. Continuing participation in the current round of game-play is voluntary though the cost of not playing may be higher than one wishes to pay.

Infinite positional game: This is a term used In the mathematical study of combinatorial games. Positional games are described by a finite set of positions in which a move consists of claiming a previously-unclaimed position. Well-known games that fall into this class include Tic-tac-toe, Hex, and the Shannon switching game*.

Influence: Any event or process where one entity (be it a person, corporation, government, religion, media organization, etc.) can change either directly or indirectly another entity’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

Information: A unit or units of knowledge, events, experiences, details, truths or beliefs.

Information set: A set * that, for a particular player, establishes all the possible moves that could have taken place in the game so far, given what that player has observed.

Information structure: Also known as an informational structure this refers to the way in which information is formally packaged.

Information Sets: In game theory, this is a set* that, for a particular player, establishes all the possible moves that could have taken place in the game.

Information theory: The study of the quantification, storage, and communication of information.

Informational structure: See information structure*

Initiation: A formal rite of passage, often a ceremony, marking entrance or acceptance into adulthood or into a certain level or formal component within a group or society.

Insanity: The tendency to act out in antisocial ways that are illogical, irrational and emotionally unbalanced; Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Intra-household bargaining:  Refers to negotiations that occur between members of a household in order to arrive at decisions regarding the household unit. An example would be whether to spend or save, whether to study or work.

Integrative complexity: A research psychometric that refers to the degree to which thinking and reasoning involve the recognition and integration of multiple perspectives and possibilities and their interrelated contingencies.

Intuition: The ability to immediately access and apprehend knowledge without the use of reason.

Iterated prisoner’s dilemma: Similar to prisoner’s dilemma* in which the choices – to cooperate or defect is replaced by peace or war.

 Iterations: In CGT* the repetition of a process.



Kaizen:  Japanese for “improvement.” When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics that cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain. It has been applied in healthcare, psychotherapy,  life-coaching, government, banking, HAGT and other industries and areas.

Knowledge: The combination of systematically stored information, untapped objective awareness, and untapped subjective awareness.

KISS:  An acronym for “Keep it Simple, Stupid” as a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960. The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and in game-based strategies. Unnecessary complexity should be avoided whenever possible. The phrase has been associated with aircraft engineer Kelly Johnson (1910–1990.



Law of Attraction: A theory that states that if a person’s thought processes are clear and intention focused, is that those things they desire or need will come to them spontaneously and without a struggle. A more advanced idea related to this can be found in Taoist philosophy – Wu wei, “the action that has no action”

Law of Diminishing Returns: A term common in economics but applicable to any aspect of life that describes a point at which you have achieved the maximum that you can from some fixed factor or variable, and no matter how much more of this factor you use in the future, the benefit will decrease.

Language: The human capacity for complex symbolic communication through the organization of words and nonverbal cues.

Leaf Node: A part of a game tree* (a directed graph*)  which represents positions in a game

Legal Position:  It usually means what is acceptable within the definition of a specific form of game, whether it suits a players personal convenience or not.

Left Brain Thinking: A broad characterization of thought patterns attributed to the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain. Left-brain thinking is described broadly as being linear, sequential, systematic and concerned with the details and steps that are involved in a particular process or event.

Life game: Any scenario real time where there is game-based thinking involved.

Life Hacking:  Also known as a Gordian Knot this is a popular term among computer scientists and hackers that involves  problem-solving only by bold action or isolating short cuts to solving problems.

Linear Code: A systematic ordering of information important in error correction and detection schemes. Linear codes can be valuable in transcending obstacles and solving rationally based problems.

Linear programming (LP; also called linear optimization): A method to achieve the best outcome (such as maximum profit or lowest cost) in a mathematical model whose requirements are represented by linear relationships. Linear programming is a special case of mathematical programming (mathematical optimization).

Lyapunov Functions: Models that can help a game thinker to determine the nature of outcomes produced by a system.



Magician-genius: A thinker whose ideas are so out of the mainstream of the most brilliant thinkers in their own specialty  that they would be considered “insane” if it didn’t turn out that they were correct in their theories.  Two examples are the inventor Nikolai Tesla, and the physicist Richard Feynman.

Making a Difference: The intention to serve another or group in ways that shift or change the life patterns of that individual or group.

Markov Processes: In life, we may know where we are and where we wish to be yet between these two points there are many dynamic processes taking place. In some situations, it is important to know details of these processes.  Markov processes help us to do this. See Domino Effect*

Mathematical Generalization:  A pattern that exists in the relationship of a certain group of numbers.  It’s a pattern than is always true.  Making generalizations is fundamental to mathematics, to game-based thinking and to creating functional life.   Developing the skill of making generalizations and making it part of our mental disposition or habits of mind in learning and dealing with mathematics is one of the important goals of this book.  Making generalizations is a skill, vital in the functioning of society. Unfortunately when dealing with emotionally motivated scenarios we may believe we are making an accurate mathematical generalization but in fact, we are the victim of information bias* or confirmation bias*.  2 plus 2 = 4 and 3 plus 1=4 are two examples of a mathematical generalization.

Mathematics: An academic discipline, actually a collection of disciplines – both an art and science – that is concerned with exploration, and measurement, and through these the drawing of necessary conclusions. Among the things in HAGT* those mathematical tools are specifically relevant too are the measurement of change, patterns, quantity, space, and structure.

Mathematical Optimization: Finding an effective,  alternate approach to solving a problem with the most mathematically verifiable, cost  effective, or highest achievable  performance under the given constraints. This can be done in two ways

  1. By maximizing desired factors
  2. Minimizing undesired factors.

 Matrix:  A  pattern of linked lines, shapes, and spaces that helps organize the information needed to map out a specific strategy.

Matrix (The Movie): A 1999 American science fiction action film where the future is depicted as a simulated reality created by sentient machines which are perceived by most humans as an authentic reality. The film addresses and integrates many ideas related to human and technology interactions especially the idea that logically speaking computers will, in time, control and dominate humanity without most of humanity even knowing that this has happened.

Meaning: Intention and significance.

Mechanism design: A field in economics and game theory that takes an engineering approach to solving problems, creating strategies and designing economic mechanisms or incentives, toward desired objectives, in strategic settings, where players act rationally.  Other ways of describing it are as a hierarchical, bureaucratic, organizational-structure characterized by

(1) centralization of authority,

(2) formalization of procedures and practices, and

(3) specialization of functions.

Meditation: A generic term that describes a mental discipline involving self -regulation and the focusing of attention on one specific point of reference or on the discarding of any point of reference.

Mentalist: A person who is highly skilled at predicting human behavior. In the hands of a game theorist, these skills are based on three factors. 1.  Observing: This means closely watching for the visual ingredients of deception and learning how to recognize facial expression, body language, and gestures. 2. Listening for what normally goes unheard. This includes developing the systematic ability to pick up vocal tones, sudden changes, unconscious sounds, word choices, pauses, and silences. 3. The ability to effectively, efficiently, and productively interpret, meaning. This includes comparing current behavior to what has been seen and heard before. Finding inconsistency in an action is the challenge and the key. An inconsistency is often more significant than the action itself.

Meta-Heuristic Algorithm: A sophisticated approach within computer science where trial and error mathematical formulas are applied to a massive number of possible choices, often simultaneously. This algorithm can help a game theorist choose the best among the possible choices. This usually means the most effective, efficient, productive and cost effective choice.

Meta-strategy:  A comprehensive strategy determining which other strategies to use in a given situation.

Mind: A non-physical part within a conscious being that functions and acts in a myriad and combination of ways. These may include aspects of intellect and consciousness that may include thinking, reasoning, imagining, memory, emotion, feeling, perceiving, caring, desiring, willing, distinguishing, assessing and judging. The mind is the stream of consciousness and includes all of the brain’s conscious and unconscious processes. “Mind” is often used to refer to the thought processes of reason, thus a person acting without reason might be accused of “being out of their mind.”

Mind Map:  A systematic diagram  used to visually organize information. It is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.

Minimax: Sometimes known as MinMax or MM) is a decision rule used in decision theory, game theory, statistics and philosophy for minimizing the possible loss for a worst case (maximum loss) scenario. Originally formulated for two-player zero-sum games*.  It covers both the cases where players take alternate moves and those where they make simultaneous moves, it has also been extended to more complex games and to general decision making in the presence of uncertainty.

Minority game: Inspired by the  El Farol bar problem* which is a simple model that shows how (selfish) players cooperate with each other in the absence of communication. In the Minority Game, an odd number of players ( one, three, five etc.)  each has to choose one of two options independently at each turn. The players who end up on the minority side win.

Mixed Nash equilibria:  See Mixed strategy*.

Mixed strategy: Also known as Mixed Nash Equilibrium., this is the same as Pure Nash Equilibrium*.  It is a structure in game theory where a player can create many different possible pure strategies, knowing that ultimately only one will be chosen.  Mixed strategies are common in zero-sum games where an individual explores many different options. Every finite game has Mixed Nash Equilibria*.

Model: A system or thing used as an example to follow or imitate.

Modeling:  In mathematics, this is the construction and use of a computer model of a physical system; In game theory, it is the creation and use of a strategy that has been used before; in human behavior, it is the learning of a new skill by copying other people.

Monkey Mind: The endless, obsessive process of thinking about one thing for a short time, and then another thing for a short time, without any specific intention to do so.

Morality: The study of what makes actions right and wrong. Based on the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior” It attempts to define, explain and examine social behavior. Also specific systems of what is defined as right and good as are often imposed upon the individual by group belief or from the top of a hierarchy.

Move: In strategic thinking and game theory it is an action taken by a player at some point during the play of a game

Movement Reeducation: The reorganization and recreation of an individual’s postural patterns.

Moves by Nature: A decision or move in an extensive form game* made by a player who has no strategic interest in the outcome.

‘Multiple Intelligences Theory: A theory that states that within the human race there are many different categories of “intelligences”. Some of these can be measured using basic scientific methodologies. Examples include social intelligence and kinesthetic intelligence.



N-player game: In game theory, an n-player game is a game which is well defined for any number of players. This is usually used in contrast to standard 2-player games that are only specified for two players. In defining n-player games, game theorists usually provide a definition that will allow for any (finite) number of players.

Nash Equilibrium: A solution concept of a non-cooperative game involving two or more players, in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only their own strategy. This is  one of the most important and influential concepts in game theory.

Stated simply, there are two players,  Jane and Dick.  Jane and Dick are in Nash equilibrium if  Jane is making the best decision she can, taking into account Dick’s decision, and Dick is making the best decision he can, taking into account Jane’s decision. Likewise, a group of players is in Nash equilibrium if each one is making the best decision that he or she can, taking into account the decisions of the others.

Natural Law: The rules that consistently define how the universe functions. More specifically it is a philosophy that certain rights or values are inherent by virtue of human nature and universally cognizable through human reason.

Natural science: is one of three divisions of science, the other two being the social sciences and the formal sciences. Prior to the 17th-century Natural Science was called natural philosophy and was less broad in interpretation of what was or what wasn’t scientific. The natural sciences as of 2010 are astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics.

Nature’s Systems: The systems that define the workings of the universe. These systems are generally defined either as LINEAR or NONLINEAR. Linear systems tend to relate to mathematical and scientific systems. Nonlinear systems may refer to a diverse range of perceptions including physics, theology and the belief that a creative intelligence is expressed in all living things.

Need: A desire for something that is essential for emotional, physical and/or mental survival.

Network: Any system with subunits that are linked into a whole.

Networks: A group of two or more people places or things linked together. The term is often used in computer science. There are many types of computer networks, including the following local-area networks (LANs): where the computers are geographically close together (that is, in the same building).

Neuroeconomics: A relatively new science/art within behavioral economics theory that combines neuroscience, economics, and psychology. The focus of this system is to explore how people make decisions. It does this by studying the role of the brain in evaluating choices, categorizing risks and rewards, and isolating factors in how humans interact with each other.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): A system for creating personal and organizational change by applying influence in certain specific ways.

New Empirical Industrial Organization model: A model for measuring organizational efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.

Nineteen Strategic Resources (NSR): These are qualities or skills common to all human beings. The full potentiating of each in balance with the other eighteen is the foundation from which love, wealth, and freedom emerge. They are a core element to the application of HAGT. The NSR are: Time, Physical Energy, Space, Information, Influence, Power, Emotional Balance, Spiritual Focus, Clarity of Thought, Physical Wellness, Dependability, Personal Barter, The Barterable Goods and Services of others, Tools and Technology, Cash, The Capacity for Love, Relationship, Faith, Compassion,  and kindness

No-win situation: Also called a “lose-lose situation”. This is a scenario where a person has various choices, but no choice leads to a net gain. For example, if an executioner offers the condemned the choice of dying by being hanged, shot, or poisoned this is still lose-lose since all choices lead to death, the condemned is thus in a no-win situation. This bleak situation gives the chooser little room: whatever choice is made, the person making it will lose their life. Less drastic situations might also be considered no-win situations: if one has a choice for lunch between a ham sandwich and a roast beef sandwich, but is a vegetarian or has a wheat allergy, that might be considered a no-win situation.

Node: A point at which lines or pathways intersect or branch; a central or connecting point. In probability theory “data trees*” are often created and the relationship of nodes to each other within these trees are generally defined as Parent, Child, and Sibling Nodes

Noise:  Random errors in implementing choices players have made.

Non-dictatorship: A game scenario where none of the players gets exactly what he or she wants every time.

Non-zero-sum game:  A  situation where one decision maker’s gain (or loss) does not necessarily result in the other decision makers’ loss (or gain). In other words, where the winnings and losses of all players do not add up to zero and everyone can gain. When we speak of a “win-win game” we are describing a type of non-zero-sum game.

Non-cooperative game: A game in which players make decisions independently. Thus, while players could cooperate, any cooperation must be self-enforcing.

Non-linear: Of, or relating to a system of equations whose effects are not proportional to their causes. Essentially an equation that seems illogical but functions in ordinary reality/Such a set of equations can be chaotic.

Non-psychological’ game theory:  Also known as “standard game theory” this is a term used by some game-based thinkers to describe the kind of game theory used by most economists who are not applying behavioral economic theory*. They treat game theory as the abstract mathematics of strategic interaction, rather than as an attempt to directly characterize special psychological dispositions that might be typical in humans.

Non-Verbal communication: A communication process driven through sending and receiving wordless messages.

Nonzerosum game: This describes a situation in which the interacting parties’ aggregate gains and losses can be less than or more than zero. A zero-sum game is also called a strictly competitive game while non-zero-sum games can be either competitive or non-competitive.

Normal Game Model: See Normal Form Game*

Normal Form Game: Also known as a Normal Game Model or a  normal-form representation. This is a game structure that includes all perceptible and conceivable strategies, and their corresponding payoffs, for each player. This approach can be of greater use in identifying strictly dominated strategies and Nash equilibria than other approaches.  Still, some information is lost as compared to other approaches such as extensive-form representations.

Normative ethics: The study of ethical action. It is the branch of philosophical ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking.

Number: A number is a mathematical object or symbol used in counting and measuring. Numbers may also have a symbolic meaning in religious or spiritual practice. These are usually known as “sacred numbers.”

Number Systems: A system for organizing and presenting mathematical objects used to count, measure,  and label.



Object-oriented programming (OOP): A type of computer programming(software design) and GBT* in which programmers (or players in a game) define not only the data type of a data structure but also the types of operations (functions) that can be applied to the data structure.

Obstacle: Anything that stands in the way of our achieving a desired result and which cannot be addressed with a simple action.

Occam’s razor: A problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar, and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle states that among competing hypotheses that predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove to provide better predictions, but—in the absence of differences in predictive ability—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.

Operations research: A discipline that deals with the application of advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions.  It is often considered to be a sub-field of mathematics. The terms management science and decision science are sometimes used as synonyms.

Order theory:  A branch of mathematics that studies various kinds of objects (often binary relations) that capture the intuitive notion of ordering, providing a framework for saying when one thing is “less than” or “precedes” another.

Ordinary person: A person who unconsciously behaves in a simple and basic manner. Such a person acts out general social norms in their daily life,  doing so habitually and only changing their behavior to match changes in these social norms. They are not generally concerned with moral or ethical dilemmas and seldom examine the meaning of their lives. They question little and have concern for less.

Outcome function: Also called “Outcome space”, “Payoff” or “Game form” this is the end result one wishes to achieve at the completion of a game. This includes a description of how much gain (money, pleasure, etc.) the players are allocated by the end of the game.

Output event: The point in time where a thing, especially one of importance, leaves a system.



Pairwise: Also known as a pairwise comparison, this describes any process of comparing entities in pairs to judge which of each entity is preferred. It also describes whether there is a greater amount of some quantitative property, or whether or not the two entities are identical.

Paradigm: A paradigm is a theoretical and philosophical model, pattern or framework; specifically of a linguistic discipline or a mathematically based or scientific school of thought.

Pareto efficiency: Also known as  Pareto optimality, this is a state of allocation of resources in which it is impossible to make any one individual better off without making at least one individual worse off.

Partially ordered set (or poset): In mathematics, especially in combinatorial game theory*, this is a way to formalize and generalize the intuitive concept of an ordering, sequencing, or arrangement of the elements of a set.

Partisan game: In a game is partisan if it is not an impartial game*. That is, some moves are available to one player and not to the other.  Most games are partisan – For example, in chess, only one player can move the white pieces.

Partisan games are more difficult to analyze than impartial games, as the Sprague–Grundy theorem* does not apply. However, the application of combinatorial game theory to partisan games allows the significance of numbers as games to be seen, in a way that is not possible with impartial games.

Pattern Language: A term coined by architect Christopher Alexander, which describes good design practices within a field of expertise. Ordinary people can use it to successfully solve very large, complex problems. Pattern language has much in common with many verbal and non-verbal languages however it is unique in that pattern language applies to some complex activity other than traditional communication.

Payoff: The advantage gained from doing something.

Payoff function: (Also known as Preference profile the allocation of goods, “the allocation of payoffs” or preferences”).  This is a mathematical activity (function) describing the award given to a single player for each outcome of a game. This might be a trophy, a cash reward, an emotional benefit or some other “payoff”.

Payoff matrix: A Decision Analysis tool that summarizes pros and cons of a decision in a tabular (Graphic) form. It lists payoffs (negative or positive returns) associated with all possible combinations of alternative actions (under the decision maker’s control) and external conditions (not under decision maker’s control).

Peace-war game: A repeated game* originally played in academic groups and by computer simulation to study possible strategies of cooperation and aggression.   This game is a variation of the iterated prisoner’s dilemma

Peak-Experience: An ecstatic transpersonal experience that can be duplicated through intention, and actions influenced by that intention.

Perfect Bayesian Equilibrium: a game theory solution concept that can be applied when there is uncertainty over a player’s type.

Perfect information: A game has perfect information if it is a sequential game and is a situation in which a player is theorized to have all relevant information with which to make a decision. Some Perfect information games involve chance and others do not. Backgammon is an example of a game with perfect information that involves chance. Both players are completely aware of the state of the game at all times and can use this to inform their decisions, but the progress of the game will depend on random dice rolls.

Chess is an example of a game with perfect information that does not involve change as each player can see all of the pieces on the board at all times. Other examples of perfect games include Tic-tac-toe, Irensei, and Go. The formal definition can be easily extended to include games with exogenous uncertainty from chance events, as well as simultaneous move games, such as in the iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma

Permutation: All possible arrangements of a collection of things, where the order is important.

Peter Principle: A business concept, originally presented as a humorous exploration of corporate culture and the slow rise of incompetence in middle and upper management. It was first presented in 1968 by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their popular book, The Peter Principle.

Physical energy: Energy associated with the flesh or corporal body. One of the Nineteen Strategic Resources*

Physics: A scientific study related to the detection and comprehending of the basic rules that control matter and energy.

Play: A range of intrinsically motivated, yet voluntary activities normally associated with pleasure and enjoyment.

Pleasure: A pleasant sensation.

Power: When applied to human activities it is the conscious ability to harness internal or external activities so that the entity in possession of this power (be it a person, corporation, government, religion, media organization, etc.) can change, either directly or indirectly, another entity’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

Possibility Theory: The analysis of random phenomena and the possibility that what appears to be a random event is less random than it appears.

Possibility Tree: A probability space.

Pragmatics: This is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning.

Practical Math: Mathematical tools which are specifically relevant to the measurement of change, patterns, quantity, space, and structure.

Prayer: A form of spiritual or religious practice that seeks to activate an intentional connection to spirit, inner Qi, god, or some deity, through deliberate practice.

Prediction game:  A game in which the players guess at the outcome of future events.

Prediction markets games:  Also known as information markets, predictive markets decision markets, idea futures, event derivatives, or virtual markets are exchange-traded markets created for the purpose of trading the outcome of events. The market prices can indicate what the crowd thinks the probability of the event is. A prediction market contract trades between 0 and 100%. It is a binary option that will expire at the price of 0 or 100%.

Research has suggested that prediction markets are at least as accurate as other institutions predicting the same events with a similar pool of participants.

Preference: In  HAGT and in many other social sciences, preference is the ordering of alternatives based on their relative utility, a process which results in an optimal “choice” (whether real or theoretical).

Prestige-based learning: A recently created model of social-learning mechanics.

Prestige bias; The selective copying of certain “prestigious” individuals to whom others freely show deference or respect in order to increase the amount and accuracy of information available to the learner.

Principle of Maximum Entropy: A technique that can be used to estimate input probabilities* more generally.

Prisoner’s Dilemma: A situation in which two players each have two options whose outcome depends crucially on the simultaneous choice made by the other, often formulated in terms of two prisoners separately deciding whether or not to confess to a crime.

Probability distribution: A generic formula, table, graph, matrix or some other display that gives us enough information to be able to assign probabilities to things called events.  In probability research and statistics probability distribution is a tool which assigns a probability  to each measurable subset of the possible outcomes of a random experimentsurvey, or procedure of statistical inference.

Probability puzzles: Also known as probability problems, these are puzzles that can be solved with very skilled deductive reasoning but which require the strategist to deal with uncertain quantities related to random events.

Probability Space: Also known as a “probability triple” this is a mathematical construct that models a real-world process (or “experiment”) consisting of states that occur randomly. A probability space is constructed with a specific kind of situation or experiment in mind.

Probability Theory: A branch of mathematics concerned with the analysis of random phenomena. The outcome of a random event cannot be determined before it occurs, but it may be any one of several possible outcomes. The actual outcome is considered to be determined by chance. Tree diagrams can help determine the specifics here.

Tree diagrams may represent a series of independent events (such as a set of coin flips) or conditional probabilities (such as drawing cards from a deck, without replacing the cards).  Each node on the diagram represents an event and is associated with the probability of that event. The root node represents the certain event and therefore has probability 1. Each set of sibling nodes represents an exclusive and exhaustive partition of the parent event.

The probability associated with a node is the chance of that event occurring after the parent event occurs. The probability that the series of events leading to a particular node will occur is equal to the product of that node and its parents’ probabilities.

Probability Tree: A tree diagram* used to represent a probability space. A tree diagram may be used to represent a probability space. Tree diagrams (also known as tree structures,   may represent a series of independent events (such as a set of coin flips) or conditional probabilities (such as drawing cards from a deck, without replacing the cards).  Each node on the diagram represents an event and is associated with the probability of that event. The root node represents the certain event and therefore has probability.    The probability associated with a node is the chance of that event occurring after the parent event occurs. The probability that the series of events leading to a particular node will occur is equal to the product of that node and its parents’ probabilities.

Proper equilibrium: This is a refinement of Nash Equilibrium developed by Roger B. Myerson. Proper equilibrium further refines Reinhard Selten’s notion of a trembling hand* perfect equilibrium by assuming that more costly trembles are made with significantly smaller probability than less costly ones.

Provokable nice guy strategy: A strategy in GBT* that is a response to a Genghis Khan strategy*.  This strategy is simply to make peace on the first repetition of the game; after that, the player does what his opponent did on the previous move. Thus if the peacemaker (the nice guy) is attacked they would respond with an attack. In this strategy, multiple players continue to gain wealth cooperating with each other while bleeding the constant aggressor.

Proxemics: The exploration of how we use and perceive the physical space around us.

Pseudo Peak Experience: A hedonistically driven ecstatic experience that has no purpose other than pleasure.

Psychometrics: A field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement. One part of the field is concerned with the objective measurement of skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational achievement. For example, some psychometric researchers have, thus far, concerned themselves with the construction and validation of assessment instruments such as questionnaires, tests, raters’ judgments, and personality tests. Another part of the field is concerned with statistical research bearing on measurement theory (e.g., item response theory; intra-class correlation etc.).

Pure Nash Equilibrium – See Pure strategy*.

Pure strategy: A pure strategy defines a specific move or action that a player will follow in every possible attainable situation in a game. Such moves may not be random.  This is one of the most important concepts in game theory. It is also known as a Pure Nash Equilibrium etc.



Quantal response equilibrium (QRE):  A solution concept applied to situations in a game where players are assumed to make errors in choosing which pure strategy to play. The probability of any particular strategy being chosen is related to the payoff from that strategy. In other words, very costly errors are unlikely though they may still happen and QRE is a way of minimizing their effect when they do arise.

Quantum game theory: An extension of classical game theory to the quantum domain.  This theory is based on the physics of information much like quantum computing. It differs from classical game theory in three primary ways:

     Superposed initial states,

     Quantum entanglement of initial states,

     Superposition of strategies used on initial states.


Quasi-perfect equilibrium:  Informally, in QPE a players strategizes by observing and taking into account the likelihood of  potential future mistakes by their  opponents while assuming that he himself will not make a mistake in the future, even if they observe that they  have done so in the past. Quasi-perfect equilibrium is a further refinement of sequential equilibrium*. It is itself refined by normal form proper equilibrium.

Question: An inquiry that is concerned with the; who, what, where, when, why, how or which of anything.



Radical Thoughts: Ideas whether true or false that are so out of the mainstream as to break with, even threaten the status quo.

Randomizing: The process of making something random; in various contexts

Rapport: An important feature or characteristic of subconscious communication which involves commonality of perspective such as being “in sync” with, or being “on the same wavelength” as the person with whom you are interacting with.

Rational Choice theory:  Also known as choice theory or rational action theory, this is a framework for understanding and formally modeling social and economic behavior.  The basic premise of rational choice theory is that aggregate social behavior results from the behavior of individual actors (players), each of whom is making their individual decisions. The theory therefore focuses on the determinants of the individual choices (methodological individualism).

Real number: In mathematics, a real number is a value that represents a quantity along a continuous line. Nearly any number you can think of is a Real Number

Reality mining: The collection and analysis of machine-sensed environmental data pertaining to human social behavior, with the goal of identifying predictable patterns of behavior. Reality mining studies human interactions based on the usage of wireless devices such as mobile phones and GPS systems providing a more accurate picture of what people do, where they go, and with whom they communicate with rather than from more subjective sources such as a person’s own account. Reality mining is one aspect of digital footprint analysis.

Reciprocal Altruism: A unique behavior in which one organism provides a benefit to another with some boundaries and conditions.

Recursion: A method in  computer science and in classical game theory   where the solution to a problem depends on solutions to smaller instances of the same problem (as opposed to iteration). 

Recursive algorithm: Mathematical formulas designed to solution a larger problem through by solving smaller instances of the same problem.

Refinement: A process of choosing the most effective, efficient, and productive strategy from a pool of possible strategies within a game space.

Reframing: A communication technique popular among many psychotherapists, hypnotists and teachers of practical human potential skills.

Regenerating Thought Processes (RTPs): An abstract scientific theory developed by Lewis Harrison that integrates Richard Dawkins concepts concerning memes with models drawn from virology, bacteriology, genetics, behavioral economics and computer science concerning evolving patterns of contagious cultural information. It seems that these patterns can survive long enough to be recognized as such, and then can parasitically pass from mind to mind altering the behavior of those who receive it.

Relationship: An association with or the dealing and/or connections a person, place, or thing has with another person, place, or thing.

Repeated game: Also known as a Dynamic game * this is a game where  players interact by playing a similar stage game* (such as the prisoner’s dilemma*). Unlike simultaneous games*, players have at least some information about the strategies chosen on others and thus may contingent their play on past moves.

In game theory, a repeated game (supergame or iterated game) is an extensive form game which consists in some number of repetitions of some base game (called a stage game). It captures the idea that a player will have to take into account the impact of his current action on the future actions of other players; this is sometimes called his reputation.

Replenishment Time (RT):  In GBT this concept, also known as replenishment lead time, or reorder cycle refers to  the total period of time that elapses from the moment it is determined that a resource or material needs to be replenished until the resource or material is available for use.

Replicator dynamics: The replicator dynamic is a simple model of evolution and prestige-biased learning in games. While conformity Bias is the basic mechanism that protects the integrity of cultural knowledge, prestige bias is a crucial bias for permitting new best practices to take hold. Replicator dynamics have been used to explain these various biases as well learning concepts related to evolution.

Retrograde Analysis: A specialized term in chess to describe backward induction. See backward induction*.

Revealed Preference Theory: Also known as revealed preference, this is a method of analyzing choices made by individuals, mostly used for comparing the influence of policies on consumer behavior.

Revelation principle:  Generally speaking it states that if a group can create a successful result from at best an educated guess, than that same result can be achieved by a specific strategy agreed to by the group using all of the defined and known variables that define the game.   In both cases the benefits of either approach would be the same.

   The technical and precise definition in CGT of Revelation principle is described as follows. If a social choice function* can be implemented by an arbitrary mechanism then the same function can be implemented by an incentive-compatible-direct-mechanism. Moreover, the equilibrium payoffs* in both cases are the same. An example is at Legoland where admission is discounted for two-year-olds. But a child must be at least three for most of the fun attractions. At the ticket window the parents are asked how old the child is. But at the ride entrance the attendants ask the children directly. The parents lie. The children tell the truth.

Root node: Either the topmost or the bottom node in a tree data structure, depending on how the tree is represented.

RTPs (Regenerative Thought Programs): An abstract scientific theory concerning evolving patterns of contagious cultural information, that survives long enough to be recognized as such, and which can parasitically pass from mind to mind altering the behavior of those who receive it.

Right Brain Thinking: A broad characterization of thought patterns attributed to the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain. Right/brain thinking is described broadly as nonlinear, creative, and imaginative.

Risk dominance:  This and  payoff  dominance are two related refinements of the Nash equilibrium (NE) solution concept in game theory, defined by John Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten. A Nash equilibrium is considered payoff dominant if it is Pareto superior* to all other Nash equilibria in the game. This is not initially easy to understand but with examples it becomes clearer. There are a number of good examples including the Stag Hunt*

Rule of Ko: A special rule of the game of “Go” that prevents immediate repetition of a position.



Scientific Management (Taylorism): An influential and pioneering theory of management developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor an American mechanical engineer. Taylorism seeks to analyzes and synthesize workflow processes, improving labor efficiency and effectiveness.

Sanity: The tendency to accept a worldview that expresses intellectual clarity and emotional balance.

Say: To assume something in order to work out what its consequences would be; make a hypothesis. An example would be “Let’s say we pay five thousand dollars in the first year”

Scale: A sequence of people, places or things defined on a set of points.

Screening game: This game is related to a signaling game*. Here  rather than choosing an action based on a signal, the receiver gives the sender proposals based on the type of the sender, which the sender has some control over.

Science: From the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge” in the strictest sense (specialized language) science refers to a system of gathering knowledge (research) so specific (based on the scientific method) that one can correctly predict a reliable outcome consistently.

Self-Actualization: A motive, intention and process related to the realization of one’s full potential.

Self-Assessment: An inquiry into who we truly are?

Self-confirming equilibrium: In game theory, self-confirming equilibrium is a generalization of Nash equilibrium* for extensive form games*, in which players correctly predict the moves their opponents actually make, but may have misconceptions about what their opponents would do at information sets* that are never reached when the equilibrium is played. Informally, self-confirming equilibrium is motivated by the idea that if a game is played repeatedly, the players will revise their beliefs about their opponents’ play if and only if they observe these beliefs to be wrong.

Semiotics: The study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.

Sequential equilibrium: An assessment that is sequentially rational and consistent.

Sequential games:  Also known as sequential equilibrium games*, these are games  where there are two players and the players take turns  changing in defined ways, such as changing moves to achieve a defined winning condition.

Serious games:  Simulations of real-world events or processes designed for the purpose of solving a problem. Although serious games can be entertaining, their main purpose is to train or educate users, though it may have other purposes, such as marketing or advertisement. The “serious” adjective is generally applied  to refer to products or services used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, and politics. Much of classic game theory is concerned with serious games.

Set: A set is a collection of distinct objects, considered as an object in its own right. For example, the numbers 2, 4, and 6 are distinct objects when considered separately, but when they are considered collectively they form a single set of size three.   In game theory, the term information set is often used. This would be defined as all the possible moves that could have taken place in the game so far, given what a specific player has observed.

Set-theoretical framework: A theoretical framework* that specifically focuses on the organization of sets*.

Shapley value: A solution concept in cooperative game theory*. To each cooperative game it assigns a unique distribution (among the players) of a total surplus generated by the coalition of all players. The Shapley value is characterized by a collection of desirable properties. Hart (1989) provides a survey of the subject.

The setup is as follows: A coalition of players cooperates, and obtains a certain overall gain from that cooperation. Since some players may contribute more to the coalition than others or may possess different bargaining power (for example threatening to destroy the whole surplus), what final distribution of generated surplus among the players should arise in any particular game? – Or phrased differently: how important is each player to the overall cooperation, and what payoff can he or she reasonably expect? The Shapley value provides one possible answer to this question. It is named in honor of Lloyd Shapley, who introduced it in 1953.

Sibling node: A node on the same hierarchical level under the same parent node.

Signaling game: A signaling game is a dynamic, Bayesian game* (A game in which information about characteristics of the other players (i.e. payoffs is incomplete). Signaling games always have two players, the sender (S) and the receiver (R). The receiver bases their move on the signal they believe they are receiving from the sender.

Simple game: A simplified form of a cooperative game, where the possible gain is assumed and defined.

Simultaneous game: See Simultaneous move game*

Simultaneous move game: This is a game where each player chooses his action without knowledge of the actions chosen by other players. Normal form representations are usually used for simultaneous games. Rock-Paper-Scissors, a widely played hand game, is a real life example of a simultaneous game.

Single stage game: Also known as a single-shot game this describes  non-repeated games*.

Six Degrees of Separation: Also referred to as the “Human Web” this refers to a popular culture concept that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in six steps or fewer. In reality a person with low social intelligence would be much more than six degree of separation from everyone else. A person with high social intelligence can probably make the connection in four degrees of separation.


Six Sigma:  A disciplined, data-driven approach, and methodology for eliminating defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process. This can be done from manufacturing to transaction and from product to service. See Theory of Constraints*

Social choice function (SCF): Also known as a voting rule this is a systematic method (a mapping) for transforming. individual preferences into a social decision*.

Social choice paradox: A counterintuitive, or seemingly irrational decision made within collective decision processes and procedures.

Social choice theory: The study of collective decision processes and procedures.

Social decision:  A group decision. There are 4 basic elements to a social decision in the discipline of decision theory: acts, events, outcomes, and payoffs.

Social Cooperation: Individuals pursuing their own interests while making choices that best enable others to pursue their interests as well.

Social Intelligence: A theory that explores and defines one’s ability to respond optimally, effectively, and appropriately in social situations.

Social networking: A system made of individuals or organizations that are, interdependent.

Social paradigm: A theoretical and philosophical model, pattern or framework that does not meet the strict requirement of a traditionally-defined paradigm and which requires that the belief be based specifically on linguistics or scientific school of thought.

Social Science: An umbrella term for various fields of academic scholarship that explore aspects of human society and which lie outside of the natural sciences.

Social States: Behaviors or systems considered appropriate to a certain class of society.

Social welfare function:  A  system that ranks social states for every possible pair of social states*.

Sociobiology: A field of study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution.

Sociology: The study of individual behavior in society.

Sociometry: A branch of sociology that uses quantitative assessment methods for measuring social relationships. At its most sophisticated level it is a way of inquiring into the structure of groups.

Solution:  The resolving of a challenge, obstacle or problem.

Solution Concepts: A formal rule for predicting how a game will be played. These predictions are called “solutions”, and describe which strategies will be adopted by players and, therefore, the result of the game. The most commonly used solution concepts are equilibrium concepts, most famously Nash equilibrium*.

Many solution concepts, for many games, will result in more than one solution. This puts any one of the solutions in doubt, so a game theorist may apply a refinement to narrow down the solutions. Each successive solution concept presented in the following improves on its predecessor by eliminating implausible equilibria in richer games.

Somatic therapy: A holistic therapy that studies the relationship between the mind and body in regard to psychological past. The theory behind somatic therapy is that trauma symptoms are the effects of instability of the ANS (autonomic nervous system).

Soul: The core of our being that transcends and underlies our emotional and physical existence and may even cease to be at all.

Space: Where we are, what is around us and where we can save goods and/or services for use at a later time?

Space: Where we are, what is around us and where we can save goods and/or services for use at a later time?

Sparse gamesGames where most of the Utilities* are zero. Graphical games* may be seen as a special case of sparse games.

Specialized language: Also called a game language this is a specifically defined and rigidly applied organization of words and non-verbal cues communicating detailed specific ideas in a highly defined specialized group.

Spectator non-player (s): An individual or group, who though not involved in a game, observes the game and who may benefit from the end result.

Speculative bubble: A spike in asset values within a particular industry, commodity, or asset class. A speculative bubble is usually caused by exaggerated expectations of future growth, price appreciation, or other events that could cause an increase in asset values.

Speech Act Theory: This is a theory of the meaning and importance in communication of performative utterances such as promises, orders, greetings, warnings, invitations and congratulations. Performative utterances are important elements within game based thinking especially in relation to reciprocal atruism* and tit for tat*

   Ludwig Wittgenstein ( 26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language, and whose work is very influential within the Wisdom Path Community  called ‘ordinary language philosophy’ the idea that the meaning of language depends on its actual use, rather than having an inherent meaning. Those who developed and expanded the ideas within Speech-act theory were strongly influenced by Wittgenstein’s ideas.

Spiritual: Related to the divine, or to sacred matters.

Spiritual Focus: A desire and intention to apply thoughts, words, and deeds towards a connection with the divine.

Spiritual Seeker: A person who desires to know who they are, their reason for being and the source from which they came.

Spirituality: A sacred, devotional state of being often, but not always related to the concept of a creator or divine, intelligent force.

Sprague-Grundy theorem:  A systematic approach to analyzing impartial games*.

Stag Hunt: A dilemma in classical game theory that describes a conflict between safety and social cooperation*.

Stag game: This is one of the well-studied 2-person games. It captures the idea that a player will have to take into account the impact of their current action on the future actions of others in a game that describes a conflict between safety and social cooperation.  The original stag  hunt dilemma is as

follows: a group of hunters have tracked a large stag, and found it to follow a certain path. If all the hunters work together, they can kill the stag and all eat. If they are discovered, or do not cooperate, the stag will flee, and all will go hungry.

The hunters hide and wait along a path. An hour goes by, with no sign of the stag. Two, three, four hours pass, with no trace. A day passes. The stag may not pass every day, but the hunters are reasonably certain that it will come. However, a hare is seen by all hunters moving along the path.

If a hunter leaps out and kills the hare, he will eat. However, it results in the trap laid for the stag to be wasted, and the others will starve. There is no certainty that the stag will arrive; the hare is present. The dilemma is that if one hunter waits, he risks one of his fellows killing the hare for himself, sacrificing everyone else. This makes the risk twofold; risk the stag never coming, or risk another man taking the kill.

In addition to the example suggested by Rousseau, David Hume provides a series of examples that are stag hunts. One example addresses two individuals who must row a boat. If both choose to row they can successfully move the boat. However if one doesn’t, the other wastes his effort. Hume’s second example involves two neighbors wishing to drain a meadow. If they both work to drain it they will be successful, but if either fails to do his part the meadow will not be drained.

Several animal behaviors have been described as stag hunts. One is the coordination of slime molds. In times of stress, individual unicellular molds will aggregate to form one large body. Here if they all act together they can successfully reproduce, but success depends on the cooperation of many individual protozoa. Another example is the hunting practices of orcas (known as carousel feeding). Orcas cooperatively corral large schools of fish to the surface and stun them by hitting them with their tails. Since this requires that the fish have no way to escape, it requires the cooperation of many orcas.

State space definition: A concept in a dynamical system that defines all possible states of the system. Each coordinate is a state variable, and the values of all the state variables completely describe the state of the system.

State-space complexity: This refers to the number of legal game positions (positions that adhere to the established rules of the game) reachable from the initial position of the game. This is not always easy to calculate and in such a case an upper bound can often be computed by including illegal positions (positions that do not adhere to the established rules of the game) or positions that can never arise in the course of a game.

State variable: One of the set of variables that are used to describe the mathematical “state” of a dynamical system. Intuitively, the state of a system describes enough about the system to determine its future behavior. See Markov strategy* 

Static game: A game   in which a single decision is made by each player, and each player has no knowledge of the decision made by the other players before making their own decision. Decisions are made simultaneously (order is irrelevant). Even though the decisions may be made at different points in time, the game is simultaneous because each player has no information about the decisions of others thus it is as if the decisions are made simultaneously.

Statistical inference: The process of deducing properties of an underlying distribution by analysis of data. Inferential statistical analysis infers properties about a population: this includes testing hypotheses and deriving estimates.

Statistical mechanics: A branch of theoretical physics that studies, using probability theory, the average behavior of a mechanical system made up of a large number of equivalent components where the microscopic realization of the system is uncertain or undefined. It is a valuable concept in the developing of game based strategies in highly complex, zero sum*, imperfect information games*.

Status: Reputation, relative importance in a community, rank or social position

Status quo bias:  An emotional bias; a preference for the current state of affairs no matter how irrational. Here the current baseline (or status quo) is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss.

Stochastic games: A game that generalizes both Markov decision processes* and repeated games*. This is a dynamic game* with probabilistic transitions played by one or more players. The game is played in a sequence of stages. At the beginning of each stage the game is in some nameable state. The players select actions and each player receives a payoff* that depends on the current state and the chosen actions. The game then moves to a new random state whose distribution depends on the previous state and the actions chosen by the players. The procedure is repeated at the new state and play continues for a finite or infinite game.

Stochastic processes:    In probability theory, a stochastic process, or “often random process”, is a collection of random variables representing the evolution of some system of random values over time. This is the probabilistic counterpart to a deterministic process (or deterministic system).

Stock: A variable measured at one specific time, that represents a quantity existing at that point in time (say, December 31, 2004), which may have accumulated in the past. It is an essential element in systems dynamics*

Storytelling: The sharing of an account of a real or imagined event.

Strategic Complements: In economics and game theory, the decisions of two or more players are called strategic complements if they mutually reinforce one another, and they are called strategic substitutes if they mutually offset one another.

To see what is meant by ‘reinforce’ or ‘offset’, consider a situation in which the players all have similar choices to make. These players are all imperfectly competitive. If companies they might need  must each to decide how much to produce. Then the production decisions are strategic complements if an increase in the production of one firm increases the marginal revenues of the others, because that gives the others an incentive to produce more al well. This tends to be the case if there are sufficiently strong aggregate increasing returns to scale and/or the demand curves for the firms’ if their products have a sufficiently low own-price elasticity. On the other hand, the production decisions are strategic substitutes if an increase in one firm’s output decreases the marginal revenues of the others, giving them an incentive to produce less.

According to Russell Cooper and Andrew John, strategic complementarity is the basic property underlying examples of multiple equilibria in coordination games.

Strategic form game: See normal games*

Strategy: In game based thinking this is a complete plan of action for every stage of the game, including a complete process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations – regardless of whether that stage actually arises in play. This process or set of rules is known by mathematicians as an “algorithm”.

Strategy profile: Sometimes called a strategy combination this is a set of strategies for all players which fully specifies all actions in a game. A strategy profile must include one and only one strategy for every player. When one, and only one strategy is prepared for every situation we have what is known as a mixed strategy*.

Strategy space: In game theory this is the set of all strategies available to a particular player.

Strategic commitment:  A commitment to a specific strategy that has been developed to achieve a specific end result.

Strictly determined game: A two-player zero-sum game that has at least one Nash equilibrium* with both players using pure strategies*. The value of a strictly determined game* is equal to the value of the equilibrium outcome. One of the most studied Strictly determined games is the Monty Hall Problem*

Strictly Dominant Strategy:  A strategy is strictly dominant if, regardless of what any other players do, the strategy earns a player a strictly higher payoff * than any other. Hence, a strategy is strictly dominant if it is always strictly better than any other strategy, for any profile of other players’ actions. If a player has a strictly dominant strategy, than he or she will always play it in equilibrium. Also, if one strategy is strictly dominant, than all others are dominated. For example, in the prisoner’s dilemma*, each player has a strictly dominant strategy.

Strong Nash equilibrium: A Nash equilibrium* in which no coalition, taking the actions of its complements as given, can cooperatively deviate in a way that benefits all of its members.

Structure Conduct Performance Model (SCM): Also known as the Structure Conduct Performance Paradigm. it is a model in Industrial Organization Economics which offers a causal theoretical explanation for firm performance through economic conduct on incomplete markets.

According to the structure–conduct–performance paradigm, the market environment has a direct, short-term impact on the market structure. The market structure then has a direct influence on the firm’s economic conduct, which in turn affects its market performance. Therein, feedback effects occur such that market performance may impact conduct and structure, or conduct may affect the market structure. Additionally, external factors such as legal or political interventions affect the market framework and, by extension, the structure, conduct and performance of the market.

Sub-game: Part of a larger game which when seen in isolation, constitutes a game in its own right.  An example might be the statistics of a specific inning of a baseball game.  No matter who wins the larger game of nine innings a pitcher could theoretically win an award for striking out more players than any other pitcher in the seventh inning.

Subnode: A node within another node of a network or element in a data structure.

Subgame perfection:  A subgame* perfect Nash equilibrium* is an equilibrium such that players’ strategies constitute a Nash equilibrium in every subgame” of the original game. It may be found by backward induction, an iterative process for solving finite extensive form* or sequential games*.

Subgame Perfect Strategy: See Sub-game Perfection*,

Subgame perfect Nash equilibrium: See Sub-game perfection*.

Succinct game: In algorithmic game theory, a succinct game or a succinctly representable game is a game which may be represented in a size much smaller than its normal form* representation. It might be said in common language that a succinct game is an accurate micro-presentation of a macro idea. A method for this might be the creation of a small structurally accurate architectural model of a sky scraper. Examples of succinct games include Graphical gamesSparse gamesSymmetric gamesAnonymous gamesPolymatrix gamesCircuit games.

Sucker’s Payoff:   This is the payoff* received by an individual who has been betrayed in a game where  two purely “rational” individuals have not cooperated, even when  it appeared that it was in their best interests to do so. The most common of this type of game is the prisoner’s dilemma*.  Here the one who testifies against the other implicating him in a crime will go free, while the other one will go to prison.

Suffering: the disruptive, necessary mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm. When suffering is physical, we know it as pain. Words that are roughly synonymous with suffering include: unhappiness, misery, pain, woe, unpleasantness, distress, sorrow, misery, affliction, illness, discomfort, displeasure and disagreeableness.

Sum Games: At the end of any game there will be a sum total of benefits, and losses. In game theory there are different forms of sum game. In some of them everyone can, win, in others, everyone might loss and in some there is one total that get divided among the players; the winner getting more or all, and the losers getting less or nothing. There are various types of sum games including constant, non-zero sum*, zero sum*, positive sum and negative-sum games.

Support Triangle: Any group of three people who come together in the agreement to consistently support each other in being extraordinary.

Supply Chain: Where and how a sequence of actions takes place in a game space ending in some benefit or utility.

Surreal number: In mathematics, the surreal number system is an arithmetic continuum containing real numbers as well as infinite and infinitesimal numbers, respectively larger or smaller in absolute value than any positive real number.

Sweat Equity: Physical energy or intellectual talent or time offered as a currency or payment for some good or service in lieu of cash.

Symmetry: The quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis:

Symmetric gamesIn game theory, a symmetric game is a game where the payoffs for playing a particular strategy depend only on the other strategies employed, not on who is playing them. If one can change the identities of the players without changing the payoff to the strategies, then a game is symmetric. Symmetry can come in different varieties. Ordinary symmetric games are games that are symmetric with respect to the ordinal structure of the payoffs*. A game is quantitatively symmetric if and only if it is symmetric with respect to the exact payoffs.

Synergy: The cooperative interaction of two or more players or forces among groups, so that their combined effect creates an enhanced combined effect that is greater than the sum of their individual effects. In LHAGT and in the creation of effective Life Strategies synergy is essential for it expands the role of proactive and community based relationships

System: An established group of interdependent details or parts, items, ideas, or principles – that form a complex whole, and maintain their existence by interacting regularly, harmoniously, orderly, and methodically over time to perform a task.



Tacit knowing: A type of untapped subjective awareness, It is a process that is the essential personal component of knowing and knowledge and which cannot be systematized in the way that objective information might.

Teaming rules: Formal and scientific or informal and wholly unscientific laws of behavior.  When informal and wholly unscientific they are based largely on observed patterns of human nature

Technology: The making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts,  or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function.

Technoself studies: commonly referred to as TSS, THIS is an emerging, interdisciplinary domain of scholarly research dealing with all aspects of human identity in a technological society. It focuses on the changing nature of relationships between the human and technology.

Tetris Effect:  Also known as Tetris Syndrome this occurs when people devote so much time and attention to an activity that it begins to pattern their thoughts, mental images, and dreams in habitual ways ultimately overshadow their thoughts, mental images, and dreams… In time most sensory information is organized in the mind as connected boxes of data – mental icons and APPs. It is named after the video game Tetris.

Theoretic analysis:  An observation of the various elements that comprise a game and, the likely events that are to unfold in such a game. Any skilled player must create this in order to be effective.

Theoretical framework: The structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study. The theoretical framework introduces and describes the theory that explains why the research problem under study exists.

Theory of constraints (TOC): A systematic approach to transcending or compensating for the weakest element in any process?

Theory of Constraints: The idea that any manageable system will be limited in achieving more of its goals by a very small number of constraints. There is always at least one constraint. TOC adopts the common idiom “a chain is no stronger than its weakest link.” This means that processes, organizations, etc., are vulnerable because the weakest person or part can always damage or break them or at least adversely affect the outcome.

Theory of Constraints Distribution Solution:  A systematic tool used to address a single constraining link in a supply chain within a game-based strategy and more so across many layers of strategy entire even if that game-based strategy comprises many different sub-games. The purpose of the TOC distribution solution is to establish a decisive competitive edge based on extraordinary availability by dramatically reducing the damages caused when the flow of materials and resources is interrupted by shortages and surpluses.

Thought marker:  A  predictive, meaningful pattern in sentence structure and words that clarify large amounts data.

Time: A continuous, measurable, progression of perceived existence. Among most groups, time is defined as the past, present, and future presented as a whole.

Time-shifting: What happens when an individual or organization takes information, usually in the form of a visual media (TV programming is the most common form) and intentionally presents it at a time other than when it could have been shown “live”. This is often done to increase or increase influence. An example might be Time-shifting the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games so that they are viewed in the evening hours in the U.S.

Tipping Points:  A cliché that expands the technical application of the term critical mass* to address many different situations relating to groups, or individuals.

Tit-for-Tat: Retaliation in kind—or more broadly, an equivalent to an action given in return. In game theory the punishment continues as long as the other player defects from an agreement (cheats),  Considered a Trigger Strategy*   in CGT* it also has related meanings and uses as a concept in biology, social psychology, and business.

Ti- for-Tat with forgiveness: A form of Trigger Strategy*   where the opponent makes war, yet on the next move, the player sometimes makes peace anyway, with a small probability. This allows an escape from wasting cycles of retribution.

Tit for two tats:  A forgiving variant of Tit-for-tat. It is considered a Trigger Strategy* in CGT* it also has related meanings and is used as a concept in biology, social psychology, and business.

Tools: Any device or devices used to perform or facilitate manual, mechanical, or technological tasks.

Touch: Physical contact with another person or thing.

Tragedy of the commons: An economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource.

Traveling Salesman Problem: One of the most intensively studied problems in computational mathematics and Game theory. The Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) requires that we find the shortest path visiting each of a given set of cities and returning to the starting point. In HAGT* the TSP can be used to solve extreme problems.

Tree diagram: See Tree Structures*

Tree Structures: Also known as tree diagrams these are a  conceptual way of representing the hierarchical nature of a structure in a graphical form. It is named a “tree structure” because the classic representation resembles a tree, even though the chart is generally upside down compared to an actual tree. In a tree structure,  the “root” is at the top and the “leaves” at the bottom.

Trembling hand:  This is a concept in which a player in a game containing an equilibrium state takes into consideration the possibility of a mistaken move (off-the-equilibrium play) by an opponent. There is always the chance here that an opponent may choose an unintended strategy although this probability is small.

In a card game, this would amount to a player mistakenly playing the wrong card through a blunder or error (a “tremble”). The trembling hand perfect equilibrium concept finds application in several areas, including the theory of industrial organization and macroeconomic theory for economic policy.

Trigger strategy:  Any of a class of strategies employed in a repeated non-cooperative game. A player using a trigger strategy initially cooperates but punishes the opponent if a certain level of defection (i.e., the trigger) is observed. The level of punishment and the sensitivity of the trigger vary with different trigger strategies. Research Tit-for-Tat* for examples of various Trigger Strategies.

Trivia Games: Games based on a players ability to know or recall seemingly unimportant bits of information.

Turn-based strategy (TBS): This is a game-based strategy game (usually used in some type of video wargame, especially a strategic-level wargame) where players take turns when playing. This is distinguished from real time strategy where all players play simultaneously.



Utility: A term used by economists to describe the measurement of “usefulness” that a player obtains from any good or service. Utility may measure how much one enjoys a movie, or the sense of security one gets from buying a deadbolt lock. The utility of any person, place, thing or circumstance can be considered in creating or analyzing game-based strategies.

Utility function: A tool in economics that measures preferences concerning a set of goods and services.

Utility is measured in units called utils, which represent the welfare or satisfaction of a consumer (Player in AGT*) from consuming a certain number of goods.



Value:  A rationally expected outcome in a game. There are more than a few definitions of value, describing different methods of obtaining a solution to the game.

Veto: A veto denotes the ability (or right) of some player to prevent a specific alternative from being the outcome of the game. A player with  that ability is a “veto player.”

Vision: An idea, concept or content of experience that one wishes to have. A vision is different than a goal in that a vision is formless where a goal is already fully formed. It is the distinction between content (vision)  and form (goal). When a vision is clear in the mind of a visionary the form that will best serve the fruition of that vision will arrive spontaneously. In this sense, one might say that the content of a vision defines the form that we call a “goal”.

Visionary: An individual with a clarity of thought, a passion for a clearly defined experience, and foresight on how that passion may manifest.

Volunteer’s dilemma:  a game model representing a situation in which each of a number of players (X players) faces the decision of either making a small sacrifice from which all will benefit, or freeriding.

One example of this is a scenario in which the electricity has gone out for an entire neighborhood. All inhabitants know that the electricity company will fix the problem as long as at least one person calls to notify them, at some cost. If no one volunteers, the worst possible outcome is obtained for all participants. If any one person elects to volunteer, the rest benefit by not doing so.

public good is only produced if at least one person volunteers to pay an arbitrary cost. In this game, bystanders decide independently on whether to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the group. Because the volunteer receives no benefit, there is a greater incentive for freeriding than to sacrifice oneself for the group. If no one volunteers, everyone loses. The social phenomena of the bystander effect and the diffusion of responsibility heavily relates to the volunteer’s dilemma.



Want: A desire for something that, though not essential for survival and well-being, will bring emotional, physical and/or mental satisfaction.

Weakly acceptable games: These are games that have pure Nash equilibria some of which are Pareto efficient*

Win/lose game: A  Zero-sum game*.

Win/win game: A non-zero-sum game*. Also known as a cooperative game*.

Wisdom of the crowd:  The collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than that of a single expert.

Wu wei: Literally “non-doing”. This is an important concept of Taoism meaning natural action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort.  Wu wei is the cultivation of a mental state in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life. The strategist who functions in a sense of Wu-wei can see and understand variables in a game that the ordinary strategist is likely to miss.



Your Best Life: The fulfillment of the Nineteen Resources


Zen Koan: A story, dialogue, question, or statement, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking, but may be accessible through intuition or lateral thinking, i.e. a type of thought that solves problems or accesses wisdom through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.

Zen Mind: A way of being or thought associated within a Japanese School of Buddhism In Zen Mind a person is completely clear in thought, present in intention, childlike in innocence, and free of regrets for the past or expectation for the future.

Zero-sum Game: A situation in which one participant’s gains result only from another participant’s equivalent losses. The net change in total wealth among participants is zero; the wealth is just shifted from one to another. In basic terms, it means that if one person wins than everyone else has to lose.


A Note from the Author

If you have an interest  in exploring the ideas in this book in greater depth you can begin with the book “An Introduction to the Wisdom Path and the Teaching of Lewis Harrison” and the irst Volume of “The Teachings of Lewis Harrison” – “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times”. All the books in the Teachings are available at www.RealUGuru.com or through most booksellers.


If able, other things you might do to integrate these ideas into your daily life include:

  • Read the Volumes that comprise the “Teachings of Lewis Harrison”.
  • Form a physical Applied Game thinking Support triangle or study group or begin a “Wisdom Path” group in your own community.
  • Sign up for regular Applied game thinking Blogs at RealUGuru.com



About the Author:

Lewis Harrison is an author on human potential and personal development. A teacher, speaker and success coach he is director of the RealUGuru Project  – RealUGuru.com. He hosts a weekly radio show at WIOX 91.3 FM (A community partner of WSKG, part of National Public Radio).


Lewis speaks to corporations, associations and small businesses on applying game based strategies.  His great passion is sharing the basics of game theory to “youth at risk” as well as to high school and college students.






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For a basic and easy to understand “Children’s Version” of this book Please read “How to Rule the World and Still Have People Like You: Game Theory Made Easy” –  The Teachings of Lewis Harrison Volume 27 by Lewis Harrison