Batuhan: Life is just a game?

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By Dominador Almirante

Labor case Digest

Friday, June 20, 2014

DR. PHIL McGraw is one of TV’s new creations, a self-styled psychologist to the masses, whose TV show features troubled and troublesome guests, who for some reason or other, want to air their psychological problems on national TV. The show’s format is not unlike that of Judge Judy, a real-life American magistrate, whose courtroom has been brought to television, and where real-life protagonists could bring their conflicts to resolution.

In a recent endeavor, Dr. McGraw has published a book, which purports to impart to its readers a “code” by which they can live their lives, and with it, be successful. There is no shortage, of course, of people looking for success any way they can get it—and these—together with his TV fans, all conspired to put the book on many bestseller lists. Entitled “Life Code: New Rules for the Real World”, the book is best described by the author’s own website. It says in summary:

“It’s time to learn how the world really works, not how you wish it worked, not how it should work, but how it really works. If you’ve been doing everything ‘by the book,’ and your life still isn’t where you want it be, you’ve been reading the wrong book. ‘Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World’ will empower you to become a leader of your own life, and just as importantly, protect yourself and those you love.


‘Life is a game — and you will either be a player or be the one played,’ explains Dr. Phil. ‘Yesterday’s rules and expectations about relationships, emotions and interacting just simply don’t apply any more, not like they used to … Life Code offers readers a rare glimpse inside the minds of ‘bad guys’ we all have in our lives, in the form of a ‘Secret Playbook,’ that spells out exactly how the users, abusers and exploiters think and act. But it goes so much further, revealing the ‘Sweet 16’ powerful tools that the world’s most successful people know and use on a daily basis to get what they want and keep it.”

I like that the first part devotes a great deal of effort to educating people about exploiters of all kinds in their midst. American society, in general, seems to be full of all kinds of social predators, and even fuller with all sorts of potential victims. And so for the latter, the book may yet be a potential life saver.

It is in the second part, the “new code,” where I did not think the advice it dispenses is quite all there.

In short, Dr. Phil looks at life as a “game” to be played to win, in order that one obtains happiness and satisfaction. While it does offer some good advice, the fact that it tells people that everything is a competition that must be won may lead people to believing that all of life is a zero-sum game, and that for one to profit, others must lose. It is too simplistic a view on living, and used in the wrong context, would only promote a very dysfunctional family, workplace or society.

Maybe in Dr. Phil’s world, this is how it is. After all, he is now a Hollywood celebrity, and as pejoratively often portrayed, it is how one plays the “casting couch” system, which either makes or breaks careers. But there are other, less competitive, and more collaborative means to live your lives.

Kenneth Blanchard talks about leading like Jesus, and authors like Jim Collins eschew the traditional stereotype of the all-powerful CEO, in favor of what he calls the selfless “Level Five” leader.

Perhaps Dr. Phil has overshot the mark just a little bit here. William Sloane Coffin famously said, “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” By extension, if we take Dr. Phil’s advice to heart and win, in the end, we are no better off than the desperate gamblers at the gaming table—always intent on winning, but in the end, oftentimes losing.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 21, 2014.


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