Play games you can win

Youngling Research
3 min readFeb 28, 2023

During YRC, I share a lot of maxims with my students.

Some of those, you’ll be familiar with: “In order to optimize something… there first has to be something to optimize!”

Another one I often say is: “Play games you can win,” or “Rig the game in your favor.”

You see, when you’re a kid, your parents teach you cheating is bad.

Then as you get older, school reinforces that notion.

After elementary, you go to high school where not cheating is even more important.

Then at university, they explain how cheating can have extremely serious consequences.

In fact, cheating in something like calculus is pointless because if you need to cheat, it’s almost impossible you’ll do well cuz you don’t understand what you’re doing.

If you, by some miracle are able to do well, there’s absolutely zero chance you’ll make Calc II.

And yet… cheating can cause you to fail the entire year or even get kicked out.

Completely disproportionate risk/reward.

Long story short… cheating bad, mkay.

Or is it…

In solopreneurship, I make the case that cheating is not only not bad, it’s good!

The only thing your customers care about is themselves. They’re peak selfish.

Not because they’re bad people but because they’re busy people with more important things in their lives.

This means that your sole focus should be to make them happy. If they don’t care if you cheat, then neither should you.

The only thing you should take into account is marketing ethics. Other than that… cheat your little heart out.

RJY’s fat ass

So I dislocated my knee in 2021 while Tricking right… well, I’ve gained 10 lbs/5 kg since then cuz I went from training daily to not training all of a sudden.

So in order to get back into shape, I tried to implement a rigorous workout and meal plan regimen.

Exactly what behavior science tells you NOT to do.

Why did I do that?

Because, like you… I think I’m special.

I think RJY is above the rules that govern mere mortals.

Welp… naturally “ya boy done fucked up”.

At which point, I decided to stop being a dumbass and do what I knew I should be doing:

Break up a big, complex behavior into its constituents and just do one of those.

So I experimented with a few behavior designs and landed on one that I was able to stick to:

  • Don’t eat until 14:00 PM.

Then I introduced another one:

  • Drink a protein shake in the afternoon and another one in the evening.

These two behaviors resulted in: curbing my appetite, getting in my protein requirements to build muscle mass, and constraining my caloric intake resulting in a caloric deficit.

Long story short, I started losing body fat. ¹

Think about how you can rig the game in your favor.

Are you making the game as complicated as possible so your ego can say: “Wow, you beat those odds, you’re incredible!” ²

Or is your goal simply to get the job done?

Solopreneurship is already hard enough, even if you rig the game in your favor. Don’t make it extra hard for no reason.


[1] You know how they say the best camera is the one you’ve got on you… A ridiculously fantastic camera that’s too heavy and burdensome to take with you is pointless.

Well, that same is true in behavior design.

In fact, this is the delta between classical economic theory and behavioral economics. What’s best on paper is irrelevant if people don't behave like that. What’s best in real life, is what people will actually DO!

[2] The reason you and I do this, I suspect is two-fold:

i. It gives us an excuse to fail. Akin to the guy getting wasted when hitting on women. “Oh, I only get rejected because I was drunk… not because I need to work on my social skills.”

ii. Because we’re lazy and want results yesterday. If it took us 10 years to get fat, we‘re not thankful that the universe only asks us to put in 1 year to get jacked.

“Nope… 48 hours… best I can do!”

Just look at the gym. How many people start dieting when it’s still cold in March?

And how many people wait until July, mid-summer, frantically trying to get in shape?

Don’t wait until you’re forced to do something… be proactive.