Like most everyone else in the free world, I have finally finished the third season of House of Cards, a Netflix original series.
And like most other House of Cards fans, I have been consistently intrigued with Francis Underwood, a ruthless politician played by Kevin Spacey.
As Season Three begins to unfold, President Underwood hires a writer to help promote a new jobs program. The writer accompanies President Underwood to his childhood home of Gaffney, South Carolina. There, the president provides a tour of his hometown, including his family’s “farm,” a failed enterprise that went bankrupt because there was only a thin layer of soil covering deep bedrock.
Underwood explains the farm’s failure this way: hard work is sometimes not enough if you have nothing to work with.
From my own perspective, I have always doubled-down on the notion that success is achieved primarily by hard work. This mantra was driven into the soft-tissue of my brain since before I can remember. It is, after all, a family trait.
Don’t get me wrong.
Hard work is a virtue, but that one scene at the Underwood’s failed peach tree farm— out of 39 episodes — made me re-examine the Puritan values that course through my veins.
Even the losers, get lucky sometimes
Growing up, the game of Monopoly was one of my favorite games. I was an impulsive child, so at every opportunity I bought every property I could, resulting in depleted cash reserves and forcing me to mortgage the properties in order to pay my debts.
Of course, while my properties were mortgaged they produced no revenue. Inevitably, I would go bankrupt, watching as my parents and sister finished the game without me.
But over time, I became more savvy. I was more judicious in my selection of properties. I focused on the utilities and railroads. I avoided properties that were beyond my means (Boardwalk and Park Place).
I kept no less than 50 percent cash reserves, and put houses and hotels on inexpensive properties such as Oriental and Baltic. The odds of another player landing on these properties was much higher than landing on Boardwalk. Thus, I had a nice revenue stream and owned properties on all sides of the board.
Playing Monopoly is a learning curve, but there is no mistake that winning at Monopoly is also driven by “chance” and luck.
Even at the beginning of the game, the players roll dice to determine who moves first.
One roll of the dice can provide a distinct advantage, but there are always things beyond our control: being forced into jail because of an unlucky roll of the dice, for example.
The game of Monopoly has been criticized as propaganda of greed, the worst trait of capitalism.
But it is also an exceptional learning tool that reinforces the harsh reality of life. No matter how smartly you play, there are always things you cannot control. And even at birth, it is a roll of the dice that can give you an advantage over the other players.
Sometimes hard work is not enough.
We should remember that lesson when judging the other players.