I am a huge fan of Shane Parrish’s podcast and one of best episodes from it was with Naval Ravikant. Naval shared a lot of awesomeness in it and one of the things that stood out for me was the thought of looking at life as a ‘Single-Player’ Game
Life: A Single-Player Game
The reality is life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone. All of your interpretations are alone. All your memories are alone. You’re gone in three generations and nobody cares. Before you showed up, nobody cared. It’s all single-player. – Naval Ravikant
While talking about transitioning from anger/anxiety to calmness and how to control one’s responses or mental-state, Naval mentions how most people are conditioned to live life in a multi-player mode wherein the things that we chase are the visible social status and other such indicators.
Subsequently, the key to being happy is to get rid of yearnings for visible status indicators and focus on your internal state.
Socially, we’re told, “Go work out. Go look good.” That’s a multi-player
competitive game. Other people can see if I’m doing a good job or not. We’re told, “Go make money. Go buy a big house.” Again, external monkey-player competitive game. When it comes to learn to be happy, train yourself to be happy, completely internal, no external progress, no external validation, 100% you’re competing against yourself, single-player game – Naval Ravikant
Naval drives home the point really well. Instead of chasing external progress, we’d be better of chasing internal progress.
Life in Single-Player Mode
While, the points mentioned above, are mostly about taking care of your mental state, focusing on being happy and such, I’d like to extend the idea of life as a ‘Single-Player Game’ to living life in a ‘Single-Player Mode’
A single-player game is usually a game that can only be played by one person, while “single-player mode” is usually a game mode designed to be played by a single-player, though the game also contains multi-player modes – Wikipedia
Approaching life in a Single-Player Mode in essence means leading life in a way that assumes complete responsibility of own’s actions and their effects, and also encourages proactive self-improvement sans any dependancy on others.
What does Single-Player Mode Look Like?
Let me illustrate the point by taking some examples
Sports/Fitness: Say you want to become better at a sport. There are two ways to go about it
1. Multi-Player Mode. In a multi-player mode, you’d try to find someone to play/work out with (or find a coach) and practice with them to improve your game.
2. Single-Player Mode. In a single-player mode, you’d not limit your practice and improvement to finding & playing/working out with others. Either-ways, you’d find ways to practice and thereby improve your game/fitness.
Work/Skills: Say you want to become better at your job or pick up a new skill. Again, there are two ways to go about it.
1. Multi-Player Mode. In a multi-player mode, you’d try to find someone to learn from/with and depend on them for your learnings
2. Single-Player Mode. In a single-player mode, you’d not wait to find someone and instead try to learn and pick up skills on your own.
More often than not, whenever I’ve become good at something it’s because I approached it with a ‘Single-Player Mode’. Letting go of dependency on others for your learnings removes a lot of friction. Not only that, it shortens the feedback loop (and their-by improving the pace of learning) and lets you decide your own goals and metrics.
To top it all, Operating in a Single-Player mode requires that one figures out ‘Learning How To Learn’. Finding out how to learn different stuff on your own is quite transformational or should I say life-changing.
Another way to live in ‘Single-Player Mode’ is to compete against yourself. Here again you have to look internally to get better. It might take a while to get this engine started but once it starts, it works marvellously
If you look around, almost all super successful people operate in Single-Player Mode. They don’t really depend on others for motivation, inspiration or figuring out how to learn/get things done.
To conclude I’d say, if there’s something you’ve been trying to learn (coding, foreign language etc) or start doing (running, gymming, diet control) you’d be better off if you approach it in a Single-Player Mode