Game of Cults email 7 of 45: What Game Are We Playing?

This is an important email.

Yes, all of these emails are valuable, but this one holds the game-changer.

We are still early in this series, exploring the big ideas, applying metacognition to analyze how we think about our thinking, and questioning the premises your business is built on.

Maybe your business is on a solid foundation, but on rented land. Maybe the plan you followed to create your foundations isn’t set in bedrock but sand.

It’s time to question not only the rules of the game but the game itself.

Later, after we explore individual behavior and group behavior, we will apply gamification techniques to your marketing to gain an advantage.

Let’s talk about why you’ll have an advantage.

It’s the game you choose to play.

Those who subscribe to this series see the value of  playing a different game.

The reason you’ll win this game is because you’re going to design the game system and then get others to play your game rather than adopting someone else’s rule system.

Other content creators will never understand why you’re successful because they are still playing a game others designed. They are willing players confined by the game parameters created by other game designers.

How can different authors in the same genre look to sell books to the same consumers by playing different games?

  1. The playground is the same. We all must play our game in the marketplace and adhere to the rules of the playground.
  2. What game you play on the playground can be very different. It can be a different game altogether, like playing kickball versus tetherball, or you could play a similar game but change the rules.

You may be mistaking the game for the playground?

What do I mean?

Some content creators are aggressively playing the advertising game or the selling wide game and don’t understand there are other games to play or that they can play a similar game with rule changes to get different results. None of these are the playground. The playground is the content consumption market.

The first change you need to make is to stop and ask yourself what game you’re playing.

Sales platforms are game designers, not playground owners. They are trying to build market share and dominance over other sales channels. Advertising companies are trying to optimize advertising revenues, social media companies are trying to optimize user eyeballs, and we can get sucked into their game if we’re not careful.

Once you break free of another game designer’s paradigm, you can see the matrix.

You understand that there are some immutable laws that must be followed—the rules of the playground.

Other “rules” are created by game designers to modify the behavior for what the game designer seeks.

You can stop playing those games.

What is the game you’ll play?

Is your game designed to sell more books or build a sustainable publishing business?

Is your game based on the reader-writer relationship (keystone mutualism) or social media visibility algorithms?

Is your game designed on how best a digital marketing technique works or on the buying behaviors of those with an unmet desire in the market?

For me, the game’s design is crucial as it creates the framework of the system. We learned last season that a well-designed system becomes self-perpetuating.

Novices come to the playground and just want to learn how the existing games are played. How do I get proficient at the game of social media or Amazon sales?

We all need to understand these games. We don’t have to participate.

Then there’s us.

We are stopping and looking over the playground and thinking, what if I wanted to get the right kids to come to play my game by my rules?

Could I design a game on the same playground adhering to the rules of the playground but design my own game with a different outcome?

Yes, you can.

It’s not easy, and you’re going to have to think like a chef, not a cook. You’ll learn how to be that chef in these emails and then develop your culinary experience.

This means we need to understand the immutable laws of the content creation playground.

Reader-writer relationship

If you’re not familiar with this idea, be sure to read this post. This, in my view, is the foundation of the business. The closer and stronger your relationship with your readers, the better your business will perform.

Build your game on this premise. Your goal is to strengthen the ties that bind your readers to your brand. Sales will follow.

The buyer’s journey is not a straight line on your timeline.

We don’t have clarity on how long it takes a prospect to become a customer. Rather than designing a system that ejects prospects because they haven’t done what we expect in your timeline, we build a system that gives them the tools to indoctrinate themselves on their timeline.

People buy from emotion and rationalize behavior with logic.

Most of what we’ll be learning this season will be how individual and group thinking is driven by emotion. Logic has little to do with getting results. Logic is how we come to peace with how we act.

We are social creatures that need a tribe.

We seek those like us. Collecting your best readers into a community where they can proudly evangelize for you becomes your signal that you use sale platform automation and machine learning to amplify.

Just because everyone else wants to play a game and they say all the cool kids are playing it doesn’t make it true.

Most of the people playing the game are unhappy and not playing the game well. They internalize the lack of success and make it a personal failure because they don’t do well.

I don’t think those we see as winning the game understand the rules. My experience is that most don’t know the source of their success.

Then there are those that don’t play one game and get good at it. They run from game to game on the playground with the hope that it’s the game that will make the difference. It can, but you have to play it consistently to improve.

They want you to look at the scoreboard. Money, rank, status all become the focus. The game designers want us to focus on performance indicators to manipulate our participation and get us to double down on what earns them money.

When that happens, you may find that you’re winning the game but have lost control of the playground. You’re just a player, and when they change the rules, you’ll conform. That’s not entrepreneurship. That’s sharecropping.

Not a game I’ll be playing. How about you?

In the next email, we will talk about signals. A significant part of why we collect individuals into a community is to be able to create a clean signal for others to amplify. But what do I mean by a clean signal?

Tune in next time to find out.

Thank you for your attention,


One more thing…

Take a critical eye to the current game you play. How does it stack up against my four points above? Rank your strategy on a scale to identify where you should look to improve.


Go one layer deeper and evaluate—is there a system, “a game,” that is coherent and focused on the result you seek, or are you playing a game designed by someone else and don’t understand the rules?

Email 8 of 45