Play Your Cards Well

“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” – Voltaire

French philosopher and writer Francois-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire (1694-1778) shared many a great thought throughout his life, but none may illuminate the human condition more clearly or concisely than the quote above.

We are all dealt our hand of cards–where and to whom we are born, the circumstances of our childhood and adolescence, our educational opportunities. And there, the dealing pretty much stops and how we play our hand begins. What field of endeavor we choose, how hard we choose to work, whom we decide to marry, how we choose to spend our money, and what we view as possible for ourselves or impossible…these decisions–and their corresponding ramifications– are ours.

When we don’t get the results we had hoped for from our decisions and resulting actions, or are surprised by unexpected outcomes from the same, we want to blame others in order to make ourselves feel better about our situation.  That’s an understandable and very human reaction, but it’s no place to park our emotions for any extended period of time.

Certainly, when you hit the age of 25, it’s time to set aside the resentment you may have for your parents and all the things you think they did or did not do for you or to you. (If it’s psychological or physical abuse, this may take time and effort, but do it anyway.)  Most parents do their best, and if they didn’t, it’s not on you; it’s on them. And few children appreciate the lessons they learned at home until they experience the real world for a couple of years.

And when you have a child, and that child starts to play his or her hand in ways that will certainly bring unpleasant results, you will do your best to persuade them to choose otherwise–just as your parents tried with you. But that’s learning, isn’t it?

Take full responsibility for your actions. This will minimize mistakes and enable you to take credit for your success.

When you’ve played your cards well, take a measure of pride in your accomplishments. But temper your confidence with the knowledge that life has laid low many a man (and woman) who were certain that they had all the answers.

This knowledge of man’s limited understanding, the fickle nature of fate, the ever-changing times in which we have always lived–these elements restrain the behavior of Old Money. Never boast, never complain. Keep it on an even keel. Keep it between the lines. Enjoy today. Plan for tomorrow. You can almost here the ancestors whisper the hard-earned, hard-learned wisdom of modesty and discretion.

We’d do well to consider Voltaire’s metaphor on a daily basis. After all, we’re still sitting at the table, and we still have cards to play.

– BGT


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