(My long time friend and colleague Eric Chester, an expert in generational differences in the workplace, has just launched a game changing new teen and young employee development program called The A Game. He’s written an interesting and insightful article I’ve posted below.)
In 1860, a lithographer by the name of Milton Bradley introduced The Checkered Game of Life to the nation. His game took players on a journey from infancy to happy old age, earning points for qualities like perseverance, honesty, ambition, and industry. Players lost points for idleness, intemperance, gambling, and a number of other vices.
Bradley wasn’t focused on making money with his invention; he had a much larger vision. He wanted to exemplify and promote the values his game espoused. And he had the right environment in which to do it: the late 1800’s were a golden age when it came to formulating America’s unparalleled, unabashed, uncompromising work ethic.
The old world view of labor as a distasteful practice best avoided by the upper classes had been replaced by the spanking new notion that a man could earn his place in the upper class through determination, discipline, and self-sacrifice. Parents, schools, and churches stressed the value of hard work and taught children how to live a virtuous life. Bradley’s game struck a resounding chord by perpetuating these principles.
It was not a coincidence that one hundred years later in 1960, the U.S. was one of the two international super-powers. A century of applied work ethic had seen the nation grow incredibly, and with this growth Milton Bradley became a highly profitable toy manufacturer. A hundred years after its original release, their signature product The Checkered Game of Life had been updated to reflect the prevailing mindset of the baby boom generation and was rebranded as The Game of Life.
The object of this revised edition was no longer to accrue points, but to accrue money. The ultimate destination of Happy Old Age was replaced with the wealthy neighborhood of Tycoon Estates. Losers didn’t gamble themselves to ruin or wind up impoverished as a result of their intemperance; they simply moved onto The Poor Farm.
The great religious and moral charges of the sixties—like the civil rights movement and the fight against communism— centered on the way individuals viewed others rather than the way they viewed themselves. Schools focused time on developing social responsibility leaving parents in charge of developing work ethic and virtues. However, the emergence of the dual-wage earning family meant less face-time for accomplishing this task at home.
The next version released in the 70’s and 80’s brought three significant ‘something-for-nothing’ changes to Life. A new “Share The Wealth” card enabled players to either steal 50% of an opponent’s cash windfall, or force them to pay half of their personal tax burden. Additionally, players were now ‘entitled’ to receive cash presents from other players for ‘life events’ like getting married or having children. “Lucky Day” spaces were also added to the game board offering players lottery-like cash prizes just for landing on them, with the option to keep the cash or risk it on a roll-of-the-dice gamble to multiply it. This was a far cry from the original version in which gambling was punished, rather than encouraged.
Revamped again in 1991, Life began to reward players for community service activities like recycling and helping the homeless, and there have been additional modifications since then. While civic-minded activities are certainly admirable, what is totally absent from the 1991 revision of The Game of Life is any reward for honesty, hard work, perseverance, and ambition. But when teaching and reinforcing these kinds of values and virtues are no longer a priority in our homes and our schools, why should they be tenets in today’s version of Life?
If you want to test this, go survey your friends and co-workers who have kids under the age of 25 and ask them what they want for their children. Seriously, try this. You’ll find out that the goals of Baby-Boomer/Gen X parents are to make certain their kids are safe, happy, healthy, and have a high self-esteem; not necessarily in that order. Work ethic won’t be mentioned.
It is into this environment that Generation Y has been born and nurtured.
I’ve spent the last fifteen years working with organizations of every size and kind and I’ve heard thousands of business owners, executives, and managers lament the resulting carnage that the absence of work ethic/values training has wrought. Employers demand it, and yet schools and parents don’t teach or encourage it.
Even if math and science scores improve dramatically for American students, I believe that we’ll continue to lose our global advantage if we don’t address the fundamental cause of the problem: our unwillingness, inability, or refusal to teach and reinforce the work ethic that made our nation great and our citizens strong.
Six years ago, I decided that I could either eulogize the American work ethic or take steps to restore it. Through the combined efforts of a great team, a stellar advisory board, and 18 leading educators and corporate trainers from throughout the country, what began as an idea that day has evolved into The A Game, a fully integrated work ethic training and certification program for teens and young adults.
Unlike Milton Bradley’s Checkered Game of Life, “The A Game” is not a game. It’s a comprehensive, fully integrated curriculum that can train and reinforce work ethic at home, at school, and in the workplace by promoting the seven fundamental values that are the prerequisite to success in every job and every career, in every field and industry.
Most importantly, the curriculum teaches the emerging generation to bring their very best (their “A Game”) to work, just as they would bring their very best to their recreational pursuits like sports, music, and video games. Furthermore, The A Game is counterculture in that it destroys prevailing myths like, ‘work is a bad thing’ and ‘do only the work you’re paid to do and nothing more’. (Read the quotes to the right to see how legendary figures in business, medicine, politics, education, and entertainment view work.)
After a series of very successful pilot tests, The A Game is being officially launched this week, and you, the loyal readers of WhysNews, are the first to hear about it.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to tour the website and learn more about the A Game. I’m confident that news of this revolution will spread fast as schools rediscover the importance of teaching students these indisputable values, parents recognize their role in preparing teens for success in the workplace, and employers discover how work ethic training of their front line will decrease turnover and increase performance, profitability, and customer satisfaction.
Join the movement to return work ethic as a centerpiece in the development of our nation’s youth. Hit the website, share it with two or three friends and ask them to do the same. With your help, we can show America’s youth that when they win at work, they truly do win at life.