When you're young and naive, you tend to want to do things the right way. You're taught by adults that cheating and lying are wrong. As you get older and wiser, you start to become aware of people gaming the system to get ahead.
What you also realize is those who game the system seem to end up staying ahead! Let me share some examples as well as one harmless example about myself.
Gaming The System In Sports
In a 2007 Katie Couric TV interview he denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs. Two years later in 2009, Rodriguez admitted to having used steroids during his baseball career.
But did A-Rod have to give any of the money back? No.
Instead, after retiring as a player, Rodriguez became a media personality, serving as a broadcaster for Fox Sports 1, a cast member of Shark Tank, and a color commentator for ABC News, ESPN, and CNBC.
He had been welcomed with open arms.
Nobody seems to care that A-Rod took steroids. He is a hero to Yankees fans everywhere for helping them win the World Series in 2009. As a result, his actions have encouraged some athletes to game the system and take performance-enhancing drugs as well.
Just don't ask A-Rod's competitors what they think of him. Also, don't ask Dodger fans about the 2017 Astros. Even though the Astros later admitted to an illegal sign-stealing scheme, they still got to be 2017 World Series Champs.
Gaming The System Is Commonplace
Gaming the system in sports is one way to get ahead. However, there are many examples of people gaming the system in almost everything.
- Claim to be an underrepresented minority in order to get into a school or win a political election when you're not. Even after these people are found out, they still get to keep their diplomas and positions.
- Get sweetheart government contracts because you're buddies with the politicians in charge. Government corruption is ubiquitous. But if you've got the money, some art dealers and luxury property agents will still sell to oligarchs.
- Insider trading by congresspeople. Despite making millions of dollars from investments based on insider information the public can't trade on, these people continue to get reelected.
- Legally buy your children's way into elite private universities by donating more than $10 million to a school fundraiser. Just don't bribe school officials with anything less than $1 million. Otherwise, you might get thrown in jail.
- Join an awards panel so you can vote for yourself and your friends. You would think this would obviously be unfair. However, the practice continues because nobody cares.
- Paying money to submit your book for an award, which shuts out poorer authors who don't have as much money.
- Hire your children for leadership roles at a public company despite them not having the relevant experience or skills. Nepotism is still quite common place as wealthy parents trade favors.
- Manipulate the search engine algorithms so you outrank experienced authors who have the expertise and authority. This is a fascinating topic I can write a whole post about after being online since 2009.
- Gaming the college financial aid system to get free money for your kids even though your family is rich.
If you haven't figured it out by now, the system is rigged. If you play completely by the rules, you will have a much tougher mountain to climb. However, if you're completely above board and make it, you will feel tremendous pride.
Try The Above Board Route And Then Reconsider
In 2015, I was bumped up to a USTA 5.0 level tennis rating. Initially, I felt proud because less than 1% of USTA league tennis players are rated 5.0. Suddenly, I was playing against ex-Division I college players.
The first year was fine as I went 3-3. But the second year I went 1-9. That was no fun, but at least I kept trying.
As a 40-year-old in 2017, I asked to appeal my rating back down to 4.5. I got denied. So I took the year off because my son was born. Then in 2018, I decided to appeal again. Got denied again. I ended up going 4-12.
Then in 2019 and 2020, I appealed again. Denied denied. As a result, I couldn't find a 5.0 team to play on, so I played 9.5 combo.
Winning The League Title
Finally, in 2022, the USTA committee finally granted my appeal which enabled me to play in an age 40+, 4.5 league. Our team ended up winning the league title on March 27 and I went 8-2 for the season.
It wasn't easy, but playing at the 4.5 level is about 30% easier than playing at the 5.0 level. There weren't 120+ mph bomb serves or young bucks as quick as lightning hunting down returns.
Now I can die easier knowing that our team will forever be city champs in 2022!
Time To Game The Tennis Rating System?
Given how fun it was to win again, I never plan to go back to 5.0 level again. Nor should I as a mid-40s man with a bum knee and torn shoulders. Being in 5.0 purgatory for seven years was terrible after the third year.
This desire leads me to a dilemma. Should I game the system or continue to play my best?
Going 8-2 still means I lost twice. However, I believe at the 4.5 level, I can win at least 70% of my matches with a regular doubles partner. However, if I keep on winning and win by significant margins, the USTA computer algorithm might automatically bump me up to 5.0 again, which is what happened to me in 2015.
Therefore, the next time my doubles partner and I are up 6-1, 5-1 in a match, it may be prudent to strategically lose some games to make the score closer! Sandbagging doesn't seem very honorable at all, but it happens all the time.
Here's the deal. The USTA tennis rating system is itself unfair.
Fighting Fire With Fire
How is it fair that an injured old man like me who never played D1 college tennis has to compete in a league with 20-something-year-olds who have? Ridiculous. If there were separate 4.5, 4.75, and 5.0 leagues, this would solve the skill discrepancy problem. Unfortunately, there are not enough participants.
Until the USTA rating system is improved, I have no other choice. I no longer care about the status of being a 5.0 tennis player. Instead, I just want to have fun and play in an appropriate league where I can win at least 50% of the time.
Navigating A Rigged System
Thankfully, nobody cares about recreational tennis except for a few diehards who form super teams to try and go to nationals. I'm not hurting anybody by not diving after balls or tearing my shoulders more by serving my hardest. Instead, I'm likely making my opponents happy for letting them win more games.
But my innocuous example of gaming the USTA tennis rating system makes me wonder how we can better compete at more important things when the system itself is so rigged? The people who cheated their way to wealth and power aren't going to give most of it back. Instead, they are going to use their ill-gotten gains to get even further ahead.
I know my children will have a tougher time than average getting into a good school and landing a good job because of who they are. Yes, they will absolutely try harder to get ahead. However, my expectations are low because we're not a part of a chosen group of people society fights for.
So what's the solution?
Accept the world is always going to be unfair. Then do what you can to take care of yourself and your family.
Insurance Policy For A Rigged System
My solution to navigating a rigged system is to create career insurance policies for my children.
One insurance policy is building a rental property portfolio. This way, the kids always have somewhere to live and something to manage if they can't get a good job out of college. If you have an affordable place to live, you can afford to take more risks.
My other solution is to keep my small online business alive for a couple more decades. Even if they end up with no employment opportunities, I can always hire my kids to do some business development, PR, writing, videography, or finance work for Financial Samurai. As the owner of a private business, I can do what I want.
My final solution is to generate as much wealth as possible so there's no need to depend on anybody to survive. In other words, build generational wealth. However, this is a suboptimal solution because I want my kids to earn their financial independence.
In conclusion, I say try to do things the right way. Your soul will feel amazing if you succeed. Even if you fail or way poorer than you could have been, you will feel good knowing you tried your honest best.
Readers, what are your thoughts about gaming the system for more wealth and power? Have you thought about gaming the system in other ways? Any other examples of gaming the system I haven't touched upon? Have you ever gamed the system to your advantage? Will there ever be equal opportunities for all?