“Everything I Know About Business (and Life) I Learned From…Poker? Or Maybe Slaying Dragons…?

Quick! Think of a subject; any subject. Now think of any kind of game/pastime/hobby. Got it? You’ve just completed a Mad Lib:

Everything I know about   [subject]

I learned from  [game/etc.] .

You just might have a new best-selling book (or at least a blog post) topic now!

Ever since Robert Fulghum wrote that ‘everything he needed to know he learned in kindergarten,’ it seems like there is a lot of writing out there with a similar “Everything I know about…” theme – lots of it parody, but many clever writings, too.

In the clever category is “Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Poker,” written by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, an idea appearing in the What Matters Now e-book (compiled by Seth Godin), which I just wrote about here. Tony Hsieh provides a clever explanation how poker has taught him about financials, strategy, education and culture, excerpted from Tony Hsieh’s excellent blog.  (As I have mentioned before, any company whose CEO is writing an informative, thought-provoking blog has a competitive advantage in leadership).

Still, it’s easy to take the idea too far: unlike business, poker has a much higher level of luck that can’t be reduced through proactive strategic planning and creativity (think effective product marketing and management, etc.). Even after correctly speculating an opponent has an inferior hand, a bad final “river” card can do you in anyway. In poker, it’s often better to be “lucky” than “good”!

Today poker is very widely regarded as very “cool”, with televised poker champions playing their personas to the hilt.

That said, I have a great deal of respect for someone willing to share an “Everything I know…” insight using a game, pastime, hobby, etc. that is…well, let’s say definitely not perceived as “cool” by popular culture.

For that I wish to honor Chad Henderson of Oklahoma City: Everything he needs to know about life he learned from…Dungeons and Dragons. (Thanks to BoingBoing for their original posting on this.)    

I suggest Chad makes a solid case for why Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games (played in-person, not online) might even have more useful life and business lessons than poker!

Watching his recent IgniteOKC talk, which I found offered useful insights from a marketing and personal branding perspective, and reading a bit more about Chad Henderson, he knows a thing or two about starting a business venture that is quite cool!  Read on…

I also want to compliment “Izzy” who shared these valuable comments on Chad’s blog:

I’ve used Dungeons and Dragons as a learning tool for my kids too! Their teachers have always been amazed at their vocabulary (but not necessarily their spelling). Also, they get a good feel for numbers and probabilities.

Other things we learn from D&D:

Group cooperation: groups can accomplish more than individuals
Roles: Everyone contributes to success and each person has their specific strengths
Choice: Sometimes moral choices override logic and tradition

Checking elsewhere Chad Henderson’s blog, I see Chad has co-founded the Oklahoma City Co-working Collaborative, a cool venture which offers telecommuters, entrepreneurs, programmers, consultants, and other self-employed professionals an outstanding professional work environment at a much lower cost than renting office space. Even better, in such a coworking environment (unlike a “hoteling” environment I was familiar with from once working for a consulting firm), you get to interact with a wide variety of creative professionals – in keeping with Tom Peters’ longstanding advice to get new marketing, business and other ideas by hanging out with people you might not otherwise get to meet.

I confess I had not even heard the term coworking until reading about Chad Henderson’s venture, but I’m impressed. Come to find out, there are coworking sites not too far from me in Boston and Cambridge, Mass.  If you are familiar with coworking as a user, a founder, or both, please comment here with your insights!

So, to summarize: a business venture co-founded by an avid player of Dungeons and Dragons, a game that requires creativity, imagination and the ability to work effectively as a team…yes, interesting, very interesting:

In related news, ABC’s Shark Tank has named The Lord of the Rings’ Council of Elrond as their new cast! (ha ha):


2 thoughts on ““Everything I Know About Business (and Life) I Learned From…Poker? Or Maybe Slaying Dragons…?

  1. Thanks for the kind words Mike. I had a lot of fun doing that ignite talk and was very surprised to see it show up on Boing Boing.

    If you ever make it down to Oklahoma City, let me know and I will happily show you around the okcCoCo!

    1. Glad to hear from you, Chad. It was a very good presentation. Take a bow, you hit the big time on BoingBoing!


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