Take a Chance Card

Nov 06, 2020


What was the game of Monopoly intended to teach us and what can great leaders learn about taking risk, managing fear, and revealing personal edge?

Remember the orange cards in the game Monopoly? I was pretty excited about drawing a Chance card, unless I had less than $200. Here’s why: 12 out of the 16 cards are actually beneficial, if you count the “Go Back 3 Spaces” card—which might give you a chance to buy that third of three Title Deeds. Seventy-five percent of the cards include positive words like advance or collect. Only 4 of the 16 Chance cards require you to pay taxes, go to jail, make repairs, or become Chairman of the Board. (By the way, why did the chairperson, ahem, have to pay each player $50 for being elected?)

In the 1930’s, Charles Darrow took a game passed on by word of mouth, spiffed it up a bit and sold it as his own to Parker Brothers. When asked how he developed the game he said, “It’s a freak. Entirely unexpected and illogical.”1 In fact, it was Elizabeth Magie who developed The Landlord’s Game decades prior. She “created two sets of rules for her game: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents.”2 Darrow, the game’s first real-life millionaire, took a huge unethical risk, and to this day is still credited as the game’s inventor.

Let’s explore taking more virtuous risks:

  1. Taking a Chance: What’s one risk you could take over the next 4 weeks? HINT: It’s the one thing you know you should do, but haven’t mustered up sustained courage to try. Examples: Having that challenging conversation, leaping into a new role, or like in Monopoly, trading in a pile of money and 3 green houses for 1 red hotel.
  2. Managing Discomfort: How are you managing your risk discomfort? HINT: If you don’t have any, you’re not growing. Examples: Pursuing a stretch goal while completely scared and full of self-compassion, balancing intervals of significant challenge and rest, or like in Monopoly, landing on Go after dodging someone else’s Park Place and Boardwalk.
  3. Owning a Monopoly: What is your monopoly? Or, over what do you have an exclusive possession or persistent reputation? HINT: You are unique; think about your personal brand or niche. Examples: Being the office conflict resolution guru, the system and process genius, or like in Monopoly, the best negotiator of the game.

Magie’s “dualistic approach was a teaching tool meant to demonstrate” that awarding wealth to all was “morally superior.”1 Unfortunately, it was Magie who lost out to the more popular capitalist set of rules and become the crushed opponent. She died having only made about $500 from her idea. Yet, the lessons we learned from her game live on. We learned that we can take sound risks (even when we are scared), that bursts of great effort should be followed with down time, and that monopolies can exist simply by leveraging our own professional edge. Time to draw a Chance card!

(By the way, my favorite monopoly was the Railroad because I could charge rent even if I owned only one. If I owned all four, the rent (of $200) was still affordable to players. They were equally spaced on the board minimizing the risk of a player skipping over my highly leveraged hotels. What was yours? Any quirky house rules?)

SourcesThe Guardian: The secret history of Monopoly: the capitalist board game’s leftwing originsThe New York Times: Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’; See photos of The Landlord’s Game.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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