Is the Game Monopoly or Life?

Playing board games was never a passion of mine. We played games as a family but that was usually as much game playing as I wanted. Anyway, I was always a big fan of Monopoly for the great concepts it could teach. There are many similarities between games, projects, and life. And isn’t life just a long series of projects?

  • You have an objective
  • You agree with other players on the rules and when the game will end – This is not as straight forward as it seems. There are several variations on rules and how to end the game in Monopoly. See them here.
  • You have a strategy
  • You realize that unforeseen events will happen and you may need to adjust your strategy.

Here’s a few of the lessons I’ve learned from playing Monopoly over the years.

  • Everyone starts out the same. We may look different (someone is a shoe, another is a thimble, a dog, or a top hat) but In the game we all start with the same amount of money and no property. In life, we may look different, but we all come out of our mother’s womb naked and broke.
  • You have to work with other people to be successful. You are playing with different people and unless you get very lucky and accumulate all your property by landing on it, you will need to negotiate with the other players to buy or trade properties to follow your strategy. The other players will not trade with you if you do not offer a fair deal. In life, if you cannot work well with people, it will be difficult to become successful.
  • There is no room for discrimination. If the thimble lands on your property (and you don’t like thimbles for some reason) you are not going to tell them to get off your property, you will happily collect the rent money and ask they stop back again sometime. In life, excluding people is bad for business and morally wrong.
  • The accumulation of your decisions has a lot to do with your success or failure. In the game, a lot depends on the type of properties you buy, which ones you put homes/hotels on, and how you manage your money. In life some of us are born into families with money and power that may seem unfair to others. But somehow life has ways of leveling the playing field if you recognize the opportunities. There are many people that were born into wealthy families that ruin their lives, while many people who started out with nothing have done very well for themselves.
  • You don’t need to conquer to succeed. I really like this about Monopoly. In games like Risk or Chess, you need to attack and defeat your opponent. In Monopoly you work your plan and let the other player’s misfortune and poor decisions make you rich. You don’t force them to land on your property, they do it via their own roll of the dice. In life, you don’t need to conquer others.. let them conquer themselves via bad luck or poor decisions.
  • Income is important – Early in the game you really depend on the $200 salary for passing GO to give you the ability to buy more property and pay for unexpected bills. Not passing GO regularly puts you at a disadvantage. Later in the game when you have more properties (investments) the $200 is not as important since you have income from your properties. In life we need to pass GO (have a job) to get the money to build wealth so some day we can live off our investments.
  • Stuff Happens – Things can be doing great, then you land on ‘Community Chest’ and have to pay a Doctor Bill, School Tax, or Street Repairs on your properties. You can’t predict when something like this will happen, but somewhere/sometime it will. In life the unexpected happens all the time, an illness, loss of a job, car repair, etc… You don’t know when so you need to be prepared both financially and mentally.
  • Debt is not a good idea. In the game, not many people mortgage their property, since they cannot receive any income from it if its mortgaged. Most people wait to buy property when they have enough money to PAY CASH for it. In life it may be difficult to buy a home without a mortgage, but you want to minimize and eliminate your debt as quickly as possible.
  • Sometimes life isn’t fair. – You have hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place, but nobody is landing on them. You land on your opponents property every time around the board and are losing all your money. Life is that way too. Sometimes you think you did everything right and still fail. Don’t lose heart, you need to try again, start a new game! Maybe you’ll be the ‘lucky’ one this time.
  • You can’t win if you don’t make your money work for you. – If you just kept going around the board never buying any property (investing) you would soon be broke since other people would be buying the property and you would be paying them when you land on it. In life, spending your money as fast as it comes in, or just putting it in a mattress will not build wealth. You need to invest your money. There is some risk, but the potential rewards are much higher.

The Ancestry Project

My son and I had a discussion awhile back that centered around our lack of knowledge about our family tree. Outside of what we had heard from parents and grandparents the past was foggy, to say the least. A few years ago we had done a DNA study thru 23 And Me which yielded some expected and unexpected results. For example, in addition to the expected result that I was Dutch and Italian, it also told me I was 2% Western Asian/North African and 1% Jewish! Some people are hesitant to submit their DNA for testing, afraid that it could be used improperly to profile them, or that it may uncover some defect that they would prefer to remain ignorant of. I was personally not worried about that and considered the information useful regardless of what it uncovered. The amount of information you receive is impressive. I’m not sure how accurate some of the more obscure markers are, for example, It told me that I have a genetic muscle composition that is common in elite athletes. My muscle cells are able to produce a specific protein that is supposed to make them tire less easy. I don’t feel I’m an elite athlete, but it’s nice to hear that supposedly I have the DNA for it.

After the DNA analysis from myself, my wife, and my son; (My daughter tried but she did not have enough DNA in her saliva sample to do the testing, which we found out later is not that uncommon – especially in people who drink a lot of water!) The results produced a good building block for my ancestory research.

I signed up for a trial subscription to Ancestry.com to start my investigation. The trial subscription is good for two weeks, which should give me enough time to build a basic family tree. The site was easy to use; just put in a name and search. It returned a number of entries about the name I entered. You need to review these because some are not accurate. Once you have a few pieces of information saved, Ancestory will usually suggest other relatives via a small green leaf in the person’s box in the family tree. From here I kept working my way backward.

I encountered a dead end with some relatives after going back 2 or 3 generations, but was able to go back up to 5 generations for one ancestor. Not surprisingly, the further you go back the less information is available, and the details are usually vague since you are dealing with hand written documents. Anyway, after a week of digging I was able to put together a fairly comprehensive family tree.

The results were interesting to say the least. I was impressed that the DNA information generally matched what I found in my ancestry. My great grandparents on my mother’s side were from Friesland, Netherlands and Cosenza, Italy; just what my DNA indicated. My wife’s relatives were from the Netherlands and Poland which also matched her DNA profile. Generally my ancestors immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, coming in via Ellis Island like so many others did during that time. Some stayed on the East Coast, while others moved to the Midwest. I really enjoyed the process of building the family tree and would recommend it to anyone who does not know much about their ancestors.

It’s sad that I know so little about many of my relatives. What did they do for a living? What dreams did they have? What stories could they tell? This has been lost with time because it was not written down and passed along. It’s inspired me to get more information from my oldest living relatives to collect some of these ‘stories’ that will be lost when they are gone.

The 8 Month Calendar Project

My mind tends to wander in strange directions sometimes. One day I was thinking about calendars. Humans have been keeping some type of calendar for thousands of years. These ancient calendars were generally based on the phases of the moon or the earths’ rotation around the sun and helped primarily with planting crops, planning festivals, and observing religious events.

I did some research on calendars and was surprised of the number of different calendars that are still in use today, as well as the complexity involved in creating and maintaining these calendars. 

The calendar we are most familiar with today is the Gregorian calendar. This was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century and improved on the Julian calendar, which was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. The Julian calendar had 365 day 12 months with an extra day added in February every 4 years. The Julian calendar was fairly accurate. A solar year (the time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun) is 365.2422 days long not 365.25. It’s a small difference that compounds over time, causing the Julian calendar to overestimate by about 1 day per century. The Gregorian calendar helped stop the year from drifting away from the solstice and equinox by using a more accurate calculation for determining leap years: Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. For example, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not leap years, but the years 1600 and 2000 are.

To really appreciate the relative simplicity of the Gregorian calendar, here are some examples of other calendars still in use today: 

The Chinese and the Hebrew calendars use a leap month to adjust their calendar. Their year can range from 353 to 385 days.

The Hindu and Buddist calendars use both leap days and leap months to adjust their calendars with the year ranging from 354 to 385 days.


When making my calendar, I used the Gregorian calendar as the base, but break down the months differently to better match the seasons. The standard 4 seasons were too broad in my mind so I settled on 8 months. Fitting my activities to the natural seasonal patterns provides a good variety of different activities and I can enjoy the current moment knowing that the time will come for future projects, just not now. You don’t plant your crops in the winter, for example. Do winter-centric activities at that time, spring will come soon enough. Obviously this applies to other activities as well, farming is just an easy example. We all have varying amounts of energy and motivation, much of it seasonally related whether we like it or not. After expending a lot of energy, we need time to ‘recharge’. The months of Solis and Celebro are the time to do this without feeling guilty.

Here is my Official 8 Month Calendar

MonthDatesDescription and Activities
Cogitare (Think)1/1/2021 – 2/16/2021This is the time to reflect on the past year, and plan for this year.
Get out and enjoy winter activities as well.
Novus (New)2/17/2021 – 3/29/2021This is the time to start on the new projects planned last month.
Planning is done, time for action.
Vita (Life)3/30/2021 – 5/15/2021Winter is over, things are coming to life.
Prepare your garden, clean up from winter, get outside.
Put more effort into your projects.
Hortus (Garden)5/16/2021 – 7/2/2021 Time for planting and growing with the longer days.
Take advantage of your energy to accomplish as much as possible.
Solis (Maximum Sun)7/3/2021 – 8/25/2021This is the time for rest and relaxation, enjoy the summer weather.
Prepare projects for ‘harvest’ next month. 
Messis (Harvest)8/26/2021 – 10/10/2021 The growing season is winding down, time to harvest.
Implement your projects and work thru the inevitable challenges that always occur.
Get outside to take advantage of the cooler weather.
Venari (Hunt)10/11/2021 – 11/20/2021 It is time to prepare for the coming winter, put away summer items,
and pull out winter items.
Review your project list and put in more effort on projects that are languishing.
Celebro (Celebrate)11/21/2021 – 12/31/2021This is the time for charity and goodwill to others and celebrations with family and friends.
Tie up any loose ends on projects that are still in progress.  

Enjoying Your IPhone – Podcasts

Podcasts are great ways to listen to interesting content on a huge variety of subjects, and in most cases they are free! Let’s explore podcasts and how to make the most of them. There are many 3rd party apps available to listen to Podcasts, both for IPhone and Android, but I will focus on the IPhone delivered Podcast App for this post. There are podcasts available for nearly any interest, just search through them to find one you like.


Setting Up your Defaults

Go to SETTINGS on your IPhone and select PODCASTS. Pay particular attention to the following settings:

Cellular Data – If this is turned on, you can listen to a podcast when you are not connected to WIFI. But it will use your cellular data. If you have a limited data plan you may want to disable this.

Block Downloads over Cellular – I usually leave this enabled since if I want to download an episode, I will do it while on WIFI. But, if you have an unlimited data plan you could turn this off.

Refresh Every – This is how often your IPhone will look for new episodes. I set mine to ‘Manually‘, so it will get new episodes anytime you open the podcasts app. This is a personal preference since it saves a little battery life because my phone isn’t checking for updates behind the scenes, But you can adjust to hourly all the way to weekly.

Download Episodes – This one is important! if you have the setting turned on you can take up a lot of storage on your phone. I prefer to leave it off and download individual episodes as needed.

Find Some Podcasts

Open the PODCAST app and tap ‘Browse‘ to see some popular podcasts in various categories. If you know the name of a particular podcast, tap ‘SEARCH‘ .

When you find one that interests you tap it and then tap ‘SUBSCRIBE

Once you have subscribed to some podcasts, they will appear in your LIBRARY, which you can view by tapping the LIBRARY tab.

Podcast Options

If you tap on the small circle with the 3 dots next to the subscribe button, you get several more options:

The main items would be UNSUBSCRIBE, SETTINGS, and DELETE FROM LIBRARY.

Tapping on the SETTINGS gives you more options to customize your subscription to this specific podcast.

Podcast Settings

You have additional options here, tapping on CUSTOM SETTINGS gives additional options:

DOWNLOAD EPISODES – If you want to automatically download new episodes just for this podcast, you can turn it on here. If I have a podcast I listen to all the time, I may set that one to auto download.

I usually leave the other options as the default.

Podcasts Library

Now you can go to your LIBRARY. You initially see Recently updated shows.

You can tap on SHOWS to see all your subscriptions.

You can tap on DOWNLOADED EPISODES to see any podcast episodes that have been downloaded.

Tapping on one of your podcasts will bring up the episode list. (See example on the left)

If you want to listen to an episode, just tap on it.

If you want to download an episode, tap on the CLOUD with the down arrow.

Listening Options

When your listening to your podcast, you have even more options!

The 15 or 30 lets you skip backward 15 seconds or forward 30 seconds. I rarely use this.

The 1x allows you to speed up or slow down the podcast. I rarely use this.

The triangle with the circles shows you which audio options are available, such as your IPhone, Bluetooth headphones, etc.. I normally don’t touch this since connections are usually automatic, but if for some reason my bluetooth device is’nt connecting automatically, I can manually connect it here.

The sleep timer is something I use quite a bit.

I hope this gets you started with Podcasts. they are great for learning and entertainment. Enjoy!

Starting a Project

Any time I start a project, I make sure to list three things about it: a purpose, a reason, and a timeline.

The project purpose is simply what I want to create. This could fall into a few categories; A physical item, a virtual item, an experience, or a process. Following are some examples:

  • Physical Item – A printed book, a hand crafted table, a planter box.
  • Virtual Item – A web page, a digital photo, an app.
  • Experience – A vacation, a birthday party, a physical challenge.
  • Process – Automating monthly bill payments, an exercise routine, a morning ritual.

The project reason is why I want to do this project. If I can’t come up with a compelling reason why I’m doing the project I shouldn’t waste my time starting it at all. Having a compelling reason motivates me to push thru the inevitable challenges that always occur when working on a project.

The project timeline give me a planned start and end date for my project. Not having an end date can allow a project to linger half done for years. Having an end date forces me to focus. With many projects, difficulties can arise pushing out the timeline but that’s OK. Making adjustments is part of the project.

Once I have the above three items defined I then setup some ‘guard rails’ for my project. These are usually constraints I have for the project. A couple examples would be: My budget is $300 and I can spend 10 hours per week working on this project.

Then I start listing the steps I need to complete the project. these may be at a high level initially, depending on how familiar I am with the project.