Contenders are in a losing position until they complete the arduous journey of becoming Commanders. The heuristic that describes their set of games best is Risk to Rise. They have no choice but to roll the dice in ways that Commanders rarely choose to, making their position one of aggression and offense.

As such, Contenders are forced to lean on two primary strategies:

  • Purchase or create resources in order to create a new pool.

  • Gain control of an existing pool.

Purchase or Create

A common path for building resource wealth is through the purchase of real estate. A single investor buys a house and improves it in some meaningful way. Those improvements, even if they're minor in reality, are made to increase the value of the house. If the market agrees that the changes are significant enough to boost the home's value, the owner flips the house for a profit.

Another pathway in the world of real estate is to purchase land and then build a brand new house on top of it. This approach offers a more direct control over the asset's value creation process. Unlike improving an existing structure, building anew allows you to tailor the property to current market demands. You can decide on the design, materials, and features that appeal to the target market, whether it’s luxury buyers or a more budget-conscious demographic.

The bottom line is that if you create or purchase resources, you need to find ways to profit from them by increasing their perceived value in some way. The common knowledge approach here is to engage in that ever-nebulous activity known as "creating value." Although it's never stated what this means, the general idea is additive: someone or something exists in a certain state, and you add to it in some way to make it valuable.

Gain Control

If you want to gain control of an existing pool, then the valuation that matters is the perceived value of you as a person. This is in turn a process of creating trust signals that cater to the tastes of whoever is in charge of the pools you're interested in. Standard advice here revolves around getting an education, building your resume, and a general pursuit of a high-quality reputation. Each pool has different entry requirements that cater to the preferences of the current gatekeepers.

A career on Wall Street is one example: get a degree from Harvard, work 800 hours a week at an investment bank (a giant pool of money), get an MBA, then go work in hedge funds, venture capital or private equity (also pools of money). Continue on this path for a while, and you may become one of the chosen few who gets to control your very own money pool. All that time and energy spent building up a track record not only puts money in your pocket over time, it also gives you access to other people's resources.


In the case of the house, the valuation focus is the asset, and in the Wall Street example it's the person. Both examples are used on a regular basis as proven, reliable ways to improve your station in life. Although it's not wrong to say that, my contention is that this overall way of thinking lacks any strategic depth.

Examples like these ignore the fact that there's a strong competitive element in the game of resources. There's also a complete lack of creativity or insight into the actions of other players. All of these are critical errors for any strategic thinker worth a damn.

Creating or purchasing resources is full of risk, much of which is imposed on you by other players. If you buy an asset, the previous owner may have manipulated your perceptions of its value to persuade you to overpay. In the case of a house, there may have been serious issues with its construction that were not disclosed that may blow up the entire project. If you build a house, the contractor could make a mess of the process and suck away all of your profit margins.

The straight-and-narrow Wall Street career path is much more fragile than advertised. If you aren't an astute player of office political games, for example, you might get caught in the middle of a disaster and endure the black mark of a layoff on your resume. Or a jealous competitor could undermine you deliberately and cause you to get fired, which could put your reputation on ice.

These are the landmines that must be dodged by anyone who wants to make the trip from zero to one in the resource control game. It's a competitive, difficult journey, made more difficult by both the striving of other Contenders and the strategic imperatives of Commanders.

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