The Root Cause of all Political Problems: Playing the cards to win, not letting the cards play you

One of the reasons I had to talk about superstition in my book, The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business, is because one of the failures of Lean manufacturing, which has become the industry standard in process improvement across the world, is that it fails to recognize the most important detriment to all process failures, human behavior. Rather than deal with the detriments of human behavior, Lean seeks to create processes that remove human variables and build group consensus around those resolutions. Because the main problem with human behavior is that in the East, and even in Europe, workforces are much more compliant naturally due to their long histories with kings and overbearing governments. But in America, a different kind of human being emerged. And we can easily see those differences in the type of card games that we play. I specifically use the differences between Tarot cards and poker cards to accentuate the point often to clarify the differences in thought. And this is spectacularly important in our present time specifically because globalists have assumed, as many have with Lean manufacturing, that all people are the same. If the same rules were imposed upon them, then a universal kind of sameness could emerge and could then be easily controlled. But that has turned out to be vastly untrue, and the failure which follows is what we are seeing playing out in our present time. 

Lean manufacturing, as it turns out, which is a problem I have always had with it, is that it was a kind of pre-ESG score way to bring eastern thoughts to western cultures and then launch a global approach of sameness to all industries. I have taught Lean for over 30 years and have always run into the same problem; American cultures tend to push back on it while those in Europe and Asia tend to be much more accommodating. This has been a mystery to all involved because they failed to consider the most important aspect of human behavior and how they transact with their peers. So in my book, I break it down in ways that people can understand, which essentially comes down to tolerance for superstition in a culture and how those beliefs manifest into a business climate or a political one. In the book, I give a history of superstition across the world and talk about the use of horoscopes and Tarot cards to predict the future as some fortune teller might professionally do around a crystal ball. The thought was that people were helpless to the greater scheme of things and could seek help in the stars or in the spirit world of card reading to better navigate through the complexities of everyday life. When a string of luck occurs in business, even the most resolute executive might say, “knock on wood,” hoping not to jinx a project into failure when all has been going well. Behind such thoughts is the fear that humans are not in control of their destiny and that they must subjugate themselves to some “greater good” to function at even basic tasks in life. 

But in New Orleans, during western expansion, the card games of Europe evolved into something much more conducive to the lifestyles of Americans. Poker was invented, and over the next hundred years, the very American game of Texas Hold Em’ emerged and is extremely popular presently. Poker tournaments are common on sports programming such as ESPN, and every casino runs a Texas Hold Em’ game. Likely, they are running dozens of them. Meanwhile, the fortune-tellers are always on the outskirts of such activity at the fairgrounds and sidewalk attractions which offer a different kind of game for the more faint at heart, Tarot card readings. It is often interesting to go to a casino and witness the types of people who play poker and the kind who line up to have their fortunes told to them by someone else. The point of the matter is that the poker players can win the game even if they have a bad hand. The poker players play the cards, whereas the Tarot card reader allows the cards to play them. The fortune is in the cards, but the game is played to win in poker even if the cards are bad. Both are card games, but their rules of conduct are magnificently different to reflect the cultures that play them. 

In the movie Titanic, still one of the most successful movies ever made, this idea of making one’s own luck was a centerpiece of the story. Many women loved the love story between Leonardo DeCaprio and Kate Winslet; they could relate to the overbearing mother, the “too perfect” fiancée who was projected to be a great and wealthy business leader. It was, in essence, an East meets West story, where the business leader was a person who made their “own luck,” which he actually says at the end of the movie as his projected wife leaves him for the unfocused exploits of the hero played by DeCaprio.  Only to find herself floating on a door in the freezing north Atlantic after the Titanic sank and her lover sacrificed himself so that she could live. The story’s villain was one who self-determined his reality while the heroes surrendered themselves to circumstance. We see those same politics playing out daily in our news cycles, in our business process improvements, and certainly within our own families. But what the American poker players figured out was critical to the truth of the universe.

Even when you are losing, you can still win, and poker was invented to reflect that new way of looking at things from the perspective of an American, which much of the world admires, but secretly resents because they don’t have the courage for it. It is much safer to have the cards tell them how to live, consult a horoscope, and look to the stars for guidance. But to the American, not all of them, but to the bold ones who figure it out, every moment of every day is an opportunity. Even bad luck can be turned into fortune if you know how to play the cards right. But failure often happens because people let the cards play them. They don’t live their lives in a way where they play the cards. That is why Lean manufacturing always falls short, and companies end up throwing vast amounts of money at process improvements when they should be dealing with the psychology of interpersonal relationship failures. This is why Republicans and Democrats essentially can never work together because they have entirely different ways of dealing with the same problem. One is passive, and one is very active. And this is also why the MAGA movement is growing, why people elected a casino owner with a supermodel wife to the White House twice, and why much of the swamp hated them for it. Politics wants to read the Tarot cards. Trump supporters want to play to win. And those approaches will never go together. The problem was never one of simply political belief. Instead, it all comes down to superstitions and how to manage them. Do we let the cards play us, or do we play the cards? In America, we play the cards. 

Rich Hoffman

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