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Issue 17 Out Now

5 Hard Lessons The Squid Game Taught Me About Money


Image via Netflix

On the off chance that they have partnered with pink hazmat suits and escaped your notice, social media has been flooding with tweets, memes, and posts about the number one show in 90 countries and Netflix’s most successful series launch yet, The Squid Game. The Squid Game is a South Korean fictional drama that follows 456 debt shackled individuals as they compete in a series of deadly children’s games for the chance to win ₩45.6 billion ($38 million).


Image via Netflix

In addition to being well-written and deliciously entertaining, with a world citing record levels of debt, anxiety, and financial uncertainty, Netflix could not have picked a more opportune time for its release. And given the thousands of people who bombarded the phone number on the series with calls to join the game daily (resulting in Netflix having to remove it), many of us would be right alongside Seong Gi-Hun cutting out umbrellas criss-cross applesauce.




But aside from providing for an entertaining weekend and offering the gift of relief that life could be worse, I also used the fictional scenario presented in The Squid Game to extract a few hard lessons about money that parallels real life. And in this article, I will be sharing these money lessons with you.


Here are five hard lessons the Squid Games taught me about money.


Lesson #1: Money is Power.


Image via Netflix

Power is the possession of control, authority, or influence over others. It is the ability to get others to do what you want them to do. When I first started watching The Squid Games, I assumed the players would be trapped, held there against their will. As the story progressed and the pink hazmats read the first two rules aloud, they both seemed to support my assumption.

Rule 1: A player can not stop playing the game.
Rule 2: A player who refuses to play will be eliminated.

However, the third rule changed everything.

Rule 3: The game may end if the majority agrees.

It meant the powers behind the game suspect that, in most cases, the majority of the contestants will, despite its deadly nature, want to continue playing the game. And even though a few players took advantage of this rule when everyone realized what eliminated meant, most of the cash-strapped players resolved to continue playing. Why? Because whoever holds what everyone needs has the power. And everyone needs money.


No one forced anyone into the game. No one dragged anyone back into the game after leaving. The powers behind it only needed to dangle a ₩45.6 billion carrot over their heads to get them to play.



Image via Netflix

And they did, just as we play in real life, illustrating that even in a fictional world, money is power.


Lesson #2: Debt is the Foundation for Modern Day Slavery.


If all the players on Squid Game were in a stable or wealthy financial position, there would be no Squid Game. We might get at most a Squid Field Day hosting a handful of troubled individuals. But the fire, urgency, and desperation to play would be gone.



Similarly, if somehow everyone became wealthy tomorrow and no longer had to work another day in their lives, how do you think everyone would spend their time? How would you? Would you continue waking up at the same time working at the same job? Around the same people reporting to the same boss? Or would you do what you want, traveling the world, reading books, catching up on hit Netflix shows, flooding others timelines with memes?


Chances are, if these two options are mutually exclusive, as they are with most people, that you would choose the latter option: To do what you want.


And that is the issue with financial prosperity.


If everyone has plenty of carrots, what need is there for those dangling in front of them? Quite inconvenient for the carrot holder. So how do you fix this? You make the carrots so scarce that the one you dangle overhead not only appears attractive but ravishing.


But it does not stop here.


No, debt takes it a step further.


Beyond simple scarcity, debt binds you to a state of starvation and desperation for the long term, motivating you to continue producing in a system (in this case, playing the game) in pursuit of the short-term sustenance the carrot provides.


Debt makes money more attractive. Attraction fuels its power. And the more power it has, the more control and influence its holders have over others.


And with the U.S.’s average household debt approximating $92,000, with 85% of people reportedly unhappy with their job, the lesson that debt is the foundation for modern-day slavery is just as evident in the Squid Games as it is reality.


Lesson #3 Mental Wealth Must Be Present Long Before Actual Wealth.


I submitted to my sister early on in the show that if any of the characters won the prize money, it would not do much good; They would most likely end up back destitute. She was appalled. Why would I say this?


Initially, it was again, because of Rule 3: The game may end if the majority agrees.



Image via Netflix

Image via Netflix

After this rule, elements of freedom of choice became more and more evident. These elements lead me to suspect that any progress made by the characters risked being undermined by their mentality, another significant factor that fuels the attraction to the carrot and keeps people playing the game.


If they have not invested in expanding their mental bounds beyond the limits of scarcity they are used to, their mentality will shackle them to old habits. The main character showed signs of this after winning the prize money and resorting back to borrowing from others. The same is true in real life. How many times have we witnessed wealth fall into people’s hands only to slip through them or waste away shortly after?


Mental wealth must be present long before actual wealth manifests. Otherwise, any progress made will be at risk of being both limited and undermined by old habits.


Lesson #4 Money Amplifies Who We Already Are.



Money reveals both the best and worst traits of who we are, traits that might not have had the resources to manifest themselves before. For example, if you were a generous person before money, chances are money will only amplify your generosity as it did with the main character. Before, he wanted to splurge on his daughter for her birthday but did not have the resources. After he had the resources, he generously gave them to the mother and brother of his late friends.


Image via Twitter

Similarly, if you were neglectful of your loved ones before, you will likely now have the resources to find plenty of other distractions to continue to occupy your time. (Like choosing to challenge the system you willingly signed up for twice).

Often we say money is evil and brings out the worst in people. But in reality, money does not bring out anything new in anyone. It only amplifies who you already are.


Lesson #5 Name your Price Before you Play.


Five is a lesson true in all pursuits, be it love, power, or, in this case, money. Before playing any game, you must know and name your price. What are you unwilling to give up? Your pride? Your humanity? Your peace of mind? What are your deal breakers?

Image via Twitter

After the deadly nature of the game became obvious, seventeen people decided to walk away. Why did they leave despite being shackled with debt that should have influenced them to play? My guess, for them, the price exceeded the prize.


By the end of the show, Seong Gi-Hun wins the game and claims the prize money. But he can not move past the trauma of the game and appreciate the fruits of his endeavors. He probably should have joined the seventeen players that walked away as the cost was too high for him. But his mindset pointed him to old habits, towards the dangling carrot.


Achieving your goals at the expense of things that truly matter to you, as the main character did, is just as satisfying as if you never achieved your goal at all. And just as in real life, accomplishing your goal while respecting your price is as much part of achieving your goal as the actual goal itself.


So those are the five money lessons I took away from the Squid Games.


What about you? Did you notice any other money lessons in The Squid Games that I missed? Did you extract any other life lessons or #SquidGems from the series that you want to share? Share your lessons or thoughts in the comment section below or via social media with the hashtag #TheBlakLotus #SquidGems.


We love to hear from you!

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