I once listened to an EntreLeadership podcast interview with Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, and about 50 other books. I have always admired Ken’s ability to offer wisdom in a simple, succinct manner. He told a story that I would like to retell for you (with some embellishment).
There once was a boy who loved his grandmother, but lived far away from her. They had a very special relationship. When he would visit, they spent most of their time making and eating home-made cookies, doing crossword puzzles together, watching game shows on the TV, and playing board games.
Grandma’s favorite board game was monopoly. She taught the boy how to play when he was about seven. The grandmother was a very sweet and loving woman, but when she played monopoly she turned into Donald Trump! She was ruthless and she never lost! One summer, when the boy was 10, Grandma told him if he ever beat her at a game of monopoly, she would give him a great treasure she had acquired from her father. The boy asked what it was, but she would not tell him.
So he went home with his imagination running wild. He asked his dad about it. After all, Grandma was his mom. His father said he remembered getting the same offer, but he never beat her, so he never got the treasure. What secret treasure could Grandma be holding on to for generations? There was only one way to find out!
The boy started playing monopoly at every opportunity. He played with his parents, friends, and classmates after school. He downloaded the monopoly app on his phone. He was so obsessed his parents had to threaten to take away his phone if he did not do his homework and chores first. Over the next few months he played hundreds of monopoly games, exploring new strategies, reading blogs on the game, and he started winning. In fact, by Halloween, he rarely lost!
That year Thanksgiving was held at the boy’s house, and Grandma came. She arrived Wednesday evening and had barely got settled into her room when the boy, monopoly game in hand, appeared and asked her to play. With a wry smile the Grandma asked, “Are you sure? I would not want to ruin your Thanksgiving!” “I’m sure,” the boy answered with a quiet confidence that impressed the grandmother. “O.K. then. Let’s get started!” Grandma’s answered.
They set up the game in the dining room. It was about 7:00. As the game went on, family members started stopping by the game to watch, and none of them left. By 10:00, the room held 12 spectators. Team Grandma, and Team Grandson cheered and jeered as their player went to jail, landed on free parking, acquired a monopoly, mortgaged properties on the brink of ruin, then bounced back! By midnight, the whole household was spent, and so was Grandma. All her properties were mortgaged, and as she rolled the dice she saw her next stop was Boardwalk; owned by her grandson, and on it, a bright red hotel!
She conceded the game and congratulated the boy! She told him it was the first time she had lost a monopoly game since she was ten years old, when she beat her father for the first time. All the spectators offered their congratulations and condolences and headed for their beds, leaving the two players alone with the game.
The boy perused the board, surveying all his property and his enormous pile of cash. He could not stop smiling. The Grandma smiled herself. She took his hands in hers, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Are you ready for the treasure I promised you?” “You mean you are going to give it to me right now?” he asked. “Absolutely!” she said. ‘I always keep my promises. Help me put the game away.”
So they put away the game in about 2 minutes. The houses, hotels, property cards and cash all went back in their rightful places. “There you have it!” Grandma announced. “What?” the boy replied. “Why, your treasure of course,” she answered. The boy looked at her, uncomprehending.
Again, the Grandma took his hands in hers, looked him in the eye and said, “The treasure I promised you is this bit of wisdom from my father. At the end of the game, and at the end of your life, it all goes back in the box. All the things you have acquired will be put back into play for the next players. All that really matters is who you have loved, and who loves you.”
At first, the boy was disappointed that there was not some secret treasure box filled with gold, but he looked at his grandma, saw the love and tears in her eyes, and gave her a huge hug. “Thank you so much for loving me!” he said, then he turned to the table and put the lid on the game.