Released in September, Squid Game has become one of Netflix’s most popular K-Dramas at the time of this writing. It has topped the list in ninety countries, including the United States. Its unique storyline, compelling characters, and its imaginative plot of hard-up strangers competing against each other in deadly challenges are some of the main reasons for its massive success at home and across the globe.

As an executive coach and a learning enthusiast, I am looking beyond the cultural, entertaining, and financial aspects of the show to bring you eight lessons that apply to real-world scenarios.

Always Be Patient

Did you know Squid Game’s director Hwang Dong-hyuk pitched his ideas and got rejected for ten years? Yes, Hollywood producers turned him down for a decade before Netflix’s agreed to pick up his script. Despite those rejections and financial distress, Hwang Dong-hyuk persevered.

The lesson here is clear: be patient! Today’s get-it-quick mindset causes many to quit at the first sight of failure. People now believe achieving success is the same as buying their favorite shoes online. Order today, and get it tomorrow!

Unfortunately, the path toward reaching our goal is not linear. Regardless of how hard we try or how effectively we strategize, failure will knock on our door. Each rejection should strengthen your resolve and make you better. So, don’t lose hope if your actions seem fruitless.

Don’t Let Your Kindness Turn into Naivety

If you watched the show, you must have felt emotional when Ali died after being tricked by Sang Woo. Was Ali’s kindness the reason for his death? I don’t think so.

His naivety, not his kindness, caused him to lose his life. To be kind is to be helpful, and consider others’ well-being. Being naïve, on the other hand, is to accept blindly that someone’s intentions are good.

In a game where one’s win depends on the other’s death, Ali should have known better than to not check the bag when Sang-Woo gave it to him. It’s always ok to be nice. However, we must also be vigilant, especially when our loss is someone else’s win.

Wealth Doesn’t Always Bring Satisfaction

Oh Yeong Su’s last conversation with Gi Hun itself is an important piece of wisdom. Excessive wealth—or the lack of it—can be a source of calamity. Many postpone their happiness; jeopardize their health and relationships with loved ones to reach success. Squid Game shows us that satisfaction depends not only on the amount of money we make but also on the quality of our life. So, never chase money at the expense of your health and personal relationships.

Whining Doesn’t Win the Game—Strategizing Does

The tug-of-war game epitomizes the importance of strategizing over blaming, making excuses, and playing the victim.

Every day, someone does something remarkable with seemingly insignificant intellectual or physical capacity. Gi Hun’s team emerging victorious from the tug-of-war game teaches us to never tap out before getting in the ring. What seems a disadvantage could be your greatest asset. How would you know if you won’t even try?

Our Circumstances Depend Largely on Our Every Day Choices

Our life is a combination of what we have been given at birth and the choices we make every day. Hopefully, the latter is completely under our control.

In the games, the players agreed to put their life on the line to pay off their debts and provide for their families. All else equal, their cash-strapped situations result from greed, addiction, and poor financial management. Therefore, we must choose the life we want, then make our choices accordingly.

Desperation Could Be the Biggest Source of Achievement

Do your efforts seem worthless? You have tried repeatedly and nothing seems to work. Instead of giving up, use your distress as a raw material for creative thinking. Gi Hun’s motivation to survive made him realize he could melt the umbrella shape rather than using a needle. He could have thrown in the towel, but didn’t. If your impetus to succeed is strong enough, your desperation will lead you to novel ways to reach your goal.

The Way You Use Money Can Make or Break Your Life

The principal reason players agree to put themselves in harm’s way to win the Squid Game is because of the poor mishandling of their finances. Always keep your spending within your means. When you receive your paycheck, save, invest, and spend. Using these three in the reverse order can have catastrophic consequences, both in your personal and professional life.

Your Life, Your Responsibility

We all mess up sometimes. But the golden rule of the game is that we are responsible for improving our conditions. We may not have to engage in a life-or-death game to redeem ourselves, but we are ultimately responsible for changing our lives. Don’t expect anyone else to do it for you.


May this article motivate you to give your best every day in the face of adversities.