7 Business Lessons Learned from the Hunger Games: Part 1

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7 Business Lessons Learned from The Hunger Games


“Real estate is… buying in a down market and hoping you survive to an up market” George Ross, Donald Trump’s right hand man and attorney.

The Hunger Games is a best selling book by American author Suzanne Collins. The book is set in a dystopian future where 24 children from ages 12 to 18 year are trained for deadly combat and are forced to fight to the death in a Jungle-like arena to entertain the elite of society. The Hunger Games is the name of this deadly tournament and it resembles a cross between Roman gladiators, the hit TV show “Survivor” and a modern day Olympics.

Some of the children selected for the hunger games are “careers” who have illegally trained for combat from a young age and have volunteered. However, most of the children in the games are selected from a random lottery and have no desire or knowledge of combat.

Statistically speaking, if you were to enter the hunger games, you would have a 1 in 24 chance of surviving. That’s roughly 4.2%! In business, 90% of businesses fail in the first 5 years. After the first 5 years, 90% of the survivors will fail in the second 5 years. After 10 years, only 1% of the businesses that started will still be in business.

In many ways, you have a four times higher chance of surviving the hunger games than you do at successfully starting your own business.

Each pair of children entering the games is assigned a mentor to help them train and increase their odds of winning the games. In the book, Haymitch Abernathy, the protagonist’s mentor says something very profound to his students: “find high ground, look for water. Water’s your new best friend.” Meaning, when entering the games, do not focus on killing the other tributes – focus on survival.

The mentor explains that in the hunger games, most tributes die to dehydration, starvation, accidents, the elements, exhaustion, disasters, poisons etc. and survival skills are more important than combat skills. Although there are 23 other tributes roaming around in the jungle trying to kill you, the most dangerous threat your survival is the jungle itself.


“Here’s some advice. Stay alive.”

*- to Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games

In business, surviving the market is the most important priority. Do not focus on putting your competitors out of business or having the shiniest, sexiest product. Instead focus on survival skills. Winning in The Hunger Games and in Business are both about surviving until the end. The winners in life are never the best warriors or the best salesmen, talent and skill are never enough to win in the big picture. What does win in both business and The Hunger Games are survival skills and the ability to outlast your opponents as they fall to the elements, dehydration, jungle predators, diseases, poisonous berries, starvation, or disasters.

In the best selling book “the millionaire next door” by Thomas J. Stanley, the author explains that most millionaires prefer to see economic recessions every few years. Economic recessions are natural economic disasters that starve and wipe out the weak competitors in the market. When the economy is expanding and booming, every unskilled operator can enter and succeed in the market. However, when the economy shrinks through a recession, only the strong survive.


“The strong band together to hunt down the weak then, when the tension becomes too great, begin to turn on one another.” – Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

No one succeeds alone in business or in The Hunger Games. Even the deadliest warriors in the games understand that alliances are crucial to survival. Humans are like wolves, we hunt in packs and lone wolves typically get devoured if they don’t belong to a pack.

In the book The Hunger Games, Haymitch, the mentor stresses social skills and alliances as skills for students. “Make them like you!” axioms of wisdom.

As social animals, we band together to form tribes. In both business and the hunger games, belonging to a tribe means the difference between life and death. At the beginning of the games all 24 tributes rush to the middle of the arena to horde food, weapons, survival packs, clothing etc. This rush to the middle is called the “blood bath” and most of the tributes who enter the carnage are slaughtered.

In the first day nearly half of the tributes are killed and the strongest career tributes have formed alliances with each other to hunt down the isolated, weak tributes scattered throughout the jungle.

The professional career tributes focus on relationships, they dine together, they train together, they hunt together, they win together, they pool resources together and they kill together. The professional alliance that these tributes form ensures them survival until the end even though they must eventually turn on their allies to secure victory.

The amateur tributes do not form alliances for a multitude of reasons:

  • They may not understand the political nature of the games
  • They may have too much of an ego
  • They may not trust the group
  • They may not have the social skills to communicate
  • They may not know how to add value to the group

Business, entrepreneurship and real estate investing are absolutely parallel to the hunger games when it comes to alliances. In business, we never have the resources, the time, the money, the effort, the energy to tackle larger projects outside of ourselves without taking on allies.

In my real estate career, nearly every single property I have ever bought has been through a Joint Venture where I bring the Deal and the People to manage the property and I form an alliance with a partner who brings all of the Money.

I started my real estate business with only $1200 and in five years after starting, I am controlling a sizeable alliance of investors who represent millions of dollars in liquid capital. I never have to worry about capital to do deals because I have built the strategic alliances to get the resources I need, and consequently, I am offering a valuable service to my partners who receive excellent returns for having their capital in play with me.


The average investor is often small in his thinking, wants to control every aspect of every part of his deals and is for the most part isolated in the jungle. With no allies, the average investor is limited in access to capital, limited in deal flow and also limited in team members. For the average investor to become an intermediate or advanced investor, he or she must master the art of alliances to gain both influence and resources.


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Stefan Aarnio, award winning real estate investor, entrepreneur, author and coach was recently inducted into the Rich Dad Hall of Fame. His book, “Money People Deal: The Fastest Way to Real Estate Wealth” is currently available on moneypeopledeal.com.  To learn more about Stefan Aarnio please visit StefanAarnio.com