Monday, May 21, 2012

Lessons from Solitaire

We all have our game addictions.  Mine happens to be Solitaire.  Good heavens, I've played some form of Solitaire since I was in elementary school.  Mom would put a deck of cards in front of me and off I'd go.  A few of my best memories with her revolve around insane games of double Solitaire - both of us screaming at each other across the dining room table.

It's one of those games I can play mindlessly while processing on other things.  It's gotten to the point where I can recognize the beginning of a game and know immediately whether the card layout is winnable or not. That might be a sign there have been a few too many games in my history.

But, I've noticed a few things while playing Solitaire - things that seem to have a bigger import than just a simple game.

There's always another way to look at things. I get so focused on finishing out a run or getting the cards in order, I might miss the larger game.  If I step back and look at the entire picture, sometimes I see a new approach.

Choices matter. In Solitaire, I make choices about whether to pull a card from the deck or from the layout in front of me.  That affects the next cards that come up.  If I pull from the deck, I might miss cards underneath, and likewise, if I pull from the layout, I might not get the cards sorted in a way to best open up new possibilities.  If I have two cards face up that might work, I want to make the best choice, with the greatest options.  Every choice I make matters to the game.

When you're about ready to give up, sometimes a single move will help you win. I can't believe the number of times I've been ready to give up, close the game and move on to something entirely different; frustrated because I've had so many losses.  Just as I am ready to press the 'quit' button, I see a possible move.  When I make that move, everything transforms in the game and within a few more moves, I've won.

Cheating is no fun. It didn't take long for me to recognize that winning at Solitaire because I cheated was absolutely no fun - I might as well have just flipped the cards over, re-shuffled and started again. There could always be another game, another shot at winning the right way.  I realized that truth decades ago.  When you play Solitaire, it is easy to cheat.  No one knows the difference ... except you.  All of a sudden when you're cheating yourself, the fun just dwindles away.

Sometimes it is more fun to play than to chalk up wins.  I've quit looking at the overall scoring for the game.  I don't play to win, I play for fun, maybe even for an escape.  The playing of the game, figuring out the best situations so that I can continue to play without having to re-start, analyzing patterns and seeing how they all come together is what makes the game worthwhile to me.  A few wins here and there keeps me interested, but it's not the greatest goal for me.

Life is a lot like this, isn't it?

Sometimes I get so focused on things I miss the big picture.  When I step back and look again, there are so many more opportunities, so many more chances to do something extraordinary.

Choices matter. I have a friend whose father has always said that life is a series of choices and consequences.  He's right.

When I'm ready to give up, more often than not, there is another option. I just have to keep myself open to seeing those options.

Cheating at life is no fun.  You may get things done, but it's never as fulfilling.

Life isn't about winning - it's about living. When we're focused on winning, we miss all the fun of just living.

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