I remember playing Connect Four when I was a kid. It’s like Tic-Tac-Toe on steroids (of the Barry Bonds head-enlarging variety.)
It takes a while for a kid to get the hang of it. Early attempts are marked by a series of regular beatings (especially if you’re playing with an aunt three years your senior who never lets you win). But it really gets exciting when you start to figure it out and things get competitive. It’s a simple game, but there’s a lot of strategy and critical thinking involved.
The funny thing is, I never thought about that when I was playing it as a kid. Strategy and critical thinking sounds like serious stuff. Maybe I was fooled by the primary colors, or the clickety-clink sound the chips made as they fell to the table after the game was over, or the fact that it was manufactured by Milton Bradley and sold in toy stores, but it was just…fun. Also, victory was sweet but defeats weren’t too crushing because you knew that in the grand scheme of things, a loss in Connect Four wasn’t a big deal. Another game was in the wings waiting for some action. (Hungry Hungry Hippos, anyone?)
There’s no question we’re living in some topsy turvy times. Whether you’re a Mom or an MBA (or both!), creativity and critical thinking is required to navigate the landscape wrought with new rules and shifting paradigms. And it stresses us out.
But why? What if you looked at the challenges you face like any other game?
- Instead of looking at making payroll as a life or death situation, make it into a game.
- Instead of worrying about not getting everything done today, make it into a game.
- Instead of stressing out over how you’ll ever be able to conform to the new regulations in your industry, make it into a game.
Instead of acting like your current challenge as something found in the bad-tasting medicine aisle, mentally re-package it in primary colors and take it from the toy section. Breathe. Smile. Have some fun with it. By looking at it as a game and clearing your mind of the useless worst-case-scenarios, you’ll actually be MORE likely to notice the people, opportunities and ideas you’ll need to win.
You may believe that the stakes are much higher now compared to a silly childhood game of Connect Four. But are they really? With VERY few exceptions, the truth is that our fear of failure is worse than the consequences that come from actually failing. Sure, the project very well might flop, your efforts might go to waste, or someone may laugh at you. You could get rejected, dejected, or fired. Your chips might fall to the ground after a crushing defeat.
But you know what? Life WILL go on. It’ll be ok. You’ll be able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get ready for the new — even better! — opportunity right around the corner.
Are you game?