A Game Worth Playing

If Christmas day is about settling down with a good book, the day after Christmas in my family is for learning new games. Four new games arrived yesterday in our house: one each of card-, wooden-, classic-, and nerd- … something for everyone!

Working our way through the new games, especially with young players, reminded me of this important insight: a game worth playing is going to be hard to win at first. Particularly if you’re learning from experienced players, your odds of winning at first are minuscule.

So cut disappointment from your reaction when you learn a new game: you need to make it all about discovery, about learning. Making mistakes for the first few rounds is actually the best way to learn how to play the game well. If you get too hung up on losing, you’re going to quit before you really learn to play. Recently I watched a relative learn a tricky game; she lost the first couple of rounds with a shrug, but then clobbered the competition on her third try. She became rapidly better at the game because she didn’t let her losses disappoint her and because she came back to successive rounds with lessons learned.

A game worth playing is worth learning, and the best way to learn is to play and lose.

For me, music is a game worth playing. Life is a game worth playing.

We get too caught up in counting our wins in music, and in life. Better to understand that, as in a really excellent game, it will be our failures and our attitude about those failures that determine our long-term happiness.

Forget winning. Learn to play the game.