Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Winning the Game

Over at the Small Business Blog, there was a posting about defining success. It got me thinking. I remembered a story:

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I enjoyed playing strategy games with military miniatures. For those of you who aren’t into various kinds of adventure gaming, that means, “I liked to play with toy soldiers.” My friend and I were working up some rough ideas for a new set of rules for a game. We had talked about a lot of ideas, even written some up and done some playtesting of some systems.

Anyway, one day, I combined a lot of these elements and ideas for the game system into a first draft of the rules, a sort of “version 1.0”. I wanted to test it out, to see just how well it would flow. At the time, I had a couple of teenage foster boys living in my home. “These guys would love to try it out,” I thought to myself. So, I pulled up a bunch of my figures (space goblins or some such, as well as a human army), set up some hills on my dinner table, and called them in. I taught them the rules as they were, and we played a game.

I lost.


I mean, they really kicked my sorry butt. Wiped the table with my face. Messed me up bad. Whatever you want to call it. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the two of them, seeing a chance to get away with attacking an authority figure, teamed up against me. Either that or the dice were against me. It couldn’t have been that I played badly, of course…

But at the end of the game, I was excited, not sad or upset. I was excited because the game system I had written had worked, and worked well. The boys and I had all had a great time playing it. The evening had been a great success.

In looking back at that evening, I’ve realized that a large part of your happiness in life depends on how you define your success. If I had defined that evening’s success or failure by whether or not I’d won the game, I would have put the game away and never played it again. But that wasn’t the point. The point at the time was: Did it work? The answer was: YES! That was success.

So, when I tackle my business, I want to make sure that I define success in terms that will really make me happy. Financial success is a large part of it, partly because it’s so easily measurable. But that’s not all. Personal accomplishment and growth can be a part of my definition as well. How much I can give to others, and what good I can bring into the world can also be a part of the equation.

Steven Covey encourages us, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, to “Begin with end in mind.” Wouldn’t it be much easier to set clear business goals, if we have a clear definition of what success is?

That can take some thought, and some soul-searching, even. Why am I in this business? What am I trying to accomplish? Where will it take me in the long run? Answers to these questions are not always easy.

But they’ll help you win the game!

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