You never know when a recreational experience will offer you a poignant life lesson. My 10 year old son and I have gotten into this habit of an occasional game of Rummy (card game). The gist is, you use the cards in your hand, the deck, and the discard pile to make sequences of three, or three of a kind. The first person to use all the cards in their hand wins the round and play stops. You add your points, and then subtract the difference of the cards you still hold in your hand. Each game might consist of three to five rounds depending on the ultimate score you set as the winning total.
As with any game, there’s always strategy involved. In our most recent game, I was winning, quite handily. So I decided to, rather that amassing points and winning with a big lead, I would guard my lead and try to finish the round quickly, thus coasting to an easy win. I noticed my son was collecting more cards than he was laying down. And that’s a strategy too, but it’s risky, because the cards left in your hand can send your point total backwards. He began making some plays, all the while still collecting extra cards in the process. I was scoring too, but not as fast. And I was waiting for that one card so I could end the round and declare victory. I got it. I made my last play and left him holding quite a few extra cards. I was sure that even if I lost a little ground, my 50 point lead was nearly intact. With a grin on his face, he methodologically added, and subtracted, and compared the numbers. He looked at me and declared, “I won! I beat you by 35 points!” No way, I thought. But a glance at the score sheet confirmed my demise.
The point? Playing it safe and getting comfortable when you believe you’re in the driver’s seat is not often the safest strategy – in games, or in life. Staying ahead, progressing forward usually requires risk. And we don’t like risk. Especially if we think it’s not necessary to maintain our position. T. S. Eliot wrote, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” It’s funny; I had been playing the whole game by making risky moves, until I got a lead. My son, watching me play, used the technique against me – while I played it safe. Earl Nightingale said, “You can measure opportunity with the same yardstick that measures the risk involved. They go together.” My son saw an opportunity to take advantage of my decision to protect instead of persist. He won, I lost.
So here’s my question; Where might you be playing it safe – getting too comfortable? Are there some places is life where you are protecting instead of persisting? Be careful. Life will let you play it safe. But there is great reward available when we will take calculated risks to move forward.