By: Tina Baiter
Gathering the family around the table on a cold December afternoon usually means one thing is about to happen at my family’s get-togethers – a Scrabble game rematch. I have to brag a bit. After coming in dead last at Scrabble most of my life, I have managed to win the last five challenges.
But during the last game we played, I won something better than bragging rights. I won a life lesson in how every decision we make adds up. Those decisions can either launch us to success, or hold us back and hinder our chances to seize opportunities.
Seize the Opportunity
Someone once told me words I will never forget, “Opportunities are never lost. Someone will find them.”
How apparent those words were as I placed my letters down on the Scrabble board recently. In our last game, the board was really tight. In fact, it was hard trying to find a place to play. So I was really excited when I found a place to put down the letters “OAT”. I scored 11 points, as the “T” also played off another “O”, so I got the words “OAT” and “TO”.
A few plays later my brother found a place to play those same three letters. The place had been open on my turn, but I’d overlooked the opportunity to play there. As he put down the letters “OAT” below another word, he scored 44 points. His letters scored in four different ways, and he had a double word score on one of them.
Using just a bit more time to study the board and find the right opportunity, he was able to score four times what I scored using the exact same letters. I couldn’t be mad. In fact, I was really proud of him. He had seized an opportunity to score that I had let pass me by.
Decisions Add Up
Unfortunately, the opportunity was not enough for him to win the game. In his defense, he had stepped in mid-game for another family member – so I had a bit of an advantage. But it didn’t matter how many big words he scored in the last five plays of the game. He came into the game with 12 plays already done, many of them small points (7 points, 9 points, 4 points) compared to the big scores I’d racked up early in the game (63 points, 26 points, 32 points).
That was the second lesson I learned from our game of Scrabble. Each choice we make in life affects us down the road. Sometimes the choices are the only choices we have. Maybe we drew the wrong set of letters. Maybe we inherited a bad score. Maybe we walked into a bad situation. But we still made the choice.
In my brother’s case, he made the choice to play, knowing he had inherited a bad score. And he worked hard, never giving up, and closing a big gap in a score. His tenacity to keep going when the letters were stacked against him was almost as inspiring as his ability to seize the opportunity with the word “OAT”.
Don’t Hold on to Bad Ideas
In the case of the player he replaced, my mother, a series of choices to score smaller words created a deficit. But perhaps the worst decision she admittedly made that game was the decision to try and score one word using all her letters. She skipped a turn and traded in one letter in hopes of getting the letter she needed. It was a gamble, and it didn’t pan out.
Had she drawn the letter, the gamble would have paid off. Not only would she have scored a 50 point bonus for the Scrabble Bingo (using all her letters), but she also would have scored around 60 additional points. That would have given her an almost unstoppable lead.
She then turned her strategy into making a six letter word, if she could only draw just one letter. Unfortunately, when she finally drew the letter, I had just played in the spot where she had been planning to play the word. Again, her idea failed.
As we sat at the table that day, we both agreed that sometimes hanging onto an idea can hurt your game. And sometimes people spend way too much time waiting on that “one thing” that just never comes.
A Scrabbling Lesson
What about you? In life, are there opportunities you let pass you by because you do not stop to look at the big picture? For me, I am going to call those moments “OAT Moments.” Remember, someone will always find the opportunities for success you miss. Keep your eyes open. You deserve the success just as much as they do.
How often do you blame other people for your bad decisions? Have you ever stopped to think that the reason you are where you are today is because of the decisions you made in your past? It is never too late to start making better decisions.
Finally, how many bad ideas do you keep holding onto hoping they will pan out into big success stories? A lot of people will plug away day after day at a bad idea, and they will never figure out why it isn’t working. Remember that sometimes it’s okay to let go of bad ideas. The moment you do, you can start working on good ones.
[Ed. Note: Life shouldn’t be a game. Life should be a plan. Let us help you create it with our new program: Living Every Minute: Design the Life You Deserve. Share your thoughts on this week’s article with other readers below.]