What Playing Solitaire Taught Me About Running a Business

Since I write every day, I need a way to calm my mind when Im done for the day. Sometimes I spend a couple of hours making jewelry. When even that is too much, I play Solitaire (Klondike, Spider, or Free Cell) on my Kindle. Theres something soothing in the swift decisions: Which card do I play and where?

Recently, however, I realized how much business is like Klondike Solitaire. Here are 13 similarities:

1. Replay hand is often allowed.

Before youve finished playing a hand, youll see where you could have played the game better. Go ahead. Replay the hand; make those better decisions.

2. Every move counts for or against you.

It isnt necessarily good or bad, but every move you make prepares you for the next move, and on and on. Every move is a positive move forward, or a mistake taking you backward. As such, every move counts.

3. Time is a factor.

The old adage is still true: Time marches on (and on and on). Even if what youre doing doesnt require that you keep track of time, youre still using time. Make the best use of it.

4. Sometimes its faster to let the auto-complete take over.

If all the necessary cards are in place on the board, although not necessarily in the right order, the question pops up, Auto-complete? Yes / No (or No / Yes; you have to pay attention which command is where). You can pop each card to the finishing line, or you can let the app do it. Sometimes, its faster to let the app finish the game for you.

(Auto-complete are all the little, non-descript, they-just-exist kind of end-of-job things that you do by rote.)

5. If you have room for all the Kings, dont put the Jack on the Queen if leaving it means one less move against you.

If all the Kings are up, you can leave other lines half-finished while you run with the board. Its a shortcut, but this one doesnt count against you.

6. Sometimes you have to play all the cards yourself without the auto-complete.

Once in awhile, tapping each card to go to their respective finishes is faster than the auto-complete. Especially if youve had to play down to the last five or six cards. The auto-complete wont show up until all cards are up and in play on the board. Just finish up the last little bit yourself by saying No if the auto-complete pops up.

7. Sometimes, you simply dont win.

The number of games possible is innumerable (someone with massive math skills probably knows the exact number of games possible). Is it any wonder that some of them just arent winnable? Business is the same way. You wont win over every client, you wont get every coveted assignment, or you just wont make the cut. Move on and play another game.

8. The numbers in the game (time used, moves, and points) dont start until you do.

While time continues, whether you work or not, the billable time, doing the work, and making the money doesnt begin until you do.

9. Pay attention to your up cards; use them to open up the next line before turning over a deck card.

Its too easy to ignore what you have on your board and go straight to the deck at the side. Or forget that you have useable cards at the end of your lines. But, its often the cards already in play that will give you your best options. Its the same with your business, whether yourself or your employees.

10. Its okay to use the backup/re-do button to see your options.

There is only one thing in life without a backup button or a re-do option: death. Everything else? You can make other choices when you uncover what else is possible. It takes up time, so it might not be financially feasible, but you do have that ability and option to take another look elsewhere.

11. Keep track of your best scores, and keep trying to better at least one of them every week.

The score is better money, better clients, or better press; all are scores that help your business. But, you wont know if youre doing better unless you keep track of what youve done. Once you know those factors, you can improve at least one every week or every day, if possible.

12. The obvious move isnt always the right move.

This especially applies when you dont know all your options. Think it through. If its obvious to you, then your clients might also think its obvious and feel cheated out of getting your best work.

In all of this, the final thing I learned is the hardest to master:

13. Its only a game.

Occasionally, we get so caught up on winning, that we forget: its only a game. Theres frustration for losing, but its not a life-or-death penalty. Business is the same way. Your business may fail if you make the wrong decisions too often. A dead dream hurts. But, if youve played once, you can play again. If youve owned a business once, you can do it again.

What games do you play? What do you feel are your best rules for running your business? Tell me how and what you do

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