Social Board Games, Part 0: Introduction

5 03 2014

Here is a great article I found for social games


As some of you already know, I am a mathematics professor at a small school in Indiana (Trine University). Despite our size, we have a very large engineering program – but more importantly, we have a class on the books called “Social Board Games”! The person who usually teaches it no longer has time, so he suggsted I take it up. No need to ask twice!

The course description says that “The object of this activity class is to expose students to the history, rules, strategies and fundamentals of a variety of social board games including Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Cranium, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Taboo and Monopoly.” Or, in the words of another professor, the point of the course is “to get the guys in engineering to actually talk to girls before they graduate.”

Of course, since I’m the kind of guy who runs a board gaming blog, I threw all of this out the window. While games like Pictionary and Taboo have some good social interaction and are closer to my aims for the course, games like Chess and Checkers are played in pairs and in virtual silence, and Monopoly and Scrabble can be frustrating and longish. More importantly though, I wanted to have a central goal for the course. I want students to actually learn a thing or two. The course is just 1-credit pass/fail, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a waste of time.

When I think back to my experiences in college, such as our “freshmen college experience” course that everyone college has now, I think of things I would have like to have known then, and what I want students to know now as a professor. The most important thing that came to mind was that I want students to take control of their own learning. (It amazes me the extent to which students who are confused in class will refuse to ask a question, for fear of looking stupid.) This led to me thinking about a variety of mental health issues that people don’t even realize are “issues” until it gets them fired from a job. My wife is a licensed mental health counselor, so with her help I came up with a list of ideas I wanted students to engage with and the games with which to do it. (In the future, I hope to try and get this course to count as a Social Science credit.)

What has been most amazing so far is the generosity of publishers and retailers alike. Since I was rebuilding a course from the ground up for which we already had materials (the old games), it was a safe assumption that I would have no funding from the university for new games. However, almost all of the publishers that I contacted were willing to step in and send some games to use in the course, and only a few were completely unresponsive. CoolStuffInc stepped in when I really wanted to use a game from a publisher I could not seem to contact, and I can’t be thankful enough. MeepleTown is not sponsored at all, by any publisher or retailer, but on a personal level I really want to thank (in no particular order) Rio Grande Games, Days of Wonder, Steve Jackson Games, R&R Games, FoxMind Games, North Star Games, Gamewright Games, Gryphon/Eagle Games, and Indie Boards & Cards, along with CoolStuffInc. This class as I envision it would not be possible without the generosity of every single one of you.

I am not going to share the entire syllabus, but I am going to share the flow of the course and the kind of assignments the students will have. This is a Wednesday night class, and each week students will be playing a game after I lecture a bit beforehand about the concept in mind as well as the ruleset. After about 90 minutes of play, we’ll recap the concept I want them to get and talk about how it appeared within the game. Then they have to go home and write a one-page paper on the importance of the mental health concept and how it appeared in the game. I’ll grade these out of 10 points (5 for grammar, 5 for substance) and they simply need to average a 6/10 on their assignments to pass the course. I hope to collect some important thoughts from these as I blog each week about the course, and maybe talk at some conferences about the importance of play, both psychologically and mathematically. (All that mathematical researchers do all day is goof around until something works. Play is of utmost importance.)

To pick games for this course, I needed them to satisfy some pretty important criteria. They needed to have a relatively short playtime – some games like Ticket to Ride will take a bit longer, but I was really aiming for 20-30 minute games that could be played several times in a row. It was also very important that they had a simple ruleset – the toughest game is probably Dominion, but I’ll be setting out the simplest Kingdom Cards in the basic set when they play, and that’ll be towards the end of the semester. I’ll also be walking around the room to answer rules questions as they play. Most importantly, they had to model some sort of important mental health concept that would be useful later in life as well as right now in college. To that end, the first unit is the most important one for college: realizing that it’s okay to be a little ignorant, and that everyone is a little ignorant too. The point of college is to become educated, which you can’t do if you won’t admit that youaren’t completely educated. The second unit is about communication, whose importance is hopefully obvious, although we will focus on several different types of communication. The third unit is on applying strategic thinking to life in general (which is, of course, a game, although we’re all a little fuzzy on the rules and victory conditions). The last unit is on separating play from reality – students (and even children) need to learn not to huff and puff and scream and stomp out of the room when they lose when they are still young, lest they act the same way at a board meeting.

I’ll talk more about the individual games chosen in detail as they come up each week, and I’ll also talk about responses from the students and what I lectured about. But for now, here is the list of games along with the mental health goals and writing prompts. (The game synopses are straight from BoardGameGeek and included for the students, who have probably never played or heard of most of these, since my Finite Math students at IUPUI did not even know the content of a deck of standard playing cards.) Check back next Friday for Part 1!

UNIT 1: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

The goal of this unit is for students to get comfortable with their own limitations. No one – even a genius – knows that much about the world compared to everything there is to know, and not everyone has the same skill set. It’s okay to be wrong or not know something! It’s more than okay to ask a question during classes! These games are meant to illustrate that.

TelestrationsWeek 1 (1/8) Telestrations

Game Synopsis: Telestrations is the award winning, laugh-out-loud party game that has players simultaneously draw what they see, then guess what they saw to reveal hilarious and unpredictable outcomes. In this fun, modern twist on the classic “telephone game,” there are multiple words being passed around between players, with everyone sketching and guessing at the same time! But the real fun and laughter is the big reveal, where players get their own books back and get to share how “this” became “that”!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to laugh at yourself.

Focus for Review: Were your drawings guessed correctly? When the meaning was entirely lost, was everyone (including you) able to laugh at the errors? How can you apply those aspects of the game to failures in everyday life?

wwfamilyWeek 2 (1/15) Wits & Wagers Family

Game SynopsisWits & Wagers is the trivia game you can win without knowing any trivia! All you do is bet on the answer you think is the closest. Get lucky and your team will be cheering like they hit the jackpot!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to properly assess how knowledgeable other people are.

Focus for Review: When answers revealed, was your answer ever far from the rest? How did players react to “out there” answers? Did anyone lose self-confidence for that reason? Was an “out there” answer ever right? Were ever you afraid to bet on your own answer, but then it turned out to be right? How would you apply those aspects of this game to real-life situations?

faunaWeek 3 (1/22) Fauna

Game Synopsis: Do you know where the panda lives (… you most likely know)? Do you know where the babirusa lives (… you are less sure about that)? Some of us are not entirely sure what a babirusa is? In Fauna, you are not expected to know all the answers, simply gather your wits and make an educated guess. You are right on target? Great! You are close? That’s good too, since you score partial points. Playing Fauna involves some fun betting for points, but don’t get cocky, as this may cost you your hide!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to strategize and assess a situation with imperfect knowledge.

Focus for Review:  A big difference between this game and Wits & Wagers is the way you play the game on the board. Did you ever make a tactical move that wasn’t really related to what you know? Were you able to still strategize and accomplish things without knowing exactly what the right answer was? How did you use what you thought other players knew? How could this idea be applied in a real-life situation?

timesupWeek 4 (1/29) Time’s Up!

Game Synopsis: Time’s Up! is a party game for teams of two or more players (best with teams of two). The same set of famous names is used for each of three rounds. In each round, one member of a team tries to get his teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. In round 1, almost any kind of clue is allowed. In round 2 no more than one word can be used in each clue (but unlimited sounds and gestures are permitted). In round 3, no words are allowed at all. Time’s Up! is based on the public domain game known as Celebrities.

Mental Health Goal: Being comfortable with acting like a fool (in an appropriate situation).

Focus for Review:  Did you have trouble “loosening up” and acting silly in this game? Why or why not? Do you think that the ability to act silly is an actual, important real-life skill? Why or why not?

 Were you able to get your teammates guess the correct words? When you were not able to use words, how were you able to still indicate the card? Were you able to reference what happened in the previous rounds? How could you use this to communicate in real life?

UNIT 2: Communicating Effectively

The goal of this unit is to get students to communicate effectively with each other. This means working together as a team, as well as learning to interpret and use both verbal and nonverbal communication.

Week 5 (2/5) Dixit

dixitGame Synopsis: Every picture tells a story – but what story will your picture tell? Dixit is the lovingly illustrated game of creative guesswork, where your imagination unlocks the tale. In this award-winning board game, players will use the beautiful imagery on their cards to bluff their opponents and guess which image matches the story. Guessing right is only half the battle – to really succeed, you’ll have to get your friends to decide that your card tells the story!

Mental Health Goal: Making mental and emotional connections with strangers and acquaintances.

Focus for Review: Was it difficult to make up appropriate clues? How did you respond when your clue was too easy, too hard, or just right? Were you able to make mental or emotional connections with other players via the clues? How can you apply this idea to real life social situations with new people?

forbislandWeek 6 (2/12) Forbidden Island

Game Synopsis: Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!

Mental Health Goal: Working together as a team.

Focus for Review: The game requires that you cooperate with other players to win. Did anyone try to be the “alpha player” and tell everyone what to do? How did you decide on what actions to take? What was different when you played with hidden cards? How does this correspond to working on a team or a committee at a real job, or on a group project? Did you win or lose? Why do you think you won or lost? What lessons did you take away from playing the game?

hanabi_productshotWeek 7 (2/19) Hanabi

Game Synopsis: An intriguing and innovative card game. Race against the clock to build a dazzling fireworks finale! Trouble is, you can see the cards that everyone holds…except your own.  Working together, you must give and receive vital information in order to play your cards in the proper launch sequence. Build and light each firework correctly to win the game and avoid a fizzling fiasco!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to properly intonate and infer silent communication.

Focus for Review: Were you able to correctly guess what your teammates were trying to say? Did they infer what you wanted them to when you gave clues? What changed when you did not allow intonation? What are some real-life situations where you need to pick up on silent clues?

labocaWeek 8 (2/26) La Boca

Game Synopsis:  In shifting teams of two that sit across from one another, players try to create skylines on challenge cards – but the players can see the completed image only from their point of view, so they must consult with one another constantly to make sure each colored block ends up in the right location while racing against the timer. The faster the players complete their building, the more points they score. Then the next team takes a seat, breaks down the blocks, then begins building anew. Whoever has the most points after a certain number of rounds will stand atop La Boca and glory in the cheers of the Argentinian public!

Mental Health Goal: Communicating effectively under pressure.

Focus for Review: Now that you have communicated with your classmates for a few weeks, was this easier or harder other communication games? Do you think that made a difference? Were you able to communicate under pressure? Did you work better with some teammates than others? Why or why not?

UNIT 3: Applying Strategy to Real Life:

So far, many of the games we have played have been party games, and maybe not what people typically think of when they think of board games. In this unit, we will play some strategy-based board games that will challenge your brain, but more importantly, we’ll talk about how to apply strategy to the game of life (metaphorically, not the board game Life).

Week 9 (3/12) Ticket to Ride

ttrGame Synopsis: Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.

Mental Health Goal: Learning to adapt your strategy after short-term setbacks.

Focus for Review: Did someone ever claim a route that you wanted? Did you claim a spot someone else wanted? What happened afterwards? Were you able to recover and do your best, anyway? How did you react to winning or losing?

Week 10 (3/19) Dominion

DominionGame Synopsis: In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can “buy” as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.

Dominion is not a CCG, but the play of the game is similar to the construction and play of a CCG deck. The game comes with 500 cards. You select 10 of the 25 Kingdom card types to include in any given play—leading to immense variety.

Mental Health Goal: Learning to understand long-term consequences of your actions.

Focus for Review: How often did you see a card that you bought early? What was different about a card you bought in the first few turns, compared to the cards you bought at the end of the game? When do you think you should buy the action and money cards – early, or at the end? What about the victory cards? How does this idea of a game decision having long-term consequences translate into real life? As you approach the end of the game, the consequences of your choices don’t last as long – is there an analog to this in real life? Why or why not?

Week 11 (3/26) Skull & Roses, Coup

skullGame Synopsis: Skull & Roses is the quintessence of bluffing, a game in which everything is played in the players’ heads. Skull & Roses is not a game of luck; it’s a game of poker face and meeting eyes.

In Coup, you are head of a family in an Italian city-state, a city run by a weak and corrupt court. You need to manipulate, bluff and bribe your way to power. Your object is to destroy the influence of all the other families, forcing them into exile. Only one family will survive…

Mental Health Goal: Understanding the moral, psychological, and strategic implications of lying and bluffing.

coupsmallFocus for Review: How often did you and your opponents lie in these games? Was it absolutely necessary to tell some lies to win? Were you comfortable with doing so? Do you think it is ‘okay’ to lie to get ahead? On the other hand, is it sometimes correct or even moral to withhold truth? Is it lying to tell the truth in a way that paints it as a lie? Is it important to be able to recognize a liar when you see one? Can this be done without lying yourself and putting yourself in a liar’s shoes?

UNIT 4: Emotions During Gaming

We’ve all been there. Someone won the last game, so you don’t want to cooperate with them in this game. Someone attacked you within the game, so you want to punch them in the face. The goal of this unit is to get students comfortable with competition, so that they can properly separate play from reality, and deal with competition at their future jobs.

Week 12 (4/2) Hearts

heartsGame Synopsis: Hearts is a trick taking, standard deck playing card game, without trumps, which has been played popularly for generations and has many variations. The object is to avoid capturing hearts at one (1) point apiece and (in the most commonly played version today) the queen of spades, at thirteen (13) points, the card on which the whole game pivots. But to make it interesting, it is also possible to “shoot the moon,” taking all the hearts and the queen, a coup that gives 26 points to each of your opponents!

Mental Health Goal: Separating frustration and “mean” play within a game from the reality outside of the game.

Focus for Review: Did you ever feel targeted or attacked during the game? How did you react? What would you do in a social situation where you became angry because of the game being played? What’s a good way to avoid getting in this kind of situation in the first place?

Week 13 (4/9), Part 1 Zombie Dice

zombiediceGame Synopsis: You are a zombie. You want braaains. More brains than any of your zombie buddies. Zombie Dice is fast and easy for any zombie fan (or the whole zombie family). The 13 custom dice are your victims. Push your luck to eat their brains, but stop rolling before the shotgun blasts end your turn! Two or more can play. Each game takes 10 to 20 minutes, and can be taught in a single round.

Mental Health Goal: Learning firsthand the risks of “gambler’s logic.”

Focus for Review: Did you ever get greedy while rolling, and refuse to stop? If it paid off, did you begin to think that that is “okay” to always do? If you busted after being greedy, how did that make you feel? How do the experiences you had during the game apply to real-life gambling?

Week 13 (4/9), Part 2 For Sale

forsaleGame Synopsis: Bid and bluff your way to purchase the most valuable real estate for the lowest amount of money. Then turn around and sell those houses (and shacks) for cold hard cash. Be the richest mogul at the end of the game to win this Stefan Dorra classic. Considered one of the finest bidding games of all time, For Sale has a devoted following of fans that is about to grow much, much larger.

Mental Health Goal: Learning when to back down from a “fight.”

Focus for Review: You see it quite often in television and movies – someone is angry about being overbid and won’t back down from an auction. Did this happen in your games? Did you feel the urge to overpay for a property because someone outbid you? How do you calm yourself down and convince yourself to walk away? How can this be applied to real life?

Week 14 (4/16) Bohnanza

bohnanzaGame Synopsis: This great card game is about planting, trading, and selling beans – 11 kinds of beans! Players try to collect large sets of beans to sell for gold. There is limited growing space and always new beans to plant. To avoid planting unwanted beans, players trade them to other players who want them for their bean fields

Mental Health Goal: Balancing cooperation with competition.

Focus for Review: How often did you trade or donate within the game? How shrewd were you and the other players? How did cooperating and trading work into your strategy and/or the strategy of the winners? How important was the emotional metagame (the game outside the game)? What kinds of situations in real life require you to cooperate with your competitors?


Week 15 (4/23) The Resistance

resistance2ndGame SynopsisThe Resistance is a very intense social deduction game for 5-10 players.  While it shares similarities with games like Werewolf,Mafia and even Battlestar Galactica, it has many very unique features such as a quick 30 minute play time, no moderator required and no player elimination.

Mental Health Goal: Learning how to read people’s tells, and to recover from misguided trust.

Focus for Review: Were you loyal or a spy? How did this affect your actions? What did you do to figure out whom to trust, or to trick people into trusting you? What verbal and nonverbal clues did you use? How did you and the other players react when the truth was revealed? Was anyone upset? Were you able to pretend to know things, or otherwise make use of your partial information? How could you apply what happened in the game to real-life situations?

5 Reasons to Embrace Gaming in the Classroom

16 11 2013

Published October 25, 2013
  • Gaming is an amazing strategy to use in the classroom, yet few teachers use it to increase their students’ learning. Generally it is used a ‘reward’ or dismissed as purely fun, with no learning purpose. Gaming, however, is a wonderful way to re-engage students with learning and make learning relevant to their lives. This is not to say that it should be the only teaching strategy that you should use, or that all topics would be best taught through gaming. Many learning situations, however, can be dramatically improved through introducing gaming to your classroom.

Gaming in the Classroom

1. Improve Engagement

When students know that gaming is going to be introduced into a unit, they automatically become a lot more interested in what is happening. Even students who are not ‘gamers’ are interested in the change in the status quo. Something new is happening in their classroom, and they want to be a part of it. For those students who are gamers, the lesson suddenly becomes something that is relevant to them and their lives. It also provides opportunities for students who may not achieve success easily at school to become successful, and even become mentors to other students who are not comfortable in a gaming environment.

 2. Personalise Instruction

All good teachers ultimate goal is to differentiate instruction, giving all students the support they need at their individual level. This, however, is time consuming to achieve. Good games are open-ended, giving all students opportunities to work at their own level. They also allow students to see how to achieve success at the next level, providing them with clear goals. Many games can also be personalised, so that students can connect with the game. Avatars and other similar personalisations allow the students to portray who they are while staying within the safe constraints of the game. This connection is not often possible in schools with strict rules about personal appearance or in children who have little control over their environment.

 3. Provide an entry point to content

Games provide a way for all students to access content that may seem inaccessible when presented in an alternative way. Many games, particularly role playing games, allow students who are not confident to watch others who are more confident attempt the task first. Gaming also allows them to try new tasks without having to worry about getting it ‘wrong’. If they do make a mistake, it is not visible, but they can take that learning and try again. They could also attempt a slightly easier task as a way in to the original task without being seen to ‘fall behind’ by their peers.

 4. Clear rules and objectives

Games have clear rules and objectives and when teaching with games this makes the learning significantly clearer for students. Having clear learning objectives takes the mystery away from learning for students, allowing them to achieve success. They also know exactly what will happen if they do or do not follow the rules of the game. This clarity assists students to take control of their own learning and understand exactly how they can improve.

 5. Increase Learning

Ultimately, all of the above points means that students will improve their learning. When students are engaged, know how to achieve success and have an entry point to all of the content, they will learn the content. Add to this the opportunity to practice and trial new thinking, students can master the content quickly and confidently. Provided that you have a specific purpose for introducing gaming and know what learning you want your students to achieve, then gaming is the perfect opportunity to given students ownership over their own learning.

 What games have you introduced successfully in the classroom? Leave a comment below and let us know how your class is embracing gaming.

 Feature image courtesy of Flickr, kennymatic.


Rebecca Davies is a teacher in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. She teaches primary and middle years students (Prep to year 9) and has taught in PYP and mainstream schools. She is passionate about educational technology and how it can engage students, making their learning personalised and relevant to their lives.

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’10 big brain benefits of playing chess’

5 09 2013

'10 big brain benefits of playing chess'

Not for nothing is chess known as “the game of kings.” No doubt the rulers of empires and kingdoms saw in the game fitting practice for the strategizing and forecasting they themselves were required to do when dealing with other monarchs and challengers. As we learn more about the brain, some are beginning to push for chess to be reintroduced as a tool in the public’s education. With benefits like these, they have a strong case.

1. It can raise your IQ
Chess has always had an image problem, being seen as a game for brainiacs and people with already high IQs. So there has been a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: do smart people gravitate towards chess, or does playing chess make them smart? At least one study has shown that moving those knights and rooks around can in fact raise a person’s intelligence quotient. A study of 4,000 Venezuelan students produced significant rises in the IQ scores of both boys and girls after 4 months of chess instruction.

2. It helps prevent Alzheimer’s
Because the brain works like a muscle, it needs exercise like any bicep or quad to be healthy and ward off injury. A recent study featured in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people over 75 who engage in brain-stretching activities like chess are less likely to develop dementia than their non-board-game-playing peers. Just like an un-exercised muscle loses strength, Dr. Robert Freidland, the study’s author, found that unused brain tissue leads to a loss of brain power. So that’s all the more reason to play chess before you turn 75.

3. It exercises both sides of the brain
In a German study, researchers showed chess experts and novices simple geometric shapes and chess positions and measured the subjects’ reactions in identifying them. They expected to find the experts’ left brains being much more active, but they did not expect the right hemisphere of the brain to do so as well. Their reaction times to the simple shapes were the same, but the experts were using both sides of their brains to more quickly respond to the chess position questions.

4. It increases your creativity
Since the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for creativity, it should come as no surprise that activating the right side of your brain helps develop your creative side. Specifically, chess greatly increases originality. One four-year study had students from grades 7 to 9 play chess, use computers, or do other activities once a week for 32 weeks to see which activity fostered the most growth in creative thinking. The chess group scored higher in all measures of creativity, with originality being their biggest area of gain.

5. It improves your memory
Chess players know — as an anecdote — that playing chess improves your memory. Being a good player means remembering how your opponent has operated in the past and recalling moves that have helped you win before. But there’s hard evidence also. In a two-year study in 1985, young students who were given regular opportunities to play chess improved their grades in all subjects, and their teachers noticed better memory and better organizational skills in the kids. A similar study of Pennsylvania sixth-graders found similar results. Students who had never before played chess improved their memories and verbal skills after playing.

6. It increases problem-solving skills
A chess match is like one big puzzle that needs solving, and solving on the fly, because your opponent is constantly changing the parameters. Nearly 450 fifth-grade students were split into three groups in a 1992 study in New Brunswick. Group A was the control group and went through the traditional math curriculum. Group B supplemented the math with chess instruction after first grade, and Group C began the chess in first grade. On a standardized test, Group C’s grades went up to 81.2% from 62% and outpaced Group A by 21.46%.

7. It improves reading skills
In an oft-cited 1991 study, Dr. Stuart Margulies studied the reading performance of 53 elementary school students who participated in a chess program and evaluated them compared to non-chess-playing students in the district and around the country. He found definitive results that playing chess caused increased performance in reading. In a district where the average students tested below the national average, kids from the district who played the game tested above it.

8. It improves concentration
Chess masters might come off like scattered nutty professors, but the truth is their antics during games are usually the result of intense concentration that the game demands and improves in its players. Looking away or thinking about something else for even a moment can result in the loss of a match, as an opponent is not required to tell you how he moved if you didn’t pay attention. Numerous studies of students in the U.S., Russia, China, and elsewhere have proven time and again that young people’s ability to focus is sharpened with chess.

9. It grows dendrites
Dendrites are the tree-like branches that conduct signals from other neural cells into the neurons they are attached to. Think of them like antennas picking up signals from other brain cells. The more antennas you have and the bigger they are, the more signals you’ll pick up. Learning a new skill like chess-playing causes dendrites to grow. But that growth doesn’t stop once you’ve learned the game; interaction with people in challenging activities also fuels dendrite growth, and chess is a perfect example.

10. It teaches planning and foresight
Having teenagers play chess might just save their lives. It goes like this: one of the last parts of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for planning, judgment, and self-control. So adolescents are scientifically immature until this part develops. Strategy games like chess can promoteprefrontal cortex development and help them make better decisions in all areas of life, perhaps keeping them from making a stupid, risky choice of the kind associated with being a teenager.

This article was cross-posted with permission from

Chess and Math? Improving math skills one move at a time

30 06 2013

From Deb Russell

First of all, Math provides the building blocks and foundation that children will need throughout their lives. If you think that the basics are adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing – think again! Today, we live in an information age where it’s reported that information is doubling at a rate less than every two years. The basic skills need to function in the workplace today are decision making, problem solving, critical thinking and deductive and inductive reasoning along with the ability to make judgements and good estimates. We haven’t loved math but we’ve certainly loved our games. That’s when Chess comes into the picture.

Chess is a game that requires problem solving. Math requires problem solving, it makes good sense then to become a good problem solver means you’ll do better in math. Chess (and other games) require a mental workout, thinking ahead, planning, being systematic, and determining the outcomes of certain moves. Chess moves can’t be memorized, weakness in math often stems from an over emphasis on memory skills instead of thinking skills. Research studies have indicated that students playing chess have improved problem solving skills over the group that have not been involved in the playing of chess. Ollie LaFreniere, the Washington Chess Federation’s statewide Coordinator for Scholastic Chess, said in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer interview on May 31, “Chess is the single most powerful educational tool we have at the moment, and many school administrators are realizing that.” There are also studies that indicate that many students’ social habits improved when playing chess.

The late Faneuil Adams (president of the American Chess Foundation (ACF). believed that chess could enhance learning, especially for the disadvantaged. He with the ACF founded the Chess in Schools Program which initially began in New York’s Harlem School district. Early in the program, the focus was on improving math skills for adolescents through improved critical thinking and problem solving skills. Remarkably “test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.56% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities.”

The ACF reports that chess improves a Child’s:

Visual memory

Attention span

Spatial reasoning skills

Capacity to predict and anticipate consequences

Ability to use criteria to drive decision making and evaluate alternatives

Many countries are following suit. In Canada, a growing number of elementary schools have incorporated chess into the regular school curriculum. Looking specifically at Quebec, 10 years ago their math scores were the lowest in the country, Chess became a school subject and now the children in quebec have the highest average math scores in Canada.

Overcoming Math Phobia through Chess

Why is it when we ask the majority of people what they think of math or if they’re good at math, they immediately show a look of distaste? Think of what happens when a group of people are at a restaurant and the bill comes on one check instead of on separate checks. Usually, you’ll hear ‘here, you figure it out, I was never any good at math.’ I’m sure you’ve been in this situation yourself at times. However, do they ever say, here you figure it out – I can’t read. When we take a look at why people don’t like math, we’re told it’s because it makes them feel stupid, or that they just don’t understand it because there are too many rules, formulas and procedures to remember. But, can you think of a situation where there are rules, procedures and such that we enjoy? Games!!! Perhaps if our math instructors treated math like a game, more individuals would excel and would like mathematics. A more favorable attitude in math leads to better performance. Let chess pave the way to better math scores and improved problem solving strategies!

Mathematics and the game of chess

30 06 2013

by Enrique Diaz G.

Our purpose for writting this article is to attempt to answer the question: Is there any relationship between thinking mathematically and thinking in the game of Chess? In other words, must a person possessing an active mind in Mathematics become necessarily a good Chess player have skills in Mathematics?

It is necessary to point out that due to the subject complexity, our efforts will be to explain basic characteristics of both Mathematics and Chess which have been posed by well-known Mathematicians and Chess players. Accordingly, we are not interested in exposing facts, for example, from the Theory of Knowledge, Psychology, Epistemology or going further into the technical and sophisticated aspects of Chess.

To begin with, let us examine some qualities of Mathematics.

People having poor experience in Mathematics believe that knowing how to add, subtract, multiply or divide enables them to say that they could master Mathematics. Others possessing some skill in performing quick calculations think they are “Mathematicians”. In both cases, they indicate they do not know about the meaning of Mathematics:

Mathematics as an expression of the human mind reflects the active will, the contemplative reason, and the desire for aesthetic perfection. Its basic elements are logic and intuition, analysis and construction, generality and individuality. Though different traditions may emphasize different aspects, it is only the interplay of these antithetic forces and the struggle for their synthesis that constitute the life, usefulness, and supreme value of mathematical science. (Courant& Robbins, 1941).

Even though at the beginning this definition seems difficult to understand, it is the best approximation to comprehend the whole sense of mathematics.

The first major step which the Greeks made was to insist that Mathematics must deal with abstract concepts… On the basis of elementary abstractions, mathematics creates others which are even more remote from anything real. Negative numbers, equations involving unknowns, formulas, and other concepts we shall encounter are abstractions built upon abstractions. Fortunately, every abstraction is ultimately derived from, and therefore understandable in terms of, intuitively meaningful objects or phenomena. The mind does play its part in the creation of mathematical concepts, but the mind does not function independently of the outside world. Indeed the mathematician who treats concepts that have no physically real or intuitive origins is almost surely talking nonsense .2 (Kline, 1962).

After this brief glance at the meaning of Mathematics, let us seethe most commonly methods used in this science. According to Kline (1962), the major method of obtaining knowledge is reasoning, and within the domain of reasoning there are several forms. One can reason by analogy, which consists of finding a similar situation or circumstance and to argue that what was true for the similar case should be true of the one in question. Of course, one must be able to find a similar situation and one must take the chance that the differences do not matter.

Another common method of reasoning is induction. People use this method of reasoning every day. Inductive reasoning is in fact the method must commonly used in experimentation. An experimentation is generally performed many times, and if the same result is obtained each time, the experimenter concludes that the result will always follow. The essence of induction is that one observes repeated occurrences of the same phenomenon and concludes that the phenomenon will always occur.

There is still a third method of reasoning, called deduction. Let us consider an example. If we accept as basic facts that honest people return found money and that John is honest, we may conclude unquestionably that John will return money that he finds. In deductive reasoning we start with certain statements, called premises, and assert a conclusion which is a necessary or inescapable consequence of the premises.

All three methods of reasoning, analogy, induction, and deduction, and other methods, are commonly employed. There is one essential difference, however, between deduction on the one hand and all other methods of reasoning on the other. Where as the conclusion drawn by analogy or induction has only a probability of being correct, the conclusion drawn by deduction necessarily holds. Despite the usefulness and advantages of induction and analogy, mathematics does not rely upon these methods to establish its conclusions. All mathematical proofs must be deductive.

Each proof is a chain of deductive arguments, each of which has its premises and conclusion.

Finally, we point out that Mathematics must not be considered only as a system of conclusions drawn from premises or postulates. Mathematicians must also discover what to prove and how to go about establishing proofs. These processes are also part of Mathematics and they are not deductive:

In the search for a method of proof, as in finding what to prove, the mathematician must use audacious imagination, insight, and creative ability. His mind must see possible lines of attack where others would not. In the domains of algebra, calculus, and advanced analysis especially, the first-rate mathematician depends upon the kind of inspiration that we usually associate with the creation of music, literature, or art.3 (Kline, 1962).

Let us consider now the game of Chess showing some of its characteristics and trying to find out any special method of reasoning that Chess players could use. First of all, we are not going to explain the game as accurately as in a Chess book. Instead, we will describe the game in a rather general form.

A Chess game is a war between two medieval Kingdoms. In medieval times, when Kingdoms were small, absolute monarchies, if the King was imprisoned or captured the war was over. So it is in the game of Chess. The game is finished when one of the Kings is captured. It may here be noted that Chess is not necessarily a game of elimination but rather a game of tactics. However, elimination of the opponent’s pieces plays an important part since by so weakening or wearing down your opponent the end is hastened. A general definition is given by Mason: “Chess is a process of thought conditioned and limited by the Institutes and Rules of the Game. The judgments of thought are certified or visibly expressed upon the chessboard in movements of various forces”.4 (Mason, 1946)

The invention of Chess had been credited to the Persians, the Chinese, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, Scythians, Egyptians, Hindus, Irish and the Welsh. Although the precise origin has been lost in obscurity, it continues to excite the speculation of men of learning at one end of dilettantes at the other. Careful research has called it an “ancient” game; the foolhardy are quite ready to underwrite exact dates. Other characteristics are pointed out by Mason (1946).

But there is a mischievous imagination abroad that it is a difficult game. It takes time. Its intricacies and profundities are not rightly within mastery of the average human intellect. This, in a sense, is true enough, else Chess would not be Chess. That it cannot be all known and mastered by anybody is truly its chiefest, crowning merit. It is an instrument all may play, no two precisely alike, and yet everyone his best. Too much time may be devoted to it. Chess is a science as well as an art. In its exercise the tendency is to premature mechanical facility, rather than to a clear perception of principles; though upon this, of course, all true and lasting faculty necessarily depends.

Now, after these rough explanations about Chess, let us see what attributes a person must possess in order to become a good Chess player. In other words, what is the pattern of intellectual skills that makes one man a good chess player while the other remains a duffer?

In the first place, topnotch Chess requires visual imagery. Before you make a contemplated move, you have to visualize how the board will look after you make it, and then how it will be changed by your opponent’s response, and how it will look after you meet another possible answer. You also need patience and restraint.

The quick thinker is often a fool. You need a good memory too. Memory has two components: ability to retain, and ability to recall. The chess player needs both. Finally, Chess calls for a certain kind of “reasoning”. This reasoning consists of joining together the above elements in order to give an appropriate response to any move. This, then, is the “putty” which holds the “blocks” together. The “blocks” are memory, patience and imagery. The putty is associative reasoning. In daily life you use some of these processes, but you also use other intellectual techniques. For instance, inductive reasoning is not much used in chess, but it pays dividends in business and professional life.

Now, let us consider a mathematician with all his capacity to think abstract concepts; with all his methods of reasoning, that is, reason by analogy, induction, and deduction. Will he become a good Chess player? One of the greatest mathematicians, Henri Poincare, denies this possibility:

In the same way I should be but a poor chess player; I would perceive that by a certain play I should expose myself to a certain danger; I would pass in review several other plays, rejecting them for other reasons, and then finally should make the move first examined, having meantime forgotten the danger I had foreseen. In a word, my memory is not bad, but it would be insufficient to make me a good chess player. Why them does it not fail me in a difficult piece of mathematical? Evidently because it is guided by the general march of the reasoning.5 (Binet, 1946).

Also, we have Binet’s thinking about this matter:

Conversely, mathematicians have after been interested in Chess. However, few famous mathematicians have been first-rate chess players … I will readily admit that a similarity exists between chess and mathematics, especially between chess and mental arithmetic, without, however, ascribing to them identical mental operations. Chess and Mathematics follow parallel lines. In other words, the two types of study have a common direction; they presuppose the same taste for complex mental operations which are both abstract and precise; and they both require a strong dose of patience and concentration.6 (Binet, 1966).

Now, let us consider a good Chess player, for example, the so-called, chess master. Could he become a good mathematician also? One categorical, answer is expressed by Horowitz and Rothenberg. ,

As strange as it may seen, the chess player’s skill may have no relationship whatever to any other facet of his personality or activity. The common belief that expert chess players are good mathematicians is fiction. On the other hand, good mathematicians may turn out to be good chess players … One conclusion and one only is a safe one: Expert Chess-players are able to play Chess expertly.7 (Horowitz & Rothenberg, 1963).

Again Poincare points out that:
…, but, however extraordinary he (a chess player) may be, he will never prepare more than a finite number of moves; if he applies his faculties to arithmetic, he will not be able to perceive its general truths by a single direct intuition; to arrive at the smallest theorem he can not dispense with the aid of reasoning by recurrence, for this is an instrument which enables us to pass from the finite to the infinite, (Poincare, 1946).

Another interesting point of view concerning this point is set up by Abrahams:

The Chess process, being intuitive, Is not mathematical in the normally accepted sense of that term. The fact that the Chess player is controlled by rules makes him comparable to the user of a language with a grammar rather than to those who explicitly use rules and formulate deductively. The Chess player is sometimes in a position to be aided by learning and memory. But essentially each Chess act is a fresh application of mind to data. Than which nothing is less mathematical or less inferential.8 (Abrahams, 1951).

To summarize then, we can say that up to now there is not any valuable reason to support the theory that a Chess player must possess abilities related to Mathematics. Lastly, we will indicate some ideas about Chess as a mental process.

Why has Chess remained the world’s most popular game for fifteen centuries? Some authorities attribute the game’s fascination to its mimicry of war and all the other struggles of “real life’ , others see Chess as a convenient escape from reality. Some have found in Chess an admirable schooling for the mind; others would agree with Ernest Cassirer that “what Chess has in common with science and fine art is its utter uselessness” … The great Chess masters, like the great poets, the great composers, the great artists, the great mathematicians, the great mystics, have the faculty of immersing themselves in some creative process with a concentration, a finality, that is beyond most of us… Chess concepts, like mathematical concepts, depend on formal relations, and therefore exist forever, independent of the capacity of this or that human brain to grasp them.

Now nobody, according to Abrahams (1951), has succeeded in explaining, in casual terms, how the mind apprehends in the first place, or why it falls to apprehend, whether in Chess or in any department of mental activity. The working of the mind is a fact common to intelligent human beings, and Chess has no exclusive claim of vision; for an element of vision or intuition, however slight, is involved in any mental process which is distinguishable form reflex action. But Chess is important because in it the functions of the mind are relatively clear and the mental process is less assisted than inmost other activities by positive rules. Within limits set by the material (the pieces, the board, and the matrix of paths available to pieces on the board) the mind is moving freely. Its scope is the possibility of the material, limited only by the degree of vision available to the player. Its methods, whatever they are, do not resemble the mechanical use of formula, which is the essence of mathematics. The appearance of simplicity that characterizes effective mental action is as deceptive in Chess as it is in any other department of science or art. Imagination traces its own paths and develops idiosyncrasies. Through seeing a clever maneuver, an improving Chess player may find himself quicker at apprehending an analogous idea; and, more remarkably, quicker at apprehending a different clever possibility in a different setting.

Where Chess differs from many other activities is in that, in Chess, the mind is “influenced” by notions and ideas that it has appreciated, rather than “stocked” with them, or guided by them as one is guided by a signpost.

As to Chess ability, at the present stage of psychology, the nature of imagination remains obscure. Therefore, it is impossible to speak about special faculties for Chess, or even to establish any cognate relationship between skill at Chess and other abilities. Certainly, famous Chess masters have excelled in other, and various activities – from the music of Philidor and the Shakespearian researches of Staunton to the medicine of Tarrash and the engineering of Vidmar. Nor is there evidence of the transmission of Chess skill, innate or acquired. Why some persons are good at Chess, and others bad at it, is more mysterious than anything on the Chess board. “Chess can never reach its height by following in the path of science … Let us, therefore, make a new effort and with the help of our imagination turn the struggle of technique into a battle of ideas” ( Jose Raoul Capablanca).


Abrahams, Gerald. (195 1) The Chess Mind. London.

Binet, Alfred. (1966). Mnemonic virtuosity. New York.

Courant, Richard and Herbert Robbins. (194 1). What is Mathematics?. New York.

Horowitz, I.A. and P.L. Rothenberg. (1963). Personality of Chess. New York.

Kline, Morris. (1962). Mathematics. A Cultural Approach.

Mason, James. (1946). The Principles of Chess in Theory and Practice. Philadelphia.

Poincare, Henri. (1946). The Foundations of Science. Lancaster

Six Words You Should Say Today

12 06 2013

Posted on April 16, 2012 by Rachel Macy Stafford

If you have ever experienced an emotional response simply by watching someone you love in action, I’ve got six words for you.

Very rarely does one sentence have immediate impact on me.

Very rarely does one sentence change the way I interact with my family.

But this one did. It was not from Henry Thoreau or some renowned child psychologist. It was a comment from kids themselves. And if I’ve learned anything on this “Hands Free” journey, it is that children are the true experts when it comes to “grasping what really matters.”

Here are the words that changed it all:

“… College athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response: ‘I love to watch you play.’”

The life-changing sentence came at the beginning of an article entitled, “What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent and What Makes a Great One.” Although I finished reading the entire piece, my eyes went back and searched for that one particular sentence; the one that said, “I love to watch you play.”

I read it exactly five times. And then I attempted to remember all past verbal interactions I had with my kids at the conclusion of their extracurricular activities.

Upon completion of a swim meet, a music recital, a school musical, or even a Sunday afternoon soccer game, had I ever said, “I like to watch you play”?

I could think of many occasions when I encouraged, guided, complimented, and provided suggestions for improvement. Did that make me a nightmare sports parent? No, but maybe sometimes I said more than was needed.

By nature, I am a wordy person—wordy on phone messages (often getting cut off by that intrusive beep) and wordy in writing (Twitter is not my friend).

And although I have never really thought about, I’m pretty sure I’m wordy in my praise, too. I try not to criticize, but when I go into extensive detail about my child’s performance it could be misinterpreted as not being “good enough.”

Could I really just say “I love to watch you play” and leave it at that? And if I did, would my children stand there cluelessly at the next sporting event or musical performance because I had failed to provide all the “extra details” the time before?

Well, I would soon find out. As luck would have it, my 8 year old had a swim meet the day after I read the article.

Her first event was the 25 yard freestyle. At the sound of the buzzer, my daughter exploded off the blocks and effortlessly streamlined beneath the water for an unimaginable amount of time. Her sturdy arms, acting as propellers, emerged from the water driving her body forward at lightning speed. She hadn’t even made it halfway down the lane when I reached up to wipe away one small tear that formed in the corner of my eye.

Since my oldest daughter began swimming competitively two years ago, I have ALWAYS had this same reaction to her first strokes in the first heat. I cry and turn away so no one sees my blubbering reaction.

I cry not because she’s going to come in first.

I cry not because she’s a future Olympian or scholarship recipient.

I cry because she’s healthy; she’s strong; she’s capable.

And I cry because I love to watch her swim.

Oh my. Those six words …

I love to watch her swim.

I had always FELT that way—tearing up at every meet, but I hadn’t said it in so many words … or should I say, in so few words.

After the meet, my daughter and I stood in the locker room together, just the two of us. I wrapped a warm, dry towel around her shivering shoulders. And then I looked into her eyes and said, “I love to watch you swim. You glide so gracefully; you amaze me. I just love to watch you swim.”

Okay, so it wasn’t quite six words, but it was a huge reduction in what I normally would have said. And there was a reaction—a new reaction to my end of the meet “pep talk.”

My daughter slowly leaned into me, resting her damp head against my chest for several seconds, and expelled a heavy sigh.  And in doing so, I swear I could read her mind:

The pressure’s off. She just loves to watch me swim; that is all.

I knew I was onto something.

Several days later, my 5 year old daughter had ukulele practice. It was a big day for her. The colored dots that lined the neck of her instrument since she started playing almost two years ago, were going to be removed. Her instructor believed she was ready to play without the aid of the stickers.

After removing the small blue, yellow, and red circles, her instructor asked her to play the song she has been working on for months, Taylor Swift’s “Ours.”

With no hesitation, my daughter began strumming and singing. I watched as her fingers adeptly found their homes—no need for colorful stickers to guide them.

With a confident smile, my daughter belted out her favorite line, “Don’t you worry your pretty little mind; people throw rocks at things that shine …”

As her small, agile fingers maneuvered the strings with ease, I had to look away. My vision became blurred by the tears that formed. In fact, this emotional reaction happens every time she gets to that line of the song. Every. Single. Time.

I cry not because she has perfect pitch.

I cry not because she is a country music star in the making.

I cry because she is happy; she has a voice; and she is free.

And I cry because I love to watch her play.

I’ll be damned if I hadn’t told her this in so many words … or rather, in so few words.

My child and I exited the room upon the completion of her lesson. As we walked down the empty hallway, I knew what needed to be said.

I bent down, looking straight into the blue eyes sheltered behind pink spectacles and said, “I love to watch you play your ukulele. I love to hear you sing.”

It went against my grain to not elaborate, but I said nothing about the dots, nothing about the notes, and nothing about her pitch. This was a time to simply leave it at that.

My child’s face broke into her most glorious smile—the one that causes her eyes to scrunch up and become little slices of joy. And then she did something I didn’t expect. She threw herself against me, wrapped her arms tightly around my neck, and whispered, “Thank you, Mama.”

And in doing so, I swear I could read her mind:

The pressure’s off. She loves to hear me play; that is all.  

Given the overwhelmingly positive reactions of my daughters when presented with the short and sweet “I love to watch you play” remark, I knew I had a new mantra. Not that I would say it like a robot upon command or without reason, but I would say it when I FELT it—when tears come unexpectedly to my eyes or when suddenly I look down and see goosebumps on my arms.

Pretty soon I found myself saying things like:

“I love to watch you read.”

“I love to watch you swing across the monkey bars.”

“I love to watch you gently admire God’s smallest creatures.”

“I love to watch you love your baby cousin.”

I now know how important it is to say it—say it simply—in moments when I feel that heart palpitating kind of love that comes solely from watching another human being who I adore.

Now at this point, I could wrap up this story with a nice, tidy, Kleenex-required ending, but living “Hands Free” means taking it a step further, going outside the comfort zone.

And it struck me that there is one other person to which this new mantra could apply. It hit me when this person, donned with white bandage on his arm from giving blood, was hoisting a large trashbag as we cleaned the art room at a center for residents with autism.

I watched him, my husband, from the corner of the room where I was dusting shelves with my youngest child. Embarrassingly, I had to turn away so no one saw me tear up. In that moment, I reflected on other recent events where I had been going about my business and had to stop to take pause. Moments when I stopped to watch my husband in action simply to admire the loving person, the devoted husband, and caring father he is.

But had I ever told him in so few words?

It was time.

And since writing is much easier for me than speaking, I wrote my observations down. There were no long-winded paragraphs or flowery descriptions, just words of love, plain and simple:

I love watching you help our daughter learn to roller skate.

I love watching you teach her how to throw the football.

I love watching you help your employees in times of need or uncertainty.

I love watching you interact with your brother and sister.

I love watching you read side by side with our daughters.

I love watching you laugh.

I love watching you love our family.

I typed up his note and plan to give it to him when we have a quiet moment together this weekend. I don’t know what his reaction will be, but it doesn’t matter. I feel these things, so I should say these things.

When simply watching someone makes your heart feel as if it could explode right out of your chest, you really should let that person know.

It is as simple and lovely as that.


The next time you feel the need to guide, instruct, or criticize after a ball game, performance, or extracurricular activity, instead consider six simple words: “I love to watch you play.”

Furthermore, if you become emotional simply by watching someone you love in action, consider these six words, “I love to watch you _______.“

In some cases, less is more.

Less can be exactly what they need to hear. No pressure … just love, pure and simple.

 * For continued inspiration and tips on how to grasp the moments in life that matter, check out The Hands Free Revolution on Facebook. Your support is greatly appreciated! 

Success Principles: lessons from board games that will serve us well in life and business

25 05 2013

 by Adrian Shepherd

I have always loved games.

I enjoyed playing Mario Brothers back in the day and in my 20s I got into some PC games such as F.E.A.R. and Crysis but, for me, there’s nothing like a good board game.

Board games are so much more than games. They are social events. I still remember the laughter and excitement of our sitting around the dinner table with my family and friends and being engrossed in a game.

Some I was a natural at – like Connect 4. I have no idea why but I just got it. From the age of 8 my parents stopped playing with me but it wasn’t for till a year or so later that I found out why. I remember asking my parents “How come we don’t play Connect 4 anymore?” I have never forgotten my father’s answer, “You just got too good. Your mom and I just can’t beat you.” And that was that.

Others I had to work hard at. My parents used to slaughter me at Boggle but I just kept at it and one day things just clicked. From that day on I was pretty much unbeatable.

Scrabble is another game that I struggled with but over the years I got better and could at least give my parents a run for their money. I may have only won once but it was a day I’ll never forget.

I had always thought I was good at Monopoly till I played my cousins in Switzerland where they took me to the cleaners, but I’ll get to that later.

Then there are those games that I’ve never been able to figure out. Othello being one. For the life of me, I just don’t get the strategy of Othello. Despite having played over 100 games I have yet to win a single one.

So how do board games relate to life and business?

Here is a short list:

  • You can’t win every time
  • Strategy is more important than your position
  • Some games we’ll never understand
  • Even when you think you know everything, you can still learn more
  • Never underestimate your competition
  • Sometimes people cheat
  • Understand the rules if you want to win
  • The competition sometimes wants to win more than you
  • Luck does play a small part

Let’s take a look at each one individually.

You can’t win every time

The thing about board games is that it’s you versus the other players. As such someone will win, and other people will lose. This is obvious in the business world because companies that make mistakes will often pay the price. Each year there are companies that go belly up which creates a vacuum which their competitors fill.

There is no such thing as batting 1000. Even the great Babe Ruth struck out 7 times out of 10 times at bat.

Accepting that failure is just part of the game of life is important because it allows to have faith even when things seem at their worst.

Strategy is more important than your position

Too many of us think that life and business is all about where you start out. Your educational background, your socio-economic status, your environment, your friends, and the like but we have all heard of those people who were multi-millionaires only to lose it all. It’s not about where you start out or how much money you have but what your strategy is.

A good strategy involves discipline, study, research, and a little bit of elbow grease.

Some games we’ll never understand

Life is full of things that come natural to us, things that we have to work at, and other things that are pretty much mysteries to us.

As each of us is limited to 24 hours a day we must focus our energies on this that we find easy or, at least, understand. That way you’re taking advantage of your natural talents. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try and learn those things that don’t make any sense to you but you must realize that it will be an uphill battle. To get a handle on such things you will most likely have to expend a heck of a lot of energy and invest a serious amount of time.

Think of it this way. If 10 is a professional and 1 is a beginner, then if you have a talent for something you start off at maybe a 6 or 7. If it makes sense but you not great then you’re around a 4. But when it’s like hieroglyphics you’re a 1. Anyone can become a 10 it’s just a difference of how hard it will be to get there.

How can we apply this to our own lives?

In business it means that you should spend time on the things you’re good at or want to learn but those things that you find incomprehensible it might make more sense to figure a work-around solution. Say you are good at numbers while your coworker is better at dealing with customers. If you’re asked to deal with a customer then you might try and work out a deal where your coworker takes care of that for you and you, in return, take care of something they need help with.

After all, the results are what matters. Spending hours of your time on something another person could do in a fraction of the time then doesn’t it make sense to ask them to help you out.

Two of the greatest lessons I learned about life were taught to me by my cousins as I mentioned earlier. I clearly remember warning them that I was pretty good at Monopoly. Boy, did they prove me wrong. They mopped the floor with me. I was shell-shocked but I learned two lessons that day - always be willing to learn and never underestimate your competition.

Too often we think we know enough, but with the speed of change today this is a mistake. Much of what we learn today, especially when it comes to technology will be obsolete in two years. We must continually work to keep ourselves ahead of the curve.

Another mistake it thinking our competition is too small, too weak, too old, too slow…history is full of examples but two of my favorites are IBM underestimating Microsoft, Yahoo underestimating Google. Don’t end up on the wrong end of this.

Sometimes people cheat

Sadly in games, in business and in life, there are those people who cheat. There are those who lie. There are those who take advantage of others. And there are those who waste our time. We must keep our eyes out for such people in order to protect ourselves.

Understand the rules if you want to win

You can’t win a game consistently that you don’t understand. There is such thing as beginner’s luck but we cannot rely on luck each time. By understanding the rules you can develop a winning strategy. That will also allow you to teach others.

The competition sometimes wants to win more than you

To achieve what you want, whether it’s a business deal, the woman of your dreams, or

Luck does play a small part

Luck favors those who plan and prepare but there is no denying that from time to time things will occur we have no control over and can create success or failure. The key is minimizing the effects of the sudden negative black swan events.

There have been times when I’ve been playing a game and all seemed lost. It was curtains for me…and then something incredible happened. Luck.

I won.

Here, on this planet, the strangest things do happen.

So there you have it – 9 lessons that we should all learn to be able to win at board games, at business or in life.

Try putting them to use in your life today, you may be surprised at the results.

Adrian Shepherd



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