Learning from Games

Learning from Games
Photo by Carl Raw on Unsplash

This is part of my new focus on the #EnduranceMindset as it relates to leadership and personal growth. If this focus is new to your radar, check out the manifesto update.  


Mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process.

But there's a difference between learning from mistakes and feeling doomed to repeat them.

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

"Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me several times on a regular basis and WTF."

Turns out that habits are powerful generators of behaviors (and outcomes).

Yes, that's correct: Your repetitive mistakes are actually secretly coding themselves into your DNA.

Here are a few reasons to take heart.

It's Just a Game

Seriously though, it is. Mistakes in a game can be frustrating or embarrassing, but they are part of the game itself.

A missed call. A wrong turn. Too tight of a grip. The wrong pass. It happens.

Honestly, if you are that good at any game, no one will want to play with you anyway. Know what I mean? 🤣

The key is not to carry those mistakes forward. File it away and get back to the matter at hand. There's another jump to take. Another pitch to throw. Another rebound to grab.  

Games of Strategy (Sports) vs Games of Chance

Not all games are equal, however, and that makes a big difference when it comes to being prone to making mistakes.

Games of strategy require players to make decisions based on information and strategic thinking, while games of chance rely on luck and probability. Strategy games involve a high degree of player agency and skill, and luck plays a relatively minor role in the outcome of the game.

Games of chance, on the other hand, are heavily reliant on randomness and luck. Players have little control over the outcome. Think of cards or rolling dice.

Sports are inherently games of strategy. From teamwork to technique to execution, there are countless ways that how you play will change the outcome.

From a strategic perspective, making mistakes allows you to test different strategies, at different times against different opponents.

The Long Tail Learning Curve  

In the sports scenario, making mistakes actually makes a long term difference.

As a coach, I talk all the time about "taking reps" aka doing something more often.

The more often you do the thing, the more time you spend doing the thing.

The more time you spend doing the thing, the more you will learn.  

Sports, then, is essentially your laboratory. You are the (extremely athletic) mad scientist gathering hundreds of data points to figure out what strategy works best in any given scenario.

The key is to be able to persist in your growth long enough to connect the dots to attain mastery.

Connecting the Dots is All About the Timing

Think about learning like connecting the dots on the place setting at your local diner.

👉 Stop trying too soon and you won't connect enough dots to reveal the hidden picture.

👉 Start trying to process the lesson learned before you take sufficient reps? There won't be enough dots on the paper to actually connect.

In other words, there's a fine balance. And sports lets you find that sweet spot.

This not the case at work, where leadership can grow tired of your mistakes.

Or at home with that new relationship. How long will they wait for you to figure it out? 👀  

The Takeaway: Start Playing Games

Not playing a sport in your spare time? You are missing out on massive personal growth potential. Not to mention some serious social benefits.

Sports help you learn in a safe and socially acceptable environment.

Sports help you test your limits and try new things.

Sports help you learn to let those mistakes go in favor of continuing the practice.

Remember the goal isn't perfection. It's having the confidence and experience from being in game when the chips are on the line.

Strive to be the player that everyone wants on the line in that critical moment. Earn the right to be there.

Take those swings.

You'll be better for it.    


Author's Note: I am terrible at games in general, but endurance sports are my happy place.  Movement makes me a better person, and testing my limits is just part of who I am. I hope you have already found your sport. If so, please share it in the comments!