11 August 2009

What I've Learned from Computer Solitaire

Palm Treo Solitaire - Copyright 2009 Totem Media, L.C. formerly Totem Promotions, L.C.I enjoy playing solitaire on my Palm Treo. Over time, I've come to realize there are truths to be found in playing this game.

1. You can't always win. - Even though I've been playing solitaire since I was a child, it is impossible to win every time. (I don't say "without cheating," because if you cheat, you don't win anything.) My average over the past couple of years is between 20-25%. That seems to be the most anyone can win with the computer-version of this game, depending upon which rules you use. A group at Stanford University did an interesting study of solitaire called "Solitaire: Man Versus Machine." (Adobe PDF file)

We want things to go our way most, if not all, the time. Life doesn't work that way. There are too many variables and too many competing interests in the living beings around us (a friend, the guy down the street, a stray dog, a rogue government) and too many uncontrollable factors like the weather to permit us to always get what we want.

2. Learn from your mistakes. - Computer solitaire has the advantage over regular cards of allowing game replay. (I love to play with real cards for the tactile sensation, as well as being able to see the cards full-size.) There's the saying, "In life, there are no do-overs," which is true for most major issues and many minor ones. Still, there are some things we can repeat, hopefully for the better.

If you have to occasionally repeat a task (cook a meal, edit a video, organize a closet, drive to a location), take a moment to look back on your goals and results and see where improvements in quality and efficiency can be made. Try changing one factor and see if your end results are better.

3. Finish what you start. - There comes a point in this solitaire program, where you are obviously going to win and you can either start a new game or continue playing. The end result is already determined, but by continuing to play, you end up scoring more points, which are added to the overall game statistics.

It isn't easy sometimes to complete a task, especially one we dread or dislike, but completing it at the very least gives us a sense of accomplishment, and may benefit us in ways we cannot see at the time. For instance, if you talk about looking for a new job, but never finish and submit any applications, or refuse to do any followup on submitted apps, then you are just talking. You aren't really looking for a new job and will be stuck with the one you currently have, which can't be that great because you're looking for new opportunities! Even if your job applications don't pan out, completing the application and interview process can help you in future potential jobs.

4. Don't waste time.
- Even though I enjoy playing solitaire and distracting myself from life for a little while, I do not spend an enormous amount of time playing it. I've kept the game stats since I started playing, about 1.5 yrs ago, and it says I've played 50 hours. That's just over two days, or .004%, of my time doing something I enjoy. YMMV, but I find that to be an acceptable amount.

There are so many things we want and need to do to feel fulfilled as a person and a member of society. Falling into sedentary time-wasting habits or addictions will negatively impact your relationships, employment, and health. Like many addictions, they feel good for the moment, but when you come out of the game-playing haze, the dishes are still there, the dog needs to be walked, you still need to talk to your spouse, and the job still needs to be done.