10 Life Lessons I Learned From Playing Solitaire (Really)

Games do more than entertain and help us pass the time. They give us time to think, create, and reflect. And hone our skills.

Yeah, I confess. I like playing Solitaire on my computer from time to time.

It’s not like I don’t have a social life. Well, I do. Sort of. Not as exciting as it used to be, but hey, we’ve been married for over 25 years. ‘Nuff said.

I’m not a procrastinator either. In fact, I like to multitask. Now some people (read “guys”) think that the human brain isn’t wired to truly do more than one thing at a time. Well, they’re not women. All those millennia when the assorted male types were off stalking the elusive beast for dinner, we women were out gathering herbs, berries, wild veggies, guarding against predators, and watching and nursing our babies so that some predator wouldn’t grab them for its dinner. We’ve evolved to multitask.

And multitask we do. When you know how to do something pretty well, like laundry or cleaning, it doesn’t take a whole lot of thought to manage.

I find that basic repetitive activity sets up a type of white noise that helps the rest of my mind think creatively and solve problems. For example, walking or exercising via Zoom are the perfect times to get that physical exercise while I memorize scripts for upcoming film, TV, or commercial auditions, all of which give very short (1-2 days) turnaround times. And think up new ideas for videos and blog posts, like this one.

Solitaire on the computer provides a similar kind of white noise for the brain. When I’m sitting at my desk and feeling frustrated or creatively stuck, I turn to playing Solitaire for a few minutes. It shifts my brain away from the previous patterns where I became stuck. The repetitive, familiar moves of the game grant me the freedom to mentally roam. There’s even a little subconscious encouragement that boosts my confidence as I’m building those card piles. Frustration is replaced with a feeling of progress. A quick game is often all I need to get over my creative hump and see the way forward to the next step.

Given to being philosophical at times, I can’t but help see parallels to what goes into playing a good hand in Solitaire and what often works in life and business.

Games are testing grounds to discover what works ... and what doesn't

Let’s see if you agree with me. Here are some life lessons learned from playing those quick games of Solitaire:


1. Know your goal

If you want to succeed at anything, you first have to define your goal and know the rules you have to play by.

There are various versions of Solitaire, but the goal and rules are fairly the same. I’m not going to go into the details, but essentially (and for definition purposes for this post), you have three things to work with:

  • The stack of cards to draw from, usually three at a time, using the third card.

  • Seven tableau piles to work from, building from the highest shown on a pile down to the lowest. Largest pile that you could have would be a King down to a 2. The card in a tableau pile must be alternated by color (usually black or red).

  • Four foundation suit piles to build. The four suits are aces, spades, hearts, and diamonds and are built from the Aces up to the Kings,

Your goal is to complete all four foundation suite piles correctly. When you do, you win. If you’re playing an electronic version, you’ll often see some sort of digital celebration, with cards flying or joyous proclamations that you won.

In life and business, it’s safe to say that most of us have goals or objectives we’re working to meet. Without those, there’s no use planning, unless your goal is to wander aimlessly through life. Not the best way to run a successful business,


2. Move your business forward

It may be fun building the tableau stacks, but if you’re not moving them to the foundation suit stacks above (Aces up to Kings), you’re just engaged in busy work.

There’s busy work in every business, too, so make sure it’s productive and leads to your desired goal. Otherwise, you’re not going to accomplish anything. You want more customers? You have to do the tedious busy work of marketing and following through on your leads. If you’re sidelined by just scrolling around on your LinkedIn or Instagram feeds and not engaging with others, creating content or programs of interest to your targeted audience, or emailing or calling them directly, or anything else that reaches out to your targeted audience … you’re just playing around.


3. If something’s not working, go on to the next opportunity

You can tell when a Solitaire hand is just not going places. If you’re like me, you may play it to its natural conclusion because you don’t want to quit prematurely if there’s a possibility of succeeding, but when you’re done – you’re done. There’s no point fretting or spending too much time worrying over it. Cut your losses, see that it’s just one opportunity, and go on to the next hand.