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A month ago my daughter asked if I would be interested in playing Words With Friends with her. Becky lives in MA, and we are in CT and NY and we thought it might be fun. Instead it changed my life!
I downloaded the App onto my iPhone, and away we went. Becky and I started playing. We emailed at night when we both had time to take a breadth from the long day, and we emailed in the morning to start the day. I found that I liked playing with Becky more than I realized. Not only did we play, we sent messages to each other about all sorts of things. Great words! Great ideas! Things we were thinking about. The fun we were having. We had a game and a conversation going at the same time. I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I realized I was addicted!
Becky and I started playing two games at once. Then my brother got involved and we started two games (now I realize our family has a gene for high performance & multi-tasking). Jon, however, was playing more than Words With Friends. He was also playing Scrabble on his iPod – so I downloaded the Scrabble App and we started up a game.
Then Rich, my husband, joined in and we worked two games at once. Add it up – I now have 6 games going on with my family. But there is more.
The Scrabble game has a ‘teacher’ who smiles at your or frowns based on the quality of your words and the points you gain. Ug! I didn’t want to see the frown face at all. It goes against my ‘appreciative nature.’ When we appreciate people’s risk-taking they become better ‘risk-takers’ over time. They experiment more – which builds confidence and develops better decision-making and judgment calls. So I started to learn how to use my ‘Scrabble coach/teacher’ to help me get better words!
After you put your word in and get a score, the teacher actually shows you what you did and how great it is – and then shows you other moves you could make to get higher scores! WOW – what a great learning process! And I found words that have ‘q’ without a ‘u’ next to it… very clever way to learn.
In the meantime – I am “Scrabbling,” if that’s a word, before and instead of breakfast and was feeling a chemical shift when I played. So much so that I wanted to play more games than I had going, so I started to play with strangers. In the Scrabble game you can launch a game and someone else – a guest – plays back. I am now playing 14 strangers – any time, any day, any way – total freedom to play when I need a break, or just have a longing to put the letters together and make words!
So why am I sharing this with you? Beside the fact that I am now interacting with my daughter every day many times – and my husband and brother – and we are having so much fun, the lessons I’m learning every day are bigger than I ever realized.
First, I almost backed out from this process. I lost every game with my daughter and brother – by lots of points. I was crushed and demoralized. I told my brother and daughter I was not very happy about my scores – and what did they do? They both started to coach me on what moves I could make to get better. I learned I was playing offensively, not defensively.
If I translate it into I-centric and WE-centric language, it would go like this. I was getting really excited about making cleaver words. I spent my time trying to use up all my letters, or having cool words.
What I was missing is that scrabble is about playing defensively as well as offensively. Ouch! But defensively meant something different than what I thought. I discovered it meant that I needed to play the board – not look for the best looking word. Playing the board means you look for places to put the tiles where you can get double and triple letter scores – which are way more valuable than great words.
And I need to make sure I didn’t open the board too much and give away points. Ouch again. That was a blind spot. I never noticed that was my downfall.
So what happened out of all of this? I started to see things on the board I had not seen, and come up with words I had never thought of before, and learned to try out combinations of letters and not just put down what came to my mind first.
I started to get better and better at Scrabble – and more so, started to grow with my coaching from my family. I became the recipient of 4 coaches at once – trying to make me better … and they did. I got my first ‘personal best’ – a score of 88 playing Becky. And she was so proud of me! The daughter teaches the mother!
My insight was that I understood how peer coaching really helped me improve my game. My coaches enabled me to move from focusing on ‘getting my next greatest words’ to playing the game collaboratively and strategically – that is a WE centric approach. I learned to watch the board – the playing field – and see how to use moves that others made and build on them. While we competed – we did so against each other’s personal best, which was motivating and exciting and raised the bar for everyone.
The other lesson I learned was that sometimes ideas that are great, in my case, clever words, have to be abandoned and new approaches tried as a way of improving. What I learned most of all was that the joy I was feeling every day – every night and morning – has become an addiction and I love it! My body is filled with more adrenalin, and more oxytocin – the bonding hormone. And I’m filled with more dopamine and serotonin and all of the wonderful learning neurotransmitters that help our brains stay healthy and grow.
Through Words with Friends and Scrabble, I now understand the other side of coaching… I understand the power of friends and family who care enough to teach me to win. Even when I play – against them – they want to help me learn. The competitive spirit we all have has taken on a new meaning. It’s about pushing the rock up the hill together and having all of us love the sport of playing and winning together.
By the way, there are unintended consequences… Rich, my husband scientist, told me that when we elevate our serotonin and dopamine it depresses our appetite and we can loose weight naturally – and guess what. I am loosing weight!
So the big question for the day: What game can you play with friends, colleagues and family that can be a life-changer?