Seven things I’ve learned from ‘FreeCell’

September 28th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized


After a long day of writing or editing, my brain is SillyPutty by 6 pm, and so the only thing I want to do in the evening is crank up Pandora and play “Freecell.” But more than a mindless waste of time, I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the electronic solitaire game:

1. You don’t have to play the cards you’re dealt

Nope, when I start stressing about not seeing any possible moves, I click “New Game.”

Sometimes you have to do that in life. When your job becomes a dead end, when your hobby becomes a chore rather than a joy, when a friendship turns toxic, it’s perfectly okay to click “New Game.” (Okay, there are some things you’re committed to for life: marriage, parenting, your faith . . . But there few things you actually need to play until you cash in your chips.)

Which brings me to . . .

2. Lose quickly

There have been times I stuck with something that I should have let go of years ago. One summer in college, one of my parents’ friends talked me into selling encyclopedias door-to-door. It was completely the wrong work for my personality, so after selling just one set, I quit! So, sometimes it’s wise to lose quickly and move onto to something that has more potential for success. But also keep in mind . . .

3. You’re not going to win every game

If I gave up on writing after the first few (or 100) rejections from book and magazine publishers, I would have never ended up with over 2,000 published articles and 20 books. So realize that failure is often temporary, and it’s the long view that makes careers and friendships successful.

4. Sometimes you need a “Hint”

If you’ve hit a wall and can’t see any possible moves, maybe you need an objective person to help you see choices you’re overlooking. Get marriage counseling, take a gifts inventory, get a mentor for your business (I love mentoring writers). Sometimes we get so focused on the minutia of life, we don’t see the big moves that can get us out of a jam.

5. Always have a Plan C

I love that in FreeCell, you have four free cells where you can temporarily store cards that are blocking your progress. But you have to be careful that you always have a blank free cell or another move possible so you don’t get the dreaded, “There are no more possible moves.” Not only have a Plan B, but C, D, E . . .

6. The obvious move is not always the best move

Sometimes you have to block one possibility to open up a better possibility. Don’t move that nine up to the home row just now. You’re going to need it to get the eight off the ace. The “simple solution” often leads to complicated consequences!

And finally . . .

7. Always celebrate success

I love the animation at a “win,” when the cards cascade off the home squares and then bounce across the bottom of the screen! Celebrate your successes, because in life you’ll probably have more losses than wins.

When I finish a book chapter I have a Dove dark chocolate bar; when I get a book contract, I take the whole family—wife, kids and grands—out to dinner. (Most book contracts have afforded a trip to McDonald’s, but my latest book actually funded a sit-down dinner at a restaurant without a drive-through!)

So in summary, some good advice from Kenny Rogers: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” Have a winning week!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Please add any lessons you’ve learned from solitaire in the comment box. And if you found this post hopeful or humorous, please share it on your social networks. Thanks.

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