Never Beat the Boss at Horseshoes

By Roy Lantz

      The game of horseshoes and the game of life have much in common, and both are a whole lot more fun when you’re winning! It’s interesting that the game of horseshoes is played in the pits. Even if you’ve never picked up a horseshoe, the game of life will occasionally find you “in the pits” as well. A game of horseshoes one unforgettable summer day planted me firmly “in the pits”, but also revealed five invaluable lessons about winning that you can apply immediately as you play in the game of life.

       It seems that quite a commotion was occurring in the horseshoe pits area during our company picnic. The boss was handily besting all who dared challenge him, easily throwing ringer after ringer. And the smugness with which he was doing it became infuriating! Several of my vanquished colleagues urged me to take him on. And take him on I did!  It didn’t take long before I stood triumphant, beaming broadly, accepting the boss’s begrudging congratulations. All was right with the world on this summer Saturday, for I had just beaten the boss at horseshoes. The following Friday I was fired!

Five Lessons Learned in the Pits: Downsized, right-sized, laid-off, riffed, terminated, de-hired, fired, call it what you will, the news is full of massive numbers of people losing their jobs every day. Given current employment practices, there is a good chance that it has happened to you as well. And even if it hasn’t, there are countless other events that can make you feel as if you’re not winning in the game of life. How can you stay “up” when you’re down “in the pits?” Here are five proven principles for winning in that most complex of games - the game of life.                                           

Life Lesson #1: Accept Responsibility: When you learn to accept 100% responsibility for the events in your life, you are well on your way to winning consistently. I’m not suggesting that you can control everything that happens in your life - that is clearly impossible. I am suggesting that you can control your response. It has been said that the greatest power we possess is the power to choose. You can choose to respond with ability. The game of life is all about making choices; if you fail to make your own, someone or something will make them for you. As Booker T. Washington so eloquently observed, “The circumstances that surround a man’s life are not important. How that man responds to those circumstances is important. His response is the ultimate determining factor between success and failure.”                                       

Life Lesson #2: Communicate Clearly: Communication is defined as what we do to give and get understanding. I think the boss and I had a “failure to communicate!” Regardless of the choice of words, unless the other person understands what is being said and that we understand them, we’re not communicating. In fact, the words we choose are relatively unimportant! In a landmark study done in 1979 at UCLA, Dr. Albert Mehrabian found that only 7% of what the other person hears is words; 38% is voice tone, and fully 55% of the intended communication is body language. Subsequent studies by Dr. Stephen Covey and others have validated those findings. You need only to recall a childhood game of “Simon Says” to know this is true. Dr. Mehrabian’s work reinforces the old saying, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

To be fluent, you must be congruent.

Life Lesson #3: Expect the Best: I fully expected to beat the boss at horseshoes. I did not expect to get fired six days later! This Life Lesson is a close corollary to Life Lesson # 1: Accept Responsibility. Though we must always expect the best, we must respond with ability when the best doesn’t happen. The ancient scholar Croesus noted, “There’s a wheel on which the affairs of men revolve, and its mechanism is such that it prevents any man from being always fortunate.” In other words, you’re not always going to win in the game of life. A Universal Law, the Law of Attraction, states that we will bring into our lives people, circumstances and events that correspond to our dominant way of thinking. If your dominant way of thinking is generally positive and you expect the best from all situations, you’ll find yourself winning more and more in the game of life.

Life Lesson #4: Put It in Perspective: The sun did come up the day after I was fired, the world did not come to an end, and Double-Stuffed Oreos tasted just as good! In fact, as so often happens with what appears to be a calamity, it turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened. My career has gone in a new, even more positive direction, and it provided me with the title of my newest book.

  As noted, things aren’t always going to go your way. To maintain the winning edge in the game of life, keep in mind Winston Churchill’s classic definition of success - “To go from failure to failure with great enthusiasm!”

Life Lesson #5: Do It Now: There probably is no best time to get fired, to receive a frightening diagnosis, or to go bankrupt. But there is a best time to take action on any troubling event in the game of life - now!  Over 20 centuries ago Rabbi Hillel asked, “If not now, when?” What a powerful Life Lesson and what a way to pull together the other four. Place every life event in its proper perspective now; expect the best while being prepared for any outcome now; begin to ensure that you are giving and getting understanding in every communication now; and begin now to recognize that although you can’t always control what happens as you play the game of life, you can always control your response.

By the way, I hope you realize that I don’t really think beating the boss at horseshoes was the reason for my unfortunate fall from grace. But then again, he was pretty upset.

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