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Comment: Patterns of persistence

I do a fair amount of travelling in my role – by car, train and plane. And it used to be that these were the times when I was best able to think, or rest. No phones, no Internet and best of all no e-mails or texts needing urgent responses.

That is not the case now, and hasn’t been for a few years. OK, I don’t look at e-mails or text when driving, but I can take phone calls with my hands-free option. And a few are even urgent. But most trains and planes now have Wi-Fi. Trains even appear to receive mobile phone signals in some tunnels, and many planes have a phone in the arm rest. (Yes, I know they are exceedingly expensive, but on at least one occasion using one of them saved significantly more than the cost.)

So, on train and plane and as a passenger in a car, I find I ‘need’ to use my tablet and occasionally my laptop to respond to requests or to continue working on key projects.

How times have changed.

That said, I do get ‘down-time’ on journeys and that’s when I put the tablet to a different use.

I play games. I am not a ‘gamer’ by any stretch of the imagination. No WarCraft or Assassin’s Creed for me, nor any of the myriad other (apparently) entertaining and interactive games available.

No, I have two games which I loyally use to maintain and exercise my brain, and that also entertain me.

First good ‘old’ Solitaire, or single-handed Patience as some know it. The other is one of the many versions of Free Fall – a story-driven puzzle game, where a player achieves objectives by matching together groups of icons on a grid of options.

The reason these two ‘simple’ games appeal to me (and I have 10,000 Solitaire wins and 57 Free Fall chapters and nearly 1,000 tasks behind me, with no inclination to stop), is because you need tactics in both – applying them to memory in one, and patterns in the other. Both of which help me maintain a level of cognitive agility.

However, there is another key capability that both games need and ‘train’. That of persistence or, to use an interesting Americanism, ‘stickability’.

Whether you play Patience online or with a physical pack of cards, you are probably going to lose more often than win. But being persistent will mean you can and do win more frequently at least.

With Free Fall, persistence is key. To advance, you need to identify not just the tactics required but also the pattern that’s presented at each stage. This pattern changes with every attempt, so your established tactics need to be adapted in response to each new pattern. But whenever you don’t succeed, you need the stickability to go on (and on) until your tactics prevail over the pattern. The good sense to know when to step away for a while, to re-energise and prevent tunnel vision, is the third key element to continued success.

In business, I believe that maintaining a nimble mind that’s able to select and match tactics to patterns is essential for success. This needs to be accompanied by stickability, enabling you to persist until you reach your goals. But, just like playing Free Fall, it is essential to take time to walk away, to consider the patterns and review your tactics from a helicopter view – or perhaps do something else to distract you – so that your vision is refreshed and broadened when you return.

So, if something is worth doing, stick with it, look for the patterns, refine your tactics, learn from setbacks, but never forget to take time to really see the wood or forest and not just the trees.

By Græme Gordon – Executive Director, Praxity

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