Before I got my business on its feet, in that time between when you know you have a homerun business, and you just hope you do, I played a LOT of solitaire.

I placed many a jack on queen and watched full suits of ace-to-king fold up and place themselves onto their correct piles in the right-hand corner of my screen. I organized cards.

I had a long phase of playing Free Cell – in order, backwards from number 35000. Each game was winnable, which was a nice escape from my life, which seemed unwinnable at the time.

What did that game teach me? Come back to the problem later, and you’ll see different options. Also, google it if it’s a real toughie, and is eating up your time. The solution to each game is available on the Internet – you  don’t have to do it all alone.

And when all four suit-sets were organized within the confines of Solitaire rules, and placed neatly into their packs, the game was won. Here’s a life lesson to take from that moment: the solitaire program gave me a visual reward – cards floating through space, in repeating patterns and designs.  One program even provided audio of applause. Yes, I am the winner. Learn to reward yourself, accept reward and bask in the applause.

Solitaire is still an important part of my day. It is one of the things I do first thing in the morning, or between tasks. I’ve scolded myself about wasting time, hid my Solitaire playing from others and have at times, thought it was the most shameful waste of time. But I’m too hard on myself. Solitaire has given me so many insights and inspirations that send me back to my work, whole.

Here’s the insights

  • You never know how much one little advance – moving a card that seems like an insignificant gain – can lead to clarity and substantial progress.
  • Keep your eye on the prize.  At first you’re opportunistic, building what you can with what’s dealt, but eventually you have to see your assets and complete them – build them out. Like making money – it doesn’t happen because you’re playing the game, it happens because you resolve to win the game.
  • Be okay with the mess – make compromise moves, let things sit and wait.
  • Be open to solutions other than what you expected.
  • Just because you can’t do what you want to do, that’s no excuse to do nothing.
  • Sometimes new problems don’t just add to the weight of your old problems, they help you solve the old ones.
  • If you don’t get what you need, see how to use what you got.
  • Look for the best solution, yes, but barring that, look for other solutions.
  • Notice when you’re in peril and take it slow.

Playing Solitaire in a room by yourself, rather than networking, speaking, or even blogging may seem like a colossal waste of time and energy, but if you pay attention, you might let this time-honored game lead you in very interesting directions.