Six lessons I learnt from Tetris

I enjoy analogies, establishing parallelisms between unrelated topics but which hold surprising similarities and help gain insight. Here are six lessons that can be extracted from the game of Tetris and applied to our lives at work:

    1. The game doesn’t get harder, it gets faster: Ever since I started working I’ve been doing the same thing: managing other people’s problems. It’s always more or less the same thing, but the speed increases. You have less time to dedicate to each problem. In my first entry-level job as a Middleware specialist I had all the time in the world to learn every detail about the small problem at hand and solve it by applying my detailed knowledge. As I have grown professionally I can dedicate less time to each problem. Decisions need to be constantly taken on what to do next and what to leave for later. Finding the efficient balance between perfection and speed, when something is “good enough” to deliver as to start advancing the next topic.
    2. There is no rival, your limitation is your skill: Just like in Tetris, where you are playing the game against the machine, trying not to be drowned in ill-dropped blocks. In your work, there is no enemy or antagonist that you have to beat. It is your skill which is limiting how well you can do. In 2001, just before the blogging boom happened, 3 friends and I created the first Spanish weblogging community. In our peak we were receiving over 3 million unique visitors per month, not bad for 4 guys in their free time. It was our lack of skill which impeded us from seriously monetising this opportunity before the wave passed on to the next thing (Facebook in this case). At the office, the same concept applies. Your skill will make or break your career.
    3. Don’t think, act: This idea which I strongly believe in often leads to heated debate. Some people are doers and some are thinkers. Doers are the heroes of the business, it’s execution that made Apple Apple, Google Google and Zara Zara, having ideas and not being able to implement them is useless. Mike Tyson, world heavyweight boxing champion and cameo star of Hangover movie has a quote which holds much wisdom “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. Unlike chess, you can’t control the board. Random pieces will come and you will need to react to them. Your plan will not resist the “punch in the mouth” of reality. Don’t spend too much time planning.
    4. You never win. No one will tell you you have won: We are running in the rat race, there is no final success. Even Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who could be said to have won the game are still playing. There is always more to do, other people who are doing something better than you.
    5. It helps carrying a big stick: The big stick in Tetris is a life saver, enabling to clear many lines at once. It was Theodore Roosevelt who said “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. At work your stick is your skill, your capacity to solve problems. This big stick will help stop discussion, provide solutions and be a source of light.
    6. Errors pile up, accomplishments disappear: Remember how much effort you put in closing that important contract six months ago? Maybe you do, but nobody else does, people have moved on. On the other hand, that time where you delivered a bad presentation, or when you lost your temper on a meeting? Yep, that’s not going away from people’s memories.

Remember that Tetris is just a game, it should be enjoyed 😉



One thought on “Six lessons I learnt from Tetris

  1. Amusing and instructive.
    I had never expected that such interesting conclusions could be driven from “Hangover” films. I won’t miss next.

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