You've surely heard of Wordle--the online game with more than a million users that just got acquired by The New York Times for somewhere between $1 million and $5 million. It became a viral sensation over the past few weeks for two reasons. First, everybody gets the same word every day, and second, the creator included a simple way to share your results without spoiling the game for anyone else. Like everyone in my Twitter feed, I started playing as an entertaining little distraction.
Then, one morning, I asked my 13-year-old daughter if she wanted to play against me. If you're a parent of a teenager, you know that it can be basically impossible to get them excited about doing much of anything with their parents. Wordle, however, is just simple enough and just enough fun that she was on board. Plus, she's about as competitive as they come, so a chance to beat her dad was all the motivation she needed.
I expected it would be a fun game to play together--a friendly sort of competition. What I didn't expect is that there were three little leadership lessons my daughter is learning, just by playing a simple word game with her dad.
1. Healthy competition
Let's start with that competition. To be fair, Wordle isn't really a competitive game. You don't actually play against someone else in the sense that you can win and they lose. Everyone gets the same word and attempts to solve it on their own. Everyone gets the same number of guesses.
Except, because of that little sharing feature, you can text someone else your results, and they can send you theirs. Whoever solves the word in the fewest attempts wins. At least, that's how we play. Obviously, there's also the possibility of ties, and that's fine. In fact, that's actually great, because sometimes it's OK for both people to "win." That's something that is worth teaching our children, and it's worth celebrating.
Even if you take all six guesses, you still "win." The only thing we're competing on is who does it in the fewest tries. The point is that it's not the kind of competition where you have to destroy your opponent. It's great for children to have a competitive spirit, as long as it's balanced by an understanding that winning at all costs isn't the only way to win. It's usually not even the best way.
So, every morning while my daughter is having breakfast, she solves the word and sends me her results, and I send her mine. At first, I won pretty much every time, with the exception of a few ties. Then, last week, she beat me for the first time.
That was a big deal, and it had a marked impact on her confidence. She realized that she was capable of competing with her dad as a peer. She doesn't get to hit from the short tees. She's not taking free throws from closer to the basket. She's playing the same game with the same rules, and she won, fair and square.
If anything, I want my daughter--and each of our four children, for that matter--to know that she is capable of rising to a challenge and accomplishing something new. I want her to know that it's worth trying and to have the confidence to know she can succeed.
Wordle is actually the perfect type of game for this. It's not too difficult, and it doesn't take much time at all. Mostly, it's just ...
There are plenty of things in life right now that will stress you out if you stop to think about them for too long. Work, for a lot of people, is stressful. Online school was very stressful. Raising four children is almost always stressful. Most of living through the past two years has been one long stress. It's good to have a little fun and not take things too seriously.
Wordle is 10 minutes of fun every morning, and it's something we do together. It's a shared experience. It gives us something to talk about, and something to foster friendly competition, but mostly it's just a way to play a game.
Fun is actually a pretty important leadership lesson in and of itself. It's easy to take things too seriously. It's easy to get caught up in everything that has to get done today. If you're like me, your to-do list never gets any shorter. Add to that the fact that mornings at our house can be pretty chaotic with four children getting ready for school. But, for just a few minutes every morning, it's OK to focus on fun.
That's true even if you aren't getting ready to head off to eighth grade, by the way. Playing a game stretches our creativity and starts our day in a positive way. Besides, you're never too old for a little fun.