The greatest thing I love about being in my fifties is the ability to form more self-awareness, to understand the ‘whys’ of various aspects about myself. Writing these stories is also playing a role in this ‘self-awareness journey’.
I’ve done a bit of Dad-bashing in a few of these stories, and with good reason, but maybe I owe my dad some credit. You see, I pride myself on my strategic thinking. My career, my major life objectives, my financial planning – everything most important to me and my family, I have tried to plan out, to strategize…even the spacing apart of our children so I could afford to send them all to college. As Will Ferrel would say, “strategery”.
In our personal lives, we, (Kim and I), both wanted the same long term objectives of achieving financial stability and providing options for our children. We knew though that to get from A to Z, we had to have a plan and a strategy for executing the steps of that plan. This ended up driving our timing for having children, attending colleges, achieving certifications, location transfers, etc.
I guess my first applications of strategic thinking in my working career began at Taco Bell and then at the foundry, immediately after. At work, particularly in my manufacturing assignments, I was regularly applauded by those I worked with for my strategy setting and ability to forecast the moves of others. This acquired skill set was quite valuable over the past decade as the plant I worked at was struggling to compete against similar players from other regions in the world.
The basic definition of strategy has to do with putting together a plan aimed at achieving an objective, usually a major objective. Even as recent as yesterday, we, (my wife and I), were strategizing our moves for the next year; where will we be, will we stay here or will we sell this house and move elsewhere? When does Kim retire and will we outlive our retirement savings?
For the past year since my retirement I have felt a little out of place due to feeling like I’m in a transition phase, waiting for our youngest son to figure out his own direction so that we can move on to the next phase of our own lives. Feeling like I’m in a transition without a plan that I’m working against is one of the worst feelings for me. I need to have a plan.
And this is where my story writing comes in handy – self analysis. Why am I like this, how did I get this way and when did it begin?
The answer – age of 6, Stratego!
Yep, that’s right – my dad taught me how to play Stratego as a six year old. Ok, so the game does say for ages 8 and older, so maybe it’s not a huge stretch for a six year old to learn.
My dad always liked to play games. Stratego, card games, chess, you name it. He was a pretty smart guy and he loved games that involved strategy. Maybe I showed an early affinity for games, one that made him believe I was up to the task of learning Stratego. The game rules themselves are not all that difficult to learn. The pieces are numbered and you teach your kid that the lower the number, the better the player – simple, right?
The overall strategy in the game involves trying to protect your own Flag piece and capturing the Flag of your opponent. Like chess, a key strategy too is to try to mislead your opponent with your moves such that they leave strong pieces available for capture. Also like chess, if you can identify patterns in your opponent, it likely will give you clues as to future moves or the distribution of their pieces in the game.
(link to stratego rules)
During the game play of Stratego, players need to identify the location of the opponent’s bombs in order to not accidentally lose a strong piece to it. Bombs cannot move and only a Miner can diffuse the bomb (capture it). Miners are weak and easily captured but they are the only player that can diffuse a bomb. So for example, if your flag is totally surrounded by bombs, it would be impossible for you to lose the game if you were to capture all your opponent’s miners.
Likewise, there is a player called the Spy. Each player has one. It is a weak player too but it is the only player that can capture the Marshal which is the highest ranking piece on the board. A player who has lost his Spy risks losing all of his troops by a single Marshal piece, unless you are crafty enough to get your opponent to step onto an unidentified bomb.
See how much strategy can go into this little game? After less than a year, I had learned to recognize several playing patterns my dad tried out on me. I also learned too that sometimes he intentionally tried new tactics in order to confuse me. Today it is my belief that my love for strategic thinking began way back at the age of 6 when I first learned to play Stratego. This learned skill really helped me be a key player at my last 10 year assignment with P&G where our tiny plant struggled against Asian competition. Ultimately I was successful in getting our marketing team to realize that there were some significant advantages in our production capability, advantages that our marketing team was able to leverage the hell out of, making us the lowest cost producer in the world. From those I worked with, I was given credit for helping to make the plant viable and ultimately saving jobs.
When I retired a year ago, I left on a very high note. Our manufacturing plant had become a well oiled machine – the low cost producer and a team that upper management had grown to trust and rely on. I left feeling vindicated for my methods and my long term planning and strategies that had helped pave the way for our results.
I guess I owe my dad a thank you – credit where credit is due. It may not have been intentional, but I feel today that getting me interested in the game of Stratego played a huge role in my own life successes. I still think you were kind of a crappy dad, but I owe you a debt of gratitude for teaching me Stratego.
(Oh, and if the reader is curious, yes – I did end up beating him a number of times as a 7-8 year old. Without knowing it, I guess I was doing a bit of growing up while playing a little board game…..by the way, I just now realized that the day I have this story scheduled to be released, May 17th, I’m pretty certain was my Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary)