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Business Lessons Learned While Playing Temple Run

I just made the move from the iPhone to the Galaxy S3.  As part of the move, I wanted to check out some new games I hadn’t played before.  So, I gathered my kids around the new phone and together we visited the Google Play store to select a few titles.  I went for Fruit Ninja, not because of it’s popularity, but because of Scott’s YouTube sensation “Real Life Fruit Ninja”, with 18.5M views at the time of this writing (by the way, I have talked to Scott, and he is an exceptional person).  My kids, however, clamored for a game called Temple Run.  Sorry to admit it, but I hadn’t heard about it before.  Well, the kids won out, and we went for Temple Run as well.

After playing a few fun rounds of Fruit Ninja, I decided I better try this Temple Run game out and see what it’s all about.  Well, here we are two days later and I am not sure I have done anything productive, although I did shower this morning.  I am not a hard-core gamer, and in fact I rarely play games, which have become more of a novelty to me.  I don’t think I have had this type of reaction to a video game since the mid 80’s when I went on a 3-day quest to defeat the Mother Brain.  If you are interested, my two-day Temple Run stats are at the end of this posting.

While playing this game, my brain kept finding applicable business lessons that the game was teaching me.  Yes, this sounds crazy, and might have come out of a combination of delirium and Mt. Dew, but I think there are some great things to be learned about business from Temple Run.  Here they are:

  1. Listen to others, even your subordinates.  So, as I started playing the game, I just couldn’t get to most of the coins in my path.  No matter what I tried, it seemed like the coins  were always on the other side of the path.  Occasionally I would try to slide my finger horizontally to move the dude over to the coins, which usually resulted in my death.  I just couldn’t seem to make it happen.  I tried timing turns around corners to get the right line, but nothing worked.  But, I continued to play.  My 8-year old daughter, interested to see me taking an interest in this game, came over to watch.  After 5 seconds of watching me, she quickly said “You’re doing it wrong.”  Taken aback that this child knew more than me, I ignored her.  Again, she said “You’re doing it wrong”, and this time, without waiting for a response, she continued to explain to me that I needed to tilt my phone to get the running man to move horizontally on the path.  She was right!  These new-fangled gadgets and their fancy gyro-whatchamanevers are beyond my mind, but not the mind of an 8-year old.
     
    Listening to others is critical to the success of any organization.  Every employee, no matter the level of import, should feel like they have a voice.  Right out of college I went to work for Wal-Mart Corporate in Bentonville, Arkansas.  While Wal-Mart does have it’s problems, one thing they do excellent is making every employee feel important, that every employee’s opinion matters.  I saw time and time again where opportunities were give to the lowest-paid employees to share their thoughts on how the company might improve.  You know those door-greeters that are there to get you a cart or put a sticker on your returned merchandise?  This was an idea presented by one of Wal-Mart’s hourly employees as a way to help with loss prevention in the stores.  Turns out this one idea saves the company millions of dollars per year.
     
    So, take the time to listen to your employees, at all levels.  Who knows where the next million-dollar idea might come from, and you might miss out if you’re not listening.
     
     
  2. Focus on where you are going is more important than focus on where you are.  Temple Run is a very fast-paced, exhilarating game.  It took me dozens of games to realize that I was playing it wrong (again).  My focus was exclusively on where I was at in the game, and where I was going was in my peripheral vision.  I just couldn’t break through to the next level until I realized that my focus was wrong.  Once I changed my focus to where I was going, while still keeping where I was at in my peripheral vision, I broke through multiple levels quickly.
     
    Feel stuck in your business, unable to break through to the next level of success?  Maybe you are too focused on where you are at, rather than where you are going.  This reminds me of the man who told his family he was going to go on a long journey, and when they asked him where he was going on this journey, he said he didn’t know yet, but he would know when he got there.  Well, he went on a journey, but he never did figure out where he was going and died along the way.
     
    Take time frequently to remind yourself where your business is going, or where you want it to go.  If you don’t know where you are going, you will crash and burn.  Written goals, vision statements and other tools are helpful resources to keep you and your business focused on where you want to go.
     
     
  3. Keep away from the brain-sucking monkeys.  Throughout Temple Run you are being chased by dark, brain-sucking monkeys that want you to fall.  Your goal is simple in the game: keep running and stay away from the monkeys.
     
    Do you have brain-sucking monkeys in your business?  They are all around, trying to tear us down and glory in our failure.  When I was younger, I “invented” many things in my mind, great things that were ahead of their time, things which have since been invented and made their respective inventors millions of dollars.  Why didn’t I pursue these ideas?  I had a few influences in my life that “sucked my brain” and told me that my ideas were silly or stupid.
     
    Make sure you identify the brain-sucking monkeys in your business, and stay away from them.  You know who they are.  Oh, and make sure you aren’t a brain-sucking monkey either.
     
     
  4. Don’t let others distract you.  My children always choose opportune moments to come watch me play.  It’s hard enough for me to focus on this game on my phone, and when little munchkins want to come watch in the middle of the round, I always seem to fall to my death immediately.  Man, I love those kids!
     
    I really like Greg McKeown’s article “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less“.  I especially found his point, labeled as “Phase 3”, very insightful in my own life.  “When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.”  We must be careful in our business pursuits to avoid that diffused effort, or “undisciplined pursuit of more.”
     
    There are always options for the successful individual or business, and the more successful you become, the more options come your way.  I worked for a very successful company that risked $500k in cash on an “opportunity”.  That one decision doomed the company.  Rather than focus on what made them successful in the first place, they diffused their efforts and ruined the company.
     
    Maintain your clarity of purpose and avoid those distractions that lead to failure.
     
     
  5. Don’t focus on the money.  Coins.  Temple Run is all about collecting coins.  The way you advance in Temple Run is by meeting coin “objectives”.  The more coins you collect, the further your play experience grows.  I like objectives, so I found myself focusing on the next objective.  I was so focused on my objective, in fact, that I would take my eyes off the path and what laid ahead to see how my coin collection was going.  Most assuredly, this focus on my collection of coins lead to my demise.
     
    “It’s all about the Benjamins.”  Well, not really.  If our primary focus in our career or business is money, we will be disappointed on multiple levels.  For many years, I was all about the next promotion, raise, or different job for more money.  I had a magical number in my head, and I knew once I hit that objective, life would be good.  I hit, and surpassed, that number a few years ago, and nothing changed, so I kept going, thinking that the magical number was just ahead.  After several years of this pursuit, and an ever-increasing salary, I found what many find: disappointment.  Rather than find something I was truly passionate about, I tricked myself into thinking I was passionate about making money, and along the way I forgot to focus on what really matters (to me).  I recently took a 1/3 deduction in salary to do stuff I am passionate about, stuff which will also allow me the opportunities and time to focus on what really matters (to me).
     
    If you stop focusing on the money, and, instead, primarily focus on where you are going and focus in your peripheral vision on where you are at, you will not be disappointed.  The money will come as you correctly focus in.

     

Want my stats after two days of playing?
Total Coins: 38,429
Multiplier: 21x
Highest Score: 148,880
Longest Run: 2,598m
Most Coins: 427
Total Games: 302
Total Distance: 244,103m
Total Coins: 38,429

Not too shabby for a couple days play while still holding down a job, eh?