Life Lessons Learned From Yahtzee

Updated: May 12, 2020

Hello blog readers! Long time no chat. After a small hiatus, I am here today to share some nuggets of wisdom I have acquired from being an avid Yahtzee player. For those of you who don’t know what Yahtzee is, well first of all, I am incredibly disappointed. Secondly, a quick Google search should do the trick because I don’t have time to waste here explaining the dice game that is my greatest passion in life. Now we’re going to get right into the good stuff since I’m sure you’re all dying to know how a silly game of chance can be anything more than just that. Without further ado, here are some of the countless lessons I have learned from my many years of being a Yahtzee superstar.


Yahtzee life lesson number one: Sometimes you’re rolling and you don’t get what you want, but you get something just as good if not better. Sometimes you were too busy focusing on one thing that you didn’t realize that something good could still come of it, even if it isn’t what you thought you wanted in the first place. Let me offer you an example that happened to me just a few short days ago… Imagine I am rolling for fives. It’s my last roll of the turn and I have two fives, hoping I’ll get at least one more. But I don’t get any more fives. Instead, I get a two, a three and a four, therefore giving me a small straight worth 30 points! Maybe it’s not what I was expecting or hoping for, but I still came out of my turn with something valuable!


It is also sometimes important to be flexible with what you want. In a recent game, I was in need of at least three sixes to secure the top bonus. My first roll only handed me one six, but I decided to keep it and roll for more. My second roll gave me no more sixes but two twos instead, so I changed my mind with one roll to go and decided to go for twos (talk about living life on the edge). My last roll of the three remaining dice gave me three sixes– just what I needed to get the top bonus. WOW, right?! Moral of the story: sometimes we do get what we want, but not in the way we initially planned. Sometimes you have to take a little detour, a slight change of course to end up with what you want. You’ll still get it in the end, but perhaps it’s not quite as smooth and easy as you’d hoped it would be at the start.


Now Yahtzee can also be a rather frustrating game, especially when you start super strong and then have a terrible finish that leaves you feeling like you wasted a perfect game. Like getting a Yahtzee on your first roll and achieving the highest four of a kind you can get, but then having to strike your large straight worth 40 points and not getting a high enough score on top to get the 35 point bonus. It’s a huge bummer, guys. Trust me, this is coming from a passionate Yahtzee expert. I am especially familiar with this since I had nearly three weeks off before starting my summer job and had time every morning at breakfast to play at least six rounds of Yahtzee by myself. Oh, and please do note that it is absolutely acceptable to play Yahtzee on your own. Sometimes it’s fun to have a little competition or companionship, but other times you just want to roll as efficiently and as quickly as possible. My dad would agree, so I’m not that weird. Also, I don’t know if this translates into a life lesson but heck, it very well could! Sometimes you need to do things on your own?! It could mean a multitude of things!!! But the frustration of a good game gone bad just means you need to try again and hope for the best. The moral of this story is, I guess, to never lose hope. Groundbreaking advice, isn’t it?


Now the greatest lesson of them all is that you just never know what you’re going to roll next. You never know how the game is going to end, but you roll anyway because it’s fun and exhilarating (at least for a Yahtzee fanatic like myself). Just like life, we truly have no idea what is waiting for us around the corner. Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you get what you want when you want it, and sometimes you get what you want a little later or in a way you didn’t quite expect, and sometimes you don’t get at all what you thought you wanted but you get something better instead. It’s the fact that we are bold enough to roll the dice in the first place and see how our game plays out that makes Yahtzee, and life, the unpredictable, beautiful, terrifying experience that it is. If we never pick up the dice, we might live in a world of what ifs and regrets. The good thing about life that makes it a little different from Yahtzee, aside from the fact that Yahtzee is just a game that will not in any way determine your entire existence, is that everything is always okay in the end. Well, at least I hope that’s true. Sometimes you have the worst game of Yahtzee ever (at which point, if you’re me, you can’t stop your hands from rolling straight into another game), but I’d like to believe that life differs in that we are not done playing, or living, until everything has worked out the way it is meant to. Maybe this thinking requires a little faith and a smidgen of hope that life is more than a series of mere coincidences, which it very well might be, but I like to think that everything does truly work out in the end, even if we have to go down a rocky and unanticipated path to get there.


All in all, there are many things we can learn from playing a game of Yahtzee. But the metaphors for life learned in a silly game of luck (and certainly some skill…) are also all around us in so many other small things. I’ve become very aware of this recently; how little things in life are metaphorical of the big things. Like the over-said, but truthful little saying that you can’t get the rainbow without a little rain. Or that calm waters don’t make a skilled sailor. Or that no flower blooms all year round, so we shouldn’t expect ourselves to either. (If any plant science peeps in here try to tell me that some species of flowers do bloom all year round somewhere in the world, please refrain from bursting my poetic and inspirational bubble).


Ah, at 23 my fountain of wisdom is just overflowing! Ha, just kidding. I am so far from having even a droplet of wisdom let alone a whole heckin’ fountain. While I do look forward to being an old geezer one day who may actually have some sage advice, for now I find it very intriguing to compare human life and our struggles, uncertainties, doubts, and ever-changing paths to everything around us. It’s like this world was made to lead by example and all we have to do is tune in and truly pay attention: we simply have to notice how the world around us works so that we can do the same. One of my favourite courses I took this last semester was on poetry from the Romantic era, which is not poetry about actual lovey-dovey romance as some might assume, but rather is centred around nature and humankind’s connection to it. A common belief among the Romantic poets was pantheism: a spiritual perspective that perceives God not as the typical Christian image of an all-knowing figure, but rather as something that simply exists within all of nature. By this definition, God is the trees, the ocean, the wind, the grass; it is everywhere and everything. Many of these poets drew comparisons between nature and humanity, stressing the importance of being in tune with the natural world in order to better understand yourself. William Wordsworth certainly expressed this viewpoint in his works, as did the later Romantic poet John Keats. I’m sorry, this most definitely is not an English essay (and thank goodness for that) but I do think some of Keats’ poetry can relate to what I’m trying to say here. I promise this is not a completely unrelated tangent, although I do tend to get a little off track sometimes. How this started as a post about a game of Yahtzee and is now about philosophies of poets from the early 1800s, I am not too sure, but we are rolling with it (see what I did there?)


John Keats is quite well known for his poems on permanence in an impermanent world. We are all immortal beings (in case you weren’t already aware), which Keats struggled to grasp. One of his most celebrated poems, “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” explores his desire to be as permanent as two lovers painted on, you guessed it, a Grecian urn. While he envies the infinite time the couple can share lingering before a kiss, simply enjoying the anticipation and excitement of love, it becomes apparent that the couple’s permanence is the very sign of their lack of humanity; humans can not escape time and must inevitably face death, suffering, and pain. We are incapable of holding onto one perfect moment forever and ever and ever. But rather than seeing that as a disappointment, it’s sort of a relief. That couple will never get to fully enjoy a kiss or continue the rest of their lives together! Although that means that the perfect moment must pass and that they will be forced to confront the obstacles that accompany human life, that is what the human experience is all about! We cannot go through it without struggling. We cannot go through it without facing some challenges. Sure, some people have bigger mountains to climb and deeper wounds to mend, and how that is fair I do not know, but we all must face pain and loss at some point or another in some way or another. And that is just LIFE. My apologies for the extreme cliché, but there’s a reason these clichés are clichés. C’est la VIE! (If I say it in another language does it sound more poetic?? Or just pretentious?)


We’re coming full circle here, I promise. The whole point I’m trying to make is that life can often be better understood when we take the small, seemingly trivial lessons of everyday life and translate them into the bigger scheme of things. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; paying attention to the little things in daily life, the supposedly insignificant things, and realizing that I can look at them from a different perspective that will teach me something about my life on a far greater scale. Yahtzee just happens to be one of them. Poetry does the same. And through that poetry I’ve realized how nature does the same, too. So maybe we need to tune into nature and our surroundings and the little parts of our daily lives, and tune out the negative crazy thoughts that so easily consume our minds. The greatest lessons can be learned where you least expect it. I personally think the rainbow analogy is beautiful and wonderful and undeniably accurate. Sure, the rain can suck and may ruin your walk home or stop you from going on a nice picnic you had planned, but then this magical arch of colours appears in the sky and the world smells so pure and fresh and the rain suddenly feels worth it. And maybe instead of going for a picnic you go to a coffee shop where you meet the love of your life or hear an old favourite song that takes you back to a happy childhood memory you forgot about. Or maybe nothing significant happens. Who really knows. We never will know how these little blimps and minuscule changes affect our lives, but it helps to hold onto the hope that everything happens just as it should, even if it feels wrong at the time. We just need to have the courage to keep on rolling the dice each and every day. (Who let me be this corny?! Yuck!!!)


All in all, it is important to pay attention to the little lessons that are always around us if only we allow ourselves to notice them! In the wise words of William Wordsworth, “Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. Come forth, and bring with you a heart that watches and receives.”


Well that was lame. I promise I will never quote poetry again.


~Tal


Ps. I’m totally not a poetry nerd by ANY means and don’t want to come off as some literature freak because as much as I wish I was that cool and into poetry, I’m not. This is just some stuff that stuck with me that I found interesting and wanted to share. I’m still the same faux-English major as before, so don’t be fooled. I also didn’t quote that excerpt properly because that would be so extra and I’m not about to pull MLA-style citations up on my little writing corner of the world that is just for fun. Ok thanks bye.

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