It’s Your Turn: Level 5 – Getting Unstuck

This post is part 5 of the #YourTurnChallenge based on Seth Godin’s book What to Do When It’s Your Turn

Previous Posts: Day 1   Day2   Day 3   Day 4

your turn challenge day 5 seth godin getting unstuck

Every gamer knows the feeling. Getting stuck. You are playing along in the latest game and you find yourself at an impasse. You have tried everything you can think of and you just can’t seem to defeat the boss or clear the level or find that darn hidden item.

Real life can be the same way. Sometimes we get stuck in our jobs or our careers. Sometimes we get stuck in our relationships. Sometimes we just feel in a lurch about, well…life in general.

So how do you turn things around and get unstuck?

Here are a few tricks that can help you overcome that stuck feeling, whether in a video game or in real life.

  1. Try Something Different

In my interview with Simon Sinek, he explained how this works:

“So I’ll be playing a game, for example, and I’ll always be using the same methodology to try and solve a problem…to try and get past a level. It will fail, and I’ll try again, it will fail, and I’ll try again, and I figure to myself well if it keeps failing anyway, why don’t I just stop caring and try something completely, completely different strategy out of left field?  And sometimes it works. And so, one of the things that I have learned, is that sometimes the best thing to do is throw out the strategy that you try and make work, and try a completely new strategy.”

Getting unstuck might require doing something new and unexpected. It probably won’t hurt, so why not?

  1. Consult a FAQ or Strategy Guide

Back in my day, there was no internet databases or game guides. I had to rely on gaming magazines, print strategy guides, and 900 number hint lines (my parents almost killed me over that last one).

Thanks to Game FAQs and other similar sites, the kids (and adults) of today’s gaming crowd can have all the mysteries of their favorite game spoiled for them at the speed of broadband.

Many great books are available today that provide excellent advice for getting unstuck from all sorts of situations. Access to research, advice, and knowledge is unparalleled by any other point in history. Then again, there is nothing new under the sun – but access has absolutely increased across the world.

  1. Ask a Friend For Help

Books are wonderfully helpful and can provide tremendous knowledge, but there is nothing quite like a face to face conversation with another person. When I got stuck in one of my favorite video games, I knew I had friends that I could count on to share the answer with me. Usually, we played through games together – gaming has always been one of my favorite social hobbies. In the rare times that I was playing a game alone, I would pick up my phone and call one of the guys for help.

The same holds true in life. There really is no substitute for having a best friend that you can call and share your thoughts and feelings with at any time. Think about all the people in your phone directory. How many of them could you call at 2am without hesitation? If you have one or more, consider yourself truly blessed.

In fact, take some time to call (not text) this person to thank them for being there for you (just don’t test the 2am thing, no sense in crying wolf).

Having others in our lives is so important. Just like playing a 2 player cooperative game, life is much easier when we share the journey together.

  1. Pause, Take a Walk, and Try Again

When I find myself stuck in a game, sometimes the best thing I can do is pause the game, set down the controller, and go do something else.

Albert Einstein (who I did not interview) is quoted as saying “we cannot solve problems using the same mindset that created them.” To gain new perspective, getting some distance from an issue and doing something else, or changing your environment completely can help clear your mind.

A clear mind can be amazingly effective at un-sticking a stuck situation.

  1. Declutter and Clean

Sometimes while playing a game on the first PlayStation, an error or a scratch on the game disc might cause the game to get stuck. I found that I could sometimes get around the problem by opening the disc cover, removing and cleaning the game before putting it back in (without hitting reset). If this didn’t work, some early models of the system could solve the issue by turning the system upside down while playing to overcome a design flaw.

Just like CD-ROMs collect dust or gain scratches over time, our lives can become cluttered. Clutter can be physical things or it can be mental things. James Altucher took a radical approach, and threw away almost everything he owned. You may find this works for you, or maybe you just need to organize the space around you. A clean desk or work area can do wonders for focus and clarity.

If you are stuck mentally, there are a few excellent systems out there, but the one I must recommend is David Allen’s Getting Things Done or GTD. At the core of his message, David explains that our minds are great for having ideas, but poor for holding them. This process was life changing for me, both personally and professionally.

For a taste of how ideas from GTD can help you, check out Multitaskers Are Liars (Your Brain is a Processor, Not a Memory Card).

When All Else Fails, Hit Reset

It’s amazing how creative gamers can be to solve a problem. Which reminds me of another infamous and creative solution to getting unstuck.

A common issue with the Nintendo Entertainment System was the difficulty in getting the cartridges to load. The generally accepted solution to the issue was to remove the cartridge and blow into it. The thought process was that dust had somehow prevented the game from properly reading.

The shocking truth has nothing to do with dust, but the rather poor design of the 72 pin connector found in the NES deck. The contacts do not always sit right, and over time become less likely to align with the game, resulting in a blinking screen or failure to load.

So why did the blowing trick work? It’s not so much the blowing that fixes the issue, but simply re-aligning the contacts. The same results can be had by just reseating and resetting the game until you find that “just right” spot for it to load. Actually, blowing on the game can do more harm than good since the saliva droplets from your mouth can promote rust on the connectors (not a good thing).

I hope this list can be helpful in getting you unstuck, whether your challenges are physical, mental, or video game related.

  • I can so relate to this post! Great advice! My fall back position is the same one I use in martial arts. With patience and perseverance all things are possible! Play on!

    • Thanks Vanessa! Wise words from you as well – patience overcomes many oppositions!