The Jenga Metaphor
For those who are unfamiliar with the infamous board game, the game is first set up by its participants who stack three wooden blocks together in one direction. Then, three more blocks are placed on top facing the perpendicular to the blocks underneath. The pattern resumes until a 54-block tower is ultimately formed. When the game begins, each participant to takes a turn removing one of the blocks not located on the top three levels and places it on top of the tower without knocking it down, thus building the tower higher and higher.
Seems easy, right?
There is just one problem.
The problem is that as each person takes their turn, the base of the tower progressively becomes more unstable. The base of the tower struggles to support its heavy top until it eventually collapses signaling the conclusion of the game with the loser being the participant who pulled the block that caused the demolition.
Jenga, derived from the Swahili word Kujenga meaning “to build”, represents more than just a tower of building blocks. After all, over the course of our lives as human beings, we find ourselves building many things. On a broad scale, we build relationships, careers, and ultimately, lives that we hope we can look back on with fondness when we approach our life’s end. However, deeper than relationships, careers, or even lives, we build companies, services, projects, cases, homes, friendships, families, and so much more. However, instead of using blocks to build all these things that make up our lives, we use choices. And, these choices can accumulate for decades.
Decisions such as continuing one’s education, where to live, to marry a given man or woman, to have children, to stay and work at an organization, to move or, create your own are all the building blocks that we utilize to build our worlds, our lives. Every decision is independent of each other, like the Jenga blocks, yet they are all connected and lead to one thing.
Just as the Jenga participant must decide which block to remove, we too, must decide which decision will get us to where we want to go next. However, in order to build something great, risks must be taken. Even in removing the loosest block from the tower, there is still the risk that an unsteady hand or some other force of nature will cause the tower crumble.
Things do not always go according to plan.
Sometimes, a magnificent Jenga tower will be built but, eventually you’ll run out of moves. Then, you must decide. Either stay as you are, or take a chance deciding to remove a block and risk the tower tumbling down.
Despite its simplicity, Jenga is a game that requires much thought and delicacy. Life is the same way. As we enter this new year, not only as the main characters of our own story, but also as supporting characters in the stories of others, we will still be forced to make an abundance of choices.
And, the tower may fall.
And, when that happens, everyone will be forced to witness every choice made disappear into a single, possibly devastating result.
However, there is still an opportunity in that too.
We are given the chance to build again.