A Pinball Wizard


One of the most dangerous situations for any business is when the person in charge starts to panic.

Bouncing around as if they’re in a pinball machine, catapulting off of one wall and careering into another.  Zipping across to the left and then zooming away to the right.

Taking on a new project that can’t possibly be fulfilled.  Forcing a change of direction just because someone on Facebook said that it was a guaranteed way to make money.  Employing someone they don’t need – or firing someone they do.

Total and utter chaos.

And, more often than not, they don’t even realise what they are doing.

They may talk about strategy and high-level thinking, but what is actually happening is that they are just reacting to whatever appears in front of them.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, how do you get out of this perpetual maelstrom?

In the first instance, you need to get a different perspective.  You might need to discuss your situation with a third party who can give a different angle but, ultimately, you need to step back and look at the whole picture.

Instead of being the pinball, you need to be the player.

The game hasn’t changed, the barriers are the same, but the perspective has shifted.  Even though you don’t have full control of everything, you do have a much greater level of influence than you might think.  It can let you anticipate what is likely to happen in the future and plan accordingly.

You can pause the game for a moment by trapping the ball and gathering your thoughts.  You can surround yourself with people happy to cheer you on and bring you drinks when you get thirsty.  Even take over for a brief period whilst you take an essential break.

Over time, the game becomes about timing and instinct instead of effort and frustration.

Now, a good player also has one eye on something else.  The Hi-Score.

The reason that the player keeps going back to the machine is, first, to beat their personal score. Then get on to the leader board and, finally, beat the high score.

If you don’t know what your overall target is, how can you possibly know what the best thing to do next is?

So, take some time away from the day to day activities.  Be clear about what you are trying to achieve overall and what your next target is.  Analyse which strategies have taken you towards that target and which ones need more work.  Or maybe need abandoning altogether.  Take any easy wins when they’re available and, if you have a big play in mind, by all means, work towards it, but don’t rely on it.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help from people that will support you.

And eventually, instead of being the silver ball, you’ll become what you need to be.  A Pinball Wizard.


Andrew Miller – AVN PGE

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash