Hard Mode

By Dawn Brown

Hard Mode

Please tell me that you also play the New York Times app games like Connections and Wordle! I love them. In fact, it’s the first thing I do each morning. Another fact, if I don’t ‘win’ it may impact my mood that day. Sure, they’re just silly little games, but I want to win! You don’t have to be athletic to be competitive!

So, last week some friends and I navigated the rough terrain that is currently known as Upland construction and found a roundabout way to Ivanhoes. Something about ice cream and that strawberry shortcake that made us say ‘challenge accepted’ even with road closures everywhere.

It wasn’t long before the topic of Wordle came up. So, I asked one friend what word she used to begin their Wordle game. You see the premise of Wordle is to guess a five-letter word in six tries. Sounds much easier than it really is, trust me!

Your first try is a literal guess out of the clear, blue sky.  Some people use the same word to begin each day like it’s a religion. I go rogue and switch it up!

But I learned something MAJOR about this game that night at Ivanhoe’s.  You see, when you type your first word, three things happen:

1. Gray squares showing that letter is not in the word.

2. Yellow squares showing that letter is in the word, but not in the right place.

3. Green squares showing that letter is in the word and in the right location, too! Clearly, those are the best!

For some reason, I thought if you got a yellow or green square that you had to play those letters in your next guess. Why did I think that? No clue. No one told me that. I didn’t read any rules that said this was mandatory. My Type A personality simply said, ‘Hey, Dawn, you know there’s a C in that word, you must play it’.

When I revealed this to my friend she said, ‘Oh, no, I don’t play in Hard Mode.’ Hard Mode, what’s that? Apparently, there’s a feature in Wordle settings called ‘Hard Mode’ that requires you play your yellow and green letters once you know them. It’s hard, thus the name.

I did NOT have my game set to Hard Mode…I just had my brain set to Hard Mode. Ugh!

And it made me wonder how often we all do that. Do you have unwritten rules?  Do you ever tell yourself you can’t do something because of a rule you made up on your own. Do we forego great successes because we draw our own unnecessary lines in the sand? Do we say ‘no’ because of a tradition that doesn’t even make sense anymore? My guess is we all do that in work and life!

As the Community Foundation is executing our Board-approved Strategic Plan, we’ve noticed that some of the goals and objectives we have been challenged to address don’t have easy solutions. We can’t just say, ‘Oh, let’s just do what we did last year’. It’s more complex than that.

That also means that we might have to consider a myriad of potential ideas on how to solve a problem…and that can feel uncomfortable. Because, well, change creates in and of itself is a hard mode. But sometimes, we make it harder than it has to be…like when I was playing Wordle in Hard Mode without Hard Mode even being turned on!

When trying something new or something old in a new way, it just might be helpful to bring a lot of other wrinkly brains in the room to problem solve. Other people will call you out on your unwritten rules and self-inflicted ‘hard mode’, so you can freely determine multiple possibilities and find the best solution.

Clearly, with most problems, there is more than one right answer. So, yes, there are many mediocre answers out there to choose from. But that means there are also some good solutions and even a handful of great solutions.

Let’s raise the bar together. This county is too good for mediocre. Let’s even put good in the rearview mirror and shoot for great.  If you are investing in putting in the work, might as well shoot high. And that will be hard enough—no reason to turn on hard mode all by yourself. And don’t reason to solve the problem all by yourself.  Don’t panic, visioneering is a team sport. Do it together!

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