• Sarah Carter

Three Keys to Grit: Goats, Stories, and WOOP!

Who's excited that we are done talking about apologizing??? I know I sure am. That was a heavy topic but absolutely worthwhile as I'm sure you saw. (If you missed that discussion, definitely check out the last two posts to help up your apology game.) I was so excited to snap open the cover of this eye catching book. The marketers in the audience could probably talk for a bit on why orange is such a smart color choice but then we would never get around to Goats, Stories, WOOP, and how that all ties into developing Grit. Grit is so much more then your ability to "suck it up and deal." It's an approach to work, life, and all things in between that leads to happier and healthier people. It is hard to verbally quantify but Eric Barker shares some tips, tricks, and insights in chapter three of Barking up the Wrong Tree that we can all incorporate into our lives to help us improve our Grit capacity. Let's start with the horned, can-eating, yet somehow loveable farm animal: the Goat.


I've heard countless acronyms during my time in the Navy and while traveling the high seas as a midshipmen at the US Merchant Marine Academy. So many, in fact, that I have handbooks - each hundreds of pages long - defining them. I'm also learning new ones every day as a Marine Corps spouse. The honest truth is that I have, or will eventually have, forgotten most of them...and so will you. The ones that I do remember all have one thing in common. It's not how applicable the concept they represent is or how often I use them but how memorable the mnemonic device is (aka the sentence that ties all the letters together). SSBB alone is completely forgettable until its tied to the double entendre sentence that makes every Kings Pointer giggle and instantly paints the mental picture of how a four-stroke engine works: Suck Squeeze Bang Blow. This is knowledge I no longer need but I can't seem to forget because it was such an effective teaching tool.


Whiny neutered goats fly is the mnemonic device Barker presents to make the letters WNGF memorable. This paints a pretty ridiculous picture of grouchy, post-op goats buzzing around a barn yard which will definitely stick with me. WNGF describes the conceptual pillars on which designers build new games to ensure their game's success. The letters stand for Winnable, Novel challenges, Goals, and Feedback. These four concepts are what make games fun. They have an ultimate goal, with novel challenges along the way, a defined set of rules to make the game winnable and captivating, and the ultimate feedback is either trying again or a W. Game designers have it figured out, just look at the market diversity and profit rates. "Games may seem childish and trivial, but when you take the time to look at how many games are already secretly hidden in the things you do so passionately, the power of this perspective seems far less immature" page 93. An easy generic example is your promotion at work (the Goal) depends on your performance throughout the year (the rules that make it Winnable) and what you have contributed to the company's success (the Novel challenges along the way) all of which is outlined for you on your yearly evaluation (the Feedback). Boom, work seen through the lens of a game designer! People approach games with excitement and anticipation from the earliest of ages but we are hard pressed to find people who approach work with the same enthusiasm.


"The workplace wants you to be good at your job, and that makes sense, but that's like a game you're too good at. It's dull" so "...we add novel challenges to create engagement" page 90. We use sayings like "Find a way to make it fun," "You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else -Einstien," or "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door - Berle" to motivate people to dig into work with the motivated mindset of a game player but without knowing how to construct their work game, people will not be successful at this. The key to making work fun is WNGF and WOOP is Barker's method for identifying and approaching the Goats, I mean Goals, in your daily office game. You have to determine what your Wish is (aka the goal), visualize your desired Outcome, determine what the Obstacles are (the rules, challenges, etc), and make a Plan to win. Reading chapter three of Barking up the Wrong Tree and seeing all of these concepts spelled out for me connected so many puzzle pieces I've collected over the years. Like you, I have had people tell me in many ways to "Make a plan and execute," "Set a goal and conquer it," or other such pithy statements. Never before had I heard/seen it put in such a succinct way. The stories Barker uses to drive these methods home are extreme examples - a Navy SEAL, a champion mountain climber, and Batman - but "making work a game is quite simple; you don't have to change what you're doing all that much, you just have to change your perspective" page 93.


Perspective comes from the stories you tell yourself to make the goats catchable. "Stories are the invisible undercurrent that promotes success in a shocking number of the most important areas of life" page 75. Setting a goal and identifying the obstacles are only part of the game. Telling yourself YOUR success story is a necessary ingredient in cooking up your life successes. All the tips, tricks, and insights in the world won't help if you keep telling yourself a story of failure. Joe Simpson (the mountain climber with the broken leg Barker refers to in chapter three) could have easily told himself a story of failure and I doubt that anyone would have judged him for it in the afterlife. But Joe created a game in his head out of his situation and told himself his success story with every painful inch forward. "Stories affect the muscles in your body and also the willpower inside your head" page 119. Joe survived his ordeal undoubtedly because of the power in his mental success story that he wove into the game he designed facing the obstacle of his life - literally.


Over this weekend take time to WOOP and Whiny Goat! Think about how you can frame your approach to your job like your favorite, non-violent game. "Remember, it's your game. Don't wait for others to make your job or life exciting" page 120. Start telling yourself your positive, success story rather than a "I dread coming to work and I wish the weekend would last forever" story. See the difference it makes then take it one day, and one challenge, at a time. Keep in mind that you don't have to tackle the ultimate goal all at once; "...consistent small wins are even better at producing happiness then occasionally bagging an elephant" page 92. Take note of the stories you tell yourself about all aspects of your life and watch your girt level increase along with your happiness! Sticking with it is the final piece of the grit puzzle. No amount of perspective shaping or positive story telling will matter if you don't keep at it.


Check back on Sept 28th for my concluding thoughts on this book.

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