FLASHBACK 1981: a video game called Frogger appears in arcades across the United States challenging players to maneuver their frog across a busy road full of obstacles and then cross a fast moving river by jumping onto floating objects racing across the scene. The arcade game was ported to all available gaming consoles and at one point was honored with the ominous gaming distinction of offering players the “most ways to die”.

Frogger has long been one of my favorite metaphors for building and managing a business. In the game, crossing the river offers a particularly accurate sensation for those seeking to navigate their ventures to success. As leaders, we are presented with an endless series of obstacles: employees, financing, customers, regulations, natural disasters and on and on. This isn’t a negative statement, it just is. Whether you own your company or manage a small team, you are presented with these barriers daily. Success is defined as your ability to move beyond them. Failure is when you don’t get past them.

So the game begins, obstacles are presented. The beauty of Frogger is that you always have options. There are choices and ways across if you can see them fast enough. Yes, time is one of the elements that you have to manage – it is all moving very quickly. Standing by the raging river, you jump onto a passing log hoping that another one will appear at the right time to allow you to jump before this one crashes off-screen. THIS IS SO TRUE for business as well!

In business, we plot a course with a set of assumptions and make our first moves. However, no matter how much you’ve planned, stuff happens. Things change. You quickly find that the first “log” didn’t carry you exactly where you anticipated. At some point, you will have to jump to the next one. You’ll have to change course. Hopefully, the ramifications don’t include falling into the river or being hit by a fast moving taxi. However, when you’re making major decisions, a wrong move often feels like we’re falling into the raging river.

In Frogger, once you’ve successfully crossed the road or river, you move on to the next challenge. The obstacles start to move faster or the available logs start to get smaller as fewer appear. So true for us in life as well! The game is not a one-time event. It is a never-ending series of challenges. You don’t win, you progress. If you are good enough, you move on to the next challenge. If you aren’t good enough, you continue to face the same challenges until you’ve used up your available “lives” – the chances you are given to solve a particular problem.

So you’re thinking: “Thanks. I’m stuck in a never-ending game of Frogger.” WAIT, there is hope! So what does Frogger teach us about being effective? When I consider this metaphor, it reminds me of the following:

  1. It is not about winning the game. It’s about improving through the challenges so you can continue to play and finding ways to have fun as your playing.
  2. You will always have options. Every path you take will present some things expected and unexpected.
  3. Failure is not final. If you fall in the water, be ready to catch the next log.
  4. Things are generally not as complex as we make them. Challenge by challenge, we just need to tackle one at a time.
  5. Overcoming a challenge is a victory. Celebrate it with some cheesy arcade music and move to the next.

Though I’ve focused on business in this post, you can see the relevance to other aspects of our lives. This race we run is a marathon. There may be days that we need to sprint, but it is always within the marathon and there is only one finish. Take it all in stride and always maintain the hope that comes with that next log racing down the river.