At a young age, my brain was hijacked by the game of Tetris. Now it helps me navigate through life. When I was in the sixth grade, my friend Chiyo and I used to play this addictive puzzle game—developed in 1985 by a Russian engineer—for hours on end with a single 100 yen coin at an arcade in Tokyo. We probably should have been doing homework or at least pretending to, but instead, there we were, every day after school, sitting side by side executing crazy maneuvers with our joysticks. The mantras that I repeated in my head while playing the game at max speed as a pre-teen are totally in sync with some basic tenets of Asian philosophy.
In retrospect, if I hadn't been such a Tetris freak as a kid, I would probably be a completely different person today. Here's how a simple video game taught me things that neither my parents, teachers, nor any religion could have ever ingrained in my stubborn-ass pre-pubescent head. I'll go through the lessons step by step.
Take calculated risks.
In the beginning, when you still have a lot of physical and emotional space to work with, you have to go for the Tetris score, even if it means cranking out the first few minutes with no instant gratification. Patience, confidence in the future, and comfortableness with the unknown are a must. Don't worry—the long orange stick will come.
Keep things simple.
Don't try to get fancy and open up the board to two Tetris opps or create pockets for hard-to-place blocks unnecessarily.
Whatever you do, do it with dignity.
Dignity could mean several things. It could mean not leaving holes in work that has potential to be flawless. It could also signify the need to stay even-tempered despite the chaos taking place on-screen.
The nail that sticks out should be hammered down.
Try not to create bumps in the surface of your palate unless you're anticipating a green or blue block that requires a hook to rest on. Smoother surfaces are easier to deal with, and you don't want to be the one that's causing the entire board trouble.
Your blocks are stacking up and your anxiety is snowballing. Don't let it kill you—take what comes and spread it out so that it doesn't hurt too much in one place.
When faced with adversity, practice humility.
So you screwed up, and your board is totally out of sync. This is where you practice moderation. You can't expect to recover by executing some flashy move that's going to blow out the holes and miraculously smooth things out. You'll probably die trying. Take things one line at a time, and repeat to yourself: This, too, shall pass. Before you know it, you'll be back in the groove.