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Ollie Wounded by an Arrow

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Ollie (7 yrs old) was wounded by an arrow yesterday in the front yard.  A completely safe, and almost entirely harmless, NERF arrow.  Upon sustaining the wound (a bit of broken skin on the forearm) we all rushed Ollie – with great haste – to our island in the kitchen.  I stayed by Ollie’s side to monitor his vitals and help him stay calm.  Ben immediately grabbed clean rags to sanitize the wound.  Cole went for bandages.  In :2-:3 minutes, Ollie was all better.  Band-aid in place.  Stretch-wrap on the arm for visual effect.  And everyone over-exaggerating the story for impact.  In just a few minutes, Ollie received undivided attention, compassion, and love from me and his brothers.


We (Cole, Ben, Ollie, and I) were playing a bow and arrow battle game last night after dark. The arrows light up at night so you can see them.  We also play with headlamps.  We don’t have night vision (which is too bad).  Of course, the tactics are more challenging at night but more invigorating and rewarding as well.  The game goes like this…

  • (3) sets of bow and arrow NERF equipment (a bow and (4) NERF darts per person).
  • The boys get the bows and I’m the ammo runner.  As arrows land out of reach I reload kids with darts as evenly as possible.  Until someone is down (gets shot) and thus knocked out of the round.  When knocked out, I get their bow and all their ammo and I’m now fully in the game.
  • If you get hit with a dart, you’re out.
  • If you catch a dart (difficult to do at night), the shooter is out.
  • If you’re out of darts (bad ammo discipline), you can turn off your headlamp to move until reloaded.
  • If you end up in a close quarters situation, you can throw darts or go for a “bow kill” which is basically hand-to-hand combat.
  • Last person standing wins the round.
  • (reset and start again)

This is how it looks in the dark!

One of my favorite books is the The Art of Learning.  As Josh Waitzkin explains, one of his learning principles is to “plunge into the detailed mystery of the micro in order to understand what makes the macro tick.” I love this principle because I do better when thinking about tactics (the micro) to inform operational and then strategic thinking (the macro).

Last night after playing the bow and arrow game I was reflecting on the micro of our game. Every day matters.  When able, I prefer to reflect on what actually happened in the day, specifically.  What really mattered?  What did I learn?  What did we learn?  Did we stumble on serendipity or choose an action intentionally?  What things are repeatable, novel, and/or useful?  In this case, in dissecting the bow and arrow game, I was asking “what from the micro can inform the macro?”

I discovered that the boys were absorbing the following macro lessons from the micro events of the game:

  • Tactics of the game (patience, imagination, judgement, and creativity)
  • Being shot, knocked out of a round, reassessing tactics, and recovering to play again (failure, resilience, and buoyancy)
  • Ammo runner and medical treatment for Ollie (cooperation and compassion)
  • Running, jumping, and rolling (fitness, balance, agility)
  • Out-witting your brother or dad, and knocking them out of the game (pride and personal accomplishment)
  • Hitting a moving target at distance (spacial awareness)
  • Going berserk when you hit the impossible shot and win the game (joy, elation, fun, and surprise)

It’s not that every activity needs to be intentionally planned and designed for maximum personal development.  That’s exhausting.  However, we had good fun playing the game last night and reinforced some positive behavior and emotion in the process.  Whether it’s playing bows and arrows, or Tetris, or a favorite board game, the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of team play can far exceed the obvious, simple, and tactical events of the game.  Play something physically challenging, have fun, and learn the macro from the micro.

References: Dan Pink, To Sell is Human, and the science of buoyancy.  Spark, Dr. John Ratey.  Jane McGonigal, SuperBetter, and her TED talk on games and emotions.  Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning.  Settlers of Catan (a very competitive family favorite board game).

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1 Comment

  1. James Harris
    December 29, 2016 at 1:43 pm — Reply

    Awesome! There is learning in everything, especially if there is fun involved. My thoughts are with the wounded.

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