I remember playing the game Battleship as a kid. I loved to challenge my Dad and neighborhood friends sometimes spending hours on hot summer days in California trying to best them at one of the most enjoyable, yet simple strategy games.
In case you don’t remember or have never played, Battleship is a board game where two players face off each with their own fleet of ships. Each player arranges their ships on a board laid out as a coordinate grid. They then take turns calling out a letter and number combination where they’ve fired a “missile.” A player might announce, “B-5!” and the other player would respond, “miss!” or “hit!” depending on whether the missile strike was on target. If you strike a ship enough times – 2 to 5 times, depending on the ship – your opponent announces, “You sunk my battleship!” Since neither player can see the other player’s board or ships, each player mainly relies on guessing to successfully sink a ship. The winner is the player who sinks all of his or her opponent’s ships first.
My favorite part was hiding my ships. I’d experiment with placing them all clustered together in the middle of the board or around the edges of the board or pointing in random directions. I thought outsmarting my opponents with counterintuitive patterns was the key to thwarting an attack and ultimately winning the game.
Looking back though, on a limited sized playing field, you could only avoid detection for so long before it became obvious where your ships were hiding. The attack phase was the real key to winning. The sooner you could move from random guessing to an effective strategy of pursuit, the faster you could sink your opponent’s ships and win.
To me, goals are like the game Battleship. You start out in a random direction with the general goal of finding a ship to sink. As you proceed, you learn new information and refine your approach. Sometimes in the pursuit of one ship, you discover a new ship to sink. It’s okay to put that original goal on pause and go after the new one.