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Life Lessons Learned From Angry Birds

It's the holiday season, and if you're like me, you're playing even more games of Angry Birds than usual. Along the way, I have picked up some sage wisdom from those self-sacrificing birds and their mortal pig enemies.
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It's the holiday season, and if you're like me, you're playing even more games of Angry Birds than usual -- whether you're waiting at the airport, waiting in line to pay for presents, or trying to keep your mind occupied so you don't stress out about whether you're actually going to get everything on your list done before the guests arrive. Angry Birds has become my meditation tool of late, and I'm starting to actually learn something while I play.

Along the way, I have picked up some sage wisdom from those self-sacrificing birds and their mortal pig enemies. Call it an Angry Birds satori, perhaps.

1. Never give up. How many times have you seen the "Level Failed" screen, only to give it another try? Surely the birds are trying to tell us to keep going in our lives and pursuits, no matter how many times the green pig laughs at us. Persistence pays off, in "Birds" as in life.

2. Don't forget to breathe. That twitchy trigger finger is only going to mean that you waste one of your birds to "premature slingshot," and then you won't get the bonus at the end of the level. I think you know what I mean by this.

3. Solutions are often counter-intuitive. That is to say, every once in awhile you'll fling one lowly red bird, the angle will be just right, and you'll destroy all the pigs, wood, and glass in the level, then get points for the extra birds. You probably couldn't have planned this if you tried. This is the "Angry Birds" equivalent of actively searching for something for five years, only to have it show up on your doorstep the minute you give up.

4. Failure is just part of the game. The first time you see the playing field of a new level, you're just going to have to lob some birds in there to see what you're dealing with. Instead of thinking of each non-achieved level as a failure, consider it a learning experience that is getting you closer to your goal of Angry Birds Domination.

5. Get some perspective. By this, I of course mean that you should either widen or narrow the screen so that you can zoom in or out in order to better formulate your strategy. Or I could mean "put the game down and start again tomorrow." Or I could be talking about life and how we could all use some perspective from our sometime-myopic focus on our goals.

6. There is no wrong answer. The fact is, you don't know what's going to work until you've tried it. Maybe a direct, sling-shot type approach is going to be the key. Maybe you need to attack from above. Maybe one well-positioned shot will fell the entire structure and clear the level. Or, maybe all of the above answers are right. As long as you hear that glorious "Level Succeeded" music, it does not really matter how you got there.

7. Don't judge a bird by its cover. You probably didn't know initially that you can split the small blue bird into three, or that the white bird is super-charged if you hit it at the right moment. How many times did you have to experiment with the toucan before you really understood the full range of his boomerang power? If you underestimated these birds and just kept sling-shotting them, you probably would never win the game.

8. Celebrate your victories. When you kill that last pig and that glorious music plays, take a moment to be grateful for what you have. After all, it took substantial effort to get there, and here is tangible proof that your efforts paid off. How often do we get that in real life? Our adult worlds are filled with child-rearing, careers, mortgages, and many other abstractions, such that when we knock a wall down and crush some animated pigs, it feels good to know that something is finished for once.

9. Sometimes you just have to buy the eagle. 'Nuff said.

10. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, one of your friends/ family members has already been there, and can help you get past that level that's giving you so much trouble.

11. Some levels are harder than others. Some phases are super, super hard and crappy, and some are simple and fun, but it's all just part of the game.

If some of these sound distinctly, well, un Angry Birds like, perhaps it is because the birds put my mind into a deeply Zen-like and hypnotic state, not unlike "flow" as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Maybe the people at Rovio have given us a game that is part meditation, part allegory for life. Maybe Freud would point out that my finding Zen in a game based on pig destruction signals latent anger issues.

Maybe those birds are trying to tell us something.