The Lesson I Learned From Playing Tic-Tac-Toe with a 7 Year Old

Podcast Transcription from Find Your Voice, Season 1, Episode 1



What is going on, Michael Fleming here reaching out to you
with another lively message. Today's episode is actually titled "What I've
learned from playing tic-tac with a seven-year-old". This is a kind of a
funny story about learning how to focus on what I do versus what other people
do, right? Because so much at the time, we wind up getting caught up in how
other people feel or what other people are doing or how other people are going
to perceive what we do or what our actions are going to be and that that kind
of influences what we're doing and influences our behavior, right? Because
sometimes we're worried about how other people are going to receive that. And
so, basically backing up a little bit to, to tell this story, as many of I'm
now located down in Sugarland, Texas, from Portland, Oregon.


Dental Marketing Specialist Michael Fleming recently relocated to Sugar Land, Texas

I've been down here for about a month now. And when we moved
down here, when we relocated, we actually brought our vehicles down in person.
So my wife drove our pathfinder. I brought the pickup truck and we had the kids
sprinkled between the two, depending on what leg of the trip. And so, it's from
Portland, Oregon down to basically Houston, Texas. And so that was a six-day
trip for us. And so, we had all sorts of random stops along the way and it was
a great experience for us because when's the last time you've actually been on
a road trip? I don't think I'd been on a road trip since my late twenties. And
here I am in my forties right now, so I had been a while since I've been in a
road trip.

So, it was a distant memory, but oddly familiar as we were
taking it. But it was a ton of fun. And, one of those mornings we wake up in a
strange town and the kids have never been in or that I've never been in. And
we'd go downstairs or we go to the local restaurant and a lot of these
restaurants along the road have these placemats for the kids that have not only
their kids menus, but they'll also have little areas for them to color or
connect the dots, or they've got the little tic-tac-toe areas that are drawn
out. And so, one of those mornings I'm sitting down with Kaitlyn, who's my seven-year-old
and we're playing tic-tac-toe. We love tic-tac-toe. And so, we're playing games
and, she's pretty good!

So, we're, winding up in cat's game, cats’ game, cats’ game,
cats’ game. And, I would win a game and then, a couple of games later, after a
couple of cat’s games, she would win a game and then I would win a game a
couple games later and then she would win a game. And it got at this point
where, I start competing my 47-year-old ego with my seven-year-old daughter.
And I was like, "wait a second, she's beating me at tic-tac-toe!" And
so, all of a sudden, I start to turn it on a little bit to actually try and
beat a seven-year-old. So, we're playing a game, we're playing a game. And it
wasn't until this game where it ended in the cat’s game that she looked up at
me and she said, dad, you don't need to let me win. I said, "What are you
talking about?" She's like, well, it's kind of obvious. That last game you
totally could have won. I was like, what are you talking about? She's like,
well, that that one right there had you just put your "O" right
there, you would have won. And I had to stop and look. And it's kind of like
that game of chess where you back up a couple moves mentally, right? And you're
like, oh my gosh, it was so crazy. I totally could've won. But I never saw it. And
it took the seven-year-old to see that for me.

Dental Marketing Specialist Michael Fleming learned a valuable lesson from playing a simple game of Tic-Tac-Toe with his daughter.

But I think the biggest epiphany for me was not only that I
missed the move, but the reason I missed the move was because I was more
focused on what she was going to do. Right? So, what I was trying to do is look
forward to try and anticipate what she was going to be doing and defend against
that as opposed to playing my own game. So, the whole reason I didn't win that
game was because I was positioning myself to block her from a future move. Had
actually been paying attention to what I was doing. I could have won that game.
And so that was a great example of analyzing or paying attention to what I'm
doing versus paying attention to what they're doing. And I think the next time
that you're sitting down and you're playing tic-tac-toe with a friend or with a
child, it's so easy to fall into that trap of you've got to defend, you got a
defend, you've got to defend, you've got to pay attention to what they're
doing, otherwise they're going to win.

As opposed to, is there a move that I can make right now
that will either improve my own position or like we just heard this story win
the game, I already had the opportunity to win the game, but I chose to forfeit
that because I was more worried about defending against someone else winning.
And so, there's a lot of different paths we could run down with this analogy
-and I'm sure we could even get deep and get some Freudian stuff going on as
well. But to keep it a simple for, for today's lesson is basically, so much of
what we do is like playing this game of Tic-Tac-Toe, right? So, whether it's in
our relationship, when we wake up and we've got our spouse or significant
other, navigating how we communicate with them because, maybe sometimes they're
in that not so perfect mood, right?

Or maybe they've got challenges at work that they're
struggling with and they're kind of stuck in their head, right? And so, we
navigate carefully the way that we behave because we don't want to somehow
irritate them, right? The same happens with our kids, right? We kind of tiptoe
around them oftentimes trying to avoid having a negative interaction, right?
Then you hop in the car and you head on into work, and before you know it,
you're a, you're navigating the politics of what's happening at work. And so,
before you know that you're always on this there's a couple of different
analogies, right? You're always either on your heels as opposed to on your toes
ready to jump, right. Ready to pounce. Is that the analogy? Or you're always
playing defense, right? If it's a more sports analogy here, right?

As opposed to, sometimes that best defense is a good, strong
offense, right? Sometimes it is asserting yourself and asserting what your
wants and your desires are and knowing what your wants and your desires are.
Right? Yeah. Back to the fun tic Tac toe analogy, obviously when you're playing
a game, the goal is to win the game. Right? Now granted, against
seven-year-old, you don't want to completely destroy the will of the seven-year-old,
right? If you keep destroying them, but with the game, they're not going to
want to play anymore. Right? So, I'm not saying completely political yield your
children by destroying their, their will by winning every single game. I'm not
saying that at all, but genuinely, Kaitlyn was killing it with tic-tac-toe. And
this was a genuine opportunity where I could have won and I should have one.

And had I been paying attention, I would have taken the win,
but I didn't just because I was more focused on what someone else was doing.
And so, that being said, can you think of something right now and think of something,
yesterday, right? I think of something yesterday at work, or maybe at the gym,
right? Or at church, wherever you may be, where you were around some other
people. And was there an interaction where you kind of put your thoughts, your
feelings, your objective to the back seat to allow someone else to feel good?
You know, think about that, was there someone that, um, I don't want to say tip
toe around their feelings, right? But, but sometimes we do, right? Sometimes
you've gotten someone that’s, either an emotional or passionate person or
they're having an emotional or passionate moment, or sometimes you'll just kind
of put your feelings on the back burner to allow them to fulfill their agenda
of having those feelings.

Right? Have you ever done that? I know you have. We all
have. Right? And is that, I think where I'm going with this is, that
sustainable, right? Because I've seen that with relationships as well, where you've
got two different behavior styles and they're in a, in a relationship and
you've got one party that is a little stubborn or a headstrong, and then you've
got the other party that compliments them by being like the ultimate pliable
behavior. Right? Or they just kind of go with the flow and then go with the
flow and you're like, wow, how did they do that? That's so incredible. And of
course, that's how you know that relationship is sustainable is because, one is
headstrong and the other one just kind of goes with the flow and there's never
really, a knocking of heads because one is always conceding.

And that's kind of that culture that they've built is, that's
the role that they have as though like I, in this relationship, I am the one
that always concedes, right. And, think of that relationship. I know that we
all have a, we all have people in our lives and whether it's, friends and
family or acquaintances, we all know someone, that is in a similar relationship
like that, right? Where if someone's completely headstrong, they're always
opinionated. Not necessarily, they always need to be, right? But sometimes
that's a consequence of that kind of behavior, right? And then oftentimes their
spouse or significant other is a just that completely pliable, go with the flow.
You know, happy, always smiling, carefree and just really goes, it just goes
with it. Right? And it is un-phased by a lot of things that would really kind of
phase you when I write and you just look at them and you're like, "wow,
you know, how do they do it?"

But then you kind of see the dynamic where it's like, okay,
for that person to be headstrong, they need to have someone that's ultimately
pliable like that. Right? But then you look, down the road and you kind of look
and see how that relationship plays out. Right. And, and I'm strategically
going somewhere with this because whether you're a millennial or Gen X'er, as
we look to those older generations, there was a lot of, the boomers and the
silent generation. There was a lot of that going on where you had the headstrong,
personality. And, and one might assume that it was the patriarchal, but you
know, I've also seen, relationships where it was absolutely matriarchal as
well, where one was really headstrong.  You know, I can think vividly of two specific
relationships where one was the father that was completely headstrong and the
mother that was, completely carefree and pliable and went with it. And then I
can think of another relationship, two totally different people where was
exactly opposite. So, I don't know the split, maybe it was more men versus
women. It doesn't matter though than that in this example it is. Well, where,
I'm going with this as sustainability because you look at those relationships
and you look at how they played out and you look at the toll that it took on
both of their relationships. Because for that to be sustainable and for that
person to be carefree, they had to get to a point where they didn't give a shit
anymore. And that is not love and that is not sustainable. And that's not fair.
Right. And it goes the other way too.

According toe

It's like you've got someone who's always had strong, always
had strong, always has to be right. That's not sustainable either because the
other person that drives them to have to take a position of not giving a shit.
Right. Because then they're getting pushed to the wayside, so they never feel
like they get the opportunity to have significance, if that makes sense. Right.
So there, there's that consequence too, always being right or there's a
consequence to always conceding. Right. And regardless of your behavior style,
cause that's going to be the other, the other thing to you is, as you're
listening to this, you play one of those two roles every single day, right? So,
the relationship that you've got with your husband or with your wife, right? Or
with your children, or with your mom, or with your dad, or with your coworker,
right? We all have different roles, right?

And so, like when I'm with, and so I can tell you right now,
like with my children, I'm more of the, I’m more of the opinionated one, right?
I'm more of the one that has to be right. It's, I'm more of the, I fall into
the trap of "my way or the highway". Right? As opposed to you. If I
did that with my wife, I can tell you right now, that would not be sustainable.
Right? She would not tolerate that because she is a strong-willed individual
herself. And so that is the ultimate, the, and, and for me, it's, it's evidence
that the relationship that we're in is sustainable and good because we're both
strong willed. Right? Because that's where, again, I'm 48 years old now and
it's taken me a long time to get to this point because I was a dumb ass when I
was in my twenties and I was in a relationship that was completely codependent
and not healthy.

And, you know, the roles that I played in that relationship
were ridiculous., right? And not one that I'm, I'm proud of today, but it's
because of that I've learned to be a better individual. Right. And, and a
better partner, because I learned you can't always be right. You can't always
be the one telling other people what to do.  and then of course after that I went from one
extreme to the other where I started dating and I started getting these strong-willed
women and all of a sudden, I was conceding, conceding and allowing them to be
right. But I quickly realized that wasn't going to be sustainable either.
Right? Because I'm a pretty strong willed individual and I can concede for a
little while, but I, at the end of the day, do you remember "Back to the

Marty McFly, it's like he was such the nice guy until
someone got to him right. Until, they flipped a switch and instantly he was like,
"that's not fair and you're not going to treat me or other people like
that". Right. I think I'm similar to that for a lot of the times. I'm
completely go with the flow until it's not fair and then it instantly switches
to a brick wall. We're now done. Right. So, I could only date women like that
for so long before I realized this isn't going to work for me long term. And so,
it wasn't until I met my beautiful wife, Becky, that I realized, wow, okay.
It's that give and the take, it's the Yin and the Yang, right? It's the ebb and
the flow where it's like, there are times where I do absolutely need to be the,
the "A-type" or I absolutely need to be strong.

Willed, and I absolutely need to be right or, or be
significant, right? But then there's other times where she absolutely needs to
feel the same way. And so that's kind of how we celebrate each other is by, you
know, putting that other person up on the pedestal, but not at the consequence
of putting ourselves beneath them. Right? It's almost like lifting them up with
us. Right? And then the next leap they take, they pull us up and then the next
leap I take, I pull her up and vice versa. Right? And it's all these
relationships. It's not just with your wife or with your significant other, which
with your best friend, it's with your children. It's with your coworkers, with
your boss. It's with the people that report to you. It's with all of these
people, right? You can't always be on top, right. It's that, that frequency,
Eckerd Tolle and Deepak Chopra talk a lot about the, like energy similar to the
analogy of the Yin and the Yang, right? And that flow of energy, everything is
on a frequency, right? And if you think about a radio frequency where you've
got the, the peak of the frequency, and then it drops down to the bottom of the
frequency and then it oscillates, right? And it goes back and forth, right? We
all operate on that as well, right? It's like right now I'm talking to you,
it's the morning I'm fired up and you can tell I'm, I'm ready to go. Right? But
I'm up at this high because I just came off of, six hours of amazing sleep.
Right? And so that's my downtime. That's my reset time. Right? And so, it's
these ebbs and these flows, right?

And just like, I'm at this peak right now, I can tell you
right now, that come two o'clock, I'm going to need to go run or I'm going to
need to go something to fire myself back up. because if I don't, I'm naturally
going to head back down. And so, and that's natural. It's, it's back to that
awareness of yourself and awareness of what you're doing. But kind of bringing
this back to what we're talking about right now, which is focusing on yourself
now, knowing all of these things to be true that we're talking about, to bring
another child analogy and as frequently as this morning, right. I come out and,
my oldest son, here, Noah, a nine-year-old, he's not my oldest son, my oldest
is Avery back in Portland. But,  my
oldest here, Noah, at nine years old, he's getting old frustrated this morning
with, with Kaitlin and  they're kind of
going back and forth and you know, I was like, what's going on about, he gets
like, well, you know, she said this and you know, it was something silly,

It's the, the typical kid stuff or it's like she was messing
with him because that's her job as the middle child. Her job is to mess with
the oldest kid. Right. And that's just her job and he won't, he refuses to
understand that. And I keep trying to tell him that. But then of course I
realized then that it's the 48-year-old trying to speak logically with the, the
nine-year-old. Right?

And then I realized they all your head, it's me that's
needed. The reset, not him. It's like negotiating with a terrorist. Right. It's
like they, they're not hearing you but, but she had done something to, and I
think she, it was the spirit of, as much as I say, she's messing with him, it's
the spirit of, she thought it was funny. She did something that was kind of
messing with him, but she thought it was funny. But the way that he received it
was that, that she was messing with him and that she was genuinely trying to be
mean spirited to him. And it was kind of like actually what she did and it was
some stupid bike. She threw something in a cereal or something. I don't know.
It was something that didn't matter. Right. And it was insignificant and it was
kind of walking through the different perceptions where it's, she did it, it
was, there's three sides to every story.

We all know that analogy, right? Where she, let's say she
threw something in a cereal, right? She thought was funny. She's busting up,
right? But she, he is receiving it as she is genuinely really messing with him
and it hurt his feelings. Right? And so, it's the same action but two different
interpretations of that action. And it's like, buddy, look at what it was and
reverse the roles, you put yourself in that role, right? And if you tossed it
in there, it would kind of be funny, wouldn't it? And so I finally got him to
that point where he was like, yeah, yeah, I guess, I guess that's right. Right?
And then, but I also flipped the two words. I Kaitlyn, you realize that what
you did, it kind of hurt his feelings and maybe you can kind of see how that
would make him upset and she kind of understood as well.

But the key was, was no one can control how you feel, right?
There's going to be certain things that happen all day long, that may not sit
well with you. And something might happen and you take it personally, right?
And you, you think they're messing with you, or it's that email that has caps
in the wrong spot, right? Or you're trying to read between the lines and all of
a sudden, you're not liking how this thing is reading, right? And all of a sudden,
you're like, why would they say that when the reality is, is they may not have
meant it like that, if that makes sense. And so the reason I'm bringing this
back is, again, back to the, the core message of this is paying attention to
yourself. Paying attention to what you're doing, paying attention to what
you're in control of, because you're absolutely in control of your feelings.

You're absolutely in control of your actions, right? And so,
you've got a sister that throws something in your cereal, you, you get to
choose how to react. You get to either choose to laugh, you get to choose to
either be upset, you get to choose to grit your teeth, you get to choose to not
care. There's lots of different choices. There's lots of different ways that
you can react, right? Then there are some reactions that are acceptable, and
there's some that are definitely not acceptable, right? And getting angry and
throwing a tantrum, that's not cool, right? But regardless, even farther upstream,
of judging consequences that like that, and you get to choose how you feel, you
get to choose how to interpret that, right? If you're feeling bad, it's because
you choose to. It's not because what happened is truly bad, right?

It's because you're choosing to feel like that. Now we're
talking about throwing something in cereal, right? We're not talking about
something serious like an assault or something like that, right? So, there are
times where it's a little more complicated than that, but Pareto's law, the
80/20 rule, that 80% of the shit that we worry about is oftentimes our
interpretation of that event as opposed to the actual event itself. And let
that sink in really quick. Right? because that's, that's a pretty impactful
statement as far as, what we're dealing with in Canada, the baggage that we
carry day in, day out, right? So much of what stuck inside of our heads or when
we get stuck inside of our heads and it has more to do with us than it has to
do with anybody else. And it has to do with our perception of the outside world,
and our fear of the outside world.

Right? So,  that goes
all the way back to playing tic-tac-toe with your child or, with,  someone else that's a, you think you're going
to be able to beat them just fine could be a chess game, it could be checkers,
but at the end of the day, you want to be paying attention to what you're doing
as opposed to what other people are doing. And that doesn't mean you don't need
to be aware of what they're doing. But again, back to that example of losing
and tic-tac-toe game to a seven-year-old because I wasn't paying attention.
There's a lot of lessons to be learned in that and I'm sure that that happens
to you quite often in your day to day life as well. So, so today as you embark
on your amazing day and having that drank this Kool-Aid a little bit, right?

I want you to be aware of how you're interacting with other
people. I want you to be aware of how other people are interacting with you and
the first time that you feel happy, I want you to think, why do I have, why
does that make me feel happy? The next time you're a little upset, I want you
to think, why is that making me upset? Or if it, whenever that feeling is,
whatever that emotion is, if you can catch yourself and catch yourself in that
moment, I want you to ask that question of, okay, here's what I'm feeling right
now. I'm feeling laughter, right? I'm feeling frustration, I'm feeling anger,
whatever that feeling is, right? Because at that point I want you to ask
yourself, why am I feeling like this? Right? Ask yourself the "why"
and I want you to also ask yourself, is this my interpretation or their
interpretation or am I in control of these feelings or am I allowing them to be
in control of my feelings?

Right? That's a big one. And I'll repeat that.

Am I in control of my feelings?

Or am I allowing someone else to be in control of my

Because that is a big deal right there. If you can get that
figured out, you're, you're one of the top 10% of the people out there, right?
Because so many people, cause that's the other thing to you. And that could be
at the other part of this, of this exercise for you as well is look at other
people around you as well. And especially look at people that carry heavy
burdens, right? Or carry frustration easily and look at how easily rattled that
they can be and ask that same question. It's are the, are they in control of
their feelings right now or is someone else in control of their feelings right
now? And the more you kind of go through this exercise and at least be aware of
that, right?

At this point, this is what the 22-minute podcast or whatever
it is. It's like we're not solving all the world's problems in 22 minutes guys.
But what we are doing is we're planting seeds and we're starting conversations
and we're starting to create awareness because this is something that you know,
I've been working on for the last 30 years, right? And this is something that
you will continue to work on for the next 30 years, right? It's being in
control of our feelings, being in control of our emotions, being control of our
actions. And being accountable for them, right? And really taking ownership of
that because it's a lifetime of work. And the more that we work on it, the more
fulfilled that we are. Right. But it all comes back to that game of
tic-tac-toe. Right.  That was another
great quote that I learned at -I think it was a Tony Robbins, unleash the power
within -where it was.

"The, the way you play games is the way you live life."

That, that pauses intentional there, by the way. Because say
that again, the way you play games is the way you live your life. And that is
so true, right? If you're kind of half ass in your games and you're not putting
forth effort and there's a good chance that you're kind of half ass in your
life, but not putting forth a bunch of effort as opposed to if you're really engaged
in, if you're playing full out, and you're really trying during a game, you're
probably doing similar in your life as well. Right? And so there was another
analogy, another gem for you to take away. Right? But that's kind of bringing
it back full circle. It's like the next time you're playing that game, keep
yourself engaged and be aware of how you're playing that game. How much time
are you focused on what they're doing, how much time are you focused on what
you're doing? And so, that’s all I've got for you today. That's a massive
learning that I had and I hope it's a valuable lesson for you as well. And Hope
you have a beautiful day and a tune in for the next podcast, because I'll have
another gem for you. See you...take care!

Leave a Reply