The Game of Life – Chutes and Ladders
by Joe Gandolfo

My youngest son Duncan, now 8 and age 3 at the time, came to me one morning and asked if I wanted to play. Being a part-time stay-at-home Dad in those days mixed with the responsibility of growing a company, I was torn like an old faded pair of jeans. The difference was that I was not comfortable with this simple request.

“Yes, I wanted to play” part of me thought. “No! You must work and grow your company” was the conflicting thought. Back and forth in my mind these two thoughts raced. In a moment as quick as the request was offered to me, I looked at my boy and said “yes, let’s play”.

“Cool Dad” he stated, “let’s play Chutes and Ladders”. “You have got to be kidding me – CHUTES and LADDERS, come on little buddy how about poker”, I thought. With a hesitant smile I was off with him to play Chutes and Ladders. He opened the box, we set up the board and put two of those extremely happy people pieces on square #1. I could not remember when I last played THIS GAME, I tried to be as happy as the people pieces looked.

We began to take turns spinning the number spinner and moving our pieces. I explained to him how to move his people piece back and forth along the rows, the goal being to climb the ladders and to avoid sliding down the slides. I pointed to the final square, THE ULTIMATE GOAL, the winning square with the blue ribbon and the gold numbers 1 – 0 – 0.

“This is the square you want to get to Duncan to WIN THE GAME” I told him. As he spun the number spinner, I showed him which direction to move. It was not long before he landed on a ladder, I gladly showed him how to climb the ladder. “Climbing the ladder Duncan moves you closer to the top” I told him. We took a few turns back and forth moving our pieces along the rows. I hit a slide and down I went thinking only about how this game may take longer than I wished it would take to finish. Work was on my mind.

As Duncan was climbing he landed on a space with a slide and as he slid down the slide he threw his hands above his head his head and hollered out a “whoooooooooo”. I looked at him puzzled, taken by his joyful response. We kept playing, taking turns moving our game pieces, climbing ladders with me repeatedly pointing out to Duncan the ULTIMATE GOAL. “Remember, you want to get to this space here with the blue ribbon and the gold numbers 1 – 0 – 0, that is the space you want to get to too WIN!”

A voice went off in my head – “WIN DUNCAN WIN! Climb the ladders of life son, you can DO IT! Climb …… WIN!”

It was then that he was close to the final square, but he landed on the space with the largest slide in the game. As he slid down the slide he again threw up his arms and bellowed out another joyous “whoooooooo”. I could not believe it, this game was going to continue, OH NOOOOOO I thought ……….. then it struck me. Duncan was having more fun sliding down the slides than he was climbing the ladders.

This game I wanted him to win so bad, this game I wanted to be over sooner rather than later, this game I turned into a life lesson of climbing to the top to WIN SON WIN! – is not what is most important. He just wanted to PLAY.

He reminded me that climbing the ladders of life is not what is most important. He reminded me to enjoy the slides of life and that the slides do come to an end. He reminded me to play, holler, laugh and enjoy. I have asked him many times since if he wanted to play Chutes and Ladders.

© 2005 Joseph Gandolfo International

Author's Bio: 

Joe Gandolfo is a conveyor of powerful ideas and principles that change lives. He is on a mission to champion the greatest commodity in today’s world - our youth, teenagers and young adults, as well as to rally, strengthen and energize the adults - parents, educators, health professionals and organizations - who work with and care about our young people.

For nearly 20 years, Joe has engaged firsthand the human experience as a licensed counselor. He has coached, counseled and spoken to thousands of individuals and groups including youth, teenagers, collegiate student-athletes, professional athletes, adults, parents, educators, public and private schools, organizations and associations.

Joe firmly believes that there is structure to success, and his programs lead young people to reach their greatest potential. As a professional speaker, success coach, seminar leader, motivational counselor and author, Joe challenges preteens, teens and young adults to make effective decisions and build their lives in positive ways. He also provides parents, educators and health professionals with the insight, ideas and information they need to understand, communicate with and support young people.