Happyness as a card game

Three middle managers are instructed to take a special test. The first arrives at the testing room and sees that it is empty except for a wastebasket in the middle of the floor.

“Your task, the proctor says, “is to sail playing cards into the basket. Your score is the number of times you succeed.”

The first manager squints at the basket. “You got to be kidding. That thing is way out there.”

“Nevertheless, that is the task.”

The manager grumbles, grabs the deck of cards handed to him, and, with a scowl, flips them one after another towards the center of the room. The cards flitter every which way, but three end up in the basket.

“So, my score is 3 out of 52, right?” the manager asks.

“Yes, that is correct,” the proctor answers as he adds the score to a tally sheet on a clipboard.

“Stupid game,” the manager mutters as he leaves. He is an unhappy man.


The second manager arrives and listens to the same instructions. Then with a sly grin, he asks the proctor, “You did not tell me where I have to stand, did you?”

“No, your are right. Where to stand is not in the instructions.”

“OK, then,” the manager says as he grabs the deck of cards from the proctor’s hand. “How about this?”

He strides purposefully in the room until he is hovering directly over the basket. Raising his hand high in the air, he hurls the deck forcefully downward. It hits the bottom of the basket with a crash.

“Put me down for 52,” he says as he brushes off one palm against the other.

“Yes, your score is 52,” the proctor says.

“Stupid game,” the manager mutters as he leaves. He is an unhappy man.


The third man arrives and listens to the same instructions. Without saying a word, he walks into the room about half the distance from the door to the basket.

Carefully holding a card as horizontal as he can, he flicks it towards the target. The card flutters around a bit but lands nowhere near the goal.

Undaunted, the manager walks a dozen steps closer and tries again. This time, the card goes in with a satisfying ping as it ricochets off of one of the basket’s walls. He tries another card, and it too scores! Then ping, ping, ping! Five cards are successes.

But now, the manager backs up two steps before his next attempt. This time he misses, and then he misses again. Still undaunted, he moves a step closer and tries again. Moving back and forth to make adjustments, he finally finds a range from which he can get most of the cards into the basket — but not all.

He walks out of the room, whistling.


A somewhat sappy story to be sure, but the moral is clear.

Happiness is striving for a goal that you have a good chance of achieving but that is not absolutely certain. You have to pay attention and do your best, each step along the way.

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