I had learnt a two-player game, Bulls & Cows, during my first job of teaching. Of course, now you could play it online too or you even get apps for smartphones. Check it out; it is for all ages and is quite fun!

In essence, one player holds a four-digit number in her mind and the other player must guess the number in the least number of attempts. The guessing player gets clues from the other player about how close her number is to the actual number to be guessed. These clues are expressed in the counts of cows and bulls. A cow is a digit that is correct but not in the right position in the number and a bull is a digit that is correct and matches even the position. You know you guessed the number right when the clue is Four Bulls!

There is no logic required for making your first guess. But as the game progresses, you have more and more clues for making better guesses. As you notice the person who is guessing the number gets all the fun and the person giving clues has a thankless job of carefully giving the clues.

It was a common sight in our college’s staff room to see two teachers playing it. Our most senior colleague, Mr. Raikar also learnt this game and started enjoying it. He used to pester us all the time to join him to let him guess the number. On one such day, he asked me to hold the number. I was in no mood to involve myself but reluctantly agreed. I decided to manipulate. As soon as he wrote his first guess, I showed excitement on my face and said, “Sir! Four Bulls!” It was surprising that he took it as his achievement! I did this to him only occasionally so that he does not know that I was tricking him. Interestingly after few days, he even started boasting around about how he requires just one attempt to guess the number!

Don’t you find it funny? What is the point of the puzzle if it does not even challenge you! It is like looking at the solution and filling the crossword. It’s a small funny incident but I am reminded of it always when in life I get disappointed when I don’t get quick success. Am I not doing stupidity that Mr. Raikar did? At my day job, I often get tough jobs to program or tough bugs to fix. At some weak moment, I get frustrated about it, but soon I think of Mr. Raikar and then start enjoying the whole process of working on the challenge.

I had read this interesting book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson just a few years back that puts this concept quite well – “The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place… the solutions to today’s problems will lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems, and so on. True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.”

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