Openhanded Victories

Dad always plays Settlers of Catan with an open hand. At any point in the game, we can all see his resource cards. When we play our knights or shift the robber, he lets us take whatever card we want.

When I first played Catan with him, I sneered at his lax playing style and determined that I was going to win this game.

“He’s not going to fool me into letting my guard down,” I thought to myself.

The crazy thing?

Dad wins quite often at Settlers of Catan.

While the rest of us play politics and cut the shrewdest bargains, Dad politely asks for resource trades while having all his resources face up….

And he still wins about half the time.


My Dad has taught me many things throughout my life. Many traits to model, and many to avoid.

But with his Catan playstyle, he has arguably the most fun out of all of us. He’s just having a good time spending time with his family. Victory is a nice bonus for him, but the real treat is just spending time together.

AND YET HE STILL WINS TIME AFTER TIME.


For a long time, I’ve lived my life in constant fear of “losing.”

As a child, one time as we exited the freeway, I asked my Dad, “Which car wins the race?”

My Dad asked some clarifying questions, and verified that I was referring to the cars that just exited alongside us.

“No one wins the race Paul, because there is no race. People are just driving.”

“But who wins?!” I protested.


It’s such a funny and seemingly pointless story, but it perfectly encapsulates my years long outlook on life.

I don’t have time to smell the flowers..

I never appreciate the season I’m in and I’m always thinking about the next.

If I’m not thinking about the next season, then I’m agonizing about the last few seasons.

What could I have done better?

What should I have said instead?

It it’s a good time that I’m having, how can I replicate this in the future?

It’s exhausting and it’s sad, because you don’t really appreciate the good ol days until they are a story about the good ol days.


There’s something so deep about my Dad showing how many sheep, ore, wheat, brick, and wood he has. His actions imply that he has surrendered keeping his intentions secret, in order to more enjoy the time he is spending with his family.

He finds that the family time is more valuable than winning and in doing so almost asks all of us: Was the game created to be won, or to connect us?

And so I turn and I ask you: Is life a race to be won with competitors to be beaten?

Or is it a journey where the connections and being present are what make it unforgettable?

Because my Dad plays to connect with us….

But he still ends up winning.