Friday, March 19, 2010

Find and Use Your “Free Square”

I was just a kid the first time I stepped into a bingo hall. I had come with a friend, expecting an evening of light-hearted fun. Instead, I quickly realized that the tension in the room was palpable. Under glaring fluorescent lights, the most serious players hovered over a dozen or more cards, furiously, scanning the numbers, never even glancing up at the caller. This was clearly no place for goofing around.

As a bingo newbie, I sat with my lone card in front me, feeling slightly more at ease when I slid the little red shutter across my “free square” space. All through the night, I would clear my entire card between rounds, and then wait to pull the free square shutter until play began again. I liked the notion that one small part of the game wasn’t left to chance.

I couldn’t predict what numbers would be drawn, but I could know for certain that the center square of my card held the promise of moving me closer to a win. It was a valuable space, just as valuable as any of the numbers that were called all throughout the evening.

Author Victoria Moran argues that you have a free square in your life too, that place where you have a gift or a forte, the thing that comes easily to you, when it might seem difficult or even impossible to someone else. She contends that you probably tend to undervalue this free square, the very thing that might be your most practical asset. This is often because you haven’t paid close attention to it and because it doesn’t necessarily fit into the mold of “talent.”

Take my husband, for example. He has a mathematical mind, the kind that can quickly calculate the price per ounce when we’re at the grocery store or figure our gas mileage when we’re filling up at the pump. He can do fractions like a whiz and can compute large numbers faster than I whip out a calculator. He catches mistakes on financial documents, is a master at working a budget, and has actually been known to do algebra for fun. His mathematical mind is his free square.

I, on the other hand, do not have a mathematical mind, but I do have an aptitude for cooking. I’m at home in the kitchen, knowing when a dash of Worcestershire would give a dish the kick it needs or when the banana muffins are done because of the way they smell. I cook for people when they have new babies or experience a death in the family. I cook to share time with people I care about. And I have been known to cook for fun.

Your free square could be small engine repair, wine making, knitting, taping and texturing walls, cleaning, building, sewing, meeting people, or organizing, among hundreds of other things. The key is learning to recognize and use your free square, in whatever way brings you the best results. This might mean you use it for recreation, to help someone else, to make money, or just for the sheer pleasure of doing something that comes easily to you (even if it’s algebra).

CCCS/ACCE –American Center for Credit Education
Carey Denman

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