Gambling on Business: What a Dreidel Can Teach You

by Shonali Burke on December 2, 2010

Dreidels =D
I have plenty of fond holiday memories from growing up.

My dad and my uncle getting into a latke-eating competition to see who could down the most potato pancakes… ripping through wrapping paper with my sisters… and watching my grandfather help my littlest cousins light their menorahs.

But one of the most useful memories I have is sitting down to play dreidel.

If you’re not familiar with how Hanukkah is celebrated, the dreidel is a four-sided top, with a Hebrew letter painted on the side.

Image: Julie V via Flickr, Creative Commons

There’s a traditional gambling game that goes along with the dreidel: each player antes up for a pot and we take turns spinning the dreidel. Depending on the side it lands on, a player might win the whole pot, half the pot, have to put more money into the pot, or neither gain nor lose anything.

In my family, we always played with Hanukkah gelt (chocolate shaped into coins) or nuts, but some families play with loose change.

What The Dreidel Taught Me About Business

My family is ruthless when it comes to games. We each want to win — and win big! Most of the time, I would play with my cousins, but every once in a while, my dad and my aunts would get in on the game.

It was a game of chance, but that didn’t stop any of us from trying to influence the results. We would shake tables, blow on the dreidel and do everything else we could think of. This could result in plenty of hurt feelings, especially when we were little.

I remember one spin I made that was “influenced” in such a manner. It fell so that I had to put more money in the pot. I was upset, practically in tears and wanted to stop playing right then.

My dad told me something that I’ve never forgotten: “If you want to win big, you have to take the risk. You have to keep putting money in the pot.”

It’s just as true of a business as a game of dreidel — if you want to win, you have to take risks.

Of course, you don’t need to take every risk or even risk too big: my cousin once shook the table so hard that the dreidel wound up on the floor.

While he was down on the ground, looking for it, the rest of us divided up his gelt and ate a good chunk of it.

The biggest risks may pay off, but you have to be aware of the consequences of taking them.

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Regular contributor Thursday Bram offers content marketing through Hyper Modern Consulting, as well as more traditional writing services. She’s also the co-creator of Constructively Productive, the blog that’s bringing perspective to productivity. You can find Thursday on Twitter.

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