What Wordle Taught Me

By Shlomo Maital  

    Wordle is a web-based word game created and developed by Welsh software engineer Josh Wardle and owned and published by the New York Times Company since 2022.  Players have six attempts to guess a five-letter word, with feedback given for each guess in the form of colored tiles indicating when letters match or occupy the correct position.

   T hanks, wordle!  You taught me some valuable life lessons.  And that’s not trivial, for one who is 80 years old and knows it all.

    Today I got “flirt” on my second guess, after opening with “adieu”.  A plurality of wordle players always starts with “adieu”, usually one in 12) because it has four vowels, even though the wordle genie usually explains it is not the best choice. 

    Wordle kindly informs me that I have played 158 times, guessed right 87% of the time, currently have a streak of three in a row, and that my longest streak is 24 correct guesses.  I love this.  Former New York City mayor Ed Koch used to stand at Metro stops and ask passers-by,  how am I doing?  It’s crucial for elected officials, and for all of us, to know how we are doing. Wordle tells me daily.  I admit, I was furious when my streak of 24 right answers was broken. But that is part of the fun.  Love it, hate it – enjoy it.

    Wordle exercises my brain.  For years I taught my MBA students that the brain is a muscle; exercise it regularly, practice creative thinking.  Wordle is push-ups for my neurons.  It is fun, challenging, painful when you fail, exhilarating when you succeed.  On balance, pleasant.  This will keep you at it every day.  It’s addictive.  Like fun exercise.

    Wordle teaches you persistence.  I failed to guess “maize” in six tries.  That irritates me.  Failure is a great motivator.  You learn from it.  Wordle loves to slip in “y” and “z” and even “x” – letters a bit uncommon in words.  I learned from maize not to ignore “z”.  And I learned not to accept failure.  Five guesses, one more to go —  persist!  Go through the possibilities one by one, until you get it. 

    Focus.  Lots of distractions in the morning, when the New York Times appears on my smartphone.  Coffee machine. Cable news.  My spouse.  The dog wanting to walk.  Focus!  Zero in on wordle.  For 15 minutes, nothing else exists in the world, but wordle.

     Wordle gives you instant feedback.  If you wish.  Like, “you might have chosen ‘stare’, two vowels and three very common consonants. That would have narrowed the range of possible solutions.”   Most of us are stubborn. People continue to go with ‘adieu’, despite wordle’s sage advice.  Lately, I have repented.  I do not always go with adieu.  It pays off.  Live and learn – even at age 80.

   So, thanks wordle.  You’re not just a word game.  In a word — you’re a lifestyle coach.