The Frogger Principle

Charles married Diana, the Iran hostage crisis ended, and the Post-It note was born. But the thing about 1981 that I’ll remember most: Frogger.

One month before my 11th birthday, the iconic arcade game came to life and I was hooked. Often blowing off homework, friends, food, and semi-regular bathing, Frogger was my compulsion. Despite graphics that today could be designed by my 4-year-old daughter Tallia, the game was addictive to millions just like me.

With my Atari joystick in hand, I was in control of the heroic amphibian who was determined to cross the river. Problem was, my inept little frog couldn’t swim. He was only able to secure safe passage by hopping from one solid surface to the next. The back of a Lily pad. A floating log. A cagey alligator swimming by.

The challenge, as some of you may remember along with Tab Cola and Pop Rocks, is that these hard surfaces weren’t stationary. In fact, they flowed down the river at an increasingly faster and faster pace, creating a dangerous environment for my jumpy little friend. Our protagonist had to quickly leap from one point of safety to the next or he’d meet his maker in the raging river of death. Standing still – even for a moment – was tantamount to suicide.

Frogger couldn’t rest on his successes for more than a millisecond; he had to keep hopping ahead in order to survive his hostile environment. The quest for forward progress in the midst of imminent danger is what made the game so compelling. Navigating chaos in order to reach a new destination. Frogger contributed to my embarrassingly low report card marks in 6th grade, but I learned far more from Frogger than doing long division in Mrs. Morrison’s math class.

If you really think about it, we are all playing a giant three-dimensional game of Frogger.

Our successes aren’t permanent, but rather a temporary state in the context of unprecedented change and increasingly difficult circumstances. That fleeting moment of stability is the equivalent of our Kermit-esque buddy landing on the back of a turtle. It simply can’t be savored indefinitely. Instead, we must leap from one success… to the next… to the next, unless we’re prepared to be swept into the rapids.

Standing still doesn’t only kill frogs. The comfort and satisfaction of a momentary success lures too many smart people into thinking they don’t need to keep on hoppin’ (sounds like a catchy name for a country song, no?)

None of us need to drown in complacency. Like the friendly frog, we must remain in a state of motion in order to meet the ever-changing challenges of the day. The other side of the river bank is in view. It’s time to leap forward.