When does perseverance become foolhardiness? Here's a jolt that explores this question.


The facilitator deals 13 cards face down. A participant turns any two cards face up and gets to keep them if they are of the same value. Otherwise the cards are turned face down. Other participants yell out advice to the player. The cards are set up in such a way that there are no matching cards.


To explore factors that encourage people to give up or to stick it out.


One or more.


3 minutes for the activity and 2 minutes for debriefing.


A deck of playing cards.

Learning Point

Sometimes it is foolish to persevere.


Arrange the top 13 cards in the deck in such a way that the suits are random but the values have no duplicates. In other words, you have Ace through King of different suits (but only one card of each value) as the first 13 cards. Place the deck on the table.


Select a volunteer. Invite a member of the audience to come to the front of the room and play an abridged version of the card game Concentration (also known as Memory).

Brief the player. Explain that you will spread a set of cards face down on the table. The player turns any two cards at a time. If they are of the same value (two 6s, for example), she gets to keep them. Otherwise, they are turned face down and the game continues. The object of the game is to pair up all of the face down cards.

Conduct the first step. Ask the player to turn any two cards from the spread on the table, show them to the audience, and tell them what they are. If the cards are of the same value (they will not be), tell the player to set them aside. If they are not of the same value, ask the player to replace them, face down, in their original location.

Brief the audience. Ask audience members on the left side of the room to shout out encouragement: optimistic and reassuring messages recommending that the player keep going. At the same time, ask audience members on the right side of the room to shout out discouragement: pessimistic and gloomy thoughts recommending that the player give up.

Continue the game. At the end of each round, ask the player if she wants to continue. Repeat the procedure until the player gives up.

Debrief. Ask questions about repeated failure and frustration. Explore the types of self-talk that accompanies repeated failure. Contrast persistence and foolhardiness.