Before you dive into this blog post, I would like to tell you something, that you may not know or may not have been told. YOU are AMAZING, SKILLED, COURAGEOUS, and VALUED.
Not because of your wins or losses, social stature or your expertise. No, you are all of the above because you choose to compete. You go out and test your resolve; mentally, emotionally, and socially time and time again. Take this moment to reflect on all of your experiences. Think about those hard fought games, the ups and the downs. The way they made you feel during and after. Think about the way people reacted to those games. Really put yourself there again. Now think about the people you’ve met. Your training partners, your teammates, your friends.
All of these experiences shape you, and drive underlying motivations for why you compete. But there was a time before you had all of these motivations. However, you didn’t let that stop you from competing. So what is stopping you now?
A Troubling Trend
Recently I have noticed a trend occurring around me, of players who have a desire to quit doing what they love. Now everyone moves on from competition at some point in their life, and when a player is done, sometimes they are just simply done. It’s happened to many great athletes such as Barry Sanders, and many great eSports players such as Zorozero. Ultimately a player knows when they just don’t have it in them anymore, and we wish them the best.
With all of that being said, and my recent experiences, I’ve decided to write this to offer a different perspective for those who are just in a slump. This blog is not intended to judge any players right to quit playing or to pressure anyone to continue playing. It is simply being written to remind you of all reasons you love competing, and to help you identify what really motivates you, and hopefully to keep you from giving up.
Learning to Ride
Do you remember your first tournament? First ranked match? Or even just your first time playing the game? Really try to remember what feelings surrounded you. Not only were you trying to prove something to yourself, but you were also trying to prove something to a bunch of strangers. For some players it takes a lot of self-talk and courage to throw themselves into the proving ground. In fact, some players never make it at all. But you’ve believed in yourself so much up to this point, that now you are here. Doubt, fear, and anxiety aren’t present for you. Even if it is, it’s a very minimal amount of trepidation.
Win or lose you are going to play. You’re like an excited kid waiting for their first bike. You have no idea how to ride it, or what that first fall is going to feel like. But once you get it, you ride.
So how did we get to here? What happened to that fearless bike rider? This reminds me of a player that I know, who suffered from the same slump. Let’s call him ‘Trix’. I was introduced to Trix some years ago. Trix had found out about our local tournament scene through a friend, and after weeks of begging him, he finally decided to come out. He didn’t start placing well over-night though. It took a good few months before he really started to climb the ranks. He wasn’t the most social though, even after being in the scene for a few months. Though he eventually would open up, we didn’t really see it until we started to travel outside of our scene.
Trix was now immersed into a group of well respected and talented players. As with all new introductions, it took some time and proving before the veterans of that scene would open their arms to him. But it was only a matter of time, he was improving rapidly. All of a sudden, Trix is being invited to out of state tournaments, and to people’s house sessions. He was hardly around the local scene anymore.
One day he came back to a local tournament and brought some of his new friends. He wanted to show them where he came from, and the type of talent he was leaving behind. However, this tournament didn’t go the way he assumed it would, and he was beaten quite easily by the people who knew him best. I walked over to him to see if he was okay.
“Yo, Trix are you okay?” I had never seen him so rattled. He appeared frustrated, scared and anxious.
“No I’m not okay! Did you see how I lost, and worse who I lost too?!” He pointed back towards the crowd.
“These guys are going to think I’m a joke. I’m never going to get invited to any out of region tournaments. I bet they won’t even talk to me anymore.”
Obviously this was a knee-jerk reaction but I let him get it out.
“We all of days like this, Trix. Just relax and try to enjoy the rest of the night.” I said to him, but it didn’t seem to get through.
Trix went on to have a lot of questionable tournament placings after that night. Not long after he decided to quit. It was clear to me that external validations turned his motivations into fears.
The Thin Line
What Trix went through happens to almost everybody. We all go from the eager kid on the bike, to the result driven, expectation worry wort at some point. It comes with improvement and success. How we choose to identify it and navigate it, is what separates us.
External Validations can make competing a very difficult task. In Trix’s case, he got so wrapped up in the correlation between his results and his social stature that he struggled to calm his mind while competing. That social stature may have been the motivation that he used to push himself to improve. Once he got it, his goal changed from, be among the best to, stay among the best. Even if he didn’t realize it.
He went from playing to win, to playing not to lose.
The Cure is Action
I’ve echoed across the website and our book the concept of being open with yourself and identifying your motivations. If you incorporate those motivations with your goals, you can fortify your emotional resilience. You also gain the benefit of being able to set new goals after completing the first ones. Actively changing your motivations as you go. Having this form of success vision will ensure that you are always present. You know what you have, what you’ve gained and what you want.
Don’t wait. Think about your original motivations, and think about what they are now. Write them down, build a plan, create expectancy, restore self-trust.
Greatness Lies Within
Everything you are going through right now, is just part of the journey. There are going to be great days, and awful days. People are going to come and go. Doors will open and close. Above all else, you have the ability to set your own goals, perform to your own standard, and grade your own results.
Don’t let results or certain outcomes pull you away from the process of learning and improvement. Chase after those victorious feelings, capture them. Accept the negative reactions and convert them to fuel.
Your performance, in anything, I repeat, ANYTHING, does not represent you as a person. Your relationships with people are not solely dictated by the game that you play. People will be more favorable to you, and some less. If you’re worried that your performance will make people talk to you less, or be less of your friends. Let me be the first to tell you, that’s not the case. People may come to know you for your performance, but they stay for who you are, and your will to compete.
Always do you absolute best. Focus on the here, and the now, and let the chips fall where they may.
If you’re in a slump right now. Feel the need to quit. Just remember that you’ve made it this far. You were fearless up to this point. Don’t let your fears rob you of your potential and the joy you feel. Watch this video, it’s one of my favorites.