Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Life is a Role Playing Game

Have you ever played a computer Role Playing Game? I have. Some of my fondest memories are of playing RPG’s. One of my favorites was Daggerfall. The main goal for most RPG’s is to go through the game and kill the boss. You follow the storyline and eventually you can kill the big bad guy at the end. You can’t just build your character, and then jump to the end, you have to level up your guy.

While playing Daggerfall, I spent a whole lot of time just working to level up my character. I’d build a guy with certain traits, so that I could get the guy to level up faster. He’d be biased to level up certain skills, so that he would be able to get his actual level higher. I’d spend entire weekends crafting a spell, and then just shooting that spell into a wall until he was out of manna, and then rest him; wake him up, and do it all over again. Seriously, I’d go home on a Friday, and not leave from behind the computer unless I had to pee or if I fell asleep. I was very intent on making my guy into a bad ass. There were certain other things that I’d work to level the guy up on, based on his skills. Like, you could hear a rat on the other side of the door, and then crack the door open a little, and just pickpocket the heck out of the thing until you’d advance your pickpocket skill. I’d pickpocket the same rat for hours. I’d never get more than a scrap or one friggin coin from it, but it wasn’t pickpocketing to get something, it was to increase the skill. I’d spend hours jumping, slicing, punching, swinging, all at nothing, in the Inn upper room, and then rest; just to level up my guy. As he leveled up, he could go and do more things easier. He may have never actually fought anyone or gone on a quest for the first 2 weeks of creating a new character, but when he was ready to meet the world, he was already an ass kicker. 

Your life is a lot like a video game. You are the character. You have chosen what you want your character to be, a lot of who you are is based on the roll of the dice to determine what your base skills are. You might not have started out as the strongest, smartest, fastest; but you can continually work on those skills to get them up to a better level.

Everytime you level up, you need to determine how you are going to assign your new skill points. Do you want to be smarter, stronger, faster, or have more charisma? 

So, in life, how do you level up? It’s the same as in video games. Do you want to be stronger? Lift. You won’t get much stronger if you just lift a little. You have to apply yourself. You have to sit in the weightroom and throw your spells against the wall until you have to rest. You won’t get stronger by just lifting once or twice. You have to do it a lot. When you do get to the point where you have progressed, then next time you go to a next level, you will have to work harder than you did before. If your goal is to bench 200, and you are at 150, each time you move up a weight, going to the next level is going to be harder. Leveling up in games and in life is much easier at the beginning. Going from 150 to 155 to 160 to 165 is pretty easy, when you go from the 185 to 190 to 195 to 200, it starts to get much harder. You still need to throw those spells against the wall. Once you do get up to 185 you may not be at your goal yet, but doing the 150 again is easy. 

When you are at an advanced level, some of the earlier tasks (that others haven’t even tried yet), can tend to look easy to an outsider. Why is it easy for you and not for others? It’s because you’ve done that thing thousands of times. It wasn’t simple for you at the start, but you’ve done it so often that it looks easy now. Others will sometimes have difficulty looking at you, thinking the things you do are easy, when it’s just that you’ve mastered the task. 

Leveling up in life requires you to stand in the corner and throw spells at the wall. If you want to be something, don’t just think that you’ve done it once so you’ve mastered it. When you’ve done it a thousand times you are coming close.

There are other ways of increasing your level. Sometimes, you can go see a trainer in the games to get better at a skill. In life, you can attend training, you can read a book, you can get a coach. All these things help in getting you up to a higher level, but after a while, you’ve still got to do the things so many times that you just know exactly what you are doing. 

I work in IT. I make printing work. I often think that people look at me and believe that the job I do is easy. The reason it appears easy is because I’ve done it so often that for me, it is. It’s still something that most people can’t do. It’s something that most people don’t want to do. I’m good at it, because I handle around 1000 printers a day, every day, for the past 14 years. I’ve created those print queues, I’ve set the default trays, I’ve added email and ldap, I’ve done it so much that I’m really good at it. I’m a high level at those things. My character is really good at that task.  It’s not a level one task, I’m just good at it. 

Do you watch golf on tv and dismiss it because the guys on tv make it look too easy? Have you ever golfed? How did you score? You are probably at least 2 strokes a hole worse than the people on tv. Do you want to get better at golf? You need to stand in the corner and level up. Go to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls. To be as good as the people on tv, you probably need to hit as many balls as they have. So, you are probably only a couple hundred thousand swings behind. So, you better start swinging.  They have a coach, you should probably get a coach too. They’ve read books, you should read books too. You will be able to measure your level at golf, by watching your handicap drop, your scores get lower, and the money you are taking from your friends. 

How good are you at billiards? Practice is how those guys on tv in the tournaments get good. Shoot the same shot 1000 times, you will probably get pretty good at that shot. That’s just for that shot. Most things are the same in billiards, but you can put top, bottom, left, right… what’s the ball going to do in each situation? How many combo’s have you practiced? Each of these skills are going to be required for you to get to a higher level overall. 

The next thing you have to wonder about is, do you want to win most of the time, or do you want to be able to beat everybody?

Being a high level at something will let you win most of the time. Being the highest at all the skills will let you win nearly all the time. Nobody wins everytime. Nobody loses everytime. You may be the best, or you may be the worst, but you could have a bad day, or you could have the best day, flukes happen. Being skilled at all facets, definitely increases your odds.
Are you doing something, and you are tired of losing? You can either quit, or you can work to make yourself better. Identify your weaknesses (they aren’t as easy to figure out as just looking at your stat sheet), and work on that skill. 

When I work at the brewery, I think of all the jobs that I’m doing as different skills that I’m working on leveling up. Every time a wash a glass, I’m working on that skill. Every beer poured, is making me better. Each flight, tshirt, glass, sticker, keg change… those are all making me into a better barman. You may think pouring a beer is easy, it’s not that tough, the hard part is not throwing a glass at a customer when there are 20 people who came in out of nowhere, who all want flights, when you only planned for a certain amount of people. You don’t want to start someone new on a busy Friday evening, you start them on a slow Monday. When they get good on slow Monday, move them to a more fast paced night. When they can handle that without going crazy or crying in the corner, then you can move them to the busy night. Let them level up before you send them to face the games ultimate boss. 

 When I watch Rich, Greg, and Anthony on the staff brew days, it’s amazing for me to see how much more they know about what they are doing back there. Those guys know how to do the things back there, and they make it look easy. They asked me once to hook a hose up to the plate chiller, and it took me about 5 minutes to figure out the clamp. I asked if it was something that couldn’t be done, and they were just making the new guy do it, but they assured me it could be done. I have very little skill at that task. They know how to do the hoses, the clamps, when to add acid, when to do the other things too, and it’s amazing to watch them work as a team. When the brewery first opened, they didn’t know how to do those things. They did it so many times, they know what they are doing now. They spent time getting their character leveled up. I haven’t spent that time. 

When someone makes a task look easy, don’t think that the task is necessarily easy. First think that the person may have worked their asses off to get to the point where it is easy for them. Not every job is glamorous, but every job has to be done. Have you seen the commercial of the guy folding the pizza boxes? We can all probably fold a pizza box, but most likely none of us have spent the effort getting to be as good as that guy. Most everyone can wash a dish, but going into the back of a restaurant and seeing the pile of dishes after a busy dinner shift, and then going back an hour later and seeing them all gone, is an impressive sight. That person worked their butt off to be good at that job that goes underappreciated. If he sends out one plate that isn’t fully clean out of a stack that may have been ALL the plates in the place, someone will notice. He may get 99% done right, which is a hell of a stat, but that 1% is the thing that will get him in trouble. Hopefully, you aren’t in a position where a 1% failure rate will get you berated, or have a horrible yelp review because of a less than perfectly clean plate. 

Most everyone can ride a bike, hardly anyone can compete in the tour de france. What’s the difference? Those guys have spent thousands and thousands of hours working at their skill, but it’s just riding a bike. You can probably ride a bike. You can’t compete in the tour. It’s a simple task, until it’s not. They have worked hard to level up. You haven’t spent that time. They make it look easy, it’s just riding a bike… right?

To sum up, life is an RPG, it all depends on what your character is. You need to work on the skills to level up your life. To be the best, you have to spend more time at that skill, than the person who is currently the best. We can all work at our skills to get better at what we are.