Game of Life: Improve Yourself to Help Yourself

(Legend of Zelda | Nintendo)

(Legend of Zelda | Nintendo)

You can't wait for good things to fall into your lap, you have to go after it.

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

"If only I were stronger, then I would be able to solve a lot of my own problems." This is what I would tell myself; initially as an excuse, but always with regret. Regret that I was not living up to my capacity and that was directly affecting my ability to help myself. When I attempted to solve my problems without changing anything about myself, I fulfilled my own prophecy of failure. Then I flipped the script.

Flip the Script

Flipping the script is a technique I use when I feel stuck. I listen to my script, what I'm telling myself, then I play my own devil's advocate. Rather than using my weaknesses as an excuse (I'm not good at this thing so I should stop trying), I use my excuse as a starting point for improvement (if I can improve my abilities, then I'll be able to accomplish this task).

Improve Yourself to Help Yourself

I was once a financial advisor. As a new advisor, no one hands you a stack of clients, you have to get them yourself. That meant cold calling. However, there was a problem, I had an unreasonable fear of talking on the phone. If you've never worked sales, cold calling is when you call complete strangers to try and raise business. Naturally, cold calling was my biggest nightmare. I had this fear prior to the internet and text messaging. You can imagine how that affected my social life. This meant I spent a lot of time reading comic books and playing video games. But video games and life are more similar than we think.

I tried to avoid cold calling and bring in new clients any other way I could, but being a new advisor with little name value, to say that was difficult would be an understatement. At this point, my job was on the line. I had to drop my defensive shield, and really self-reflect. My real issue wasn't the phone, my real issue was shyness. I had a hard time speaking to people in general. Eye contact made me nervous and social situations frightened me.

In video games, before I went off on the actual adventure, I invested my initial time upping all of my stats. In a video game, you don't think "If only I were stronger," you go out there and make yourself stronger. I had this illusion that the character in the video game was different from me, when in reality, the character in the video game is based off of me. Why were the strategies I used in video games different than the ones I used in real life? Actually, I had no life strategies, whereas in games, I did. It was this misguided belief that in a video game I had control, and in life, I was a powerless victim of fate. But I was wrong.

Change or Quit

Do I leave this job and find another that would work around my shyness, or do I change my shyness? In weighing the pros and cons, I realized extreme shyness was always an issue and would remain so unless I did something about it. So I started small. Just as I had conditioned my body through exercise, just as I had conditioned myself to break boards in martial arts, I would condition my mind to be successful at this job.

I Started With Hi

I would make the briefest of eye contact, nod my head, and say hi. Initially, even doing this with coworkers felt odd and took some amount of mental preparation. Then I replaced the nod with a smile. Then I slightly extended eye contact (but not so long to be creepy). I kept upping the ante, upping my exposure to others. And in doing this, I realized my shyness was all about vulnerability. I was afraid of being vulnerable, but it takes vulnerability to connect with other people. That was the paradox. Developing vulnerability was really developing courage, they are one and the same. To be able to put myself in the line of fire with strangers was the only way I could also put myself in a position to communicate with strangers. In improving myself, I was helping myself. It forced me to understand my inner workings and pay attention to feelings I was too uncomfortable focusing on. This process takes mindfulness; fortunately, it also creates mindfulness.

Game of Life

(Legend of Zelda | Nintendo)

(Legend of Zelda | Nintendo)

I began to shake some people's hands, and to my surprise, I was developing a social sense I never had before. Knowing when to nod, when to smile, when to hold eye contact, and when to shake hands. Being amazing in social situations wasn't only an inborn skill, it could be taught. I thought only video game characters could improve all their skills but video game characters are still based off of the established rules of reality. Recognizing that everything could be improved energized me as if I had eaten a Mario Brothers magic mushroom.

I began giving the receptionist breaks and taking incoming calls. I began to collect some leads. Then I had to call those leads. Eventually, I was calling cold calling. Now, to be frank, I didn't enjoy cold calling, but I didn't hate it either. But that's the point, I became comfortable with discomfort, and that ability constantly serves me. Rather than just trying to make cold calls, I leveled myself up in all areas of communication and social skills. This whole lesson was never about cold calling, it was about overcoming one of my weaknesses to resolve many other day-to-day issues that kept me from living life the way I wanted to live. This not only led to a successful career (I became one of the top advisors in my company) but to a better social life. And my clients liked me because of the personal connections we made, they knew I cared and that was sincere.

I was done offloading my agency to a character in a video game and put the attention back on myself. I had neglected my own stats for too long.

Rather than working on resolving one issue, working on yourself has influence over all other issues. Learning to cold call not only helped me overcome my fear of the phone, but it helped me in every other aspect of my life. I made myself better, and in doing so, I was better in all situations. How would a video game synthesize this? Giving +3 to your character gives the character a +3 advantage in all situations. So, a smart player understands, when it's time to use points, it makes more sense to give the points to the character, than to use the points for one situation. Do I give +3 to Sam or should I use those 3 points only for cold calling? Should I not use the points at all because I don't believe they matter? In a video game, short-sight decisions and a defeatist attitude kills. They also kill you in real life.

My Fishing Story

A video game is about self-directed exploration. You can't wait for good things to fall into your lap, you have to go after it. Or as my psychiatrist friend says, "Life's not going to come to you, you have to go after that shit!" So consider this professional advice.

(Legend of Zelda | Nintendo)

(Legend of Zelda | Nintendo)

Video games imitate real life, we just sometimes forget the rules. With the normalcy of self-limiting beliefs, we forget about self-reliance. I have heard many variations of the fishing analogy, and I haven't found any of them useful. Here's how I tell it: You can't wait for someone to give you fish. You can't wait for someone to teach you how to fish. Go teach yourself how to fish so you can feed yourself.

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