When I switched careers from being in the Army to making Games, a lot of skills didn’t come naturally, but I learned to push through them.
It’s been trying, learning to make video games. With all the wealth of information there is, and skills needed to succeed, it seems like I’m in a never ending race to try to catch up. Not only that, but even after a few years of learning, I feel like I’m no closer to being able to support my family than when I started. It’s painful to reflect on, and sometimes scary.
When I tell people that I’m a Video Game Developer, they usually reply about how awesome it is. I normally immediately follow up with, “but I haven’t made any money yet,” or “I’m still learning.” I work and I work and I work, and I’m still not seeing the results I want, nor what my family needs.
Becoming a Master
In the book, Mastery, the author George Leonard, a martial arts master, describes the necessary path to becoming a master of what you do.
He reflects on our culture, where commercials, TV shows, and movies teach that life is at its best “an endless series of climactic moments.”
With that kind of expectation, it’s no wonder we can get discouraged. He describes three different kinds of people that everyone can fit into:
The Dabbler approaches each new sport, career opportunity, or relationship with enormous enthusiasm. He or she loves the rituals involved in getting started, the spiffy equipment, the lingo, the shine of newness.
The Dabbler loves the new jobs, new offices and new opportunities. But when he hits the wall, where things get tough, he’s gone and off to the next thing.
The Dabbler might think of himself as an adventurer, a connoisseur of novelty, but he’s probably closer to being what Carl Jung calls the pure aeternus, the eternal kid.
The Obsessive starts out by making robust progress. When he inevitably finds himself on the plateau, he doesn’t accept it. Instead, he doubles his efforts, and pushes himself mercilessly. He works all night at the office, and is tempted to take shortcuts for the sake of quick results.
Ultimately the Obsessive burns out, and becomes bitter of his experience. In the military, this was me. I pushed myself so hard, redoubled my efforts over and over again, and burnt myself out, becoming a bitter wreck.
He’s the physician or teacher who doesn’t bother going to professional meetings, the tennis player who develops a solid forehand and figures he can make do with a ragged backhand. At work, he only does enough to get by, leaves on time or early, takes every break, talks instead of doing his job, and wonders why he doesn’t get promoted…
Do any of these three categories sound familiar. You can be in different categories for different areas of your life. For me, I was an Obsessive in the Military, but a Dabbler in sports.
But is that it? No, there is another…
A Master understands that, if there is any sure route to success and fulfillment, it is to be found in the long-term, essentially goalless process of mastery – the path of patient, dedicated effort without attachment to immediate results. The master of any game is generally a master of practice. To practice regularly, even when you seem to be getting nowhere, might at first seem onerous. But the day eventually comes when practicing becomes a treasured part of your life. Masters are dedicated to the small incremental step and to challenging previous limits, to take risks for the sake of higher performance, exploring the edges of the envelope.
Key to Mastery
The author goes on the describe 5 keys to Mastery. One of the ones that stuck out to me the most though, was learning to love the plateau.
To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, to enjoy the inevitable spurts of progress and the fruits of accomplishment, then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them. To love the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in your life.
I can remember being on the plateau a few months ago, being all bummer out. I just recently went through a small burst in accomplishment, followed by small decline.
But the difference for me now, is that I’m learning to love being on the plateau. I’m loving practicing making games, practicing making art, and practicing my IndieDev skills.
We’ll see how long I’m on this plateau, but however long I am, I’m going to be happy practicing for the next level.
Do you have experience being on the plateau? Leave a comment below!