When I was about 10, I got a Nintendo 64 for my birthday. Probably one of the best and most used gifts of my life. I remember playing a lot of Wave Race, Super Mario 64, but my personal favorite, was Mario Kart 64.
Like most other 10 year olds at the time, I played that game for hours everyday. I'm sure a lot of those other people say this, but I couldn't be beat. I would often give people a head start just to make races competitive. After awhile though, I got to a point where it was just too easy and I started to lose interest. That was until I found a practice mode called “Time trial”. In “Time Trail” you would start by completing the first lap of a course, then starting on the 2nd lap, you'd see yourself from the last lap as a faded out ghost. Then when you completed a lap faster, that lap you did would become the “ghost” you race against. It turned out my best challenger was myself.
So what the hell does my obsession for Mario Kart 64 have to do with anything? Let me explain
Competition is a word that most people don’t believe has a place in creativity. It’s seen as unhealthy to be envious of something you don’t currently have. So naturally, I felt like a bit of an outsider when I went to art school and mentioned my driving force was to be the best.
Almost everything I did for fun turned into a competition.
Ever since I was a kid in tee-ball, I loved competing at anything imaginable. Almost everything I did for fun turned into a competition. A simple walk or bike ride to a friends house would turn into a race, simply playing catch would somehow turn into a competition of who can throw the ball the farthest. So, why would school or creativity be any different for me?
I remember being in college and always looking online at other people’s work and thinking about how great they were. I’d spend hours doing that, then immediately go to work on something that I was making and eventually become frustrated that I couldn’t do what they did. After a while of doing this, the frustration started to weigh on me. Make no mistake, my work got a lot better in this time because of how I was pushing myself, but I wasn’t feeling good about the work i was doing or the progress I was making. I was constantly comparing and never reaching the insanely high bar I was setting.
That was until I started playing Mario Kart 64 again. I remember playing in the time trial mode and trying to get better with each and every lap and just having a blast while doing so. At the same time I was making a connection between playing Mario Kart and the work I was creating. I made a pretty big realization at that moment, “competing against myself not only makes happier, but also pushes myself to be better than if I was competing against others that are a few levels above me.”.
I now thrive on progress more than milestones.
Yes, I still want to be the best. Maybe not the best in the world, but the best that I can be. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say “I want to be better”. Better than I was yesterday, last week, a month ago or a year ago. As opposed to that time when I was in school, I now thrive on progress more than milestones. I focus simply on being better than myself from before to keep learning and keep pushing what I’m able to do.
It turns out that even after your 10,000 hours of experience, you still make mistakes and are able to be better, it’s almost turned into a game for me to recognize those mistakes and take some sort of action. The corrections may actually end up worse than before but as Edison said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
I’m not trying to say I figured any of this out, but I will say i’m always in the process of figuring it out at this very moment and i’m closer than I was yesterday.
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