You don’t need to be a prodigy to be a success in today’s competitive work world, whether you’re pursuing an entry-level job, a managerial position, a big promotion, or the venture capital to strike out on your own. You need grit (Thaler, L. – Grit to Great). My first experience with the concept of grit came when I was a child playing Spyro: Year of the Dragon on my PlayStation in the late 1990s. Spyro was one of the very first video games that I played as a child, so I needed a little help on the journey. My beloved mother found walkthroughs online, printed them out (this was during the time before videos tutorials), and would guide me through the levels while I played. We made terrific progress and eventually made it through to the end of the game, and it was done entirely by my hands.
So what is the significance of this story? I struggled a lot. Don’t forget, this was the first video game in my collection, and as a new gamer, it was a challenge. I fell off ledges, died at the hands of devious enemies, struggled to master the notorious double-jump, and just got stuck on levels to the point of complete breakdown from frustrations. Through all of my struggles, my mother continued encouraging me, and at no point did she take the controller away from me for her to play. She revealed years later that she struggled to restrain herself from attempting challenging parts, and left me to figure it out. Instead, she let me attempt difficult spots multiple times, and every attempt improved my skills, all leading up to being able to beat the game.
Years later, I found myself in a similar rule to my mother – being a guide while restraining myself from taking the controller. It came when I let a friend play one of my video games, GRIS, and for someone who’s never really played a game through to the end, it was a challenge. I have a younger brother who played the games that I defeated, but since we only had one game console, I would watch. Whenever my brother got stuck, I would take the controller away and play through the section with ease, or I would coach him through the steps – looking back at it now, what I did was rude and deprived him of a learning experience. So watching my friend play, I did something different, I stayed silent and watched. What I witnessed was spectacular.
Playing GRIS was difficult for my friend. She would get stuck on a section where it required calculated jumps to progress or quick motions against the clock, but I would not intervene. Instead, I would give her hints when she started to scratch her head and felicitated when she made it past an onerous section. This self-restraint allowed her to explore the world for herself and fully appreciate the story it told. Whenever she came to a difficult spot in the game, she would repeatedly try to get the mechanics right, which allowed her to progress further into the story while it trained her for the end when it tests everything that the gamer had learned.
A talented gamer could run through the game GRIS in as little as an hour and a half (the record is 1h 24m by the player Skylar), but will they apprehend the game the same way as a non-regular gamer would? My mother let me gain the experience and appreciation for games through grit. Video games have taught me that through hard work and dedication, I can improve my skills, and there is no game that I cannot beat. So the next time that you find a great video game that has been proven to be more difficult than anticipated, don’t give up! If you stay persistent, you can accomplish anything, and not just in video games. “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented from the successful one is a lot of hard work” – Stephen King.