How To Level Up

mario in space There were many references in Trust Agents to games. Both Julien and I were raised in the video game culture, and what we learned was how to bring some of this to how we approach business. (Side note: see also, Christopher S. Penn’s posts about World of Warcraft and business.) Today, let’s talk about leveling up.

In games, leveling up is when you reach the end of a series of activities, face a big challenge, and then move to the next level. It’s very distinct and defined in most games. In many games, facing a “big boss” at the end is your chance to prove that you’ve accomplished new skills. Real life doesn’t have such obvious transitions, but there’s a lot to think about with regards to this kind of thinking. If you could see your business and personal challenges as tasks and experiences towards attaining new levels, you might approach things differently. Some thoughts.

How To Level Up

Do the small stuff. In games, especially early on, there are repetitive tasks that bring you early victories. In Super Mario Brothers, it was acquiring coins. In Halo, it’s fighting simpler enemies. In life, these small things might be learning how to master email conversations ( see How I Tamed My Inbox). It might be learning how to build successful blog posts ( see 27 Blogging Secrets to Power Your Community). If you don’t do the small stuff, you’ll never reach the next level.

Explore new levels. In games, if you stick around on the little levels, you might get simple rewards, but nothing new and nothing bigger will come of it. If you’re not exploring new territories in real life, you’re going to miss out on the larger rewards. This might mean branching out past what your job description entails. It might mean taking your advertising out of print and also bringing it into online interactive experiences. Where are the new levels to explore?

Accept difficult challenges. Some games require you to fail over and over. They simply can’t be beat the first time out. Learning about failure is a huge thing. If you see failure as your chance to try it again with a different angle, or with different combinations of actions, then you’re on the right path. If you see failure as proof that you need to stay on the same level a while longer, you might want to rethink that. Failure is an educator. Treat it that way. Accept all outcomes. Apologize where necessary. And then learn your lessons and move up.

Be comfortable with who you are inside. Games afford us the opportunity to be something we’re not. Whether it’s playing an elf ranger in Dungeons and Dragons or being Tom Brady on Madden Football, we can be someone we’re passionate about and we can live a little bigger than we might normally live in real life. What you learn in those moments can teach you a lot about who you are, or who you could be. Experiment with bringing a little bit more of the real inside you into the outer world, even if that’s through a proxy like your marketing, your communications, or some other outlet that lets you try something new.

Games end. Accept it. There are many times when you’ve reached the end of a game, or when you’ve hit a wall that you can’t exactly solve, or that you’ve decided you’re no longer interested in the mechanics of the game. Learn to accept this. If work isn’t working for you, start scouting out the next game. If your marketing isn’t working, try a new game. These things happen. Don’t quit too soon, or you’ll miss the awesome reveals and the fun experience-building opportunities.

And Above All Else

Realize that HOW you look at things is every bit as important as doing the things. This is one way to put a frame around what you’re doing. You don’t all have to run out and buy a Wii or pick up some 12-sided dice, but by thinking differently about your situation, and by thinking in these terms, you might find yourself able to better apply what we’ve learned through the experience of writing and living Trust Agents.

What’s your take?

Photo credit random j

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