Life at Warp 10

Do You Ever Wish You Were Someone Else?

World of WarcraftBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I used to wish I was more like other people. I wanted to be funny like my brother. Smart like the people on Jeopardy. I wanted the fashion sense of my cousins, and the patience of my grandma. Basically, I wished I was like everyone but me.

What I forgot was how terrible it would actually be if the world was full of identical people.

When my husband first interested me in playing World of Warcraft, an MMORPG (massively multi-player online role playing games), my first lesson was that I’d have to choose a role to play.

Many MMORPGs have what they call the “holy trinity” of three roles—tanks, healers, and DPSs. My character could only play one role at a time.

Tanks, as their name suggests, take the heavy damage. They get up close and allow the bad guy to beat on them, distracting his attention from their teammates.

DPS, short for damage per second, are the high damage dealers. They’re often unable to take a lot of damage themselves, but the tank and healers in the group depend on them to kill the bad guy.

Healers (obviously) heal. Without them, the evil mobs would kill the rest of the group before they could get the job done. Keeping everyone alive requires a sharp eye and a good sense of balance.

Most people who play prefer one role over the others because each comes with a specific play style. And just because you’re good at one role doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at the others. Healers often make terrible DPS, DPS often make terrible tanks, and tanks often make terrible healers.

But if you want to clear a dungeon or beat a raid boss, your group needs all three classes because each role brings something unique.

In life, like in World of Warcraft, we each bring something unique to the table, something not everyone else can do.

And it wasn’t until my wedding, when my maid of honor gave her speech, that I realized other people were wishing they were like me in the same way I was wishing I was like someone else.

Perhaps I didn’t have my brother’s sense of humor, but I have an ability to notice and organize details that he doesn’t. Perhaps I’ll never have my cousins’ fashion sense, but I can write and play the flute. I don’t have the saint-like patience of my grandma, but I do have a knack for seeing the best in people, even when they can’t see it in themselves.

And the world needs those things too. Just like it needs your unique talents.

What talent, ability, or quality do you wish you had? What are you really good at that you sometimes take for granted?

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Wreck-It Ralph: What Would Happen If We All Put Others First?

Wreck It RalphBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Wreck-It Ralph is an animated movie starring the villain of the arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr.

Ralph’s role in the game is to smash an apartment complex with his giant fists. Felix fixes Ralph’s damage using his magic hammer. If the player wins, Felix gets a medal from the Nicelanders whose building he repaired, and Ralph gets thrown off the building into a puddle of mud.

At night, when the arcade closes and the game characters can travel between games, Ralph is still shunned by the other members of his game. He’s forced to live in the garbage dump, and they don’t invite him to the 30th anniversary party for their game. The only friends he has are the other members of the villain support group he attends.

Unhappy with his life, Ralph takes off, abandoning his game. The next morning when the arcade opens, Ralph’s absence gets them an out-of-order sign and puts them in danger of being unplugged permanently. All the characters would be homeless.

Ralph’s attempt to steal his own medal results in a cyborg bug traveling from a first-person shooter game to a go-cart-racing game called Sugar Rush. The bug (like a computer virus) threatens to destroy the entire world of Sugar Rush, leaving those characters homeless as well and killing a little girl (Vanellope) who can’t leave because of a glitch in her programming.

Now two games are in jeopardy.

Vanellope steals Ralph’s already pilfered medal to use as an entry fee in a race that the other normal characters don’t want her in. Ralph accidentally sees other characters tormenting Vanellope because of her glitch and rescues her. He agrees to help her enter the race to win back the medal she stole.

And as Ralph helps Vanellope, he starts to care for someone other than himself for the first time.

When faced with sacrificing himself to save Venellope and Sugar Rush (and all the characters in it who’d been mean to them), Ralph puts their well-being ahead of his own.

With Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day) recently past, I can’t help but think about what an admirable quality that is. We’re not all called to risk our lives for others, but we do have opportunities on a smaller scale to think about the greater good and to put others’ wishes ahead of our own.

I don’t think we should sacrifice our own desires to the point of being constantly miserable. What we want matters too, and in the movie, Ralph ends up getting his own little home and has friends the way he wanted.

But in the short term, we often need to set aside what we want and do what’s best for others. If everyone did that, the ripples would spread, and we’d all be better off.

Has there been a time when you put aside what you wanted to help someone else?

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Do You Need to Slow Down?

Because I’m headed to Virginia this week to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family (and because I assume many of you will be feeling the rush of trying to fit a week’s worth of work into less than a week’s worth of days), I decided to refresh and replay one of my favorite older posts for you.

Are You Living Life At Warp 10?

Do You Need to Slow Down?

I first heard about warp 10 through the Season 2 episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “Threshold.”

The starship Voyager is stranded in the Delta quadrant (Earth is in the Alpha quadrant). Even if they could travel at their fastest speed the whole time, they’re still 75 years from home. And more than anything they want to get home to the loved ones who think they’re dead.

Lieutenant Tom Paris, Voyager’s pilot, along with his two closest friends, comes up with a plan to get them home sooner—warp 10. Theoretically, warp 10 is impossible. You wouldn’t really be moving at all. You’d be everywhere at once. By traveling at warp 10, they could simply be home again instantly.

Paris, however, has solved the puzzle, and they’ve equipped a shuttle with warp 10 capabilities. Before he leaves, the doctor warns Paris there’s a two percent chance he could die due to a rare medical condition. He decides to take the risk. He argues this is his one chance to do something truly great, something that will go into history books.

He breaks the warp 10 barrier, and for a moment, it’s amazing. He’s everywhere. He can see Voyager and knows they’re looking for him, but he can also see home, their enemies, everything. The data he collects is invaluable.

And he’s achieved his goal. He’s made history.

Although Paris doesn’t die due to his medical condition, his time at warp 10 mutates his genes. He can’t drink water or breathe oxygen anymore. Before the doctor can treat him, his mind goes, he kidnaps Captain Kathryn Janeway, goes back to warp 10 to find a planet, and they both end up mutated lizards on a non-oxygen atmosphere planet with three lizard babies.

Living life at warp 10 is like that (minus the kidnapping and lizard babies of course).

You move as fast as you possibly can, and for a moment, it’s amazing. You’re able to be everything for everyone and do everything you need to. You’re doing it because you have a dream of doing something important, and that dream is worth the risks and sacrifices.

Except if you only stay at warp 10, you find yourself mutating into something you don’t like. I don’t like how tired I am and how I can’t enjoy the simple things that were once essential (you know, like Paris and his water and oxygen). I don’t like how I sometimes snap at my loved ones. I’ve been moving too fast for far too long.

So while I want the experience of life at warp 10, the discoveries it brings and the chance it provides to reach my dream, I’m trying to also come back and get a treatment of slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life. Being able to successfully live life at warp 10 requires finding balance.

After all, I don’t think my husband would really appreciate me having lizard babies with someone else.

What keeps you moving at warp 10? What do you love about it? How do you make sure you don’t miss the simple pleasures along the way?

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Are You A Jerk Without Realizing It?

Are You A Jerk Without Realizing It?By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

How do you react to someone who’s not as good at something as you are?

As I’ve mentioned in a previous posts on “My Dark Secret” and “Why Every Couple Should Play Video Games Together” my husband and I play World of Warcraft, a massively multi-player online role playing game.

I love playing WoW. It’s relaxing and fun to escape into a story you participate in while completing quests.

But I have to miss a large chunk of the content because I won’t play with strangers. Whenever a quest requires a group, I have to wait for my husband rather than asking in the chat box if anyone else nearby is already working on the same quest chain. I never use the random dungeon finder, which would add me to a group of people to run a dungeon. I’ve never been a member of a raiding guild.

You see, I’m a casual player. I don’t have the time to study stats, crunch numbers, and do the theory building of a hard core player. It’s a game. Life takes precedence. And that means I’m not as good a player as many others even though I try.

In other words, I’m jerk-bait.

Jerks pop up enough in random groups that I’ve learned to keep my distance. They’re the people who verbally attack another player because they aren’t doing enough damage per second, they miss a heal, or they lose threat as a tank (the class that’s supposed to distract the bad guy from beating on the squishier players).

These people assume you aren’t trying and that you suck because you’re unwilling to learn. They refuse to play with you anymore, and they try to get you booted from the group.

It happens on the forums too when someone like me asks a question. The jerks assume the person asking the question is lazy rather than that they just don’t know what they don’t know.

It makes me stop and think now before I react to people in life, people who aren’t yet as good at something as I am or who don’t catch on to a new concept as quickly as I do.

Do I want to be the jerk who berates someone who’s struggling? Or do I want to be the person who takes a little extra time to teach them and help them be better?

I want to be the latter.

I want to be the one who goes out of my way to help a newbie learn. I want to be the one who keeps helping them find a new way to understand a concept that’s evading them. I want to show them mercy and grace and kindness.

I’m not always good at that yet. We all have a tendency to assume that if something is easy for us, it’s inherently easy, and anyone who doesn’t get it isn’t trying hard enough.

But I think it’s about every day trying to grow a little closer to the kind of person we want to be.

Do you get impatient with people who are struggling to figure something out? Have you ever dealt with a jerk when you were struggling to learn something?

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Registration is now open for the next round of my Twitter course where I walk you through how to make the best use of your time on Twitter and save you from the learning curve. Click here to register. Registration is also open for Story in a Sentence: Creating Your Logline. Click here to register. Both classes start December 1st. 

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Source Code: Does What You Do Matter?

Source CodeBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Do you ever wonder how many people could have made a difference in the world, could have changed things for the better, but didn’t…because they stopped believing they could?

In Source Code, Army helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up as Sean, a history teacher on a commuter train. Eight minutes later a bomb on the train explodes, killing everyone.

Colter wakes up again, this time in a strange capsule. He finds out that he’s part of an experimental crime fighting program known as source code. A complex computer program writes a code from the last eight minutes of a person’s life and allows Colter to re-live them in order to find the bad guy.

Colter goes back again and again into the last eight minutes of Sean’s life, and falls in love with Sean’s friend Christina, also killed in the explosion. He starts to think if he can just stop the bomb from exploding and catch the bomber, he can save Christina.

The source code creator tells him he can’t change the past. Christina and all the others on the train are already dead.

Though Colter manages to identify the bomber, in the process he’s found out the truth—he was killed in Afghanistan. All that remains of him is, essentially, his brain hooked up to a computer. He can never have a normal life again. He can either continue to live through the last eight minutes of other people’s lives or he can insist they disconnect him from the computer and allow what remains of him to die.

The problem is Colter can’t accept he can’t first save Christina. He asks his handler to violate orders and send him back in one last time and then to disconnect his brain from the computer at the exact moment the eight minutes end. Even if he can’t really save Christina, he wants his last memories, his final moments, to be spent trying.

His handler takes pity on him and agrees, even though source code’s creator wants to simply wipe Colter’s memory and keep using his brain against Colter’s wishes.

Colter goes back into Sean’s final minutes. He’s learned from his mistakes. This time he disables both the bomb’s main detonator and its back-up detonator. He catches the bomber, handcuffs him, and calls the police to tell them exactly where he is and what he planned to do.

Then he asks Christina, “If you knew you only had one minute left to live, how would you spend it?”

He kisses her.

And expects that to be his last moment.

But the moment when the memory should have ended passes. Colter can barely believe it, but he walks off the commuter train with Christina. He sends his handler a text…

“At some point today, you’re going to hear about a failed terrorist attack on a commuter train near Chicago. You and I kept that bomb from going off. If you’re reading this email, then Source Code works even better than you imagined.”

Against all odds, Colter made a difference because he refused to give up and refused to stop believing he could.

The refusal to stop believing is a quality shared by all the people who’ve changed the world. (Click to tweet.)

Some of them were leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King.

Some of them were normal people like Rosa Parks who simply did the right thing and believed it would make a difference.

Some of them didn’t change the world, but they did change the world for someone. Colter didn’t save the world, but he did do something amazing for every person on that train.

None of that would have happened if they’d stopped believing what they did mattered.

Never stop believing you can make a difference.

Do you ever feel insignificant and wonder if what you do matters?

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How Much Responsibility Should We Take for Others’ Actions?

Responsibility for Others' Actions and VoyagerBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

How would you feel if you were being held legally responsible for someone else’s actions?

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Random Thoughts,” the crew of the starship Voyager is visiting the Mari homeworld. The Mari are a telepathic people who’ve virtually eradicated crime by outlawing violent thoughts.

A man bumps into Voyager’s chief engineer, B’Elanna Torres, while she’s on the surface negotiating a trade. Being half-Klingon and having the temper Klingons are infamous for, B’Elanna thinks about hurting the man who bumped into her. A few minutes later, he beats up another man in the main square and claims he doesn’t know why he did it.

B’Elanna is arrested for harboring violent thoughts. The punishment is a dangerous medical procedure called an engrammatic purge, which is designed to remove the offending images from her mind. The equipment isn’t designed for Klingons and could leave B’Elanna with permanent brain damage.

Captain Janeway argues with the Mari officer that B’Elanna can’t be held accountable for something someone else did.

“His mind was contaminated by the image,” the officer says, “and it resulted in a loss of control. He may have committed the physical act, but it was instigated by you.

B’Elanna barely restrains herself from going toe-to-toe with the officer. “Where we come from, people are responsible for their own actions.

I can see both sides of the argument.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about people being “infected by examples.” Studies have shown that when a suicide is highly publicized, the suicide rate skyrockets for a few days after. The effect is so powerful it even determines the mode of suicide. For example, if a single person kills themselves by driving into a pole, that kind of suicide increases. But if a person commits a murder-suicide instead, that kind of suicide increases. To someone who’s already troubled, another person’s actions make it more acceptable for them to act in a deviant way.

Gladwell gives an example we’ve all had experience with—jay-walking. You’re standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change…right up until someone crosses against the light. Somehow their law-breaking gives you permission to break the law, and you’re trotting across the road after them.

While I don’t think B’Elanna (or any of us) should be held legally responsible for someone else’s actions, I wonder if we don’t have some moral responsibility for the way what we do affects others.

Yes, we’re all ultimately responsible for the choices we make. None of us has the right to blame someone else for what we’ve done. But, on some level, aren’t we also responsible for how our actions hurt, help, or push someone else toward a specific path?

What do you think? Should we feel any responsibility for how our actions influence the actions of others? Or is what they do 100% on their heads?

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When Is It Time to Quit on Our Dreams?

Quitting vs. Potential Insanity

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I thought about quitting today.

It’s not the first time. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

We all hit that point.

It’s that point where the one rejection letter outweighs all the acceptances because it was the one that really mattered to you.

It’s the point where you get tired of hearing you have a strong voice, intricate world-building, an interesting premise, solid writing, BUT this story isn’t for them or they don’t see a market for it.

It’s the point where your blog stops growing or you lose a few subscribers or fewer people are commenting, and you wonder if blogging is really worth the effort.

It’s the point where you buy a new writing book or take a writing course, and instead of feeling excited you want to cry because you realize how much you still have to learn. Because you know that good isn’t good enough. And suddenly you see how far away from your goal you still are.

It’s the point where the one person you thought believed you were going to be a success starts talking about how realistically, even if you go indie, you’ll never make as much as you would at a normal job.

It’s the point where you retire a story you loved, still love, to a drawer and start over. Again. And you wonder how many times can I keep doing this?

It’s that point.

When you hit it, you have to decide—do I give up and walk away or do I keep pushing and hoping?

And what you hear in your head is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something to change.

What you hear in your head is all the times in an argument you’ve been told you don’t know when to quit (and it wasn’t meant as a compliment).

And you think what if they’re right? Is there a time when the right and smart thing to do is to finally, at last, give up the fight?

Or is that point the point where we need to push harder? To plant our final seed of courage in the cracked ground and pray it grows? To drag ourselves forward one bloodied-fingered inch at a time because we’re almost there?

Is that the point right before we succeed?

 “So many people quit right before they hit the inflection point.” – Michael Hyatt

You stand there holding quitting in one hand and potential insanity in the other, and instead of thinking about which is better, you think about which comes with the greater cost.

If you quit, you’re going to look back in one year, ten years, your last hours and wonder what if? What if I could’ve done it if I’d tried just a little longer?

If you go forward, you risk spending your life on something that never pans out. Could you have been successful at something else instead? Happier even? You know there are other things you love to do.

To quit or to persevere. To embrace practicality or to embrace hope.

You start to ask yourself, if you knew you’d never succeed, if the 80-year-old you took a time machine back to tell the present you that you didn’t make it, would you do it anyway?

Would you write for hours, sacrificing time with friends and opportunities for fun?

Would you ignore the pain in your back and the aching and stiffness in your hands that feels suspiciously like early-onset arthritis in order to write?

Would you continue to sink money into your dream that you could have otherwise used for vacations or to make your spouse’s or children’s lives a little easier?

Would you do those things if you knew they would never yield the results you wanted? Is there enough value in fighting for it to keep going even if you lose?

With all of that tumbling around inside, you stop and ask yourself–how much do I really want it?

Maybe you decide to walk away. Perhaps you’re smarter than me.

Because, for today at least, I want it bad enough to cling to the belief that one more step might bring me to the inflection point. I want it bad enough that I’m going to keep working until it happens. I want it bad enough to put in the work to make it happen. And I still believe that there’s value in chasing our dreams, even if we never catch them.

Do you ever feel like quitting on your dreams? What (or who) talks you down off the ledge? Or do you think there is a time to stop and move on?

I hope you’ll check out the newly released mini-books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series–Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster–both currently available for 99 cents.

Photo Credit: Billy Alexander (from www.sxc.hu)

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Real Steel: Some Things Are Worth Fighting For

Real SteelBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

So often we hear the advice that, if you love something (or someone), you should let them go. But part of the reason I fell in love with my husband was his willingness to fight for me. His willingness to fight gave me the invaluable gift of knowing I was worth fighting for. And I hope my willingness to fight for him has done the same.

In Real Steel, a movie set in 2020, when robot boxing has replaced human boxing, Charlie (Hugh Jackman) has forgotten what it means to fight for anything.

Charlie is an absentee father who ends up taking care of his eleven-year-old son during the worst time of Charlie’s life, when his last robot has been destroyed and he’s in enough debt that people want to kill him. The woman he loves won’t have anything to do with him because he’s immature and irresponsible, and Charlie doesn’t want anything to do with his son, Max. In fact, he “sells” Max to the aunt and uncle who want custody. Charlie only takes Max for the summer because Max’s uncle pays Charlie to care for the boy while the aunt and uncle travel to Italy.

And then Charlie loses the money in a single boxing match.

Desperate, Charlie and Max pull a sparring bot from the junk yard and restore it just to earn a few hundred dollars in throwaway matches. At least, that’s Charlie’s plan. Max has a different idea. Their sparring bot starts winning. They move from illegal, unsanctioned matches to a professional match. And they win.

After their big win, the man Charlie owes money to beats up both Max and Charlie and takes all their winnings.

The next day, Charlie returns Max to his aunt and uncle early. Max is furious.

“What do you want me to say?” Charlie yells at him. “I’m sorry? No, you knew. You knew from day one what this was. You decided to take the ride. What? You actually thought me, you, and the little robot from the junk heap were gonna ride off into the sunset? Come on! No, you forgot who I was. I mean, what do you want from me?”

Max turns on him, eyes filling with tears. “I want you to fight for me. That’s all I ever wanted.

I think that’s what we all want in some way, because the person who will fight for us is telling us we’re valuable. We’re worth the trouble. We’re something special.

Fighting for someone means you have their back. My career choice isn’t popular with everyone, but my husband refuses to allow anyone to criticize the choice I’ve made. Whatever private disagreements we might have, we’re a united front in public. You attack one of us, you attack both of us.

Fighting for someone means you prioritize your relationship above everything else. I love my job, but I think it’s foolish to “make whatever sacrifices it takes” to succeed. I won’t sacrifice my relationship with my husband, and that means setting aside inviolable time for him (and recognizing when I’m working too hard).

Fighting for someone means you cut them some slack when they’re hurting. Sometimes hurting people will shove us away as hard as they can, trying to prove themselves right that they can’t count on anyone but themselves, but secretly, desperately, hoping you’ll finally be the one to prove them wrong.

Fighting for someone means you compromise and value their happiness equally with your own. Putting someone else’s happiness above your own is a fast track to resentment. However, valuing their happiness equally to our own means we’re always looking for win-win situations rather than trying to be the martyr or walking all over the one we claim to love.

Fighting for someone means you don’t give up on them when trouble comes. Traditional wedding vows talk about “in sickness and health, for richer or poorer.” In our time together, my husband and I have weathered specialist visits, wisdom teeth removal, and torn hamstrings. We’re still in the penny-pinching stage. We’ve even dealt with border and immigration hassles. But those problems are minor to us compared to what being together gives us.

The advice to let something go if you love it gives us an out to quit too soon, when if we hung on, we’d find that the struggle, the fight, brought us to something greater than we could have had if we’d walked away. I know it did for me.

Who (or what) have you been willing to fight for?

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Do You Love Yourself Too Much? The Story of Narcissus

Greek mythology NarcissusBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Maybe we need to focus less on loving ourselves and more on loving others.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was the son of a river god and a nymph. When Narcissus was young, a blind soothsayer prophesied Narcissus “would live to an old age if he did not look at himself.”

The soothsayer based his prediction on Narcissus’ beauty. All the women he met, human and nymph, fell in love with him. And he rejected them all, feeling he was better than any who sought him.

After his pride and cruel treatment broke the heart of the nymph Echo, Nemesis (the goddess of revenge) tricked him into looking down at a pool of water. Narcissus fell hopelessly in love with his reflection.

In one version, Narcissus fell into the water and drowned while trying to embrace his reflection. In another, he couldn’t bear to leave his reflection and finally starved to death.

Pride and excessive self-love killed him.

Narcissus’ story gives us the name for narcissistic personality disorder. A narcissist is preoccupied with himself and has a sense of self-importance that’s out of kilter with reality. You can see why psychologists chose Narcissus to give the disorder its name.

While most of us aren’t narcissists, we can still fall into the trap of being too absorbed with ourselves and too enamored with our own strengths.

And the longer we look only at ourselves, the more in love we fall with our own virtues. The more in love we fall with our own virtues, the easier it is to look down on other people and get angry when someone suggests we might have room to improve.

Amber West talked about this phenomenon in her thoughtful post on Confidence versus Doubt: Becoming a Better You. “People don’t try to be better,” she wrote, “they just become self-involved. Why look externally if what’s internal is so amazing?” She concluded that it’s not enough to “just be you.” We all need to work toward being “the best you.”

In many ways, our society now values self-esteem over self-improvement. We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re imperfect, as if the knowledge of imperfection will destroy us.

But the opposite is true. When we start focusing on how great we already are, when we’re afraid of offending anyone by telling them they need to change, we stop growing.

I believe in the value of accepting ourselves for who we are and finding people who love us for who we are. I was born with a personality that won’t change, and I developed likes and dislikes that are at the core of my personality and make me happy. I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin. But I also have weaknesses and faults and bad traits I need to fix. I’m far from perfect, and I will never be perfect. If I start to think I’m perfect, that I have all the answers, I risk becoming mean, critical, and self-righteous.

Recently, I was on the receiving end of a “perfect” person’s well-meaning opinions. I tried to shrug it off, but the comments still stung days later. It reminded me how much I don’t want to be that person, and I started thinking about what I could do to protect myself, and by extension, protect everyone around me from me.

When I look at someone else, instead of looking at the areas where they’ve failed or picking on them to make myself feel better (writers are particularly at risk for criticizing successful authors), I’m going to look at what I can learn from them. I’m going to look for their strengths.

Instead of focusing on myself, I’m going to figure out ways I can make someone else’s life a little better.

And when I’m tempted to look at someone else and judge them, I’m going to remember that everything looks easier from the outside.

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection—or compassionate action.” ― Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

Do you think our society is becoming too focused on self-esteem and not focused enough on improving ourselves? How can we walk the balance between liking ourselves without becoming too proud?

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Why I’m Thankful for the Stress Tests in Life

Guild Wars 2 Stress TestI’m thankful for the stress tests of life.

Three weeks ago, my husband and I chose to spend our “date afternoon” together participating in a Guild Wars 2 stress test. Guild Wars 2 is a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) based around the story of the re-emergence of Destiny’s Edge, a guild dedicated to fighting and defeating the Elder Dragons who’ve once again taken over the world.

When Guild Wars 2 publisher ArenaNet announced the stress test on the Guild Wars 2 Facebook page, they explained, “We will be actively working on the game during the event, so you might experience connectivity problems or discover features that are not working as designed. Any issues you experience are a result of the rigorous conditions of the stress test, and are in no way representative of the state of the game at launch. By participating in this stress test, you’re helping us make Guild Wars 2 a better game.”

And we did find glitches as we played. I got disconnected twice. A few quests were bugged (in other words, didn’t work as they should). We also won’t be able to keep the characters we created for the stress test once the game actually launches.

But those stress tests are essential for a good game.

Stress tests provide information ArenaNet couldn’t get without putting pressure on the game. Until they applied that pressure, flaws and problems lay hidden. Ignorance of the problems kept them from fixing them.

They wanted to catch things in advance because if they didn’t and those problems showed up post-launch, it could ruin their game’s reputation. Games are a lot like people. They have a limited time to make a good first impression, and if they’re unpleasant to deal with, no one will hang around long. Even if you eventually fix the problems, people will be wary of you because the cloud of your past trails along behind you on the Internet. It takes much longer to fix a reputation than it does to build it up and keep it healthy in the first place.

We need stress tests in our lives for the same reasons. Each smaller trial we face—the flat tire, the failed project, the broken arm, the pinching pennies, even the minor successes—shows us weaknesses in our character. Are we impatient? Are we unmerciful? Do we blame someone else for what went wrong, or do we take responsibility? Are we a sore loser, coming up with reasons why that other person shouldn’t have gotten the job or shouldn’t have won? Are we a sore winner, gloating over the people we’ve beaten? Do we panic and take our fear out on our loved ones?

Once we know our weaknesses, we can work on fixing them.

The purpose of those stress tests in our lives is to prepare us for the important events. A terminally-ill loved one. A lost job. Getting the job we’ve always dreamed off. A successful book. Parenthood.

We don’t want to be caught unawares by our weaknesses when those hit. We want to be as prepared as possible so that we can do our best when it really matters.

By facing the stress tests, you’re helping make yourself a better person.

What “stress test” have you been thankful for in hindsight because it helped prepare you for something important down the road?

(I don’t know whether to thank Samantha Warren and Melinda VanLone for introducing me to this game or not 🙂 I won’t completely geek out on you right now by talking about it in detail, but if you’re looking for a seemingly fantastic MMORPG that isn’t subscription-based, check out Guild Wars 2.)

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