2020 is officially behind us. For some, last year wasn’t that bad… for others it will be forever embedded in their hearts and not necessarily in a good way. If it taught you anything, I hope it was to look out for your friends and family.
Hopefully 2021 will hold more promise for all of us. I, for one, cannot tell anyone how to make that happen… but I may have some small insight from a paintball team perspective. But first, a quick story…
This past world cup, a friend of mine called. He was playing with a new team for Cup and they had voted him to be the “player/coach.” He was looking for advice. He realized it was last minute and I could tell he was reserved about even calling. I empathized because, well, I had been there. So I told him two specific things:
- Don’t be afraid to make a mistake
- Own it when you do
He did well, taking a throw together team to Sunday. I gave him that advice because I wanted him to understand that if he did make a mistake, it wasn’t the end of the world, and two, if he did, suck it up and move on. See, he was going to make mistakes… But he was gaining real world experience. He was learning. When we make mistakes, yes, there is failure but hopefully we are trying new things, learning, living, pushing ourselves, changing, growing. We’re stepping out of that comfort zone and experiencing things that will hopefully make us better and ultimately teach us who we are.
And just like that we are entering a new year, a new season, with all the experiences of the previous year. How many of you learned from your mistakes? How many of you will actively participate in making your experiences better? Like I said recently, the new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. What will yours say?
Here are Zen’s top 10 pieces of advice for writing this years’ “Book” (in no particular order):
- If you are going to learn the “hard-way” then actually learn. Don’t rationalize or make excuses. Recognize the lesson that was taught. If you or your team make a jump in divisions and get your rumps handed to you, what did you learn? No, it wasn’t the refs are “stricter” at that level, the other teams are better at cheating, or any other plethora of excuses some will use to explain away their failure. Don’t be ashamed of your division! Go win in it. If you truly are better than your APPA shows, then prove it by dominating the division and progress accordingly. There is no shame in this and it is the right way to go.
“It is what we know already that often prevents us from learning.” –Claude Bernard
- There is always going to be someone better than you. Whether it is snap shooting, run n gun, laning, speed, making reads, reaction time, coaching… they exist and you will meet them on the field. And it may just be that one time in that one match at that one event. But it will happen.
And you need to get over it.
I promise, if you believe you are special and the next Ollie Lang or Dynasty, your ego is in for a rude awakening. You will be humbled and many people will enjoy it when it happens, especially if you are a braggart. However, to those of you who genuinely wish to be good and are aspiring for that level of performance (those who let their game speak, not their mouth), know that almost every skill set I mentioned can be improved upon. You are in control of how far you take it, how far it goes.
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” –Albert Einstein
- There is a lot more to being successful in paintball than just practicing hard. Working hard is not enough. You need to work smart too. If you want to be recognized then you need to be more than good or competent. You need to noticeably excel. This means you need to work harder and smarter than everyone else around you. A solid work ethic and brains? That’s the ticket. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive because if they are, that is what will be noticeable.
4. Paintball is expensive and not just financially. It takes a commodity that many take for granted and don’t always understand its worth. It takes time. So if you’re looking to be competitive on the national level but you don’t have the money or the time, then you are better off not playing paintball. Just kickin’ it for fun? By all means, it is a great occasional recreational sport. But to be competitive, you better have the time and the money. If not, you don’t have an understanding of what all is required to succeed at that level and in that environment.
5. Create good habits. Winning is a habit. What that means is, you have to have developed the appropriate habits that LEAD to winning. Good habits will lead to good things just as bad habits will lead to bad things. Choose wisely because habits will make or break you. Work the drills everyone hates, run that extra mile, do that extra push up, get their early every time… develop a habit of doing the right thing and I promise you will see progress quicker than those who don’t.
“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” – Bruce Lee
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The dumbest question is the one NOT asked. This is part of learning. Be curious, take in how others approach the game. Watch what they do, how they do it, and ask why they do it. But be wary. If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t. You will be surprised at the amount of people who are willing to help. And just as dumbfounded by those who think they can.
7. You are owed NOTHING. This is a pet peeve of mine. When I encounter those who have the attitude that they deserve something for nothing, it is difficult for me to not call them out. If you step on my field, you will earn everything. I have learned that people that get things easily or that receive things they don’t deserve are usually lousy human beings or rather, good examples of how not to be. Don’t be the one who feels you are owed or entitled to something others put in hard work for. If you are one of these people who gets their feelings hurt easily or puts how you “feel” in front of betterment, keep walking. I have no time for you panzies.
8. Know where you stand. Whether it is with your teammates, your coach, heck, any relationship, understand where you land in the scheme of things. Avoid unnecessary drama and if you can’t, snuff it out quickly and decisively. Lose that stuff fast. Understanding your place in an organization is important. It won’t always be what you want it to be. Hey, maybe it’s you.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” –Confucius
9. You are replaceable. So make yourself irreplaceable. Bring something worth having. Better yet, bring several things that are not only worth having but needed. When you are a teammate before an individual, when you bring positivity tempered with logic and data, when you build after taking apart, when you are the example, the rest will fall into place. Your actions and effort should speak volumes. Be loud in action.
10. Be physically fit. The sport has evolved and requires a semblance of athletic ability so make it happen. Plus, good physical fitness lends itself to good mental capabilities. Both your mind and your body should be in peak condition (and not just for our sport). They shouldn’t be separate entities. Physical fitness is the foundation for mental fitness. If you have the gas tank, then you can keep the mental clarity and make good in-game decisions.
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
I will leave you with this one final thought. You probably know who your supporters are, the ones who believe in you and who want the best for you… the genuine ones. But you may not always know who your detractors are (go back and read #8). Remember, the better you get and the further you progress, there will be those who want you to fail. Success will create new challenges, new opportunities, and yes, even new enemies. Don’t give them room to stay at the “inn”. Not everyone loves a winner. Let them sit in their envious hate and rot.
In other words, be hard to kill both on the field (literally) and off of it (metaphorically).
Here’s to 2021!
Be water my friends.