In my youth, I slayed countless dragons, trolls, wyverns and slime monsters. I completed perilous quests, hoarded potions, learned the lore of several diverse worlds, and even flew more than a couple airships.
No wonder I was a pasty kid.
If I’ve lost you, I’m referring to my youthful obsession with role-playing video games (RPGs) like Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, Kings Quest V, and a couple others. (okay, so I lost a couple months to World of Warcraft in my mid-twenties. Whatever).
While the utility of such digital diversions is debatable, I learned something wildly important from these games:
You become a badass by gaining XP and leveling up.
While playing RPGs you collect XP (experience points) by defeating ever-more challenging enemies. You start out a chicken-kicking weakling who has just lost her entire village to a monster attack and you end the game a powerful mage who uses her fire magic to immolate her nemesis.
To build a badass character, you have to spend hours and hours engaged in a practice called grinding. Grinding means spending hours in the forest killing slime monsters in order in order to gain XP and collect loot. More XP and loot allows you to level up and move forward in the game.
The Hidden Life Lesson in Every RPGs
Building your life is like building a character in an RPG (albeit far more complex and interesting). To improve your life, build your skills, and level up, you have to do some grinding.
If this were a cheesy personal development blog (okay, it kind of is, grr), then I might call this post ‘Level Up your Life’ or some other alliterative silliness. But I prefer the –ing rhyme.
This idea of grind->gain XP-> level up is obvious, but too many people miss it.
- Want to level up your career? Then stop bitching about how much your job sucks and start grinding in order to build those skills that will improve your current job, allow you to start your own business, go freelance or find another job.
- Want to level up your finances? Shut up about the damn economy and start learning about the psychology of money. While you’re at it, you might want to work on those impulse-control skills. Understanding the true cost of interest helps, too.
- Want to level up your earning skills? Build your marketing skills, learn to turn your passions into profits, or go back to school.
- Want to max out your time management and productivity skills? Buy and use this book
- Overleveraged, underemployed college graduate? Go teach English in Asia. What you miss out on in career-XP you’ll make up for in loot collected.
- Want to level up your writing skills? Then start writing. Reading books and blogs on writing won’t make you a better writer unless you actually write. That’s like reading a game’s instruction manual in order to level up your character.
- Want to level up your charisma? Then apply some of the time-tested goodness from Dale Carnegie’s classic book (free on archive.org)
This is simple: if you want to level up your life (damn it, I said it), you have put in a lot of dedicated time to gaining experience and improving your skills.
Start with Slime Monsters, Not Wyverns
Remember what I wrote about Small Wins? This RPG approach to skill-building is no different. Unless you’re suicidal, you wouldn’t direct your level 1 character into a cave full of level 20 trolls.
And, speaking from my own hair-pulling experience, you shouldn’t set a goal to earn $5,000 a month from freelancing in 3 months if your previous freelance income is zero.
Reduce Your Grinding Time
Up up down down left right left right B A hit start.
Sometimes, when you kill an enemy, they drop a rare item, for example the Flaming Sword of Awesome. This FSoA allows you to gain a lot of experience (and level up) in a hurry. FSoAs require more effort than the Konami code, but they do exist. When you find one, make good use of it. You still have to grind, but just know that there’s no speed limit.
Talk to me
- What skills would you like to level up?
- Do you have a flaming sword of awesome to share? (i.e. a strategy to gain experience faster?)
- Warrior or mage, which are you?
Photo cred: aztlek
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Well done, Seth! I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I understood every one of the above references. I’ve recently tried to adopt this strategy by starting my own micro business. As a result, I’ve increased my income by more than 50%. This gave me the leverage I needed to hatch out a plausible plan to take down the Garland in my life (student loan debt). Very good advice in a very entertaining package!
This is great, Seth. I love “This idea of grind->gain XP-> level up is obvious, but too many people miss it.”
I’m going to reformat it slightly and have it be Grind -> Gain -> Grow. Just because my attention span won’t allow me read those extra
I love the idea of slowly improving. I’m only just learning it now. I never really got into RPGs when I was younger. I was more in to the RTS side of things. Maybe I would have got that lesson a bit quicker if I had.
Thanks for this post.
Good work, Lineberry! A 50% increase in income from your microbusiness is pretty sweet. At this right you might find yourself completely self-employed by the end of the year.
🙂 Garland, I haven’t heard that name in ages.
I like Grind>Gain>Grow. Between the alliteration and economical word choice, you’ve put a catchy title on this ‘build your skills and level up’ concept.
Thanks Seth! Great post. I’m a “girl” so I initially really had no idea what you were talking about. But, I got a 2-for-1, great post and insights on video gaming. The post reminded me of a documentary I was watching on “The Art of War”..taking lessons from battle, or in this case video battle, and applying them as strategies for life. Love it! Great reminders..and truths.