I have to admit, sometimes I spend hours watching emotional sports videos on youtube. There’s just something about people pursuing and achieving their dreams that is addictive to my emotions. Today I saw a video with a soundtrack from Eric Thomas laid over Giavanni Ruffin’s highlights from his practice. The strongest message from the video is about motivation, and so that’s what I wanted to talk about today.
What is motivation?
There’s so many things going on here in this video that it is hard to quantify what motivation is? The dictionary is no help here, since it simply describes motivation as the state of being motivated. The psychological definition is the process that arouses, sustains, and regulates human and animal behavior, but again that does not get us any closer to understanding how it works. Sport psychologists have many theories of motivation, but I’d rather analyze this video and see what can be understood from Giavanni’s example.
Knowing what you want…
The first thing Giavanni does well is define what “success” means to him. In other videos he has said hee wants to make it into the NFL. That is his goal. Maybe he has other desires like, winning the Super Bowl, or getting into the football hall of fame, but none of those things can be accomplished without first becoming an NFL player. So that should be how he defines his success. Many eSport athletes who want to be successful struggle with this. Partly it is the newness of the eSports world that is the blame. In traditional sport there are simple goals that can be easily dreamed about, such as “make the team,” “go to the olympics,” “win gold.” It is a given that if one does these things, financial success is sure to follow. In the eSports world currently it is not so clearcut. Until recently a major goal of many eSport athletes was simply to make a living playing the game. Sometimes it was not enough to have won a tournament, or become a champion, since it did not translate into a career. Likewise it was difficult to know what tournaments to aim for. However, this is changing rapidly for the better as the eSports marketing world coalesces around successful events and successful players.
…and how to get it
Once Giavanni understands his goal he should ask himself, “What do I need to do this year to get my goal?” “What do I need to do this month?” “What do I need to do this week?” “What about today?”. The answer is a universal for sports, practice. The same is true in eSports although the methods are not as established as they are in American football. Giavanni just does what the pros have always done. Starcraft 2 players in Korea have the same benefit of being able to copy the practice routines of dozens of successful players. However for relatively new sports like League of Legends, it is difficult to determine the best methods to follow in order to improve. Many new, upcoming professionals will have to discover their own way.
Living in the moment, execution of one’s desire
Once an athlete has goals, he can focus on doing. The best practicers are those that know the scope of their control over the world. Giavanni cannot control whether or not he is picked up by a team. He cannot control if the team that picks him up wins or loses. He cannot control whether or not he gets run over by a bus tomorrow. The only thing he can control 100% is what he is doing. right. now. Giavanni lives in the moment. It reminds me very much of a scene from a really bad movie called “Peaceful Warrior”
I like this clip, and Giavanni’s, because they emphasize a healthy psychological approach towards accomplishing goals. Many people who use goal setting get caught up too much in whether or not the goal was accomplished. Breaking down big goals into monthly, weekly, daily and hourly goals tasks is fine, but spending too much time worrying about a to do list is distracting. Giavanni and the ‘peaceful warrior’ put more faith in their own ability, and use their goals mainly to motivate their effort in the present moment, attempting to reach 100%, all day, every day. This approach is mentally healthy because sometimes people do not reach their goals. In fact (spoiler alert) at the end of “Peaceful Warrior” the main character does not achieve his goal, but neither does he make any excuse for himself. Neither does Giavanni:
Ruffin was never discouraged when his name failed to show up on the NFL draft board… he simply used the experience as added motivation in achieving his goal of making it to the NFL, pointing out a very encouraging fact. “I’ve been through a lot and I’ve learned with hard work you can achieve anything,” Ruffin explained. “Twenty-three Pro Bowlers were undrafted free agents last year so, it’s something to work for.” Source
Andy Roddick said it best, “At one point in your life you either have the thing you want or the reasons why you don’t.” Professional athletes can count on not achieving some goals being able to cope is important.
The result versus the journey
Giavanni and the ‘peaceful warrior’ cope by adjusting their approach to goals. In the movie in Giavanni’s video I see them trying to focus on the journey rather than the result. If they succeed, it will be because of their hard work and focus on the day to day effort. I think if Giavanni does not succeed, he will adjust his goals and approach them with the same passion.
How badly do you want success? How badly do you want to wake up tomorrow knowing that you gave everything the day before in order to achieve your dreams? Some people need to win to succeed and quit trying when they feel they are going to fail. In League of Legends there is a popular trend among the top athletes to stream their practice time online. If you watch their streams long enough, you see plenty of different styles of play and attitudes. But one thing you hardly ever see is a professional player voting to surrender a match. This seemingly universal trait among the best players in the sport is not a random occurrence. They do not need to win to succeed and do not quit when they feel they are going to fail. They know the value of the journey, the value of their effort, trumps their desire for winning and losing. These types of athletes generally succeed more consistently than others because of this approach. As a bonus, they are usually happier too. Happier if they win, and happier if they fail. Joyful in the moment, and giving it their all.
So at the end of the year Giavanni might not be playing in the NFL, but he will know he worked hard enough to deserve it. He will not make any excuses for himself.