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Learn to Press Play: How to Worry Less and Grow More!

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You are staring at the post-game lobby.

Your team’s Caitlyn fed the enemy Katarina 6 kills.

Katarina spiraled out of control and dominated your entire team.

Sitting there, demoralized, you wonder what the point of playing solo queue is.

Will it ever get better? Why bother playing?

How you reflect on our wins and losses dramatically influences your growth as a player. In fact, you can start to make a deliberate choice before we play that will uncap your potential.

Adapt a mindset to embrace solo queue as a challenge instead of seeing solo queue as a threat.

You can consistently get better. If instead you continue to see solo queue as a threat, it limits your learning, your self-criticism, your perception of mistakes, and ultimately it limits how good you can become. This single factor, avoiding failure instead of approaching success, is the main thing limiting the vast majority of players and professionals from advancing in their skills.

This concept comes from Carol Dweck’s work on mindset. Essentially, how we attribute our successes and failures affects our ability to get better. Of course, what is simple is not always easy. So let’s take a look at how our mindset affects every game that you play.

What is Mindset?

We’re filled with beliefs about our playing ability:

“I suck at CSing.”   “I should be Diamond.”   “I win if my team doesn’t feed.”

“I can only win if I play carry champions.”    “I don’t know how to carry.”

All of these beliefs influence our expectations of what will happen if we press PLAY – often leaving us paralyzed and hesitant to press it. By shifting our mindset and our expectations, we can learn to press PLAY more – and in time, increase our skill!

There are two different mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Only a growth mindset will uncap your skill gain and leave you wanting to press PLAY again and again!

The chart below details how each mindset views different aspects of performance. How someone with a growth mindset interprets each part of performance helps someone not only improve, but also fear playing less.

Should be avoided CHALLENGES Should be embraced
Is meaningless EFFORT Is how you improve
Is to be ignored CRITICISM Is valuable
Is seen as a threat SUCCESS OF OTHERS Is seen as a learning opportunity

Fixed Mindset

Let’s look at this through the lens of League of Legends skill. Someone with a fixed mindset sitting in Bronze II would consider himself a Bronze II for life – never able to get better. The play button would appear threatening – anxiety provoking, even.

Any criticism toward his play would be ignored or rationalized. The player might win a game, but ultimately sees the effort of playing as useless toward the ELO climb. In every game, successful players would be considered a threat to winning.

Someone with this outlook on solo queue will likely either give up trying to improve or, if he does play, see his current rank as a permanent state.

These same qualities are true of a player who believes he is a Challenger player already, but is stuck in Bronze. Let’s take a look at a mindset that embraces the idea that you’re just not Challenger, yet.

Growth Mindset

An individual with a growth mindset in the same situation would think they are not a Challenger level player, yet – a Challenger-in-training. He might not queue expecting to win immediately, but the play button would be considered a challenge. He would take criticism and at least consider the information before casting it aside.

This individual would see hours spent playing as the necessary process to improve at League of Legends. Successful players in this person’s eyes would be seen as examples of behaviors he can emulate to be more successful himself.

Someone with this mindset would likely continue to play solo queue, again and again, knowing that while he might not be as good as he wants to be yet, playing and looking at his process is the only way to get better.

Adopting a growth mindset doesn’t only make you want to press PLAY more, it makes each game you do play a step toward becoming a better player.

Making the choice to grow

As you search for the courage to press PLAY, consider the following five tips:

  1. You can improve, whatever your skill level is right now.
  2. Solo queue is a challenge to embrace, not a threat to your ability.
  3. Effort is the only way to get better.
  4. Criticism is worth considering.
  5. Learn from others’ success.

#1 You Can Improve

Know that whatever your skill level is right now, you can improve. Set a small goal for every game to focus your attention on one part of your play (CS, map awareness, warding, etc.).

After every few games, think about changing your focus or increasing the challenge.

#2 Challenge, Not Threat

It’s a lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself. ~Muhammad Ali

Seeing solo queue as the only way to get better moves it from a threat to a challenge. While threats are chances to be harmed, challenges are opportunities to show our skill. When the game seems threatening, take a deep breath and focus your mind back on your goal of improving.

#3 Effort Matters

The game has its ups and downs, but you can never lose focus of your individual goals

and you can’t let yourself be beat because of lack of effort. ~Michael Jordan

Embrace effort as the only way to get better. For better or worse, you can only control one champion on your team – yours. If someone is trolling, the best thing to do is focus on what you can control. Give your team vision, last hit every creep you can, and ping the mini-map.

Even in a loss, if you give 100% effort, you will increase your skill over time.

#4 Accept Criticism

Accept that criticism is worth considering. Instead of wasting energy defending yourself, consider each criticism and move on. At the end of every game, do a quick mental review of three things you should do again and three things you should improve. Sometimes, other people are able to see things we can’t notice!

#5 Others’ Success Is Legitimate

Realize that you can learn from other successful people. There is a reason why elite players choose to play against other elite players. Why do you think LCS teams scrimmage other LCS teams? Why do pro players adopt champion picks/builds from other regions?

Mimicking someone else’s success is a strategy of successful people.

Go press PLAY now!

It is only by pressing Play and embracing the process of playing that you will uncap your potential!

It’s not that you’re not challenger, you’re just not challenger yet.

Reference: Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.