On May 15th this year, I bought my first video game in about 10 years, called Diablo III (tubadan#1436 for those of you who care). Perhaps you’ve heard of it. I’ve been playing the series since Diablo came out in my freshman year of college and this incarnation of the game is quite good. If you haven’t played it before, it’s your standard fantasy action RPG all about killing demons and sealing pits of hell. Which you’re either into or you’re not.
Regardless, one of the features of the game is that after you finish it and kill Diablo, you’re brought right back to the beginning of the game, but this time it’s much harder (in fact, it’s called Nightmare difficulty). If you beat Nightmare, you’re taken to Hell difficulty. Finally, if you beat Hell difficulty, you’re taken to Inferno difficulty. They don’t mess around in Inferno. You end up dying. A lot. Of course, you’re brought right back, but it can get really frustrating to keep dying over and over.
Fortunately you’re given a series of skills that help you kill the bad guys. Each of the 5 classes has 20-30 skills, each that reward a different play style. A few there just take up space too, since they don’t do enough to help you. You can only have 9 skills active at any given time, so you have to choose the ones that give you the best balance of offensive and defensive abilities. Inevitably, when you get to Inferno, the skills that have served you so well over the past 3 difficulties stop being as effective. That’s when you have to decided to abandon your old strategy and experiment to find a new one that will help you move forward. This is called a “re-spec.” I’ve already done it about 4 times, and each time, it takes some trial and error. With time, though, you do much better than you did the first time around.
So today I was walking down the street stressing about various pieces in my life that I’m trying to integrate. I have to keep my chops in good shape for the various tuba/sousaphone gigs I have coming up. I have to prepare for my mixing and mastering session next week for my upcoming album (CD release 8/25 – Save the date!). I have to find time to exercise and keep my diet healthy so I can keep my body in good shape. I have to continue to nurture and develop the amazing relationship I’m in with my girlfriend. Oh, and I have to go to work every day.
I’m able to do all these things now, but sometimes I feel like I’m falling behind or feeling too overwhelmed. So as I’m thinking about these things, I start to think about Diablo III, and I’m sure you can see where I’m going from here: what if I could re-spec the various arenas of my life in the same way I change things in Diablo III. I’m not so naive that I think they’re direct parallels, but I’m not so stuck in my ways that I see it as an impossibility. Essentially, what I’d be doing is listing out all the things I want/need to do, and see if I can structure them in such a way that my time is more efficiently spent. Maybe I could even eliminate some of the dead weight (no worries Katie, you made the cut!).
First I’d need to have an audit of my life and priorities so I can get a clear picture of where things are currently. Once I list out my current schedules, interests, and priorities, I can see if they stack differently than they currently are. As with Diablo III, it’s ok if things don’t line up perfectly at first. I mean, as long as I’m able to do the absolute musts, missing out on certain activities for a little bit is ok. I’m experimenting at this point. Having that room to experiment makes it possible for me to not fall right back into the old way of doing things. Since that’s what we’re used to, it’s so easy to do.
I’ve done this sort of work with practicing an instrument before too, and it can be really helpful. If you feel like you’re concentrating on too many factors, take everything out and start with the fundamentals. In the case of tuba, that can mean going back to simple articulations, slurs, and centering of notes, instead of trying to keep track of the overwhelming number of factors it takes to play even a simple piece of music. You’ll find that after you add them back piece by piece, and in a conscious order, your understanding of playing takes a fresh new approach that often works better than the old way you’ve always been doing things.
So never underestimate the power of stepping back, evaluating where you are, and changing your priorities, techniques, and approaches. Whether you’re gearing up to kill the Lord of Terror, change your diet, or just rearrange the contents of you life, it’s an exciting and beneficial tool to use. The more you can afford to re-examine, the more potential benefit you can find.