No! This can’t be happening!
Last weekend I was taking full advantage of backwards compatibility on the Xbox and introduced my son to some games I had first played many years ago. As you might expect he complained about the poor graphics and sound in comparison to what’s available today. Those complaints had me dredging up stories about how gaming really used to be.
I can remember a time when I was a little younger than he is now and used to spend time listening to the screeching sound that my Sinclair ZX Spectrum used to make when loading a game. Couple that with the amazing flashing colours on display and it was almost like a rehearsal for a migraine. Whilst my son and I waited for a game to install I regaled him with the story about how long games took to load “back in the day” and remembered the many occasions when after almost 40 minutes of waiting the screeching would stop but the game did not start.
It was, at the time, the worst thing that could happen. All that time waiting only to be greeted with the flashing colours, no sound and even worse no game. What made the whole thing even more painful, well painful to the 9-year-old me, was the fact that there really was only one solution. Hit restart and try again. Whilst it was a very time-consuming process it did invariably however lead to a better outcome overall and reduce the fighting for a short while between me and my brother.
The interesting thing today is that there are occasions where things don’t go to plan. There are times when even the most wonderfully crafted to do lists become stalled due to some other outside factors getting in the way. Often, we realise all too late that we have set off down a path that isn’t going to lead to the right solution for us. Depending on what else you’ve got going on, these can be the real pain points. Deadlines fast approaching, people relying on you and an internal feeling that you might be about to fail.
So, what do you do? Well the simple answer might be to just dig in and keep on carrying on as the saying goes. However, if we think back to the story of a crashed Sinclair, that wouldn’t help. Keeping on pursuing something that was broken or not working just led to more frustration (or fighting with siblings), delays and the ultimate realisation that a reset was needed.
All too often in today’s world we can find ourselves pushing harder and harder to achieve an outcome that we thought was right at the time. We continue to drive towards a goal because we set it and achieve it we must. For me this has ultimately only ever led to one place. That awful feeling that I can’t get to the result I want. That I’ve set the bar too high or bitten off more than I can chew.
At moments like this its always wisest to take a step back and hit that reset button. Sure, it’s frustrating, massively annoying actually, but it can help get you where you need to be in a significantly shorter amount of time.
In reality, the reset button doesn’t appear as a conveniently placed switch that you can press. Often it can hide and even make you think you’ve pressed it when nothing could be further from the truth.
A great piece of advice I was given was to change what you were working on totally and clear your mind, even move away from the desk, go for a walk and let your thoughts carry you away. I can still remember clearly thinking I was on the right track setting out for said walk with nothing but an iPhone and the soothing tones of Iron Maiden (it works for me OK) playing away. Did I switch off? Did I relax? Did I come up with a new and interesting idea to get me past the barrier I was facing? Nope. Not at all.
Why? I hadn’t given myself permission to forget about things for a short while. Just like the 9-year-old staring dumbfounded at a screen that wasn’t opening up a wonderful world of pixels for me to play with, I hadn’t accepted I needed to change something. Feeling like the day was a total write off I sat down again and tried and failed to complete the task I needed to. It was only then, after wasting another couple of hours I realised I did really need to try and switch off.
With my new perspective in place I once more donned the headphones and set off for a short walk, making myself focus on the lyrics to every song, on hearing the individual instruments and making that my area of focus for 15-20 minutes. Arriving back at my desk I felt much calmer, much more relaxed and able to look at what I had been struggling with and reset my overall goal. Stepping backwards really can move your further forward in the long run.
So, whilst this blog post might seem like an advert for retro gaming and heavy metal, what I’m saying is that sometimes its ok for you to take a rest. Pause, focus on you and you alone. Think about anything but what you are stuck with and go back with a new and fresh perspective.
My 9-year-old self did that quite often, in fact he often gave up with the game that wouldn’t load and did something much more productive instead. It turns out I was trying to teach myself lessons for later life even then.