Learning to not care

So I’ve been really busy trying to knock out my thesis proposal. For some strange reason, I used to be a pretty good writer up to when I started work. I never had any problems writing essays in school, although I do write pretty slowly so sometimes I didn’t finish all the questions in stuff like geography exams where you’re supposed to absolutely regurgitate PARAGRAPHS of stuff. But somehow in my first job, I started developing hangups when writing papers. I worried about whether I was doing it the “right way”, whether I had the proper subsections, or formatting. I worried about whether my boss would like the way I was phrasing things. I worried about whether I needed more supporting data.

In hindsight this may have contributed quite a bit to why I did not particularly like my job. It paid decently and I think I had a decent reputation amongst management (having received a scholarship from the company obviously helps). But I just hated writing papers. I always felt unhappy for perceived criticisms from my bosses about my papers, sometimes over obviously niggling details. Amongst us we used to joke that this was just the way all bosses were, they had to “value-add” otherwise their job would be redundant if all they said was “OK looks good”. But even though I knew this I think I still felt a little bit unhappy, particularly if I actually respected the management.

So fast forward to the past few weeks (months?) where I’ve been trying to knock out this proposal. It sounded so simple and yet it was taking me so long to do it. I worried about whether I had enough references. I worried about whether I was making statements that were just plain false and I was too ignorant to know it. I worried about the formatting and structure of a proposal. I worried about my datasets and what kind of tests I needed to do. Writing this proposal has been horrendously painful, and for no real reason. It got to the point where there were actually things I wanted to blog about, but the mere thought of writing would put me off. Kinda ironic considering I retook up blogging to help me in my thesis writing. I worried about making my posts interesting, finding pictures etc.

Then after a conversation with my wife one night, she decided to help my son make me a sign that now sits right on my desk. It’s written on plain white paper, with lots of random stickers on it (there’s a pickup truck, a red sports car, baby Lion King and… a butterfly). And it says “Write for Yourself”. Of course underneath it is a scraggly letter “S” written in yellow crayon by my son, with explanatory note that “S is for stencil”.

So now I try to remind myself not to care about what others are going to think of my paper, and just write what I want. If I need more data, I’ll go get some. If my advisor thinks I need more references, I’ll put more in. If it’s just plain bad then I’ll work on it some more. I don’t have to get it done right the first time and it’s ok to get criticised.

As a corollary, I’ve actually resumed playing a bit of World of Tanks. WoT and EVE have this love-hate tango going on where basically I seem to play one or the other, but never both at the same time. I guess they satisfy similar yet subtly different itches. They both have that collector aspect of driving/flying different tanks/ships, and making ISK in EVE is as rewarding as getting credits in WoT. However, WoT satisfies a bit more of a PVP itch and in fact I wish EVE had 15 v 15 battles rather than random ganks where one side is normally hugely outnumbered. Of course ganks are actually much more realistic but… When I get tired of mindless PVP, EVE starts looking attractive because of the complexity of the universe and the multitude of options, rather than just fighting in the same maps over and over.

So I actually quit about a year ago, and a large portion of that was that I felt that I was performing poorly in the game. There is a mod called XVM that measures players according to various metrics, such as win/loss ratio and other arcane formulae such as efficiency and WIN8 (some kind of weighted index of damage dealt, spotting, etc etc basically being useful). According to those metrics, I was a fair to good player at about 54% win rate. I had tanks of all tiers but at that point I was playing the E-75 German Tier 9 heavy tank and the Object 704 Russian Tier 9 tank destroyer, both of which were supposed to be pretty good tanks.

And I was (am?) horrible at them. Even now my E-75 has a 46% win rate, I think the Obj 704 is 47%. I actually performed decently well with their tier 8 predecessors (50% in the Tiger II, 52% in the ISU-152 respectively) so I was getting so frustrated that I was sucking at their supposedly better versions. I guess I found out that tier 9 is markedly more difficult as tanks start getting a lot more armor and their guns start doing ridiculous damage, so any mistake (like showing your ass to them…) gets punished extremely severely. My stats started taking a nosedive and I started getting frustrated playing instead of enjoying the matches.

In retrospect, a very large problem was also that I was trying to get better, funny as that sounds. I had read a lot of guides by very good players on strategic moves to pull, like trying to move into a position near the middle of the map early on. This gives you the highest chance to do the most damage to the enemy team and also gives the flexibility to react to any other flank falling. However, in practice this meant that I would often come up against the great players on the enemy team early on, or I would simply lack the skill and knowledge to survive in those areas resulting in a derp moment and our team would be down a decent player (i.e. me). I knew I played better in slow, heavy armored tanks with big guns at long range because I liked sniping and I didn’t react fast enough to changing tactical situations. Yet I felt obligated to put myself on the front lines with the E-75 because it’s strong point is great frontal armor and it’s good at brawling, and with the Obj 704 I kept pushing aggressively because it’s strong point is that it mounts a FREAKING HUGE GUN and hiding at the back may not give me any targets until my team is dead at which point my FHG is moot.

So now, upon picking up the game again, I told myself to ignore those stats and accept that I am at best a slightly above average player. I’m not going to be great, so just play the way I want to and if I lose so be it. Hang back, let the truly awful 43% win rate players rush in and die and reveal the enemy (hopefully doing at least 1 shot worth of damage) and use my knowledge of the game to do what I can. And it’s working. I’m not winning drastically more, but there has been an improvement and most importantly I’m enjoying the matches. I don’t have that impotent feeling that I can’t control the match, because I’ve accepted that at this tier I’m not going to dominate anyway and I’m just going to try to hold my own and rely on my team (which is a dicey proposition considering that the average skill level of WoT players has gone waaaaaay down).

Now to translate this to my pickup basketball games…