Life Lessons Learned from Video Games

I used to have a friend during my college days named Michael Stille; everyone called him White Mike though. White Mike was my freshman year roommate and one of the coolest people you could meet.  The more you knew him, the more you thought, “man, this boy is ghetto!” Looking back at it, I could see why Northwood paired us as roommates: we were both low-key guys who were somewhat selfish mama’s boys that just so happened to major in sports management.

Michael Stille: March 11, 1989 - September 29, 2011.

White Mike was an absolute pain to play video games with!  Whether it was Madden, NBA Live, or Fight Night, he always gave me (and mostly everyone else he played on campus) the business.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I beat him in anything.  What would be more shocking is the margin of victory he had over me; I really think it exceeds the number on my paycheck I hope to get this Friday.  And it wasn’t like Mike would ever ease up.  You could be losing by several touchdowns, and he’d go all Bill Bellicheck on you and run up the score until the clock ran out.  I would shake my head in frustrution and leave his place thinking, “jerk!”

Judging from my previous posts, you could probably tell I really don’t like losing.  White Mike’s video game beatings had a way of humbling me.  Whatever confidence and skill I may’ve thought I had when I started was usually diminished by the time I finished playing him.  White Mike humbled me in another way recently (and unintentionally).  On September 29, he died in a car accident along with his sister’s fiance.  So unfortunate, because things were starting to pick up for him.  He was due to see his sister get married two days later, just interviewed for an internship, worked an Indianapolis Colts game, and even had him a girlfriend (you go Mikey!!!).  And yet, a freak accident took that all away.

In my last post (which seemed years ago), I talk about avoiding a sense of entitlement.  The best way you can do this is the same way White Mike beat me down in video games – staying humble.  Humility is a tricky concept to master.  Sometimes it’s confused with low self-esteem or putting yourself down.  Although to be humble is to lower yourself in importance, humility is not the absence of confidence.  Rather, humility diminishes our egos (which can also be an acronym for “edging God out) and allows us to keep an open mind.

You want to know what lead me to start abrothanamedCed?  Most of it stems from a humbling experience that came in the summer of 2009.  It was the summer going into my junior year and I had nothing going for me.  So, I thought to apply for this new government-funded Summer Youth Employment Program.  The first day I try to apply, I find that I don’t have the proper financial information; so they tell me to come back during Saturday.  I get to the office around 7:30 in the morning to see a line of what seemed like thousands of teens and young adults waiting for the process to begin.  I could go on for days about how unorganized the registration staff and process were!  I even saw a kid from Northwood working for registration.  That’s when my frustration turned into embarrassement.  There I was, standing in hours worth of lines, halfway finished with college, a nice GPA and a decent resume, with kids as old or older than me, who haven’t worked a legal job in their lives and some who didn’t even graduate high school.  The process took five hours, and I still had to catch the bus home from the southwest side.  But for all that unorganized chaos, I never got a call telling me to report to a job site.  Nothing.  Nada. Zero.  Just another boring wasted summer in the D.  That’s what I started to realize that I never want to feel so “not in-control” of my destiny again.

When I look back, I needed that summer to happen to me.  I had gotten too comfortable with my own skills and felt so content with my skills that I knew that someone out there would bend over backwords to hire me.  Having a friend like White Mike was something else I needed.  When you live long enough and surround yourself with new people, you’ll live to realize that someone, somewhere, is always better (or working to be better than) you.  And that, is what makes us humble – lowering your own self-importance and gaining respect and admiration for those who compete on the same, or grander scale, than you.  Memories of White Mike in his casket will always humble me, as well as the video game butt-kickings.  I hope that you too, will use your moments of humility to overcome your sense of entitlement.

Fear: The Stuff of Champions!

Let’s just be honest with ourselves here: we all hate to do homework!  In grade school, it kept you from hanging out with your friends.  In college, it kept you from going to what everyone called that one “party of the year” (and if it was at Northwood it probably sucked anyway).  And in your career, it can keep you from spending quality time with your loved ones at home; unless you’re that one guy who hates his wife.  Yet at the same time, you know it’s just another one of life’s many speed bumps that you just have to go over, just like taxes.  Why? Because you know that if it doesn’t get done, you’re the one who suffers the consequences.

Not sure if this kid's parents put enough fear in him...

So in a sense, the thing that motivates you to do your homework is the f-word.  No, I’m not talking about the one that relates to x-rated action.  And I’m definitely not referring to it as a homosexual slur (I’ll leave that kind of language up to James Harrison for now).  The word I’m talking about is fear.  Think about it: as a little kid in elementary school your parents always stressed to you the importance of doing your homework.  More than likely, they often scared you into doing it by threatening to ground you, or giving you a piece of the leather (belt, that is) to that backside.  So there you were, running home as fast as you could. Not to watch the next episode of Pokemon or Jerry Springer, but to that table or to your room to do that evil homework assignment.  The sooner you got it done, the sooner you could be outside with your friends, breaking your neighbor’s window playing ball, or harassing that little girl from the other block (who’ll likely grow up to be your wife).

Many people downplay the trait of fear.  We often hear it associated negatively, and usually those who show it are taken advantage of in today’s society.  You hear phrases like, “you have nothing to fear but fear itself,” or, “I fear no one!”  But what many of us fail to recognize is that fear plays a part in our motivations.  In all actuality, having a small dose of fear is actually essential for doing the things you need to do to live out your dreams and accomplish your goals.  Don’t believe me?  Consider my personal example.

As some of you may know, I came from Pershing High School in Detroit.  I started going there when I was in 10th grade after we moved from Georgia due to my mom’s retirement from the Navy.  It was here where I started to turn the corner academically and mentally, making A’s and B’s in 10th grade, then settling for nothing less than an A afterwards.  I graduated from Pershing with a 3.65 GPA and was known for being one of the smartest kids in the class (they even nominated me for Class Nerd; an award I didn’t win…but should have if you really stopped to think about it…).  But the months before coming to Northwood, I read in a packet that even scholarship students flunk out of college.  Add that to the knock that my school was known for poor academic standards (on top of being in arguably one of the worst big city school districts in America) and needless to say I had a bit of fear coming in to college. So to start out my first term, I made a point to stay committed to my schoolwork first and worry about everything else later.  The end result, I graduated in four years with a 3.64 GPA, easily among the top 10 percent.  Not bad for a kid from “The P!”

Anyone who tells you they walk without fear is probably in denial worse than Roger Clemens.  Fear exists in everyone, whether it be penny-sized or twice your own size.  The key is to not allow it to debilitate you, but to utilize it and ingrain it into your motivations.  Using fear this way allows you to stay humble and keeps you on your toes.  I use my fears to give 110 percent into anything I set out to do.  Keeping a mental picture of the worst that can happen allows me to think of ways that I can avoid those situations.  Question is: how will you use your fears?

Something Worth Chasing

I couldn't tell you what these guys are chasing...But me? I'm chasing my dreams.

I remember this one time I was taking the Greyhound bus home for a weekend to make it to a Tigers’ game the next day.  On the way from Flint to Detroit, I was chilling out and listening to my mp3 when I noticed this boy who was trying to spit game to this chick.  I kind of watched him as he struck out swinging trying to get this girl’s phone number and other info (personally, I thought the guy was mentally off to begin with…).  She would keep telling him things like, “It’s nice to meet you and all, but I’m not really interested in trying to know you or get into a relationship right now.”  She saw me watching and we both chuckled and shook our heads (seriously, the guy was slow).  And my first thought was: “Man!  It sucks to be a woman!”

I’m sure we’ve all seen and/or been a part of cases like these.  Whether it’s that girl walking past you in the mall, or (for the ladies) that guy in the club, I’m sure you’ve found yourself pursing someone who you knew was probably way out of your league.  But this isn’t just limited to pursuing a soul mate (or a booty-call if that’s more of your thing).  We as people find ourselves pursing things like cars, houses, and all those new gadgets that become obsolete in six months.  These things are so far out of our reach, they come off like the English Premier League in soccer to our “Major” League Soccer in North America (for those who aren’t familiar with soccer leagues, think of the NFL compared to arena football, or MLB to Independent League baseball).  And ironically, they all have one thing in common: more often than not, these are temporary materialistic things that you can’t take with you when you pass away. Believe it or not, there is only one thing out there that you have that no one can take from you: your goals and dreams.

Let me tell you about something I’ve recently started (and part of my reason for starting this blog).  I recently established myself as a freelance publicist; except, I call it something different.  The name of my side gig is the same as my username – abrothanamedCed: The Marketing Communications Artist.  I see myself as more than a publicist who can write-up a good news release.  It’s why I expand my services to whatever is necessary to market my clients and partners to the best of what I’m capable.  Check out my website at http://www.abrothanamedCed.com.  How long do I plan to keep up with “abrothanamedCed”?  Until I establish myself as an official small marketing firm, or until I find that one company I decide I want to take over.

Logos, websites, business cards? It costs alot now. But it's the long-run that matters.

How does this relate to chasing my dreams?  Well, as you may be aware (or should be by now) I’m a recent college graduate.  And as some of you also know, the question you get asked the most is, “so, whatcha gon’ do now?”  My main goal after graduation was to be able to stay in the Detroit area.  Having matured and living here a while, I’ve grown to appreciate the city (believe me, as a kid I used to hope this place would burn to the ground).  So you can imagine that I haven’t been much of a fan of the criticism the city has taken lately.  It’s like this once proud city of more than a million citizens has become America’s punchline of now fewer than 800,000.  Call me crazy, but I’m one of those who thinks the city can bounce back one day.  And you know what’s even crazier?  I want to be a part of the turnaround.  Whereas others get their kicks-and-giggles living “La Vida Loca” in cities like the NYC and LA, I find that there’s something to be said about making it in the D.  I guess you can say I get my thrills from being the underdog.  After all, If I go down, I’d rather do it swinging!

That’s just my lengthy example!  The point is, your dreams and goals are the only things really worth chasing.  Men and women, money and cars, clothes, jewelry and gadgets, all of these things are only temporary.  Like I said in my first post, do what you love to do and these things will come along in the process.  At the end of the day, how would you feel if you couldn’t say that you didn’t spend at least a couple of days in your life pursuing your goals, dreams and passions?  But, whatever you do, don’t let me tell you what your dreams and goals are.  If your goal in life is to get “the hottest chick in the game wearing your chain” (Jay-Z quote), more power to you!  Just make sure it’s something really worth pursuing in the grand scheme of things.

Oh, and by the way: since I know I may not make money with abrothanamedCed right away, I accepted a full-time job with BNP Media!  Those student loans don’t payoff themselves you know.  Anyway, I start tomorrow, so wish me luck!

Real-World, Meet Your Long Lost Buddy

Feeling like the real-world has you in submission? Call your long lost buddy for help.

Think of a time before you were a teen. I bet when you were a kid, there was always that one dream toy or dream clothes that you always wanted. I also bet that you used an old friend that today probably gets as much action as I do for the Detroit Tigers (none). You had no choice but to use this friend because every time you asked your parents for the real thing you were left with tears in your eyes or your bottom lip out there like Al Sharpton’s theories.

Now think about how this relates to how you live today. Some of you maybe still college students while others are real-world adults. You still find yourself desiring certain things, like that dream job right when you graduate, or that nice car that’s sure to make you look like you make more than a Fortune 500 CEO. Strangely enough, there’s still people out there who make excuses why you can’t have those things (and more than likely it’s not your parents). You still get those tears in your eyes and walk around looking like a sad puppy. The only difference is now that you don’t reach out to that old friend you leaned on as a kid. Instead, you just let life kick your teeth in and take your beatdown like the boring adult you were raised to be. So, who is this friend you’ve neglected, and what does this have to do with getting your way?

His/her name is imagination. You were once best buddies, but now you wouldn’t recognize it even if it hit you harder than Muhammed Ali in his prime. Sure, it doesn’t look anything like it used to, but it can actually come in handy today. That’s because, you’re not the only one who’s been growing up these past few years. Your long lost buddy wasn’t just collecting dust like an old book. He/she too has been maturing while you were taking your real-world butt-kicking. It’s even taken a new name: Innovation.

What’s the difference? Whereas your imagination was mostly used to create unrealistic fantasies, innovation combines your childhood creativity along with real-world limitations to create an idea, product or service. How can innovation help you today? By using it to help you get to where you want to be. Innovation isn’t nearly as complicated as rocket scientists make it out to be. Really, all it takes to be innovative is to do something different from what everyone else is doing while still being useful to others. Think of the Snuggie for instance. All that this is just a comfy bed blanket turned into a backwards robe. All the inventors did was capitalize on a problem that plagued couch potatoes everywhere! Now, they’re probably making millions selling those silly things in thousands of designs and colors.

You don’t have to create something new to be innovative. All it takes is doing something different. In my last post I talked about how you learn from your past to affect your present in order to create your future. Well you don’t have to do that alone. Your innovation can be used to help you get that dream job or that dream house. Do something different that you would’ve never thought of before. Break away from your daily routine and try something new, whether it be creating a website for your resume or creating new ways to save money towards that house. The best way to figure it out is by trial and error.

Speaking of that dream job: I’m still “jobless” in case you were wondering…..but I’m not worried. My innovation and I still have some tricks up our sleeves. Want to know what I’m talking about? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out….