Change who you are and what you like? Try doing more instead.

In today’s society, simply being a “nice person” or “good at [consumption of media activity here]” isn’t remotely meaningful. Society wants helpers, creators, and innovators. Granted, politeness helps (I still believe this), but it’s nothing without true skills and contributions supporting these behaviors.

Now when it comes to changing behaviors to better suit social situations, we also see discussions involving hobbies like video games, movies, anime, and other so-called “nerdy” endeavors. When many people believe they must change something about themselves to better represent society, they immediately become defensive when it involves these activities.

“Well why should I NOT like this stuff? Just because society is a complete DICK that thinks everything should be about beer, football, and weightlifting, that’s supposed to be my interest too?”

Well no, and I’m addressing this because I used to be someone who said that.

In an article from Cracked, David Wong writes how changing attitudes and behaviors when life conditions become undesirable requires lots of reflection. Parts of this process may also involve self-denial and the reluctance to improve at all. When considering descriptors like “I like video games” or “I like to read” as highlights of your personality, you shouldn’t use these activities to define yourself in a one-dimensional way that excludes other factors.

Yes, feel free to enjoy what you like, but you don’t need to make it everything you are. Or even better, what else do you enjoy that also involves these hobbies? Have you ever tried programming any video games, or making any YouTube movies of your own? What about writing a book? There’s plenty out there, and many activities and endeavors benefit society in the process. For instance, if you play beautiful piano music, you could entertain and enlighten entire rooms with excellent renditions of Chopin Nocturnes.

But remember, you don’t need to completely remove other activities from your life. I know successful freelance writers and artists who love video games and anime. I know engineers and doctors who adore comic book heroes and Harry Potter. But again, they’re also doctors, engineers, artists, and writers. They help people and create things we all enjoy.

For instance, I started writing more. I still enjoy video games, but I also write and show other people how to improve their own work. In the past I hardly even blogged, and most of these entries were 10-minute rants involving subjects like “why things seem to suck so much.” I stopped writing altogether in 2007 because it just didn’t feel worthwhile. Sure, it was good to vent, but nobody enjoyed them and I sure as hell didn’t enjoy deleting them after 15 minutes of personal regret. Around 2008 something just clicked – I realized I was never terrible at writing, and that maybe I should improve my skills, read more than I do on average, and find a way to write about something more constructive.

I practice writing often. Whether it’s 200 words or 2,000, I make sure something gets logged and that I learn from the experience. It’s all part of the process, and I think that’s what Wong highlights as a major problem in his article: nobody likes the process.

Let me use another example. Ever play games like World of Warcraft, or any other intensive MMORPG video games that require ass loads of time? Do you look forward to obtaining the next awesome looking weapons and mounts you discover, or actually hunting and grinding for it? Yeah, there are some  intense workaholics out there (I’m arguably one of them) who adore the process and see it as part of the overall contribution. However, a majority of players probably hate it or don’t even think about it, and simply keep the reward in their mind as they grind and grind toward that shiny new sword.

A World of Warcraft archaeology reward known as “Zin’Rokh, Destroyer of Worlds.” Also known as “Destroyer of Hours” and “Harbinger of Sick Days.”

And that’s the trick: you have to keep your goals in mind, regardless of how pointless the task seems during the most boring times. That’s what you have to do in life. I didn’t become a better writer overnight, and I’m still convinced there’s work to do. Same thing applied when I lost 80 pounds and took up jogging, but that’s another story for another time.

Hell, Wong stated in his article that it took him nearly 13 years to realize his full potential. I’m still a 26-year-old transitioning into year three. So far I’ve edited for an independent site named Press Pause Radio, had seven community writings featured at Bitmob (now transferring to GamesBeat), and even had freelance work funded for a small town independent. Today, I help other folks with the basics of journalistic writing, and also run my community college’s student newspaper. But overall, I still have a long way to go. I have yet to write for a professionally established outlet, or spark extreme debates with dozens or hundreds of people who found my work. And to most big time editors I’m still “just another writer” until I create a better presentation of what I can offer. Even with everything you know, the world always asks “okay, but what else?”

And no, this doesn’t mean success requires you become a brain surgeon or engineer of the Mass Effect Crucible. Society wants motivated folks who realize there’s always something new to learn. We all progress by learning together and continuing forward. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t get far with an entire world full of “nice” people playing video games and complimenting each other’s clothing while they exchange Harry Potter trivia.

We all have so much potential, and probably more time than we even realize.

One thought on “Change who you are and what you like? Try doing more instead.

  1. margie bassinger December 21, 2012 / 5:13 am

    This is REALLY good!!! And I’m not just saying that because I’m your mother! I’m saying it because it is!! You made some really good points in this article.

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