Talent, Mastery, Esports, and Teamwork

I’ve never done cocaine but I used to play competitive esports before it was a thing and it was one of the most exhilarating times I’ve ever had in my life. The other exhilarating times in my life were the first months after starting my first business and also the first months after meeting the love of my life.

Maybe that paints a picture of how exhilarating it was. It was like a drug.

I started playing this game in college. I was new to shooters but I wanted to get good at it. The game had a training program where it ranked players based on their ability to complete hard challenges. At the time – the highest ranking was G10.

I made my way up to G10, it was hard, and then I realized that the game wasn’t as fun anymore because it wasn’t challenging. The game had a horrible matchmaking system so going against G1 or G7 players wasn’t fun. It was literally like taking candy from a baby.

That’s how I discovered the competitive scene. People who were too good for the normal game.

I went from thinking I was hot shit to realizing that I was fucking garbage. Technically in the tiny world of this video game I was in the top 1%. But the players in this new scene were the top 1% of the 1%. People who had been playing competitive shooters for years and still play competitively today for international teams like Cloud9.

Esports taught me a lot about talent and mastery because it didn’t matter how many hours I played every day. I would never ever be able to light a candle next to the best players in the game when it came to mechanics. I was playing this game like it was my full-time job that college semester.

It was funny because the best players in the game rarely talked shit.

The way the competitive scene worked was that we had these daily pickup games of Capture the Flag (CTF). If you were good enough to play, you could play. So it didn’t matter how much shit you talked, the cards would be revealed once we played.

CTF is pretty simple. There is a flag and you need to take the enemy’s flag to your checkpoint to score a point. Team who gets a certain number of points first wins the game.

There were 6 players per team. Offense, mid, and defense.

I was a garbage player so I played shotty defense. It required the least amount of skill. Offense had to be good enough to take out the defense. Mid had to be godly to take out anyone in the field that crossed their line of vision.

Everyone knew what role they had to play and it did not matter in these pickup games whether it was your first time playing with someone or not. If you understood the basic principles of the game – everyone could communicate and play well.

If you ever fucked up and left your position – you created a weak spot for your team. If we suddenly had 1 defense and 3 offense or 2 defense and 4 offense – if the teamwork broke down, the likelihood of losing the game was high.

This happened, people’s egos would get ahead of themselves, or they would be unable to work in a team. And everyone who played competitively would learn how to push each other’s buttons. Who were dependable, who weren’t, what people’s weaknesses were, where they excelled, etc.

The best thing about these pickup games were that the teams were randomized – we shuffled things around constantly to make it fun – and as soon as the game started, we would be able to start honing into the weaknesses of each team like a shark, blood in the water.

It was nasty to see and not fun when the teams were not balanced well. Those weren’t fun at all to everyone involved because we all wanted to be challenged to a certain degree. If you wanted to stomp some noobs, you could play the regular game.

These were fast games. The game mechanics required fast reaction times. My kill speed was 1 second. If I saw someone, I could kill them in the game within 1 second. The people who were light years ahead of me? Their kill speeds were under a second, like maybe half a second. This is how fast paced this game was. I was grinding for hours to improve my reaction time by fractions of a second.

The other mechanics was understanding the maps and your position. You needed to know your maps well, understand where people would usually come from, make sure you have a good position, etc.

Last, you needed to be able to communicate well, because these were big maps and if it only took someone under a second to kill you, we couldn’t see our enemy until it was too late. So it was really important that we knew where the enemy was at all times.

Every team has call outs for all important maps- so you can easily communicate what’s happening where in seconds.

When everything came together, when you played smoothly with your team, it was like you were one entity. It was being able to know what your teammate was going to do before they did it. And if you knew your competition, knowing what the enemy was going to do before they did it.

I’ve never been able to experience that since then but I miss it very much. I want to find my team that can operate like a well-oiled machine.

The thing about your team is that it is even better the better you are and the better your teammates are. Some people need to be a star player – so they’d rather play big but in a shitty team. I’m not an expert at this but I think having a humble team of all stars is the way to go.

Because at the level you’re playing – you will all be stars.

We had a player in the game and he never talked shit because people accused him of hacking all the time. He was that good and he’s the guy who made me quit esports and helped me get to where I am today. After going 4 v 1 against him and not being able to scratch, come close to how good he was, I dusted my hands and was like – well this isn’t my future lol. No matter how much I practice, how much I play, I will never ever be able to be as good as he is.

Once everyone has mastered the mechanics to 1% – you need to master yourself, your ego, and your reactions. You can’t tilt because people will be aiming for you.

The easiest way to destroy an all star team is by creating internal havoc. Creating distrust within team members. Finding the weak points in people’s emotions with each other and without anyone knowing – dividing them. Making them drift apart slowly but surely.

There can be people inside and outside the team who can destroy the team. It’s just human nature maybe.

It doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s how good your team is.

I’ve been studying all stars. People who I consider brilliant like Richard Feynman, Peter Thiel, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates and something I’ve been struggling with is how do you find and meet other brilliant people?

Nathan says I should just join Amazon and then I’ll meet brilliant people.

But like that time I got destroyed by Surefour, I want to meet and work for people whose intellect vastly surpasses mine, and then I want to learn from them how they got there and if I can get there too.

Am I in the top 1% or can I be in the top 1% of the top 1%? Which one is it? The first is achievable, but what are the requirements for the second?

I have a couple of things I want to accomplish in my life – but one of them is tasting that drug of high performance teamwork again. It’s been years but I still miss that high.

The high from starting a new business? It’s ok. I’ll never experience that again.

The high of a new love? I can’t experience that again either.

The high of being part of a great team? I want to experience that for the rest of my working life.

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