Success and Hidden Shortcomings

This weekend, I played Halo 4 co-op with a friend (Composer – Legendary with Mythic skull). At the start of the level, we were making rapid progress, clearing checkpoint after checkpoint. We dodged plasma, fired bullets, and refined our tactical skills. We were unstoppable. However, near the middle of the mission, our progress came to a halt as we repeatedly tried to survive an enemy onslaught. At this point, I said to my friend something along the lines of, “Aim before you shoot. Attack the enemy. Try to play better”, not that I was playing any better myself. After we replayed a checkpoint several times, my friend told me (paraphrasing), “I’m actually playing with the same skill level right now as I was at the start of this level but you complain about my skill only when we’re not making progress. When we were making progress, you didn’t notice.”

 My friend was absolutely right! I noticed our shortcomings only when we weren’t playing as well and didn’t notice them when we were playing well, even though they were still influencing our game. This lead me to think that at times, success can hide the truth. If the outward result is desirable, we tend to ignore the inner workings.

 This principle applies not only to gaming but also to other areas, including software construction. If the software is working, why refactor it even if the source code is spaghetti code? It is often when the software is not working that some managers or even developers take interest to refactoring. If a business is exceeding annual projections, spending a large sum of money for a trivial reason can be made to appear to be reasonable but if the business is performing poorly, spending that same amount of money would be dangerous. Let’s assume I have bad sleeping habits. If I were accomplishing goals, I might overlook those bad sleeping habits but if I weren’t accomplishing goals, I would definitely refresh to better sleeping habits because this flaw would be more apparent.

 To increase productivity and prepare for long-term success, we can look for any shortcomings even during times of success. This takes work and the payoff is that we eliminate shortcomings that might hurt our next success. However, finding and fixing these shortcomings doesn’t mean we neglect the success because we still do celebrate the success but do not become stagnant by it. We celebrate and still improve.

 Lesson: From playing Halo, I learned that shortcomings tend to be more hidden during times of success and more apparent during times of distress. If necessary, even during times of success, rectify shortcomings and continue improving.

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