| 1065 words

I kind of discovered something about myself recently. Maybe noticed is a better word. Firstly, I just want to mention that it's pretty fun to notice to something new about yourself. How often does that happen, especially as we get older and more static? I think it would be sad to eventually reach an age where you no longer have any new introspections; you're entirely figured out. Luckily I think that's pretty rare as long as you keep growing, and I'm pleased that I still get to experience that feeling.

Anyway, it wasn't too profound. Just that I prefer to be behind in a competitive game or difficult task. It motivates me far more than the alternative. I noticed it when I realized quite a lot of my tournament chess games follow a similar pattern. I play casually at the start, trying to lock in but getting distracted. I get a little bit behind, then suddenly I decide I'm not going down without a fight. I play in peak form, setting traps and calculating tactics which fully utilize every resource I have left.

It's really fun to play like this, and there's nothing more thrilling than clawing your way back from certain defeat. Unfortunately it's pretty hard to focus like this unless I really need it, maybe kind of like the avatar state haha. I don't even mind losing games like this, because I know I played my absolute best.

I noticed in games where I take an early lead, I just don't have the ferocity to punish my opponent and keep them behind. I'd rather let them catch up, it's a more interesting game when it's close right? At least, that's what I tell myself. Only after I inevitably fall behind do I usually start playing as well as I know I'm capable of.

It's not just chess either. Sometimes I have friends who introduce me to other games they want to beat me at. If it's a competitive game, then I grind nonstop until I can really challenge them, practicing every day and reading advice on how to win in my spare time. The moment I win, I practically drop the game because my lust for victory was sated. And victory is sweetest when I hardly have a chance.

Unless, of course, my friend feels the same way I do and then works as hard as me to catch up. That's how a competitive obsession can begin.

When I'm solidly a better player, I notice I like to handicap myself in unique and creative ways to make things more interesting. Even in a more casual game like Among Us I will stop trying too hard and start lowkey roleplaying if I notice that the imposters aren't doing well and need a boost. I'm not sure if people like it when I handicap myself though, and I'm doubly unsure if they believe me when I say I genuinely prefer playing from behind. Honestly, it hard to remember that not everybody does.

I can see how this might be a bad thing, but honestly I'm really happy I figured it out. Desperation can be so fun, and now that I've noticed it in games I'm starting to notice it everywhere else too. Like how when I miscalculate and I'm late for something or I need to put out fires while I'm doing something else at the same time? It's like time slows and my mind expands and I can suddenly think twice as fast. It's amazing.

When I have tasks at work that are routine and trivial I will put them off for a long time, interspersing plenty of snack breaks and relaxation. When I'm given a task that I'm not sure is possible, I will eat lunch at my desk and work on the weekends. I don't even mind, because I enjoy that second scenario more - I just have to see if it can be done. If I am capable of doing it.

To some extent I wonder if this is cope I tell myself when I lose. "Oh ya, I was just too good so I didn't try. That's obviously why I lost, I just chose not to try". Practically speaking, though, I think enjoying the feeling of coming back from behind, of clawing your way back from an impossible situation, is a really useful feeling to have. For one it means that I can usually get up to speed on a new competitive game pretty quick, assuming my friends care about it enough to keep challenging me.

The real benefit, however, is taking full advantage of the fun and easy part of the learning curve. The more you learn something, the harder it is to master additional information. There are diminishing returns on the time you put in, which is why it's a lot quicker to go from a beginner to a novice at something, than to go from intermediate to expert. By dedicating so much time to things I'm, bad at, around people who are far better, I'm spending all my time in the fun, easy, and exponential growth part of the learning process. It's the fastest and funnest way to learn new things, in my opinion.

Reaching this insight is pretty valuable because I'll know how to motivate myself better in the future. Now that I know I enjoy feeling behind, I can probably even construct this feeling with other techniques when I'm not actually behind. I know for a fact I can play well, it's just about getting the mental to play well consistently. That's a pattern in any top performers in any area. They know how to get to their peak and stay there. If I could harness this energy for work or projects, I'd be unstoppable.

I don't know if I want to be unstoppable though. It's a lot of fun just locking in to get a skill boost when I need it, and messing around the other 80% of the time. I guess we'll find out if that changes now that I understand myself a little better.