Almost 20 years ago, a student of mine Greg made a comment about being a n00b in the ground-braking MMORPG game Everquest. He said, “Being a n00b is so much fun.” Greg was much further along in the game than I was and had rolled many characters. However, he always liked creating noobs and leveling them up from 1-20 before losing interest, and then starting all over with another new character. He had his mains, but every so often, he liked to go back and just be a n00b.
One of the reasons being a n00b in an MMORPG is so fun is because gaining XP happens rapidly. The game consists of learning the basics, and with each successful completion of some very simple tasks, and without much effort or risk, you get to level up. When you die, it is no big deal; no one gets mad at you, you don’t lose experience, and you just get to act silly and frolic through some low-level, low-risk lands with great names like North Freeport, East Commonlands, Misty Thicket, and the Butcherblock Mountains. The stakes are low, and the enjoyment high. You get to try things out, explore, and learn about the game in a safe way. The practice you get helps you understand how to play your role, so that you can be an effective contributor once what you bring to the table matters a lot more.
Being a n00b IRL is similar. Whether it is just being “new” to life itself as a kid, or being a new player in a particular career field, the newbie stage allows for some awesome opportunities to grow in a safe environment. The veterans of life or of a career love to watch you learn and help out as they can. They have been through some of the more challenging aspects of the world, and want to offer you advice and support, so you don’t make the same mistakes that they did.
In the last post, I mentioned looking back upon our formative years to determine why we have the passions and interests that we do. Part of these formative years take place at school from Kindergarten through fifth grade. These ages, five to ten, are the first half of the n00b experience. During these years, we are to take advantage of low risk, high reward opportunities. Here, we begin to gain confidence in our abilities. The learning curve is gradual and safe, yet our minds are developing and changing rapidly. Learning how to handle failure during these stages is very important. When we fall and skin our knees, the good trainers will tell us to “shake it off, you’re ok, so get back up and keep going.” Under their confidence and guidance, we don’t focus on our failures, but rather keep focus on completing tasks and reaching our goals. Obstacles don’t get time or credit. We move around them with eyes fixed on what really makes us feel capable: achievement. It’s like a kid who has a mom who ignores the bloody knees, calmly wipes them off with a rag, and tells the kid to keep playing. Her confidence becomes the child’s, too. For the mom who freaks out and cries, “Oh my poor little baby! Your knees are bleeding!” the child then learns to focus on the failure – the obstacle – the problem – the fear. This is where we can get stuck on our journey to level up.
Whether moms or third-grade teachers, our early trainers set the tone for us. Remember that the n00b stage is supposed to be a time of safely learning through trial and error. It is supposed to be a time to brush failure to the side and focus on what can be learned instead. It is a time for keeping the eye on the prize until you receive it. The cost of the mistake is very low. Learning how to navigate and stay confident during the n00b stage is directly related to competence during the soloing stage (ages 18-29.) Looking back, if we find that we were “trained” to focus too much on the “skinned knees” instead of the goal, that might be why we are disinterested or fearful to set goals and achieve them even now. However, if we can look back and find those trainers who helped us overcome a mindset or obstacle and kept us focused on achievement, we can channel that perspective into a confidence that can help us continue to upgrade our armor and level up in our lives and careers.
Remember that being a n00b is a gift. It is a chance to learn with low expectation, responsibility, and risk. At the same time, these proving grounds can be the greatest time to impress the veterans. How you handle the newbie failures sets the tone for the respect you gain for yourself and from others.