An open letter to myself regarding decision-making


June 12, 2014

Dear Private Eyeball,

Listen dude, we need to talk. When you first bought Street Fighter IV five years ago, it was fine that you just messed around and had fun. Then you decided to start playing online. That was cool, too. Then you started losing a lot. So you began watching tournaments and tried becoming better. You got a bit better, but never reached that high level you wanted. You blamed it on your lack of local scene? Then you blamed the online experience? Even when you moved to NorCal, you continued to blame your lack of time to play with other people. You kept making excuses for your lack of results.

That’s fine, but your lack of results isn’t coming from any of those things. While the things you blame aren’t necessarily helping, your biggest problem is much simpler than any of them. Every time you’ve went 0-2 in a tournament or lost a bunch of matches online, it all came down to one thing. Before all else, you need to remember what Jake “The Snake” Roberts told Diamond Dallas Page when DDP’s young career was going nowhere.

“Everything you do should have a purpose.”

More importantly, everything should have a good purpose. Anyone can play Third Strike, mash out Chun Li’s super and claim that he or she thought the opponent was going to make a move. And perhaps the opponent did make a move, but you still relied on luck more than anything. Luck is unreliable. Embrace it, but don’t rely on it

Your biggest problem is your inability to attach a good purpose to everything you do. Not a single move should be made that doesn’t have a valid reason attached. And there are plenty of good reasons to do something during a match.

You’re trying to add new tech to your repertoire. Been grinding out a new bnb in training mode? Go ahead and use it in a match! Can’t get better unless you try.
You want to see how your opponent reacts. Will they jump over that fireball? Backdash from your dash-in? Jump for some reason when you teleport backward?
–**You react to your opponent. **You catch Abel’s wheel kick with T. Hawk’s Ultra II because you expect it and see it coming. Great! Do that more! But only when you see it coming. Don’t get baited.
It’s a low-risk move. Look at Evo Moment 37. While Daigo parried the whole super, the odds of that happening are so low that it’s hard to argue against Justin’s move. Don’t worry if the reward isn’t as high as that moment, focus on low-risk first and foremost. The reward is becoming smarter.

As good as those purposes are, they’re not the ones you come up with most of the time, Eyeball! Most of your decisions can only be backed by bad purposes. And when you try to argue them as a good purpose, you’re only lying to yourself. Avoid these kind of excuses:

“I saw _____ do it.” You’re not Daigo. Or Justin. Or Valle. Or even Mike Ross. You’re just Derek and you have no reason to act otherwise.
“I was going to lose anyways.” Desperation makes everyone do stupid things. It’s human. Remember that time you got dumped? Yeah, maybe you need to practice converting desperation into focus.
“I wanted to see if _____ works in this situation.” It probably doesn’t. If it does, you got lucky. Don’t try it again until you’ve had time to test it out. Top players may be able to get away with bits of experimentation. You’re not a top player.
“I thought I could catch him off guard.” “I had to do something.” “I thought he might _____.” None of these excuses ever work outside of the super rare possibility that you get lucky. This is the most common excuse you give and the hardest habit to break. But you can break it. So do it!

Quit being afraid of losing. Failure hurts. You’ve been through a lot of it before. But failure always hurts the most when it’s caused by carelessness instead of being straight-up out-performed. A loss is healthy if you’re in the right mindset. Victory means little if you’re randoming your way to the championship.

To get out of the rut you’re stuck in, you just need to look at the excuses you make and ditch them for positive reasons. Every move you make should have one. Whether you’re tapping Chun’s standing roundhouse at full screen to gain meter in Third Strike or backdashing to avoid a wakeup move in SF4, just have a reason.

If you don’t have a good reason to do something, then just do nothing. Nothing is sometimes the best move of all.



P.S. Seriously? After five years, why are you still sweeping so often? Disable roundhouse if you have to!