When I was younger, I used to play a lot of video games. I’d play them all the time—after school, after dinner, on the weekends. Sometimes I even woke up early, so that I could play them before I left for school. Looking back at it now, I realize that I learned quite a bit from my video game playing days.
A lot of the games I used to play were extremely difficult. Whether I was a ninja, or a marine, or a superhero, I was constantly being tasked with completing missions that seemed impossible. My failures easily outnumbered the successes, and I was constantly replaying the same levels, trying to figure out how I could complete them.
Falling and Coming Back: Video Games & Perseverance
The most common way I would fail a level is by getting my character killed. A Game Over screen appears and I would have to start over from the beginning of the mission. Believe me, it can be incredibly discouraging and frustrating, especially when you get so close, but then make a costly mistake. In my youth, there were a lot of times when I would want to give up. I would throw my controller down and swear off ever playing that game again. But inevitably, whether a few hours later or a few days later, I would come back and try again.
Each time I died, I would look back at what went wrong. Whether I made a wrong turn or adopted a foolish strategy, I would take note of it and try something else next time. Over time, no matter what, I would beat the game. Sometimes it would take me dying 50 times, but I would figure out the right strategy, and I would execute it and beat the game.
Video Games: Beyond the Game
In my life now, I can see how those long hours in front of the TV screen gave me the persistence to do what I do now. Running a business isn’t easy. It’s one of the hardest projects you could possibly take on yourself. Competing with local companies, differentiating your business from national and international corporations, and navigating government taxes and regulations—it’s a harder mission than any I’ve ever found in a game. Thousands of small businesses fail each year, and much more only scrape by.
In my experience running a business, I have made a lot of mistakes, and I’m still making them. As much as you learn, there’s always something new—like a new stage in a game. Once you conquer a challenge, an even tougher one takes its place. The only way to move forward is to keep pressing on and keep learning.
Video Games: Everything Is an Opportunity
In the same way, I would learn while playing video games, whenever I make a mistake I look at what happened and how I can do it better. Every failure is a learning opportunity. Many companies struggle at first before finally getting their break. Many people don’t succeed in their first business, but that doesn’t deter them from finding success with another business down the road. The key is to use every failure to make yourself smarter. Take what you can, and use it next time.
For my own business, I keep detailed and exhaustive records. Bad weeks, months, and even years are documented so that I can figure out what went wrong. If it was my mistake, I make sure I never make that mistake again. If it was a market condition or something else, I formulate how to prepare myself, so that I can take advantage instead of getting taken advantage of when it happens again. Process improvement and refinement is critical for any growing business. Grow and evolve your processes until you are producing at a high quality and high efficiency.
Improving Business Methods
Improving your business plan is more complicated than improving your gameplay, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. In a game, your actions are determined by specific button presses. I pressed the A button last time, so this time I’ll press the B button. Business processes are not so easy to define, but they can be defined. Every decision, process, and action has a value and a cost. Break down how you do business and find out how you can do it better.
A key difference between running a business and playing a game is that in business, there are no cheat codes. There’s no instant way to get to the end and skip all the hard work. A strong business requires a strong work ethic and a strong process. We all fall down sometimes, but what’s important is that we get back up. Luckily for me, I’ve been coming back from failure since I was a kid. I’m used to starting over, and I’m not afraid of making mistakes. In business, Game Over doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. It means that it’s time to restart.