Screenshot 2022-03-17 at 19.56.29

Never Doing Nothing

April 4, 2022

When I was around 19 years old and in my 1st year of University, I frequently played a game called “Footmen Frenzy”.  It was a custom mode in a larger game called Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne.  I really loved that game.  The basic premise was that there were 4 teams of 3 players arranged in a Free-For-All in a symmetrical box map.  Each team had a special hero (you could buy more heroes with gold) and a special building (marked in colours) that spawned units that you could use to fight the enemy.  The middle area of the map was a key strategic point as it had shops with utility items and a field effect which regenerated the mana (and sometimes health) of heroes in it.  Its safe to say that most of the fighting happened in this area.  Strategy was based around hero combos, item builds and upgrading your footmen (your army) in specific ways to have an edge over the enemy.  Other times though, it was backstabbing an enemy team that was busy fighting another.


In a chaotic game such as this, it was easy for a team to have bad luck in the first major fight and fall behind on hero levels and gold.  Such a thing happened one game and unfortunately, one of my team mates actually quit!  So a bad situation was made worse because we were now a man down and disadvantaged both in numbers and economy.  The enemy teams were clearly stronger and so I sat in our base not doing anything, simply because I didn’t know what to do.  How were we even going to be competitive let alone win? 


It was at this point that my remaining team mate typed in the chat to me and said “Hey! What are you doing?  Send some units out with your hero and eek out small victories here or there to get gold and experience.  Send them into an enemy base whilst their main heroes are away or try to backstab an enemy who is engaging another.  Try to get the last hit on an enemy hero whose about to die and claim the experience and gold for yourself.  We can come back from this, we just have to do something.  Never do nothing.” 


We eventually won that game (to my surprise) and I used that experience as an important life lesson.  Now, there is a case to be made in some situations to do nothing. cites the ability to do nothing as an important benefit in a world where we are accessible 24/7 and constantly overloaded with various media.  Doing nothing enables us to “calm down”, recharge and even boost our creativity and productivity for when it is really required.


I’m not referring to those necessary periods.  I’m referring to those periods where there is a clear objective but the way forward is isn't so simple and doing something would provide you with a competitive advantage to get to the finish line.


In my days as a pure academic, I often found it very daunting when faced with an entirely new topic full of unfamiliar and difficult concepts. I remember my 3rd year Particle Physics course and being faced with brain twisters like this:

$$ \frac{d \sigma}{d \Omega} = \frac{S}{64 \pi^2} \frac{1}{(E_3 + E_4)^2} \frac{|\vec{p'}|}{|\vec{p}|} \frac{g^4}{((p_3 + p_4)^2 - m_C^2)^2} $$

How was I supposed to learn what this meant and how to use it such that I would pass my exam? These issues are not unique to being an academic.  Having spent a good number of years working in industry within the tech space, I was required to tackle unfamiliar and notionally “difficult” concepts, especially within a project setting.  This was made complex given that most projects required a deliverable within a 3 - 6 month time frame.   What about buying a house for example?  Buying a property is an act that most people consider out of their reach.  How does one go to just barely paying a portion of rent, to raising a glass of bubbly in their brand new home? 


All of these examples share a concept very real and relatable:


Tackling a problem or embarking on a journey into the unknown isn’t about jumping off of the deep end and trying to be a hero.  What will happen is, you’ll flap around trying to keep your head above water and you’ll eventually be drowned by the magnitude of the task and you unfamiliarity with it.  Its about breaking the task into small digestible chunks and being diligent in attacking the problem one piece at a time.  Never doing nothing is focused on the small steps and “day to day” progress, rather than being swamped in what currently looks to be an overwhelming objective in the future.  If life was judged completely by the big picture, most of us would simply stare at someone else's painting rather than working slowly but progressively with our own canvas.  And many do this regardless. 


Life can be as chaotic as a Footmen Frenzy game.  There are so many variables, so many random occurrences (some of them negative).  Success is not always assured.  But taking time to learn and take small baby steps will ensure victory.  Life and whatever you’re doing within it is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  It is a survival of the most consistent and those who do something (no matter how small), to eventually reach their goal.

Author: Dr. Adetokunbo Ayilaran

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