Under Pressure   11 comments

Let’s get a little personal today.  I’m going to talk to you a little bit about work. It’s something I don’t really do because I try to bifurcate my personal life and my professional life so that they don’t intersect with each other outside of the office.  But I think there are some similarities with recent events that have occurred in both that I think are illustrative of a challenge that I’ve been handed since the nerfs with regards to raiding.

I work in an industry that has been hugely affected by not only the weak economy and the daily roller coaster ride that the stock market takes, but also by what has recently been happening with the Dodd-Frank act being considered by Congress.  Every new report on the economy, every new edict handed down by Bernake, every change Moody’s issues, all have an impact on my day to day actions.  Every new news report strikes a wave of fear that make me question if I will come into work and have a job tomorrow.  This has been happening for the past two years.

It has been extremely challenging to retain focus and stay grounded in this volatile environment.  It is a daily challenge not to let that panic and fear consume my every thought and drown me as it has done many people who I know and work with daily.  About a year and a half ago, I came to the realization that what will happen will happen and no amount of worrying on my part would change that.  And so I wake up each day and tell myself that I cannot change the outcomes that are in front of me.  I convince myself that it is futile to stress over things I have no control over.  I remind myself that all I can do is focus on what I can affect and the tasks that I have at had.  And then I take a deep breath and I let it all go.

It doesn’t change the fact that no matter how hard I try to convince myself I’m not worried, that somewhere deep down I’m still terrified.  The five pounds I’ve put on in the last two months are a testament to that, as are the lack of control that I have over my emotions at times.  But I also know that if all I do is focus on things I can’t change, I’m fighting a battle that I cannot have a hope of winning.  If I don’t choke down my fear, I’m going to be a walking mess of tension and stress (and 50 pounds heavier, not just 5).  And that isn’t how I want to spend every day.  I choose to focus on things that I have the power to control.

But Beru, WTF does this have to do with raiding?

I’m glad you asked!  On Monday, September 18, we were facing the challenges that Heroic Ragnaros had to offer.  We were making slow, but steady, progress through the encounter.  We were all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what the scheduled nerfs the following day would bring, and if they would have an effect on how we continued to approach Heroic Ragnaros.

On Tuesday, we found out that the nerfs were sweeping.  But it most of them didn’t really have a huge effect on us because we’d already beaten 90% of the challenges.  The nerf that we were all anxious to see was the 15% reduced health to Rag’s adds.  More specifically, the molten elementals.  It meant that we could continue to work with the P2 strategy that we had spent the past two weeks trying to perfect, and we should have less trouble consistently navigating P2.  For me, I was a little bit relieved.

Now, Tuesday night is an off night for us.  But as we putzed around on alts that night the real effects of the nerfs hit.  I started getting tells.  People started talking in guild chat.  Two 10 man guilds on the server that were 4/7 pre-nerf were suddenly 6/7 and starting to work on Heroic Rag as well.  Because there have been numerous reports that the 10 man version of the encounter was significantly easier, panic started.  People started putting more focus on locking in a server first kill than should have happened.

Over the weekend I had more conversations about “progression”, “server first” and “what team x is doing” than I could stomach.  Each comment built up a knot in my stomach that kept twisting tighter and tighter, until the point that I almost didn’t want to log in to raid on Sunday night.  The pressure that has now been artificially added to an already complex encounter has started to push the fun out of the fight for me.  Whereas just a few nights ago where we had significant breakthroughs on the encounter and saw our first phase 3’s and everyone was super excited about the progress, now that was no longer good enough because guild x was doing y.

And I would be lying to you if I told you that pressure from the weekend didn’t have an effect on me last night.  If it didn’t put me in a shitty mood walking into the raid.  If it didn’t make me more stressed about not having the “best” composition for the fight when we walked than I should have been.  I’m not going to lie to you.  The honest truth is that all it did was make me miserable, high-strung, less patient and a worse leader than I would have been otherwise.

The truth of the matter is that this is very much like my job.  As a raid leader, and as a raider, there are certain things that I can control and there are certain things that I cannot. I can control my performance.  I can try to control the tenor of the raid (which I did poorly last night). I can control how we approach an encounter as a raid. I can try to control the level of focus of the raid. I can control our expectations.

I cannot control what other guilds are doing.

And to spend effort, energy and focus on that is futile.  Other people spending effort, energy and focus on that is futile. We cannot control the efforts of others, we can only control our efforts. Putting more importance on what other people are doing than on what we are doing is a waste of energy.  It adds stress, it adds apprehension and it adds a tension that is going to break people unnecessarily.  There is no benefit in it.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to “win”, but pressure isn’t healthy.  For anyone. Much like my job there is a choice that has to be made: let it eat at you and become a walking bag of nerves, or focus on the things in your control, work hard and hope that is recognized.  Focusing on the negative does nothing but breed more negativity, and if that negativity poisons too many people you are left with a toxic environment that makes everyone miserable.

That isn’t what I’ve worked so hard for the past 7 years to build.

I will not destroy the morale of my guild just so we can say “we did it first”.  Just like I have made the choice for the past two years to wake up, shelve my fears and focus on what I can control, I am making the same choice in the game.  There are things I can control and things that I cannot.  I will not let the things I cannot control add additional stress to my life.  Regardless of where others focus their energy, if it doesn’t directly relate to Monolith, I don’t give a shit.  I will not let artificial pressure build up stress and make me a miserable person to be around as a result.  I will stay grounded and focused on what our goals have always been: to see content while it is relevant, with a group of adults focused on a common goal in a fun environment.

Ragnaros will die.  On our schedule, not someone else’s. And without sacrificing our values to get there.

11 responses to “Under Pressure

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  1. Sounds to me like you need to put this post right on your guild website for everyone to read… Maybe then, they’lll draw a deep breath and let it go. A little competition is not a bad thing, it can be a spur if you have that spirit, but the negative sides are also very strong. /hug Hang in there!

    • The spirit of a little healthy competition is one thing, and is fine. But there is a fine line between that and priortizing the right things for the wrong reasons and adding undue stress in the process.

  2. @Kayeri
    It’s already there :)

    @Beru
    All I can say is server first or not, nerfs or not, my best effort will always be there, as cheesey as that sounds.

    • It is already there, but, uh, a little less eloquently stated. Brade has a way with words that is somewhat unriveled at times!

      You video last night made me smile. I think it probaly had the same effect on others as well :)

  3. This is one of the fundamental differences between great leaders and the mediocre, the ability to compartmentalize. You’re doing well, focusing on the goals of the guild and the raid, rather than letting the work of other groups destabilize you. It’s only a race if you let it be. Good luck on rag, you’ll get him down soon.

  4. “Ragnaros will die. On our schedule, not someone else’s. And without sacrificing our values to get there.”

    There’s no problem with people wanting firsts, but it’s a backwards desire. Getting firsts isn’t a goal, it’s a byproduct. The goal is to have everyone at the top of their game, staying focused, and doing what is needed of them.

    It’s a terrible way to play. Instead of each wipe bringing you a little closer to your inevitable victory, it starts to be seen as allowing the next closest raid to get 10 minutes closer to beating you. All first-talk does is build up the pressure, and there’s certainly already enough.

    It’s also kind of ridiculous to zero in on a mostly arbitrary ranking system as the gauge of quality. If you had Paragon transfer to your server before the 4.3 lands, and they beat you to Deathwing, would that be cause for frustration? The fact that a completely separate group did something that you had no influence on does not reflect on your group. Even if another guild beats you, it doesn’t mean they’re better than you (and you beating them doesn’t make you supreme either, for that matter). There’s a reason why the #1 team or player doesn’t always win in a competition. You’ll have different strengths, weaknesses, motivation, and other traits. Worry about yourself, not others.

    Every raid has its own potential. A pace for that specific guild. It may change from fight to fight, or between tiers, but it will take any guild a certain amount of time to kill a boss. That is the determinant of who gets kills in what order. The only thing an individual can do to increase that pace is to help you reach your potential: show up, be prepared, do your best, and help others do the same. That’s where their attention is needed.

  5. This a thousand times.

    This is the reason why raids fall apart. The pressure with trying to compete with other guilds can frustrate people to the point where they fail, either to leave for a “better raid”, or that it seriously starts affecting their performance. I’ve seen it happen- people can be so focused on getting that first kill that they forget they’re standing in the fire, or get very snippy when something goes wrong (also putting extra pressure on other raiders).

    Unnecessary pressure not from the outside, but also from within. This turns raids more of a chore when you have to deal with that.

    Hang in there, I’m rooting for you guys!

  6. Honestly, in the guilds I have been I had the opposite problem (perhaps because they were too casual, despite doing heroics).

    Specifically, nobody saying anything about progress compared to other guilds, and never scrambling to be realm first in any way.

    If I were a GM and saw my guild not being on realm first, or risking to no longer be, I would push as hard as possible and schedule extra time to get on top again, since otherwise recruitment obviously gets fucked up.

    • And when you pushed too hard, you’d break your guild. Good Luck with that.

      Unless you are a guild who is pushing for a top whatever US/World rank, rankings should not define you as a guild. If you build your foundations on always being ranked “X” the minute you are not, your foundation becomes weak and crumbles.

  7. Sometimes you just have to say ‘F*ck it’, looks like you got it right, some your guildies might need a crash course though. :-)

    Point them to the lyrics of the very song you linked – especially the last few lines.

    Or… by any chance, did you see the film Bobby? If you did, think of that scene towards the end with Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt in their hotel room – the one where Hunt is QQing because she doesn’t have a pair of black shoes….

  8. “I choose to focus on things that I have the power to control.”
    Ty for this one.

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