My Kickstarter for Jack Nimble: Attack of the Boredom Bugs video game failed utterly and completely, not even coming close to reaching the funding target. It was the type of failure where you climb inside yourself and start destroying things. The overwhelming grand applause and outpouring of backers never happened, so with a slumped soul I must admit that it may be that young Jack Nimble may have jumped his last candle.
This is not a bitter berating or a plea for support. This is just a perfect example of how the lady Persistence can be a super valuable friend. Unfortunately, she’s also the hardest friend to reach for when you need her the most. There are so many times in life where all that hard work does not seem to pay off. I’ve been there, many times, in ultimate.
Freshman year of college, my first year playing competitive ultimate, we won nationals. I’d worked harder at the sport than at anything else ever, and after we won I felt on top of the world. Unstoppable. But I was not satisfied. What would happen if I stepped it up even further, if I trained twice as hard and became a muscle monster that foes would have nightmares about? I decided to do it, secretly sure that I would dominate college and win nationals every single year after that. I would show the world what an ultimate frisbee athlete should be.
Heavy lifting become my life. I put on almost 25 pounds of muscle, my vertical was through the roof: literally. I could put my head through the roof in the building where we trained. I could run a 4.4 in the 40 yard dash, deadlift around 550 and bench close to 350. I’d become the poster boy for a football body type but I was not playing football. I was playing ultimate. All of my grueling hard work came crashing down when I showed up to a early season tournament and a skinny, little, malnutritioned-looking kid gave me a whooping. He ran me around the field like a rented mule, or I suppose we say rented car now. It was embarrassing and disheartening and, most importantly, humbling. We lost nationals that year and I cried for the first time over losing a sporting event. I had become the physically strongest I’d ever been but had become worse at ultimate. Or so I thought.
Persistence somehow reached through the murk, took me firmly by the hand, and led me back to the drawing board. Maybe I needed better endurance: 400 meter training seemed perfect. I tracked down one of the fastest 400m sprinters in the world, nicknamed “Speed”. For seven months, five or six days a week, I pushed my body past what I thought was possible: my vision would go, my throat would close, even my arms would struggle to lift food to face after those olympic-level workouts. By the time the season started, I’d trained my body into peak track shape and could run a 400 in 47 seconds. Fast, lean with awesome sprint endurance, surely I would be unstoppable. Nope. We lost Nationals again, and another year of hard work seemed a complete waste.
Eventually, Persistence gently shook me from my stupor and beckoned me up. Again I rose, this time spending all year focused on throwing, handling and plyos. I would throw until my wrists and arms became jelly. I ran stairs and ladders and hopped and jumped to excess as I followed stupid plyo programs downloaded from suspect authors promising athletic success and 50 inch verticals. Shin splints became an awful nemesis. I could jump higher and longer than ever but, again, I fell short at Nationals. Each year the monkey on my back grew; mean, cantankerous and harsh, he spoke only the language of negativity.
“You will never win another college title. It does not matter how hard you work. One and done, son.”
Persistence slapped the monkey and said “shut up.” But the stupid monkey was right. There was no happy ending to my college career. In my final year at nationals we got slaughtered in the finals by a deeper, better Madison team and I played one of the worst games of my life (don’t ever tell those Hodags I said that). Even though I’d spent four years of my life doing everything I possibly could think of to make it happen, I never won another college title.
In fact, it took many more painfully-long years before I won another major title. During that time, Persistence had to constantly fight her sister Surrender, who offered really great retirement packages. All I had to do was sign my name under “give up”.
My creative career follows my college ultimate career, minus the initial success. It thinks it’s going to dominate and be so strong but instead it struggles and flounders, it flops and gasps for life, unable to find success, unable to see the point of all the hard work. It never comes close to winning gold no matter how much work is done. I continue to try different approaches: children’s books, novels, art, design and now video games. Each venture I think will be the one, but to no avail.
“Don’t invest all your own savings and hours making a video game. It’s too risky, you will lose everything,” says everyone in the game industry. And just like the stupid monkey back in college, they may be right. Perhaps my game is too weird, never reaches the right audience, or it’s just plain terrible. Whatever the reason, I have spent countless, grueling hours crafting something that may end up a complete failure by all measurements.
We’ve all been there, where the hard work doesn’t seem to payoff in any sort of tangible way. The truth of the matter is we may never reach certain goals. However, I think if we are strong and brave enough to lift the hammer that Persistence hands us, all our so called failures can be beaten and shaped into pieces of our armor, the type of armor we carry with us into every other battle for the rest of lives.
What am I going to do with my freshly minted armor? Try again, of course.
The first step will be acquiring more money to pay the programmers. Here is the perfect analogy of the relationship between programmers and money:
Acquiring funds will be difficult, for I will have to convince investors that even though the Kickstarter failed, there is something in Jack Nimble worth saving; that I am worth saving. It is going to be a completely humbling experience, and it is scary that my dream now lies in my ability to convince investors to believe in me.
The beautiful thing about taking Persistence by the hand is that she never lets you say “what if”. Wish little Jack Nimble luck, for this lumberjack jackrabbit is about to fight for his life.