Gatekeeping and Level Grinding

“…you used to be able to do ALL the reading. You could read all the essential science fiction books before you wrote yours. You could watch all the key movies before you directed yours. You could understand all the current thinking in a field of medicine before you prescribed a drug…

No longer.

—Seth Godin, “On doing the reading

As someone that loved movies, went out and got one degree in movies, and then decided he needed another degree on the subject… I feel a little called out.

The inner gatekeeper might be more insidious than the person telling you that you don’t know enough minutiae to be a “real” fan, or that you don’t have the right experience or connections.

You can look for ways to circumvent a person trying to keep you on the outside in ways that you can’t with a voice inside your own head.

That voice inside telling you to wait a little bit longer. Do something else first. “Not yet,” it whispers. “You’re still not ready.”

“I refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action. The two ideas sound similar, but they’re not the same. When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.

Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome. If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action. If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion. If I actually eat a healthy meal, that’s action.

Sometimes motion is useful, but it will never produce an outcome by itself. It doesn’t matter how many times you go talk to the personal trainer, that motion will never get you in shape. Only the action of working out will get the result you’re looking to achieve.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

When I had time for video games that asked 60+ hours from you, I played a decent number of RPGs. I was never in a rush to complete the story, and often started off with a lot of level-grinding.

The thought was that if I build my characters up enough early on, it would make subsequent challenges easier.

Usually it worked out. One time it failed spectacularly.

I made it to the final battle of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and realized I’d chosen a path for my character early on that set them up as someone wholly unsuited to take down the last boss.

Learn as you do would’ve been a better model to follow.

The further you are from your goal, the more speculative your questions are. They could lead you down a rabbit hole in an unhelpful direction.

I try to remind myself of this any time I’m doing something new, or stretching outside the comfort of my wheelhouse.

Learn a little, do a little, repeat.

I tell myself I won’t know what questions to ask to get where I want to go until I’ve made a few mistakes or hit some dead ends.