The Demoralizing Cost of My New Best Friend

I got my first  Blackberry in September 2008, and with that acquisition came several very specific gains and losses. Starting with the losses, I can count 5 known: privacy, Sundays, spontaneous dining decisions, weather surprises and sanity. The gains, however, are far more bounteous, including: persistent red lights, heightened email compulsion, wasted time, yet another platform for social communication (bbm), a possibility to be located by friends, family and foe at all hours of the day or note (eek, Google Latitude), a somewhat decent phone camera for capturing run ins with Jay-Z on NY city blocks, and potentially the highlight of my Blackberry existence…dun dun dun: BrickBreaker.

For those of you not familiar with BrickBreaker, let me be the first to introduce you to your new favorite waste of time. The game is quite simple, with the main aim of breaking a bunch of bricks and not dying in the process. There are special gifts along the way to help you, but bottom line is shoot and don’t get smushed by the lowering cascade of bricks. (Always odd and somewhat dramatic to describe the rules of a video game, right? Just try to survive…don’t get shot, mutilated, blown to smithereens or attacked by aliens.)

Aside from existential questions about how to survive in the face of impending doom, the game does afford one other philosophical conundrum worth exploring: Is consistency integral to success?

The back-story: when I first got my phone and  developed an addiction to the game, I was on my way to masterdom. Within days, my muscle memory developed at speedfire pace and I was bulldozing bricks with construction worker finesse only known to the Bob’s of the world. I reached a high score unimaginable by a 20-something, videogame indifferent female (yes, I just went there), and beat levels that lured me with the seductive smell of high score victory. However, like too many childhood hobbies left to decompose (e.g. ballet, soccer, electric guitar, gymnastics etc), I gave up and got bored before success was ever fully tangible.

I tried picking up my long lost love a couple weeks back, and alas, my beginner’s luck winning streak has disappeared. I can’t get past level 5 and seemed destined for failure, no matter how many subway minutes are spent with thumbs ready.

With victory no longer in sight, I am forced to wonder whether success is predicated on consistent, routine, uninterrupted determination and practice. Apologies if I am merely rehashing the most recent Malcolm Gladwell book, but the realization is crushing me faster than those silly red bricks. If lapses in motivation could derail success, at least temporarily, is the old adage / US immigrant view that “nothing’s free in life” and that success is based on “blood, sweat and tears” painstakingly true?

Perhaps somewhere between the dotcom boom and financial crisis, we got enraptured by illusions of lottery-esque big wins that would enable us to go live on an island and sip pina coladas until heartburn kicked in. Perhaps I needed my blackberry, the modern symbol of real-time speed and efficiency, to mock my attempts at a cheap victory and remind me that the days of success predicated on the intangible (e.g. ponzi schemes, financial algorithms) might be behind us for good — that is if there were ever here to begin with.

That loss implicates us to continuously infuse routine and persistence with new ideas, new goals and new perspectives, as the path to our ultimate goal might be invariably longer without the shortcuts. Otherwise, we might get locked into understanding success from a day-1 perspective, and in that case, never get to the island replete with hot stone massages, or worse — find a sense of relief in Game Over.

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