Commitment is essential for doing something that matters

For my next career, I decided I want to be a professional gamer. My kids will grow up and move out and I’ll get great internet and stock my apartment with all the food gamers want. And I’ll recruit an awesome team because they can live rent-free and play together in one room.

I will not have good reaction time, but I’ll be team captain and that way we can get AARP to sponsor us.

Also, I might even have a gaming blog. I have a lot to say. For example, did you know Koreans are better at League of Legends than anyone else? And people spend a lot of time trying to figure out why. Like maybe it’s their gaming style (go out strong) or gaming culture (it’s literally ILLEGAL to cheat at videos games in Korea).

But I hear this same conversation about Korean string instrument players. Earlier in life I’d have told you to go to Optilingo and learn Korean because I was convinced it was language related. But now I have come to the unscientific conclusion that it’s finger dexterity. Maybe small-twitch muscles in fingers. Or something like that. You’ll want to come back to my gaming blog for more borderline racist commentary.

The research says that hard-core gaming is a sign of high IQ, ambition, and future success. And kids who climb through the ranks become experts at grit and perseverance. Which is why I let my kids play video games whenever they want.

I read about colleges giving esports scholarships to gamers. I read about how kids sell their accounts, or they get paid to play on other kids accounts to win games.

I read parents talking about their kids who earn six figures as gamers. One dad took his kid’s computer to work with him every day so the kid bought a second computer. Another family turned off their internet so the kid paid to get his bedroom wired.

Commitment is relative and most of you are not particularly committed to anything. Commitment is about time and energy. Look at what you put time and energy toward. Are you in the top 10% in terms of the time and energy you put into your particular thing? I’d say top 10% is how I would define committed. Top 20% is very interested. Top 50% is paying attention in an average way.

Do you want to do something that matters on the world?  First define “something that matters” and then go find someone else who has done that. Look how committed are they to what they did. Do you want to be that committed? Would you give up what they gave up? If the answer is no then you don’t want to change the world. (Or be Challenger level in League of Legends.)

I have been playing League of Legends with my kids, mostly to see what being committed to gaming might feel like. At first I didn’t know what I was doing and my son would type things in for me: “F U ALL IM TAKING MIDLANE.”

After that I typed, “I’m sorry for that. That was my son. I didn’t mean to be rude. Could I play mid-lane?”

Then my kids would get serious. They’d tell me I can’t type stuff like that. They’d tell me we are going to get our IP banned because I sound like a troll.

An interesting way to divide the world is the super-committed and everyone else. Commitment level is relative. But some things are clear. You can only expect to be with people who have the same level of commitment as you. For anything. At work full-timers hate dealing with part-timers. In League of Legends if you’re Bronze then you only play with Bronze players.

My kids can’t stand when other kids come over to our house and have very little experience playing video games, and they think they’re going to get better while they’re in our den of unlimited screen time. “Dude! It takes years!” Is what my son says. The only way you level up in commitment is with time and energy. There’s nothing else.

Similarly, I am sick of people who want to change the world but can’t seem to stay in the same job — because it takes decades to do something that really matters. Commitment. And risk: spending so much time at something without having certain reward. So few people can stomach that. But gamers do.

The correlation between success and hard work is palpable among gamers. It’s refreshing after decades of hearing people talk about work-life balance as something successful people do.

I like when my kids are winning because they have more time to type in the comments.

Tonight my older son says, “Oh my god this guy just said, I got my girlfriend pregnant and I’m trying to get through medical school.”

I say, “Tell him your mom will talk to him if he wants help.”

My son howls with laughter. But then he types that to the kid.

Two blown-up turrets later, the kid types back: “It’s ok. We’re going to Planned Parenthood tomorrow.”

I say, “Tell him to get her flowers when gets home. She’ll like that.”

Younger son: “No! He’s trolling! Don’t write that! MOM. Seriously!”

“So what? So what if he’s trolling. Everyone in the game will be nicer if they know someone who has an abortion.”

My older son types it.

And so does my younger son.

And it’s a small victory for me. Because right now I am not working full time and I’m not parenting full time. I’m doing both just sort of okay. But in this League of Legends moment, I’ve made a small difference. And I’m happy.

51 replies
  1. May
    May says:

    I love this post. It’s amazingly deranged but in a charming way.
    Just like to twitch streams of being a gamer-mom who tells everyone what to do with their lives while losing matches for her team!

  2. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    I love that blog idea! You can fit some weird niche of gamer no one’s ever done before, like “autistic gaming mom”, and it’s going to be so bizarre and insane that everyone will love it. And since you’ll be learning from the ground up, it’ll be a great info bridge between people who game a lot and people who don’t.

    Also, the New York Times link about how full-timers hate part-timers doesn’t work.

  3. May
    May says:

    “Just like to twitch streams” => “Just make some twitch streams”
    i many typom, but you knwo what i mean i think. .. .. :)

  4. Chris
    Chris says:

    You genuinely should do a Twitch stream. Twitch is literally just the vehicle, you could play video games poorly and just give career advice and thousands of people would watch and pay you.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        The Twitch idea is so fun. Thanks!
        The sofa is vintage. From Chairish. I had it shipped all the way from California and then it didn’t match. So I just sold it. This is the memorial sofa photo.


        • Berkeley Babe
          Berkeley Babe says:

          “All the way from Calif.” All the way from Calif. is not considered anything unique, is it? Native Californian here who has shipped from there extensively…

          I didn’t know my shipping habits are so unique they are something to brag about!

  5. James
    James says:

    I love this post. I used to game a ton as a kid and can’t state the benefits enough of it. My shrink parents (who took a hands-off parenting approach) always said that they had no idea what it was doing to me, but assumed it was good things.

    It helped with sports, hand-eye-coordination, quick decision making, problem-solving, cooperation, focus, and as you said, learning to take a step-by-step approach to reach long-term goals.

    But I think the most important aspect was that it taught me about addiction, which I have a moderate tendency towards. I definitely got addicted many times, but long-term this helped me realize what addiction was like as I got older and what to do when I went too far. And way better to learn this through gaming before the transition to drugs.

    Sara’s due in 3 weeks and I’m gonna save this post to help convince her to let our kid game a lot – thanks!

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      I never thought about it like that but I think you’re right, there is no way to avoid addiction in the modern world (95% of any grocery store is products designed to addict you).

      I struggled a lot with video game addiction (literally used to wait till my parents fell asleep at midnight, sneak down and play till about 3-4am) but now I’d consider myself one of the most disciplined people (lift 10+ hours a week, cook and measure all my food, built my own six figure business on a modest salary).

      Conor McGregor supposedly had a big video game habit, so did Joe Rogan. It definitely seems common among a certain personality type.

      • James
        James says:

        That’s really interesting Chris. I haven’t seen any actual studies, but I’ve read a lot of anecdotes (especially on Reddit) that many gamers, once they make the commitment, do really well at getting and staying in shape because of the discipline and what they’ve learned about reaching big goals through small and consistent steps.

        • Jen
          Jen says:

          This. I used to game a lot, but I dont as much anymore (Been planning to get through my game backlog) And I genuinely think being a gamer helped me develop numerous skills (which have helped me with my fitness and personal/proffessional life) such as; hand eye cordination, faster reflexes, discipline, quicker decision making etc.

          Thanks for the post Penelope, thinking to have a pop on the PS4 later today. Or this weekend – Gaming PC still out of budget :(

  6. Blandy
    Blandy says:

    You conflated commitment and hard work. I work hard at a lot of things because I enjoy it but I have never committed to anything long term. It bothers me that I don’t. Can’t? I don’t know. I get interested in so many things I can’t stay focused for more than a few years.

    Sidebar — Penelope my 25 yr old daughter has a consulting call with you in a couple of weeks and she’s excited about it! (I told her to do it but she paid for it herself. You don’t value what you get for free.)

  7. Michael LaRocca, Business Editor
    Michael LaRocca, Business Editor says:

    “Before you change the world, you have to change your underwear.”

    Tell them to type that during League of Legends. I used to type mess like that during computer chess, the theory being that I could compensate for my lack of skill by throwing them off their game. Or maybe I was just learning how to troll.

  8. harris497
    harris497 says:

    You don’t get to 10000 hours in anything without commitment.
    But does commitment come first (like love at first sight) or does success encourage incremental growth in commitment?


  9. MBL
    MBL says:

    I LOVE this post! The tone is spectacular.

    “But I hear this same conversation about Korean string instrument players. Earlier in life I’d have told you to go to Optilingo and learn Korean because I was convinced it was language related. But now I have come to the unscientific conclusion that it’s finger dexterity. Maybe small-twitch muscles in fingers. Or something like that. You’ll want to come back to my gaming blog for more borderline racist commentary.”

    I love the noting that your conclusion is speculative and possibly offensive (not in my estimation) and I’m hoping that the Optilingo thing is a sponsored plug. If so, I love that was phrased as “Earlier in life I’d have told you…” which is the opposite of directing traffic but I still clicked the link since their method could certainly still have value, even if not in the context of gaming.

    My daughter isn’t a gamer at all, but does spend hours on art/rp sites which I find valuable in learning communication, writing, perseverance, and graphic art skills. My concern with it is her posture.

    Does anyone have any great tips for posture. She has sensory sensitivities so I think something like a “posture bra” or that “zapper” thing I keep getting ads for is out.

      • Yogi
        Yogi says:

        Yes.Yoga is the best for learning great posture (cured my chronic back pain).
        Was on heavy-duty pain meds & even had to use a wheelchair sometimes.
        Not even a cane now, walking, hiking. My pain management doc says,”Keep doing yoga.”

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Thanks so much! The other day I told her we going to have to do something drastic like yoga. Y’all have inspired me to break out the yoga wheel of torture and mats. Wish us luck!!

      • Yogi Mama
        Yogi Mama says:

        It is in no way torture to do yoga. Do what you can mindfully; don’t compare yourself to others; be grateful for what you can do.

        You will experience new mental coping skills (depression & anxiety are no longer controlling my days), growing physical strength, grace & flexibility, & opening your heart to love yourself & others without judgement.

        Test out which kind of yoga blesses you the most.

        And have fun!!

        My daughter (43-year-old law prof) takes a private yoga session with me when she visits. We bond so much during those couple of hours & she feels such a release from the “gotta do, gotta be” mentality that creeps into career-minded women, especially.

        Really nice experience to share with your daughter.

  10. Firefox Is Not responding
    Firefox Is Not responding says:

    The drastic idea you shared with us. You fit some weird niche of gamer no one’s ever done before, like “autistic gaming mom”, this is really loved by the gamers and it’s going to be so bizarre and insane that everyone will love it.

  11. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    My boss quit in January. He was a cofounder and CTO in the software startup where I work. Long story why. But I made a pitch for his old job. I didn’t get it. It went to someone in our market who is an experienced exec in this arena.

    It didn’t help that my dad died the day after the CTO quit. I wasn’t on my A game when I made the pitch.

    I was a little bummed for a while but I decided that I had been perfectly happy as a Director in that org before and assuming the new boss doesn’t suck I’ll be perfectly happy as Director going forward.

    So the new VP debuted this week and there was an all-hands meet and greet. Someone asked her what her hobbies are and she blanked. She finally said, “Well, I like to work. I guess this is my hobby.”

    I see that among VPs. Some of them have hobbies of sorts like the annual fly fishing trip or whatever. Or maybe pounding bourbons every night to cope with the stress.

    I guess maybe I’m just not committed. I mean, I love what I do and I’m really good at it. I’ve worked hard and long to get good and I keep working at it. I’m “committed” in that sense.

    But I like to write in my blog, and take photographs, and go on long road trips. I spend a lot of time at these things, really.

    I think there are other things that have blocked me from moving up faster. My blue-collar roots are showing: I frequently don’t understand why people don’t just see how good my work is and reward me for it. If only that were how it worked. I keep finding the people I work for have little idea how much I’m carrying and how well I’m handling it. And my social skills are middling. And I find balance sheets and profit forecasts to be dreadful.

    But I also think I lack the commitment to that kind of job.

    • MMJ
      MMJ says:

      “But I also think I lack the commitment to that kind of job.”

      I have worked with a TON of lawyers who did have that kind of commitment – their hobbies were working, talking about working, and feeling important because they worked a lot. They were not interesting people and probably were unhealthy. After seeing that pattern for years (with the people who made art, started businesses or wrote books leaving for less “prestigious” jobs) I just think that the completely committed are misguided. We don’t have to be that committed to someone else’s definition of career commitment.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        The people that do really really well financially and socially, have an interest in people and an exceptional focus on their work. The bankers I know (two VPs, one MD, one hedge fund manager, several retired) have strong friendships that also work in the same field. Of course, you could be the type of person who ‘works hard for a company’, but not for progression reasons. Besides the paycheck, some people need work for sense of community reasons, and are happy to dedicate themselves to the good of an organization and lend their skill set. I find that to be true of most decent middle managers and below.
        Those whom I meet that are extremely dedicated to their work seem to really enjoy it. I’d imagine if one is working really hard and not being properly remunerated for their work they might have a communication or self-esteem issue. No harm in working hard, as long as you’re smart about it and getting paid properly.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          This is an interesting observation and sort of a chicken-and-egg thing. I think people who love to work make friends through work because they don’t care about anything that isn’t work. I don’t think the friends at work drive the love for working.

          Melissa once told me she has to work with me because she knows I only pay attention to people if I’m working with them.


    • Committed?
      Committed? says:

      Hey, it sounds like you are committed to having a full & balanced life. Work is not the most important activity in your life.


      You may want to skip or skim the rest of my comment here. I’ve written way too much.

      To me it seems you are committed to being an authentic person who is true to your “morals.”

      You are not wasting time & attention & effort getting into the game playing of telling others how good you are instead of doing well quietly.

      Financial renumeration & “Wow, look at me” promotions & job titles are not the primary goal to working (or at least that is my opinion)–living, being a good citizen of the world & not being drawn in by toxic people & their b.s. are quality gifts you can give to yourself & others.

      My husband was a manager at the company he was employed by
      & he treated employees with respect; chose to vocalize his gratitude for their fine work (scientific research) & be a proponent for the people in his group to be recognized, get raises, & getting the “bigwigs” to show their appreciation for these employees instead of focusing solely on their jobs & how much of the pie they can grab, by whatever means.

      You sound like you are on your way to a better perspective about life, work & you!

      Also, taking classes helped me learn to be more socially adept. It is easier for me to talk to people when we are sitting side-by-side doing creative work or discussing books in classes at the local college.

      I just finished a fascinating class/group discussion on “The Four Agreements” & went out for coffee with several of my classmates. I felt getting to know them in a group activity with a focus helped me not to be so shy.

      And I am way too verbose in the comments sections. I get into too much steam-of-consciousness writing. You write a blog! Good for you.

  12. c.
    c. says:

    People commit to vision… a vision of what their marriage should be or a vision of what their job or career should be.

    As time passes, if that vision doesn’t coincide with reality, they lose commitment. The circumstances that have evolved are not what they committed to in the first place.

    Divorce, changing careers… It happens when people start building their lives to meet a new vision of themselves.

    You’re evolving and you are now developing a new vision of yourself. How we see ourselves in the present moment is the starting point. I feel like this post is delineating that concept.

  13. Priscilla
    Priscilla says:

    I love this post. As an ENFP, commitment has come hard to me, until I found it was about values and ideas instead of tangible products. I’m more committed than anyone I know to parenting, being smart and savvy with my limited income (because I’m so focused on parenting), and making my (second) marriage successful. You’re so right about needing to be around people of the same level of commitment- I was more committed the first time around, and basically the number one thing I looked for in husband #2 was the same level of commitment that I was bringing. I hope some day I’ll commit to something tangible and see great results. Until then, at least everyone in my home will be emotionally healthy, and the mortgage will get paid.

  14. Cordy
    Cordy says:

    Your comparison to string instrument players is really apt and if you haven’t seen professional LoL (League of Legends) tournaments, recommend checking one out with your sons. Watching those players is like watching a virtuoso pianist.

    As someone who works in the online gaming community and knows many Twitch and YouTube streamers, would also totally encourage you guys to attend BlizzCon if you’re serious about the blog stuff (it’s one of those things that committed people do). ;)

    And last, totally agree on all your points about the benefits of gaming, just be careful when it comes Twitch streaming because there’s also a lot of mental illness starting to show up among Twitch streamers who stream 8-10 hours a day, playing the same game alone all the time with audiences that won’t tolerate them playing anything else. It’s a pretty intense community and it’s worth talking about the other side of the coin if you have the opportunity to do a follow-up post.

  15. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    hahahahahah I love this League of Legends post so much. The ongoing analogy was quite humorous. Made me happy :)

  16. ASK
    ASK says:

    I was the one who wrote “define committed” in the comments on the other post, and so I like how you define committed in this post.

    I think people get offended when you tell them they aren’t committed because it sounds like an insult, when really, it’s an observation about someone’s willingness to put the time in.

    I’m glad that we have an economy where hustlers can hustle and make a lot of money if they want, and work-life-balance people can not hustle and make less money if they want. It’s all the whining that people do that bugs me.

    Dude, make your choices and own them and if you don’t like the outcome, make a different choice.

    Hustlers don’t want to be around slow pokes and vice versa. This makes sense. It doesn’t bother me that some people are willing to work 20-hour days and go to happy hours with their startup buddies to get ahead. That’s a lifestyle that can be fun for a time. Maybe for all time. But it’s not conducive to raising children well.

    Finally, “making a difference” and “changing the world” are over-rated and full of hubris. How do you even know you’re changing it for the better? Maybe you just ruined something or the unintended consequences of your invention will mean more depression for the next generation of kids.

  17. S
    S says:

    Let me slip in a cry for help here: I’m a solo entrepreneur ENFP in a competitive and lucrative STEM field, doing well for myself, riding the learning curve hard. I too am a ‘part time worker part time mother’ – but often tempted to “get an MBA” and work for someone for the sense of community, enforced boundaries and the limited hours. Entrepreneurship has afforded me flexibility but it’s made me question what really am I / should be committing to. Some days I feel like I am being horribly ungrateful because I am getting the best of both worlds – family and work. And other days I think I am being lazy and not doing my best. Any thoughts appreciated.

  18. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    It doesn’t sound to me like you’re “getting the best of both worlds” because in both worlds you get back from them what you give and you’re giving part-time.

    And what does best of boyh worlds even mean? I think you are just in both worlds and you’re happy to not have to make tgr hard decision of giving something up. But in doing so, you’re exhausted.


  19. Kate
    Kate says:

    I loved this post too… reminds me of my time (high school & beyond but before having children) of watching others, always boys, much better than me game – such a fun engaging bonding thing to do.. and that was then. Now gaining has moved on and I hardly know where to star now my children are older and I can carve to play again. I’ve dabbled recently with my brothers cast off Xbox in a “retro/ vintage/ antique” (probably) game that was a true love of mine for a while there: The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion – and we’ve spent hours and hours of our home-ed days there this winter. I love this game. And as I’ve been playing and watching g my kids try I am struck by the different ways to play… the different strategies and attitudes people can have to the same game. Sharing with my brother was painful (yes compulsive viewing) when he had such a different style to me- :-))
    So my point: I have actually thought several times “wouldn’t it be fascinating to know if there are any studys or someone thinking about personaltiy tyoes and their gaming style…?” The scope for this is huge and here are many avenues leading off it to explore of course. But do some types never get drawn to playing video games at all? So some types always play the same way… adopt the same principles? Do people have the same ’type’ in their game as hey do in rl? Penelope… do you know the answers? From watching your boys and their friends? I mostly like RPG that has string elements of exploring, building, collecting, quests but i don’t like constant fighting and (exhausting) ever presesnt peril… this, I suspect, marks me out as a ‘gamer- lite’ or something… so my avatars appearance and skill set etc isbthat related to my personality and personal aspirations or what!?
    Please start the gaming blog. Please. It would be perfection I know it. And your perspective a breath of fresh air.

    • Kate
      Kate says:

      Apologies for typos I’m typing one handed breastfeeding my son to sleep and was too excited by the thought of Gaming Mom Aspergic Ascerbic Blog to reread my comment.
      And, and, your sons would need guest slots… for context!
      *So cool*

  20. Gabby
    Gabby says:

    This post was boring. Don’t let your readers delusion you, your comments are way down and people are losing interest.
    You’re skirting the issue of what’s really going on in your life.

    Your business, I know, however, when you got a majority of your readers for your oversharing , that’s why they have always returned.

    Now it’s a snoorefest and no one is honest enough to tell you that. Plug in, be honest and be vulnerable.

    If this “blog” is what’s going to generate income for you and you want to charge money for your insight, I’d suggest you be honest with yourself and be real.

    Heavens knows it’s been almost a year since you’ve done that……

  21. Lol Booster
    Lol Booster says:

    You’re so right about needing to be around people of the same level of commitment- I was more committed the first time around, and basically the number one thing.

    Thank you!

  22. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    This is a really cool post. I think as a parent, I have this strong feeling, however it be unfounded, that video games will stagnate my children’s brains. Maybe this is a sign of me getting old. We have a constant tug of war between getting outside and experiencing the world, and watching TV, playing video games, etc.

    I guess maybe video games aren’t so bad after all?

  23. Karen Hinkle
    Karen Hinkle says:

    This is got me really thinking about my own commitments and career passions. It is really important to enjoy the work you do everyday. Thank you for reminding me.

  24. Dean Yeong
    Dean Yeong says:

    I truly enjoy this post. It’s genuine, authentic, and accurate.

    Commitment does matter more than many others factors that contribute to success. And it took me quite a long time to figure that out.

    I don’t play games, and I used to think gamers are wasting their time doing something that doesn’t matter at the end of the day. But hey, there is always something to learn when you slightly shift the perspective.

    And by reading this, I noticed I’m probably not putting enough commitment into what I wanted to do: writing. I’d say I’m at the top 30% but far from the 10% yet.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  25. LoL Accounts
    LoL Accounts says:

    Great article! I just wanted to comment on something you touched on at the start of the post, the conversion surrounding why Koreans fair better than most in video games.

    If you look at a list of the top 10 League of Legends players of all time, you would come out with an even mix of European, Chinese and Korean players. So the question really shouldn’t be “Why are Koreans better”, because they aren’t necessarily. The question we should be asking is “Why does Korea consistently produce more top talent than other regions?”

    That question opens up a number of interesting ideas, mainly eSports structure in Korea and work ethic.

    Korea has a long history of eSports, spanning decades at this point. Starcraft: Broodwar (released 1998) brought the “Korean dominance” to the forefront in the west, where merely beating a top level Korean was an achievement nevermind winning one of their competitions. This is where Korea got its headstart in organising their budding talent. Many of the organisations formed back then to help these competitors are still around today. Even the failed organisations teach lessons haven’t been learned in the west. Which is visible in the problems of “team houses” especially in the US, where 3-4 years ago there was little structure or organisation behind them. The plan was, put 5-6 guy in a house and hope they get along well enough to get better at this game”. Where the Korean team houses had managers, coaches and even chefs/dietary managers caring for their players.

    Work ethic is a huge point also, Koreans are raised to be incredibly respectful to their elders allowing for a solid relationship between coaches and the players themselves. This is in stark contrast to the Chinese region, which is notorious of producing very large egos which have to lead to butting heads within organisations in the past (and maybe in part responsible for their overall poor performance given the investment and talent within the region).

    The investment being put into the western regions is impressive, some teams have even gone as far as hiring sports psychologists to help their players improve. They’re still playing catch-up, but it’s a very interesting space to observe if you’re at all interested.

  26. Emily
    Emily says:

    I’m so many months late to this post, but I love it. I often think if I was a few years younger, I definitely would be trying to be a pro-esports player.

    If you want to start a League of Legends club, let me know, I’d be so in. I’m trying to get good at it right now too.

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