I deleted FIFA 21 from my PS4 this week. I was stuck in division 1 for a few weeks and kept missing my goal of winning the division 1 championship (you start at division 10, gradually go upto 1, and the pinnacle is winning it). I had been playing only for a couple of months, so there was a high chance that I would have eventually won it eventually, if I kept trying.

So why did I delete it? I had smashed and almost broken my controller last month. I asked myself why did I buy the game in the first place? The answer was: relax after a long day of work. But like most things in life I ended up chasing some imaginary success [winning division 1 in this case] instead of focusing on the main goal. I lost the joy of the process: playing fifa by focusing too much on the outcome: winning division 1. I had deleted God of War 3 for the same reason a few months back. I had finished the game, but could not kill the Valkyries. I kept looking for hacks. Watched dozens of Youtube videos on what armour to get. Then I asked myself: Is this a job now? This was supposed to be fun. And I just deleted the game.

I have spent the last few weeks introspecting on why I take everything so seriously. Why can’t I be like a normal person and just enjoy something. The answer I have come up with: I think that if I can control something, if I can processify something, if I can come up with a playbook for an activity I am doing, then I can do the same with other aspects of my life.

Sounds abstract? Lets talk more about Fifa.

  • Fifa, like life, does not give a fuck about your feelings. You can do everything correct, but still hit the post a few times, and end up losing to someone who had just one shot on goal. For a lot of people it would result in broken controllers, cursing at EA sports, and then tears. I kept thinking that if I could remain calm, not lose my patience, I would become a calmer person in life. For me winning division 1, and thereby completing the game of Fifa, was a proxy for achieving that state.
  • In Fifa you lose a game, you try again. Using the same strategy. Just because the Fifa Gods did not reward you, you don’t change your game plan. This is true for life too. You need to focus on your inputs than outputs because outputs are a function of both you and the environment. It is easy to default to your baseline, succumb to your real self: both in Fifa and in real life. I am an extremely passionate person. I take everything I start seriously. The highs are nice, but the lows are brutal. Both my wins and losses affect me a lot. So what I keep trying to do, in both Fifa and life, is to keep a checklist of inputs and observe how often I follow them. When I am playing Fifa and winning, I continue with my checklist/plan. But after a few losses, I default to my baseline behavior - spamming tackles, chasing players, trying hero shots, and not passing the ball. It is the same with my life. I have a checklist of behaviors I want to adopt. When things are going well at work, I find it far easier to stick to them. But if I have a bad few days at work, some big project gets screwed up, I become the real me: someone who ties his entire self worth to work, prioritises work above everything else, brings his work home, and forgets everything else. No matter how much I like building products and startups, I don’t want my other aspects of life to be affected by work. So I have to remind myself that it is fine, it is okay to make mistakes. Not take everything too seriously.

So yeah, I lost at Fifa. But I will keep trying.

Lessons learned from my 2021 Fifa journey:

  1. Focus on inputs over outputs; I am not there yet.
  2. Don’t take everything so seriously. Calm the fuck down.
  3. Know why you started something in the first place.
  4. It is stupid to get upset and break controllers because a few pixels on the screen did not go where you wanted them to.

Update: I installed FIFA again because I needed a distraction during the new lockdown in Bangalore. And this time I actually won Division 1. Twice.