I, along with all my video game friends, are headed to E3 in LA this week. It’s a mess. Between the parties, sun, and stimulating entertainment showcases, a Player can hardly think. For you uninitiated noobs, E3 is the video game industry’s annual trade show at Staples Center in downtown LA. The week-long event overloads the senses by day at press events and by night at company-sponsored parties. And oh, yeah, we all schedule meetings in between the formal events from dusk until dawn.
The OffWins Playbook dictates that Players “stay in the moment.” If you are following along in the old-school handout I gave you in our live coaching session, that would be Inner Game Step 5. Staying in the moment at an event like E3 can challenges even a seasoned vet. LA is ridiculously hard to get around. I’ve hiked 45 minutes to get from one event to another because of lack of cabs. The companies don’t really coordinate so events are running nearly simultaneously. The visual and aural noise bombards your sensory perception. And most people are hungover, dehydrated, and sleep-deprived. It’s a neural gauntlet.
Before we examine staying in the moment, we start with, a paradox (as usual). To effectively stay in the moment, one must plan assiduously. (Or plan not at all and float freely like a plankton in the sea. That’s my preferred method but isn’t very professional). So plan, precisely as possible. Planning and adjusting on the fly at E3 is impossible. Meetings are triple stacked all over Staples Center and downtown LA. The stress of logistics will overwhelm your experience. The whole point of staying in the moment is to leave stress behind, wielding a clear mind, keenly focused. Knowing exactly when and where you need to be helps tremendously. Just ask my friends trying to book their trip 48 hours beforehand (right now). All SF flights are sold out, all nearby hotels are booked up, and party and meeting invites are impossible to get.
Pro Tip: It’s also very helpful to leave 2-3 hour slots open for new possibilities to arise on site.
What Does it Mean to Stay in the Moment?
It means to have your attention focused exclusively on the “now.” This jump shot, this funding pitch, this networking convo, this job interview, this random watercooler gossip session, this at-bat, etc. Not the one you screwed up last week. Not the fear you have of screwing this one up. Not the pride you are beginning to feel as you nail it. Not the expectations you have afterwards. Not the plan. Not the process other than the current step. Only the it, itself.
Plan hard, then forget the plan. Paradox. The moment is when you execute. Good planning and lock-down execution are mutually exclusive. Classic blunder: taking a step before you catch the ball. Look the ball all the way in.
Why is it Important to Stay Centered in This Present Moment?
You will miss a lot if you let your attention wander.
First, sensory perception. What is truly around you? What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, touching? What critical information is there? Sherlock Holmes, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Professor X, all got their super-powers from heightened senses and focused thinking. I know an investor who once discovered a $100M+ investment opportunity at a trade show by staying in the moment. He was wandering a construction equipment show in Vegas. He visually observed that two companies were using identical models and displays, without any branding or other identifying giveaways, in both their booths, for a new growth initiative. The larger company announced the deal months later to the smaller company’s benefit (lawyers: it was a public event, and using identical displays falls is non-material info and thus falls under the cover of “mosaic” info = no insider trading).
Second, and more importantly, is psychological perception. A present consciousness enables the player to perceive the emotional and psychological state of everyone in the room. Continuously checking one’s phone or thinking thr0ugh happy hour options will cause you to miss the signal that the lead decision maker in your meeting is rapidly losing interest in your pitch. You are about to lose, sucker. Quit checking your on-line dating profile and close this deal before it’s too late.
Recent neuroscience discoveries reveal the presence of the “mirror neuron” in all humans (more on this once we get to Outer Game- Social Dynamics). The mirror neuron is a bundle of nerves in our brain. They analyze incoming sensory perception data to build a mental model of other people’s emotional and psychological state inside our own brains. It’s what enables humans to quickly establish rapport and synchrony. That’s an interaction dynamic that every salesperson tries to stimulate to help get the close. But we don’t have to even go that far, discussing neurological breakthroughs. Think about the body language analysis training most companies offer in HR. That stuff is useless if you are not in the moment. Because you aren’t perceiving the other party’s body language, being lost in your own thoughts.
Hazards to Presence:
Projection: Humans are the only mammals with the ability to run real world simulations in their head. I suppose that’s called higher thinking. In a biz encounter, it’s called Projection. And it’s bad. Projecting what you think SHOULD be there, or what you WANT to be there, inhibits you from sensing what really IS there. Making biz decisions, like how to invest that $100M referenced above, while Projecting, is really really bad. Investment guys (myself included) make this mistake all the time. Then the deal blows up on you, and after the fact, you get all stoic, saying, “it is what it is.” Better to be stoically clear-minded ahead of time, not stoically philosophical afterwards.
Emotions: Feelings can efffff you up in biz encounters. Forget what they told you in middle school about feeling your damn feelings. Once in the moment, a player needs to be an ice cold psychopath. Your feelings of anxiety about how the meeting is progressing, or how you look in that dress, or what the boss thinks of your performance, or your fear of getting in over your head, or that if you proposal is approved you will have to make a big preso, will not help you get stuff did. Your feelings are not your friend in that moment. Clear-minded, or as we studied with the Stoics, Directed-Mind thinking, is your friend, as is the crystal-clear perceptions you are making. The only feelings you should be entertaining are gut feelings about the present moment and its occupants.
As E3 is a video gaming event, let’s bring in a guest coach from that industry as we wrap up. Jesse Schell from his book “The Art of Game Design:”
“Reality is amazingly complex. The only way our minds are able to get by at all is by simplifying reality so that we can make some sense of it. Correspondingly, our minds do not deal with reality itself, but instead with models of reality. We mostly do not notice this – the modeling takes place below our awareness. Consciousness is an illusion that our internal experiences are reality, when in truth they are imperfect simulations of something we may never truly understand. The illusion is a very good one, but at times we run into places where our internal simulations fail.”
Reality is complex. To effectively deal with reality, we need the most accurate mental models possible. Distraction, Projection, negative feelings, untimely introspection, anything removing our awareness from the now undermines the accuracy of our mental models.
Next post, we’ll look at the teaching of Eckart Tolle, on psychological techniques for staying in the moment. Meanwhile, if you need some last minute coaching at E3, join me at the Ritz’s rooftop pool next door to the Staples Center for a drink.