“I want to thank my wife. I have been away preparing in Prague. I am missing her graduation; I am missing her birthday and I am missing Valentine’s day.”
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa – World Champion
I have wanted to write this article since PV won worlds nine months ago. I want to talk about what it takes to be great at anything. We are going to explore what separates those of us that achieve their goals and rise to the top. We will explore the price that greatness requires of us and if it’s something we are willing to pay or not.
In some ways I am pleased that I am writing this now that I have played more Magic at the highest levels and am currently in the hunt to make it to the Pro Leagues. I feel now more than ever the toll that chasing this dream takes on us. Long nights testing into early morning tournaments. Balancing tournament preparation with content creation and a life outside of Magic – what is that again? Constantly struggling to find physical and mental harmony while engaging in a never-ending high stress environment. These are but a few of the daily struggles of someone trying to live the professional Magic life.
Before we get to the topic at hand, I want to recap my last week and where I am at currently with my goals. I found myself very burnt out of Standard last week and did little to keep up to date with the ever-changing Standard landscape. I put my head down, forcing myself to accept that somehow Gruul would remain the top deck despite every indication that it was slipping from its throne atop the meta. I didn’t want to go back and play matchups I had already played weeks earlier as once-dead decks popped back up to prominence. I didn’t want to bash my head against the proverbial 0/4 wall trying to find a deck that could win against Gruul and Yorion. And my results reflected that unwillingness. I went a solid 0W-3L drop in the F2K Invitational. You could make a case that my draws were poor, and my opponents were strong. But I believe firmly that we manifest the things around us and going into the tournament I mostly saw myself doing poorly given my lack of preparation in the week leading up.
It was a good splash of cold water in the face that I needed. I had allowed myself to not care as much about tournaments that wouldn’t qualify me for the end of season Championship events. I had allowed myself to stop learning and stop fighting, even if only for a short amount of time. I even lost in back to back days to my arch nemesis Corey “Danger” Baumiester, as I was rudely knocked out of the semifinals of the Bash Bros Tournament. All these experiences have relit the fire in me to fight on. A side note on passion and genius that I find very interesting is the fine line that they have with anger and insanity. To be the very best some say you must be a little mad. Often you will have to do things differently to separate yourself from the rest of the pack. Likewise, the line between anger and passion can be blurred at times with athletes often losing their cool in the heat of battle. There are also many tales of brilliant minds eventually losing touch with reality after achieving breakthroughs in their field.
I am qualified for the 64-person $30,000 CFB Clash tournament this weekend. I intend to spend as much time as I can this week attempting to bring home the $10,000 first place prize money. If time permits, I will also be leaning on my Team Planeswalker teammates for a Historic decklist to play in the Kaladesh Qualifier tournament on Sunday.
Greatness Has a Price…
And the price must be paid in advance. Don’t be fooled into thinking that being at the top of any field will be easy. PVDDR didn’t just roll into the World Championship in Hawaii thinking he was the best and had a good shot at winning. He flew from Brazil to the Czech Republic first to prepare for the tournament. Think about the level of dedication that it shows to be considered the best in the world and yet still miss your wife’s birthday and graduation because you knew that is what you had to do to win. So, you must ask yourself how badly do you want this goal? Are you willing to put in the work and make the sacrifices? Achieving success on a grand scale requires huge journeys outside of your comfort zone. The number of things that you will have to forgo to reach your goal may not be known to you when you begin. Your resolve to sacrifice ever growing amounts of time, pride, and comfort will be tested again and again.
I am reminded of a story about David Goggins (baddest man on the planet) and a multi-millionaire that had asked David to live with him and help him out of a slump. The man had reached the highest pinnacles of success and had become unmotivated with his work. David’s first rule was that every day they would have to do something that would suck. One day that sucky thing was to go for a 10-mile run in the middle of a snowstorm. When they finished the run, David took them out onto an iced-over pond and broke a hole in it with a boulder and told the man to jump in. After some back and forth the man finally did get in and as they were running back into his house the millionaire’s wife asked David what the health benefits were of jumping into ice water. David responded that he wasn’t sure of the health benefits. The wife then inquired why they would do it if not for their health. David responded, “I just wanted to see how far your husband would go to reach his goals.”
PV wanted to win Worlds badly and he knew the amount of work that had to go in to do so. We all want the shortcut to success and the reality is that any lasting results come from doing the work. I used to hate this fact. I hated that I had to work out most days of the week for months or years to look like a Greek god. I hated that I had to spend endless hours of my life learning a skill to become competent at it. I hated that I had to look stupid or foolish when I started a new endeavor and thus, I never started.
That was then. Now I live for it. It turns out working hard makes you feel great. If you give all that you have every night you will go to sleep with a smile on your face, because there was nothing more you could have done. You gave it your all. It’s an amazing feeling to dig deep within yourself and find levels of strength and determination you never knew you had. Your life will start improving for the better day after day. Commit to doing the best that you can at everything that you try. You will win or you will learn, but you will never lose.
One last thing I wanted to touch on in this article. I implore you to realize that our time here is ticking by. One thing that I have always felt separated me from many of my peers was a sense of urgency that my time was limited. For some reason, the people around me didn’t seem to realize that the only constant was change. I recently learned that this is because our brains are hardwired to make us think death is something that happens to those around us and not ourselves. We think we are going to be here forever.
Let that really settle in and then get to work! See you in the next one.