“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.” – Albert Einstein
I used to competitively play the video game counter-strike. I did many things the same as everyone else, but I think I did one thing differently. I watched myself. I obsessively watched myself, reviewing the recordings of each of my matches, analyzing each move I made.
For whatever reason, we are very good at being critical of others. When we’re watching someone else do something, our minds veritably sparkle with items of criticism and reproach. We know that they’re not doing things in the best way possible, and know how they could improve. This might be a large part of why we hate watching recordings of ourselves so much. If we never have to watch ourselves, we never have to subject our own performances to the painful illumination of external observation. There is a comfort in this form of ignorance.
However, as in many things in life, the comfortable path is not necessarily the best. It can be difficult to watch, or listen, or review your own performance, but there is incredible value in this activity. The trick is to bring an attitude of internal constructive criticism to each of these reviews. Don’t bury your head in the sand because you don’t look as good as you thought you did; focus on the elements where you could improve. Compare your work to that of those you admire; look for areas where they outperform you, then make a plan how to improve those areas of your own performance.
In counter-strike it was hard to watch myself playing at first. I could clearly see in post-analysis mistakes I was making that I hadn’t noticed while I was playing. I would have to watch myself repeatedly missing shots I should not have been missing. I didn’t put myself through this trauma for nothing though. As I watched myself again and again, over time I was able to isolate the areas of my play that were causing me the greatest problems. I then went and studied other players, and learned how to improve the specific areas I needed. As I worked on those areas I was able to actually watch the improvement.
There is a significant value in having a mentor, an advisor, or a coach. Someone who has experience in a field can highlight your weaknesses as well as your opportunities for growth, but this may not always be available. By reviewing your own performances you can become your own coach. You’ll be amazed by how much insight you can apply to yourself if you make this a regular practice. Don’t be afraid to hear your own voice or watch videos of yourself.
Whether it’s in sports, speaking, writing, or any activity in which you wish to excel, boldly take ownership of your own performances, both good, and bad. Learn to love finding your weaknesses, because a weakness is just an opportunity for an improvement.