Recently I was listening to an episode from one of my favorite podcasts, The Kevin Rose Show, and I was surprised by how applicable the several thousand years old philosophy of Stoicism can be to games of Dota being played today.
The episode consisted of an interview with author Ryan Holiday, who has written popular books about contemporary Stoicism like The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy, and The Daily Stoic.
That said, here are my takeaways for us soon-to-be Stoic Dota players:
Distinguish between what is in our control and what is not.
For example when we’re mad about a teammate’s poor play ask ourselves: is this something I control, is getting mad about this making it better or worse, what could I be expending this energy on instead?
Chances are that being upset about it isn’t going to improve the situation, and voicing our disappointment is only going to erode cooperation and create resentment on their end.
We shouldn’t get mad about a missed spell, lost teamfight, or RNG that went against us. To be a good Dota players we have to detach ourselves from the results, focus on what we were supposed to do and whether we did it right.
“All the information that I have right now says this is a good call, and I know i’m making this call for good reasons, you have to open yourself up to the possibility that you could be completely wrong or that fate could intervene and turn this obvious win into a huge loss and you cant take that home with you and feel like a huge failure.” — Ryan Holiday
Realize the benefit of only focusing energy on those things inside our control.
Instead of worrying about things outside our control, we can channel this energy into something we do control like our game play or leadership. Speaking of, and this is a bit of an aside, I encourage everyone reading this who wants to be a better in game leader to bind >Sorry to their chat-wheel and when something goes wrong look for a way to take the blame for whatever it is that happened.
For example, maybe our carry Jugg wasted spin farming and died as a result, we can still apologize for not warning him all missing, apologize for not having placed a a lane ward for him, or apologize for not having TP Scroll ready to try and save him.
Identifying all these things we could have done better to prevent a bad outcome is useful for improving as a player, and they make for sincere explanations when we take the blame— hopefully protecting our team mates from being flamed in addition to building trust and increasing cooperation.
“The Duke men’s basketball coach has an expression he uses with his athletes – ‘Next Play’. Whether it’s a bad play or even a great one keep your head in the game and be ready for the next play. Those few moments you spend sulking or celebrating could lead to something worse.” /u/tzussu
See an obstacle as an opportunity to be better, to do more things.
If we accept that winning or losing shouldn’t be tied to our well being, we can see obstacles as opportunities to bring out the best in our ability— in other words the highest expression of our talent.
Sometimes we just have to acknowledge that okay I’m in a horrible situation, what can I do for the people around me, what can I do for myself? For example when we’re playing offlane and the early game goes terribly and we have to figure out what we can still do, like standing on a high ground near mid to break smoke, scouting enemy stacks, or ganking before level 6 (with a TP ready in case the lane pushes in to your tower).
Improving your inner-game takes deliberate practice so it can be very helpful to have a role model. Someone who is overall a good role model of Stoic Dota play and does a great job of focusing on what can still be done in a tough situation is Merlini, so check out his stream and >Don’t Give Up.
“Ambition is tying your well being to what happens to you, self indulgence is tying your well being to what other people say, sanity is tying your well being to your own actions.” — Marcus Aurelius
Of course there’s a lot more to Stoicism than this, but hopefully it’s enough to help us win more games. Part of what makes Dota interesting is experimenting with different strategies, not just in gameplay, but also in personal mindset and team communications. I find personal development to be a fascinating subject and have thought about writing a series for Dota players where different authors main points are condensed with examples in a Dota setting, so let me know if you like the sound of that.
Featured image courtesy of actionforhappiness.org
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