Every so often I pick up my copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, open it to a random page, and start reading. It’s quickly become one of my favorite books because usually when I do this style of random reading I notice something helpful that I didn’t notice before. This is usually because I have something weighing on my mind that reacts to something I read.
It gets me thinking… usually in a good way.
Last night I was musing about my work and the stress I was under. My mind kept going in circles, thinking about how this game HAS to be great — how I NEED it to be great. In order to shut myself up, I picked up the book and opened it up to this bit:
When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do it’s a hollow victory. In order to sustain the victory you have to prove yourself again and again in some other way, and again and again and again, driven forever to fill a false image, haunted by the fear that the image is not true and someone will find out. That’s never the way.
If you climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you really only prove how big the mountain is… Interesting. I read on.
To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be “here.” What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.
It feels like that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been thinking more about where I’m going than where I am. Rather than stressing so much about how a project MIGHT end up, I should be enjoying the exercise of making the game. I should be relishing how much I’m learning and how I’m able to hone my skills. I should be thinking about how cool it is to work with an amazingly talented team, and getting a chance to direct a product that has so much potential.
In Kung Fu, one of our philosophies is that the process is more important than the result. Results are just for the moment, but the process is for the longer term.
By learning to enjoy and immerse yourself in the journey, your destination almost becomes irrelevant. You get there sooner than you thought, and the whole thing is just much more fulfilling.
I think that’s what Pirsig was saying in Zen, too. So to remind myself, I’m going to write what I said earlier — “If you climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you really only prove how big the mountain is” — on a piece of paper and post it up near my desk.
I’m going to make it to the top of the mountain — come hell or high water. Nothing’s gonna stop me from doing that.
I might as well enjoy the hike.