Find Your Training Ground

A popular proverb goes like this:

– How do you eat an elephant?

– One bite at a time.

This is really just another way of saying: Every big accomplishment is built on top of smaller ones.

What the proverb doesn’t capture is that our definitions of big and small accomplishments will shift over time — and that, itself, is a victory.

Once upon a time, running Regular REL events felt like eating an elephant. Even the simple task of asking my local store owner if I could volunteer to help out made me anxious. But I did ask him, and he did say yes, and a few days later I showed up to help run a Game Day.

Doing well at that Game Day event gave me the confidence to travel a few hours to meet an L2 at a totally new store and judge Friday Night Magic there. But success felt far from guaranteed. What if the players wanted to get a ruling from a “real judge” instead of me? What if I had to disqualify someone?

Fortunately those “what if’s” gave way to a fairly tame night of calls, and culminated in the L1 exam and a pleasant interview with my newfound mentor. I was officially a judge!

Today, judging a Game Day or a Friday Night Magic does not inspire fear or “what if”s. These sorts of events have moved from becoming a big accomplishment to a small one. But the reason for this has change little to do with my success at judging my first FNM, or even the L1 exam itself.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that a single event alone is almost never enough to achieve mastery over a task, to change a big and scary challenge to a small and easy one. Rather, mastery is a process. And that process works best when you have a community, a training ground, to support you. This could be physical (a local game store), virtual (an online community), or some mix of both. It doesn’t really mater, as long as you have other people to talk to and learn from, whose strengths can complement your blind spots, and vice versa.

Bit by bit and bite by bite, we can eat any elephant — not alone, but together.