It is amazing how much you can learn when you listen, observe and open your mind. It was meant to be a normal outing for our community, but it turned out to become the biggest lesson and motivation I’d received so far this year. I’ll tell you the story of what happened.
The day had finally come after weeks of planning with our tribe. The boys were battle ready, with each one calling out who their first kill would be.
With overalls on, guns loaded, and heads held high, we marched into the arena. We were going to be playing against four professional paintball players – all thirteen of us. Their guns were different, their bullets different. They even dressed different. But it was all good. We were thirteen, they were just four. They were heavily outnumbered – at least three to one.
“Guy, their bullets are everywhere. I can’t leave this spot, I will be shot.”
I think it was Emeka’s voice as soon as the referee blew his whistle and the battle began, but it was drowned by the sound of the flying bullets. From my side eye, I could see players from my team leaving the arena – they’d been shot. And just as I hid behind a tire waiting for the right time to advance, like a flash of lightening, a player from the opposing team appeared from nowhere and shot me right on my face. The force of the bullet went right through my helmet and I had paint all over my mouth.
All these happened in less than two minutes. Three minutes later, the game was over. Four players had beaten thirteen. It was embarrassing to say the least. All our enthusiasm as we rode the journey to the arena was becoming eroded. Many players swore they weren’t entering the arena again. I sat by a corner feeling defeated, but finally consoled myself with the fact that we were amateurs and they were professionals – we hadn’t stood a chance.
Soon we were back in the arena, but this time, we played ourselves. Amateurs against amateurs. It was a bit more fun to be honest. It had lasted more the previous one, but I wasn’t satisfied. There was a thrill I experienced playing the pros, and I wanted some of that again.
So we played them again, and it was this game that changed it all for me. Same thing. Four professionals against thirteen, but this time, they gave us two of them. As soon as the battle started, I found myself hidden behind an obstacle, I laid down with my gun pointing forward like a sniper waiting for his kill. The bullets started pouring in from every corner. We were afraid. I was afraid. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t advance. So I stayed down, waiting for my moment to move. And just like it had happened the first time, I got hit. Three times.
Angry, I met the referee. “We don’t stand a chance against these guys. They’re too good.”
The referee could see the frustration on my face and voice, so he said to me. “Let me explain why you lose.”
“First,” he started, “you will die if you don’t move. The game is not about shooting. It’s about moving. It’s about strategizing. The fun isn’t really in killing your opponent but in finding ways to get into their territory – to lay ambush for them and to outsmart them. There are players that can have very few bullets, yet they win the game. The professionals all played with manual guns – same as you. The ones that had automatic guns were on your team, yet you sabotaged them because you refused to move. Your opponents didn’t win because they had more bullets. They won because you refused to move while they did.”
They won because you refused to move while they did.
He turned to me, “And you, you went to lie down. Are you an assassin?” He asked, mocking me.
Then he continued, “People that lie down lie on elevated platforms so they can look down. You don’t lie down so everyone will be looking at your head, you’ll be the easiest target. The worst you can do when you refuse to move is to lie down, you’ll become meat for your opponents. They’ll kill you and they’ll have fun doing it.”
I played one final time. Yes, my team lost again, but I moved. I advanced. I was in the enemy territory. I communicated with the teammates better. We had designed a strategy and we followed through. Yes, I left the game earlier than I’d wished but I left it feeling like I won. Indeed, the fun wasn’t in the killing, it was in moving.
And while I reflected on that day, these were some of the lessons I learnt.
1. No matter what, never stop moving.
I tell you, this life is one that runs so fast. The clock never stops ticking. For as the earth remains, the sun must rise in the east as set in the west, whether you like it or not. So if life will not stop for us, why must we stop for it? This is why we must keep marching on, for this is the only way to truly live. For to maintain its balance, a bicycle must keep moving.
True, the world will never stop because you did. It is true what they say, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”, but what happens when life has beaten so badly you no longer feel tough. How do you keep going? Well, you keep going.
2. It’s not exactly the bullet that kills you.
The referee had said to me, “You were scared of the bullets, so you died way before the bullet hit you.” In a game of paintball, one of the tactics deployed is to shoot bullets around so as to scare the opponent into hiding. Once they go into hiding, then they can be easily finished off.
And that was true for me. I was afraid that if I stood up to move, I’ll be shot, so I stayed down. But the real truth is that what I was afraid of was also afraid of me. If I’d stood up and shot, my opponents would also be scared into hiding.
Fear in itself isn’t exactly bad. It makes you aware of available danger(s). However, what the real danger is is allowing that fear to overcome you to the point that it cripples you into inaction.
Will Smith once said, “When you’re not afraid to die, you’re no longer afraid to live.” Never forget that at all times, you faith must be greater than your fears. This is how to win.
3. Plan and Strategize.
I’ll tell you why I enjoyed the last game so much even though I left earlier than I had hoped to. Before the game started, our team lead took his time to explain the strategy we were to use. We would attack them mainly from the flanks while we try to engage them from the middle. So I was deployed to the right flank along with a team player. His job was to provide cover for me, while my job was to advance.
It is true what they say, that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. There’s no substitute for preparation. Nobody goes to a battle unprepared. Same thing with life. No matter what the pursuit is, whether career, business or any other matter, you must be well prepared, you must plan, and you must have a well thought-out strategy ready for implementation.
4. It’s not about the destination, but more about the journey.
The referee had said to me, “The game is not about shooting. It’s about moving. It’s about strategizing. The fun isn’t really in killing your opponent but in finding ways to get into their territory – to lay ambush for them and to outsmart them.”
We focus so much on the end result that we forget about enjoying the processes. For happiness is not an end in itself – it’s not something you pursue, no. It is who you become. So while the sky might not yet bring forth rain, the land must learn to enjoy the smell of the morning dew.
5. Have fun!
Life isn’t meant to be endured. Every moment should be savored, and each day must be enjoyed, just like the game of paintball. After all, it’s just a game.
So there you have it. Five lessons I learnt playing paintball for the first time. Have you gone paintballing before? What was the experience like for you?