Focus on the Robot

Today I was sitting in class after getting basically destroyed in Advanced Conducting—for whatever reason, the Masters in Music at Texas State doesn’t offer a leveling course for conducting, ‘cause I would take that in a heartbeat—when I was reminded of an incident that occurred eleven years ago, when I was working as a freelance writer. I was writing an article about Warhammer 40k, and as part of my “research” for this article, I had to play a game with a more expert player.

Our armies were set up across from one another, and a large number of kids were gathered around the table to watch us play. After a few turns, this tiny kid tugged on my sleeve.

“I know how you can win,” he said. “You gotta kill his robot.”

My opponent had a number of units on the field—but there was only one that was at all menacing. It was a giant robot.

“Kill the robot,” I said. “Ok.”

Like an idiot, I didn’t listen to the kid. What does a five-year-old know, after all?

Faced with the overwhelming number of units on the field, I couldn’t help but distribute my focus evenly across all of them. I did some serious damage, but unfortunately, I didn’t really focus on the robot like I needed to. Sure enough, my opponent sent his robot through my soldiers’ ranks, destroying both my units and winning handily.

Is the metaphor here too obvious?

Today, I struggled seriously in an academic class in a way that I haven’t in years. For the first time in a long time, I’m faced with the challenge of being behind: in a classroom full of students who’ve been studying the subject at hand for years, I’m the only novice. And today my novice-hood really showed. Being a 33-year-old novice is no fun at all, let me tell you.

So today, faced with a challenging task in which there are so many nuanced details, all of which need tremendous improvement, the words “Focus on the Robot” came flashing through my mind. Isolate the most important unit on the field, so to speak, and don’t get distracted by everything else out there.

This is the mantra that will sustain me through the rest of this experience, I hope. Wish me luck.  


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