What Playing Paintball Has Taught Me About Life

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Paintballing is an unusual hobby that brings buzz and calm in equal measure. You know what they say. There’s no pleasure without paint…

I have a very odd relationship with the game of paintball. On one hand, I am objectively bad at it. Seriously, if I kept track of stats I’d probably be among the worst in the world. On the other hand, I’m addicted. I’ve learned so much about myself from getting shot with paint. Often by strangers. Going home bruised. Frustrated. I cannot help but see life’s best metaphor in it. You’ll get hooked to it, as I did, but hey, there’s no pleasure without a bit of pain(t), is it?

The Intricacy of Relaxation

Truthfully, this particularly odd game is one that has taught me how much I need to relax. Sure, you’ve got to be on your toes – but even the Marines have been known to use the game to relieve stress. It turns out that play doesn’t always have to be easy, but it should help you to get out the pent-up energy of the work week. When I go out to play, I’m going out with the knowledge that I’m going to get my blood pumping and feel energized, but that I’m also going to be incredibly calm once the game is done.

This is a game that should be stressful. When you get hit, it hurts. When you lose, it’s exasperating. I’ve spent too much time hiding and waiting for a perfect shot to say that it’s always fun. What I learned, though, is that sometimes spending time in that heightened state of anticipation leads to a greater degree of relaxation. When I’m done with a game, I don’t feel the stress – I feel a sense of calm that’s hard for me to find anywhere else. Maybe it’s because I don’t think about my monthly targets or that I’m in a childlike state.

Teamwork Matters. A lot.

Paintball is absolutely a game that makes you remember how nice it is to have a good team. There’s something about having tiny balls of paint flying at your head that really puts things into perspective, I guess.

When you’re the person who is depending on a group for a promotion you don’t realize how important it is for you to support that group. To help strengthen the tie. Every time I get shot on the field, I’m reminded that it’d be nice to have someone watching my back. Every time we successfully flank the last person standing, I’m reminded of what I can’t do alone. And each time I’m reminded I must stand up for my team!

An article from Forbes has shown that it’s teamwork and not leadership that tends to define whether a business is successful. I guess there’s a reason that this game is often a popular team-building exercise.

Yup, Practice Makes Perfect.

I may not be great at this game, but my cousin is fantastic. He started playing after me, but he’s far surpassed my skill. It’s not because he has the most popular paintball gun, but because he is willing to practice more than I am.

He plays every weekend, rain or shine. And every time he plays, he learns something new. His aim gets a little better, he learns to watch his flank a little more carefully, or he figures out how to position himself just right. Through him, I’ve learned the value of practicing and getting better over time. Yes, I’ve played even worse.

The Chase. The Anticipation. The Thrill.

These Matter More than Winning.

If I can admit one last secret about the game of paintball, it’s that I really don’t care at all about winning. I probably spend as much time ‘dead’ as any other player in the game, and I’m certainly never the last man standing. I am, however, always up to go back out and play again.

It turns out that this game has taught me a lot about embracing the experience of the game for the sake of the game itself. Maybe it’s the fact that we all go home covered in bruises after a game is done, but I don’t see much difference between the winners and losers. In the end, we all hit the field to have a good time.

Paintball is a game that can teach you a lot about yourself. Some people will only learn that they are great at controlling their language around little kids, but others will contemplate the fullness of life while engaged in it. It may not be the secret to enlightenment, but I must say that I’ve learned quite a bit about who I am from being out on that field. I don’t stress so much about the bottom line, I focus on the emotion of being involved in the chase and getting better, and I’m a good team player!

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