Daigo Umehara

“Above all else, the main point I want to make is that I don’t just want to win. I want to keep winning, to stay on top of my game. While seemingly similar, I want to show you that these are highly different goals, to the point where they can be at odds with one another. Some may consider winning as the end goal, but producing a result and continuing to produce results are fundamentally different in nature.”

Many of us go through life chasing a carrot on a stick. That carrot gives us a sense of purpose, a sense of direction. But even if we are so fortunate as to finally get that carrot, it doesn’t feel quite so satisfying once we have it in our hands. Suddenly, our life can feel like it lacks purpose, like it lacks direction. The goal shouldn’t be just to grab one carrot. It’s to keep going after bigger and more impressive carrots.

Or in the case of professional video game player Daigo Umehara, it’s to keep winning championships in Street Fighter. For the better part of the last two decades, he’s been pretty successful at that. Indeed, he currently holds the Guinness world record for “the most successful player in major tournaments in Street Fighter.” If you follow the professional Street Fighter scene, you’ve surely heard of the “Beast.”

Daigo’s book, The Will to Keep Winning, was recently translated into English. In it, he discusses his personal journey as a professional player, offering insights into his understanding of success and winning. While coming from the perspective of playing video games for living, the lessons contained within are widely applicable to all other aspects of life. The approach that he takes to gaming can be applied to how to run a small business. It’s not about just winning once. It’s not about landing just one sale; it’s about continuing to produce results over the long-term. It’s about ongoing growth and improvement.

“I remember feeling the pressure as I watched my life gauge dwindle, thinking this might be the end. But when he had me in that corner, I entered into a Zen-like focus, prepared to do whatever it took. I couldn’t even hear the surrounding cheers, building to a crescendo as I successfully parried each hit in the combo. Only the sounds of the game rung clear.”

The so-called Evo Moment #37 from 2004 is perhaps one of the best famous few seconds in the gaming career of Daigo Umehara. Even without fully understanding the virtual impossibility of what he did, you can appreciate this mindset in that moment. He was able to block out all the distractions, ignore the cheers and jeers from the crowd, and complete the necessary task at hand.

Indeed, if you ever watch Daigo play in almost any tournament, he is easily one of the least emotional guys there. It doesn’t matter if he’s winning or losing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first round of the first match or the last round in the grand finals with a magic pixel of remaining health. He remains cool, calm and collected.

And perhaps that is why he has been so successful. You don’t want to be the guy with potential for too long. At some point, you need to deliver. And once you do, you’ll need to keep delivering time and time again.

Image credit: Andy L (Flickr)