The Insomniac Special: Try Saying No! Accomplish More by Doing Less

Miguel Angel Contreras III, Staff Writer

I paced unendingly and absent-mindedly around the island. Shreds of chicken stuck between my teeth, taunting my tongue as it unsuccessfully slid across them. Sleeplessness clung to the black rings beneath my eyes like a shadow extending towards my chin. The tingling in my brain unshackled my deepest thoughts, if only I could grasp them. Each time I attempted to contemplate one of them for more than an instant it would slip into the ether.

I planted myself onto a kitchen stool. I tossed my increasingly heavy head towards the stove. The digital clock shone green on the mounting pile of chicken bones: 4 a.m.

Class in 6 hours.


The looming threat of tomorrow’s fatigue couldn’t be shaken. Sleep deprivation. Self-ridicule. Hysteria. Those most unlikely ingredients concocted an idea that has reshaped my life.

We have more potential than any other point in human history. We have more knowledge at our fingertips. We can connect to more people all over the world. We have access to more resources. And we have more paradigm shifting technologies that once were inconceivable.

Yet, we falter. I falter. It’s not from lack of trying. People with dreams of success work themselves to dysfunction every day. Our true problem is from our inability to say “no.”

I’ve seen myself do it  before. My own dream of success was to become a professional League of Legends player. I knew it was unrealistic. That didn’t impede my commitment, but it scared me. Outwardly, I embodied a quote from a classroom poster: “If you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you’ll land amongst the stars.” Inwardly, that unconscious fear of what could happen if I didn’t make it to the League Champion Series spurred me into tunnel vision.

The standard for League of Legends professionals is 8 hours of play a day. In the best high school scenario, sleeping takes 8 hours, school takes 7 hours, and League takes 8 hours. I had 1 hour left for whatever else was required. I became a master of manipulating that remaining hour and completing everything.

Not really. In reality, I made a lot of sacrifices. Relationships, homework, sleep and exercise all were deprioritized. I knew that cycle wasn’t sustainable, but League players are recruited young. If I didn’t manage to find an opportunity for myself coming out of high school I might miss my window forever. Until that happened, nothing else was more important.

I earned that opportunity when I played League of Legends at Lourdes University on scholarship. The grind didn’t level off now that I’d climbed the first rungs towards my dream though. It only became harder, and it was self-inflicted.

If I wanted to play like a professional I needed to practice like a professional. If I wanted to overcome my competition I had to practice harder than them, too. Playing collegiate esports directly exposed me to that competition and motivated me more than ever before.

I had more free time in college, but it didn’t go towards ensuring my physical, mental and social health. It just meant more League of Legends. I poured every available waking hour into practicing. Certain that if I was to become a pro it would be by virtue of my steadfast commitment and work ethic. When I learned about shooting for moons and landing in stars I forgot to read the poster next to it: “Work smarter, not harder.”  

I met the bane of League of Legends player existence: Burnout. I stagnated, lost tolerance and became toxic. The unsustainability of the cycle finally came to fruition.

Ironically, playing less League of Legends games would’ve meant more progress. There was never going to be a point where I didn’t have the option to practice more, but there also was never going to be a point where I could blatantly disregard my humanity. That’s the key.

We suffer from overstimulation. It’s impossible for a person to consume the amount of content available. The solution isn’t to produce less content. The solution is to be selective.

We falter because we’re fallible to the leisure seeking facet of the human mind. That’s not a condemnation of our biology; it’s a reason to teach ourselves something new.

I didn’t become a ghoulish chicken fiend circulating my kitchen because of League of Legends. I got that way because I decided to pursue something new the same way I did before. I took that epiphany as an opportunity to break the cycle.

Admitting unhappy truths to ourselves can bring us the most happiness. We spend a third of our lives sleeping and 92 days of it on the toilet. There isn’t enough time in life to do  everything you want to do, and there’s a chance we all die in nuclear holocaust anyway.

We lead finite lives. Planning our hours to accommodate progress towards what we seek to accomplish is how we can maximize our great potential should we so choose. But it needs to include time for just being alive. People, guns, war and drugs all kill, but so does stress.

Forgetting that and doing too much is the quickest way to fulfill less potential and hurting ourselves.

Self moderation is a lifelong discipline to practice. It’s not easy, but it could help lead us to the greatest version of ourselves.