Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

10000 hours of play

10K HP Step 3: Select Your Role (Specialty)

In the iconic game World of Warcraft, players start off with some very important decisions that will affect the entirety of their game-play. They must select their gender, faction (Alliance or Horde), a Race (Human, Dwarf, Undead, etc.), and a Class (Priest, Warrior, Rogue, Warlock, etc.)

Besides the Faction, which determines the side you play on in the game, a player’s Class is his/her most impactful choice. Even though, as of the latest expansion Battle for Azeroth, there are twelve different classes, the gameplay all boils down to three roles:

  1. Tanks: Players that become tanks play aggressively, charging into battle to lead the team, attract damage from all the enemies, and provide cover for their allies.
  2. Healers: Players that become Healers like to play outside the thick of battle, supporting their teammates and making sure everyone is empowered to play their best.
  3. Damagers: Players that select Assassins like to play fast, aggressively, and strive to get the most damage and kills on enemies.

As you can see, each role is best suited for a specific type of player: patient, methodical players tend to choose Tanks; strategic players that like to support their team choose Supporters; impatient, adrenaline-filled players that love the spotlight choose Assassins.

In the game of life, you too must select a Role for your Game. Some important notes about choosing your Role:

  1. Traditionally, you can think of your Role as your occupation: accountant, software engineer, professor, researcher, writer, artist, etc.
  2. But you don’t have to limit yourself by thinking that your Role must be your title at a company. Unchain yourself from traditional titles and think of your role as your value. As an accountant…
    •  … your value is NOT to do tasks such as balance the budget, pay the bills, and do the taxes
    • … your value IS to make sure the company has the financial health to accomplish its mission

If we compare this to World of Warcraft, the accountant takes on the Healer/Supporter role at an organization, as she is behind-the-scenes, making sure that the company has the financial resources to become their best and win the game.

How to choose your Role: Role Circles

The Role Circles help you choose the type of Role that you want to pursue. Take a look at the image below. You’ll notice that we include two circles from steps we’ve already completed: Choose Your Game and Know Your Attributes. But there is a 3rd circle that we haven’t addressed yet: The Skills Circle.

Don’t worry, you didn’t skip over any steps. We’ll do a deep dive into Skills in a future post — Step 4: Increase Your Skills (Expertise).

Why we’re introducing Skills now and why it’s so much smaller than the other circles:

  • For the purposes of choosing your Role, it may be important for you to factor in your current Skills so that you take advantage of all of your experience.
  • Skills is a small circle because the most important factors in choosing your Role are your Game and your Abilities. Factoring in Skills is an option but it can be quickly resolved via taking some classes, reading a book, or participating in Octalysis Prime.
  • Skills is also a small circle because you must constantly learn and improve to increase your Skills. So although your Skills are small right now, it will grow over time through hard work and determination.

The four types of Roles to choose from:

1. I just want to make a living

If you choose a Role in the #1 area above, then you’re really just choosing your Role because you need a job and you need money. Because this is not part of your Game, then you won’t feel fulfilled; because this is not part of your Abilities, then you won’t be world-class at it, no matter how much time you put into it to improve your Skills.

  • Pros: It’s easy to find a job that matches your Skills.
  • Cons: You’ll live an unfulfilled life because you won’t pursue a greater mission and you’re unlikely to ever achieve mastery.

2. I just want to be highly successful at what I do

If you choose a Role in the #2 area, then you’ve chosen a Role where you can be world-class, but ultimately it may not fulfill you because it’s not part of your Game. You may make a lot of money, gain a lot of recognition, or achieve great professional success, but you’ll lack personal meaning and fulfillment.

  • Pros: Because this Role is aligned with your Abilities, you’ll be able to achieve mastery, leading to money, accolades, and recognition.
  • Cons: This Role is not aligned with your life mission, leading to a lack of fulfillment.

3. I want to do things that are meaningful

If you choose a Role in the #3 area, then you’re on your way to fulfillment because you’re playing your Game, but it will be incredibly difficult to beat it because you don’t have the Abilities to be world-class at what you do. However, it may be something where just by doing it, you obtain a fulfilled life. Mastery and completion is not necessary for having meaning, purpose, and enjoyment.

  • Pros: You’ll feel fulfilled because you’re striving to beat your Game.
  • Cons: You may never beat your Game as you lack the Abilities to be world-class at your Role.

4. I want to accomplish great results towards things that are meaningful

If you choose a Role in the #4a area, then you’ve chosen wisely. Not only are you playing your Game, but you’ve chosen a Role that utilizes your natural Abilities and takes advantage of your current Skills. This will allow you to build upon your strengths, enjoy the journey of playing the game, and be world-class at what you do.

  • Pros: Complete alignment between your mission and talent. The harder you work, the more you level up your skills, the more time you invest, the closer to mastery that you’ll get and the closer you’ll get to beat your Game.
  • Cons: It’s incredibly difficult to find this Role. It takes time, patience, willingness to experiment and risk failing. But if you can persevere, then you’ll find it.

4b. I’m willing to risk it all for a brand new Game

If you choose a Role in the #4b area, then I applaud you for having the courage to embark on a brand new life journey. Like in 4a, you can be world class in the Roles in 4b and become fulfilled because it’s part of your Game; however, unlike in 4a, you don’t have any experience in the Roles in 4b – you’ll be starting from scratch. This means that at the beginning, you won’t be good at it and you’ll have to put in a lot more effort than your peers. However, if you stick with it, work hard and develop those skills, then you have a high chance at beating your Game (effectively moving to 4a).

  • Pros: Similar to 4a. There is alignment between your mission and your talents.
  • Cons: Unlike 4a, you don’t already have the Skills needed to succeed for this role. It’s risky to start a new career or endeavor from scratch, but because there is alignment between your Game and Abilities, you have a strong chance at beating your Game.

There are two methods to find your Role.

Method 1: Start with a field of work based on your Attributes

If you are still a student, or are flexible in building into your game, you can start with matching your attributes towards the game you are playing.

For instance, if the game you want to play is creating environmental sustainability in the world, you can then look into your attribute and talents.

Perhaps it is obvious that your communication and language Skills are better than your quantitative and technical abilities. In this case, your Role probably wouldn’t be becoming an engineer that builds a machine to make a planet better.

Since you have always been interested in history, and reading the newspapers on politicians and policies are interesting to you, perhaps you can work towards the Role of being a lobbyist, environmental activist, or even politician.

Perhaps you have been more interested in animals and healthy eating. You could become an expert on how various farming techniques impact the environment and guide the food industry into becoming better.

Maybe you don’t like to be working for a company and enjoy the lifestyle independent movement. One option is to be a traveling journalist or blogger, writing and recording the environmental devastation you observe to the world and creating a movement.

The key here is that, you first start with your Game, determine your Attributes, and then understand what general field you want to be in. Of course, this may change, just like how in games people switch from assassin to tank, but at least you are growing consistently towards your game.

Method 2: Start with organizations that play your game

Another way to find your Role is to identify an organization that is playing the game you are playing, and then determine if there are opportunities within that match your Attributes and Skills.

Let’s use a hypothetical example of Melissa, a 30-year-old, college-educated, married woman with one child that lives in London, England.

Melissa has chosen the following Game: Help the next generation of underprivileged children overcome their disadvantages and grow up to lead happy, successful, financially well-off lives.

She has also identified her Abilities:

  1. Melissa is creative, artistic, and has impeccable taste (friends usually ask her for style advice).
  2. Melissa is a maximizer: Although she doesn’t think of new, innovative ideas on her own, she works well in teams and can maximize the efforts of other team members.
  3. Melissa is patient and understanding. While patience is a strength, it often leads to her not being as proactive as she can be.

There is an endless possibility of Roles that Melissa can choose. For this example, I researched and found some possible 4a Roles for her:

  • Because Melissa tends to maximize instead of innovate, joining an established company may suit her well. Understanding that she is artistic and creative and that she wants to help underprivileged children, I thought of the mission of TOMS: through your purchases, TOMS helps provide shoes, sight, water, safe birth and bullying prevention services to people in need. Melissa may excel at TOMS as a buyer, designer, brand ambassador, or partner builder.
  • Opportunities at and Khan Academy also come to mind.
  • My wife and I take our little baby to music classes at Music Together. Perhaps Melissa can join as an instructor (if she can sing) or join the administration to help bring music classes to underprivileged children.

Use this example to help you choose a Role in your Game. Take your time, jot down a lot of ideas, go on career sites to look for job opportunities, and make sure to think about value instead of just a title.

We’ll see you back here for step four.

Examples of Roles

I (Jun Loayza) decided to utilize my Abilities to write and to recruit great people to build a team for a new type of children’s book that features modern-day heroes: Humble Bee. I play the Roles of the visionary leader, product manager, and storyteller. I am responsible for managing the team, establishing the culture, and driving the vision.

Yu-kai decided to use his Abilities to teach and mentor others and combine it with his passion for Gamification and behavioral design to create his own educational platform: Octalysis Prime. Yu-kai plays the Roles of an Author, Speaker, Educator, Designer, and Systems Creator.

Of course, as we mastered Roles, we became more ambitious and expanded into new ones. At the beginning, you just need to be really good at one Role to be successful. Don’t feel intimidated by some examples we show. We have simply been playing the game for longer, and it is also a trajectory you can take once you become a high-level endgame player.

Read the next article in the 10K HP series:

  1. The strategy guide to beat the game of life: 10,000 Hours of Play
  2. 10K HP Step 1: Choose Your Game (Mission)
  3. 10K HP Step 2: Know Your Attributes (Talents)
  4. 10K HP Step 3: Select Your Role (Identity)
  5. 10K HP Step 4: Enhance Your Skills (Abilities)
  6. 10K HP Step 5: Build Your Alliance (Network)
  7. 10K HP Step 6: Achieve Your Quests (Milestones)

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Live your life like a game and every one of those 10,000 hours will be fun, meaningful, and truly worth playing!