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I strongly believe that all people are addicts.
No matter who you are, you’re addicted to something. It may be booze. It may be drugs. It may be doing fuck-all with your life.
I have a lot of friends that are in AA, and at least one that is going into rehab this week. So with respect, here is my 12 step program for procrastinators.
This works. I am not kidding.
Procrastinators such as myself have done the following things.
You know this already. You are doing nothing with your life and it disgusts you. You have good taste, you have big dreams, but you do nothing. You will never be good at this. Admit it. Accept it.
I have been talking about this for years. You have to let go and let the system do its work. A good system tells you what to do and makes you into a better version of yourself. Find such a system, it exists for everyone.
Give up on the myth of “making decisions.” Only ask the system (which you chose) what it wants you to do, and do it! Since you built it, you will be doing what you want to do at any given time.
Again: this works.
You have accepted your errors and are not trying to avoid them. Personally, I used to be late and cancel appointments all the time. I accepted that I was being an asshole and moved on from it. Accept and admit your flaws and move on.
Ditto what’s above.
You know, as I write this, it’s fascinating to me how much this really applies to all facets of life. Lift (and its dead predecessor Leap) work very much on this system. One day at a time. Let the system do its job. Get support from those who care.
Since you have designed this system (or chosen one that works), there is no fear of problems with productivity or letting a system make you into something you’re not. You chose it, you filled it with work. Now you just have to have faith in it.
Your own flaws must become totally apparent to you. Consider yourself 100% weak because it’s the truth. You’re a human being, not a machine, and you will never be able to behave like a machine. So just do your best each day, accept your errors and admit to them.
Repeat after me: “You know I promised you that I would do work for you last month, and I was late/never delivered? I’m sorry about that.“
Keep yourself honest at all times. Don’t lie to yourself or the whole thing will begin to break down. The human mind is a very self-deceiving thing if you let it. If you fail, that’s ok, just start over tomorrow.
Always look back to it. Have it on your phone. Remind yourself to use it. Make it the only thing on your home screen. Whatever works. Just keep it in contact at all times.
I have believed for at least a year now that absolutely everyone can benefit from using the 12 steps on their productivity problems. I’ve subconsciously been using them for a long time, and only recently did I realize it.
So that is why I’m sharing this.
There, I’ve done it. If you think it can help, please share it too.
Games are useful. Games are fun. Yet, somehow, gamification itself has become the butt of almost every internet joke I’ve heard recently.
It isn’t because games aren’t useful. They are and they can change the world. It’s because gamification is being wasted on the most useless, time wasting crap I’ve ever seen.
Because of this, I feel that gamification is perhaps the most offensive thing to hit the internet in the past couple of years. I will attempt to explain why in the next few paragraphs, hopefully inspiring you, the reader or game designer, to do something better with games than more foursquare logins, Farmville XP, or any other nonsense you are currently hoping to ensnare your users with.
First, my qualifications: I have been a player of video games, RPGs, city-wide games of tag, iPhone games, and more for almost my entire life. But more importantly, I have been a D&D Dungeon Master (™) for over 20 years. In this, I am an eternal student, but I have hopefully developed some sense of what makes things fun, and why people keep coming back. So I am “qualified” to talk about games, as absurd as that statement should be.
But this is actually about more than that. It isn’t about designing better games, or saying that gamification is dead or alive or whatever statement can help sell papers. It’s about saying that gamification is a mercenary industry/profession that sells itself to the highest bidder, when what they should be doing is changing the world.
Are you a gamer? Are you a game designer? Are you currently designing bullshit badges for users that don’t give a fuck, or worse, that they care so much they’re ignoring real life? In that case, I have a clarion call I hope you will hear.
Stop trying to make games better. They are fine. It’s life that is broken. Start fixing that.
Our schools are broken. They churn out people with little initiative who can’t find jobs anyway. The system is no longer levelling people up properly.
Rewards are being disproportionately placed in the wrong hands. Our smartest people go into banking because they receive massive compensation and no downside. They are the min-maxers, the munchkins of our world; they have found the loopholes and been led down the wrong path because of it.
Occupy Wall Street is full of people who want the game world to work better. But no one is fixing it because they’re too busy on their own personal World of Warcraft. This is bullshit and it’s killing us.
Our games are rigged in the wrong direction. This is so obvious is needs no further argument, so I will move on to people that are doing it correctly, and what further steps we can take to solve this.
There are people whose understanding of games is helping real life in small ways– helping understand behaviour and guiding it towards more useful things. Chore Wars or my friend Kyle’s company High Score House is an example. They help people do better at the thing they suck at most right now– life.
Yet the majority of our institutions are broken, giving us no way to get better at the things that matter most. We are natural pattern recognition machines that get very good at understanding and hacking simple systems, so when we’re given a new job, we immediately figure out how much we can slack off, for example, the same way we know how to get a good report card by doing the smallest amount of work possible.
We are naturally detecting which games matter and which don’t– and we are figuring out that most of our life is the fundamental equivalent of gold farming. It’s pointless and it’s fucking sad.
FACT. No one has a fundamental method for teaching people what matters in life and what does not. No one knows how to teach people what the important games are, and how to win at them. Most people on the internet are still buying bullshit $47 make-money-online programs, time and time again, or spending time trying to vote their dog up on cleverly designed marketing campaigns. (Even I’m guilty of this.)
Very few people are doing this for doing something that’s fundamentally good.
No one is systematically guiding people through the dungeon of life, intelligently and for free. Everyone is trying to turn gamification into the thing that helps keep their website stickier. It’s disgusting.
However, there is a culture out there, one that has survived for a long time, in which people are designing games and running people through them, for free. These people take hours, sometimes dozens of hours out of their weeks in order to help their friends have fun. This culture is largely non-profit and runs like Wikipedia. Most attempts to monetize this audience fail because they just want to help their friends have fun.
These people are role-players and the people who design for their world: Dungeon Masters. But even they spent their time in imaginary worlds, making fun stuff for their friends, yet mostly sit on the sidelines in helping to make a difference in their community around them.
The reason this is important is because it proves that there is an initiative in human beings to design things for their friends, to help them enjoy themselves week after week.
But if there are people who do this around the world, everywhere in every language, for free, why are those who are trying to improve the game of the real world relegated to its backwaters, with social workers, teachers, and after-school program leaders being paid nothing, given no social status or benefits?
We need actual mentors, but backed by systems that we know function well because of our experimentation inside of the game systems we have come to know and love.
We already know that some people want and love to teach others, but their systems are broken. Gamers understand how to create and fix system.
Gamers love to create mazes and run people through them, but the points don’t matter. We need to put them in a place where what they do makes a real difference.
What we need are Dungeon Masters for the real world.
Edit: Let me give you an idea of what I mean. The world is filled with systems that children need to go through in order to level up. They are fundamental and easy and everyone knows them.
Swimming: Most people who learn how to swim learn wrong and couldn’t save themselves in a bad situation if they tried. This is a fundamental skill that has a curriculum, but is no longer serving people properly.
Math: Math is a basic set of skills that everyone needs. They’re given it in school and yet many people can no longer do calculations in their head, if they ever could. Another life skill that people are lacking yet don’t know they need.
Advanced skills: And this is just the beginning. Most people don’t know how to see a profitable business idea if they spot one. They don’t know how to make good habits stick. They don’t know to build confidence. They don’t know how to meet a nice girl. They basically don’t know how to learn many of the most important skills, and there is no guide for helping them learn.
Here are skills I’d be more than happy to learn from a qualified person in a game environment.
The list goes on and on.
In a game world, you start with something easy, and you learn as you go on. You gain experience points, and you progress along a pre-set path that will eventually guide you to be able to get through the next level, use your skills in a better way, etc.
Some people have succeeded at this, but most have not. It is those that have had some success in life (whatever form it takes) whose job it is to design the game for those yet to come.
I am working on a small book right now. It’s easily the best thing I’ve ever done.
The editor is better than I could have ever hoped for. The idea is amazing, and something I care deeply about. It should get good visibility. Everything seems like it’s in line.
This kind of thing never happens to me. It probably rarely happens to you.
So, naturally, I’m paralyzed with fear.
This is how the whole world works. When you’re on auto-pilot, no problem. You’ve done it before, so you recognize every pattern you’re in and there’s no need to worry.
But this also means you’re going the wrong way. You’re getting no new input, so you’re not recognizing any new patterns. If this is the way your life is going, you are actually actually becoming more useless. In an increasingly chaotic world, the best pattern recognizers win.
So the way to have an amazing life is to be constantly fearing failure, but driving forward anyway. It’s difficult to be doing this all the time. You need to pick your battles. Most things need to be stable and allow for safety, so you can focus on these one or two very difficult things.
In other words, your relationship can’t be in shambles while you’re building a business. This is natural, and it’s how the whole world works. You need to have the energy to spend where it matters.
So your whole world should be a cycle of balancing and unbalancing, contraction and growth. Imagine weight lifting. The more stable you are, the heavier you can lift.
I suspect that those who can do many things at once aren’t actually doing anything properly. They commit to numerous ideas and try to deliver on all of them, but none end up exceptional. They’re blogging every day but few ideas are truly interesting or have much of a wide spread.
This is how someone like me can end up not blogging for a month. I focus on one thing and make it happen in the best way possible. Afterwards, I’m drained. I have to do something else– anything else– but worry about delivering new ideas.
So today, for the first time in a long time, I feel kind of free. The project feels 90% done. A great weight is lifted off my shoulders and I have energy to deliver in other places.
If you are not doing your life’s work, you will feel perfectly comfortable. There will be an occasional malaise as you wonder if there’s “more” out there, but you won’t know exactly what to do.
What you need to do is become paralyzed with fear.
If you aren’t paralyzed, you aren’t going far enough. If you don’t feel yourself being avoidant, you’re probably settling. This is normal. Your brain wants you to be safe. Your body is built to procreate and die, not thrive. Naturally, facing pain will feel horrible and unnatural. It can’t be any other way. It feels like a threat, and threats must be stopped.
In order to get anywhere in life, you need to be uncomfortable constantly. You need to have new input and absorb new information or you’re not growing. If you don’t want to grow, it’s because things are fine as they are. You should be conscious and ok with the fact that they won’t change.
So do you want to be bigger? If yes, then you know what you have to do. If no, keep moving along.
Postscript: As I wrote this post, an email came in, and once again I’m paralyzed with fear. I must be on the right track. Back to work.
Read just the titles first– see if you can guess which are which. :)
I hate when people quote Fight Club– really I do. It’s one of those movies that’s good, but that people consider a religion when it was really just meant as entertainment (think Star Wars). But it’s true that you aren’t a beautiful and unique snowflake– what you are is a piece of meat.
When you die, nothing will happen. No one will arrange a 21-gun salute, and even if they do, guess what? You’ll be dead. So it won’t matter.
So you aren’t unique. But should this deter you from believing that you are? No. Our brains are pattern machines that detect omens where there are none and make stories out of everyday, mundane events. And your right brain must believe these stories even if your left brain thinks they are bullshit.
So believe that you are unique if it helps. It will keep you going. It must.
No, no, and no. You probably would have been fine with at least 5 other people on the planet, maybe even 50 or 500. This one happens to be the one you’ve ended up with, in a combination of circumstance, determination, and will.
It’s sad that people end up believing “meant for each other” stories. Like many of the beliefs here, they are based on humans having an amazing capacity for standing outside of themselves to look for meaning. Yet this one in particular needs to be wiped out because it is juvenile and detracts from the real quality of the relationship.
That we choose to be in a relationship with our significant other is so much more important, and so much more valuable, than us being “fated to come together.” It implies will in a world of chaos. It implies coming together to build something and strength in the face of adversity. It implies choice.
A mixed bag that is partially true and partially not. For example, I am lifting more weight now in the gym than ever. I am also writing more than I ever have in my life. I am flexible and can recreate myself every day, and so can you if you choose.
But there is a limit to this. So of course you can’t literally do anything, but you must believe you can, or you will set limits on what you can do. Because you won’t try, or because you won’t try as hard, you won’t get where you could have. And that failure will discourage and keep you down.
So this is false. But for the benefit of your future, you must believe it anyway.
God, should such an entity even exist, does not care whether Natalie Portman wins the Oscar. He or she doesn’t care, either, if you get a raise. In fact, even if you were a “part of God’s plan” or whatever, that plan may end up getting you killed in a car accident or dying on the toilet. Oops.
People use the will of God as an extension of themselves. Have you ever noticed how it’s only people that hate gay people whose God also hates gay people? This “oh I happen to agree with God on everything, what a coincidence” attitude is so moronic I barley know how to put it into words. People assume that if they are a part of God’s plan, then they must be a BIG part of it. Whatever.
Yet as we said before, people need to believe in their own stories. People that do epic shit, when young, believe they are meant for something. Not those who believe they are mediocre. This lie is necessary to keep your eyes on the bigger picture.
This one is a favourite of people who have never done anything with their lives and have given up on achieving anything great. It sounds like a call from a fellow soldier on the battlefield– go on without me!!!– except, excuse me, but it was up to you what you did with your life. It wasn’t too late for you then, and it still isn’t now.
Too late, once again, implies a preset path of fulfillment that you missed. Personally, I was in fine arts school in college, and I dropped out to get a job at a failing dot-com right before the crash. I consider that very stupid. Yet here I am, a bestselling author with a widely-read blog who basically travels the world for a living. Not too shabby.
The truth is that there are many paths we can take, and we’re coming across them all the time. Too late for the NBA? Fine. Go solve world hunger instead, idiot.
Have you ever thought about how difficult it is to actually hurt yourself?
I don’t mean a paper cut. I mean something that’s disgusting to look at, where you’re at risk for death. What would it take?
In this society, it’s very difficult. We are safe. And even if we are hurt, plastic surgery, free medical care (sorry, Americans), and medicine means we’ll recover instead of dying of an infection.
The only injuries we’re accustomed to in today’s society are not acute injuries, but chronic injuries caused by things like food, stress, etc.
Any world where cancer is a serious risk is extremely safe, because it means many people are living for as long as it takes to get cancer.
We’re in an eternal cradle. It’s very difficult to die, or to be seriously injured.
Think of the way we treat children, versus how they were treated 20 years ago. We have all been eternally infantilized.
I thought about this the other week as I spent time in Thailand with Julie Angel, one of the top parkour documentarians in the world. Watch her videos and ask yourself whether anyone would do them in a world where they were in serious danger of dying from an injury. Stunt men are willing to do their jobs because being on fire is now reasonably safe.
Think about that.
Instead, our cultural environment creates other risks. Being broke, dying alone, not fulfilling your potential– these exist because we are no longer concerned with being devoured by predators or afraid of starving. But these are risks that are significantly less severe, and much easy to recover from.
It’s possible to seriously hurt yourself, but only if you’re alone– when people can’t come to your rescue, or won’t, because you fulfill a social role that doesn’t get help. (Drunk Japanese businessmen and the homeless, for example.)
This culture creates media like Fight Club, which is revered because people are looking for authenticity and real risk which they can’t get inside of the system. So, they go looking outside of it.
You risk more, because consequences are diminished.
Peaks stay high, but valleys are reduced… for those who use the valleys to their advantage.
If you think this isn’t relevant to you, because physical culture isn’t a part of your life, you’re wrong.
In this world, you cannot die in any environment.
You cannot die socially because the social fabric smoothes over most mistakes with time.
You cannot die on the web because failure is cheap and the worst that happens is obscurity.
We are in a world where the chance of permanent, uncorrectable failure has dropped to zero.
We think failure is forever. Wrong.
We think embarrassment can’t be recovered from.
We think losing is the end of the world.
You can cover up a bad tattoo. You can heal a broken bone. You can get into another relationship. You can move to a new city.
You can recover from anything. No mistake is forever and most are easier to recover from than you think they are.
Below, write down the first act you will take as your new self– the one that cannot die and for which failure is insignificant.
Have it be something you are seriously afraid of. Something that makes your heart beat fast.
Then, after you’ve written it down, do it.
This picture went so wild on my Facebook yesterday that I thought it was deserving of a post. I took it in Singapore in one of the many underground malls.
I happen to think it is genius and very savvy. Reminds me of Diesel’s Be Stupid campaign (which is really targeted at smart people).
Because we need congruence, everyone has an internal dialogue that justifies their actions. This campaign speaks to that person– the one who is smart and that knows that they’re giving in to consumerism, but accepts it.
It speaks to the same part of you that loves your Apple products and will overpay, or even wait in line, for them.
In the past month or two, I have occasionally spoken to the part in everyone that likes to call bullshit. The posts go wild every time because I use the voice that everyone has, but that they don’t usually show. Loren Feldman was known speaking truth to power. It works much better than appealing to the intellect, but it has consequences.
Most people will come here for the ad above. They won’t subscribe or click elsewhere– they’ll go back to Twitter for the short form. That’s something I accept and work with. The elephant needs to get on board for the rider to be able to get somewhere. So this method will continue.
The reason this is frustrating is because that voice can become all that you listen to. I’m afraid this is one of the reasons some people never reach their potential– that voice is easier to give into, but you will always get one marshmallow instead of two if you do.
I don’t care if you hang from hooks, take cold showers, fast, or read through epic 800 page poems as long as you challenge your identity with very hard things. The process will change you, which is why it’s important.
If you do this, you will become stronger.
And then, I think, it’ll be ok to buy shoes every little while. Especially if it helps the voice quiet down.
Every decision you make is one you should be comfortable betting on. If you’re not, you should be making different decisions.
When I was young, my mother would always be asking me if I wanted to make bets. She’s pull out her hand and motion for me to shake it with this air of confidence, and I would inevitably back out of everything, every time.
Something about a bet makes us back away, like we don’t have the confidence we previously had about a subject. This is true even though a bet doesn’t really change anything– it just makes us consider a potential loss.
Something has happened since then. I don’t back away from bets anymore. In fact, I’ve been making them a lot, kind of as a form of training. And I’d also now argue that the best way to view life is as a series of bets, or seen another way, as a bunch of opportunities to win.
This past New Year, you probably had an opportunity to make a bet with yourself. You may see it as a resolution, but that’s not actually what it is. It is a bet, and if you lose, you will actually be worse off than you were before. The opportunity will be gone, and you will have less hope about being able to change. You will have lost the bet, and you should treat it that way.
Actually, you are making bets with yourself every day. Most people just don’t realize it. We bet our reputation on what we write, or we bet money in the form of opportunities we take, or those we avoid.
People don’t realize the risk inherent in the decisions they make because these decisions are quiet and aren’t made by the light of reality television cameras or with Carmina Burana as background music. (Incidentally, that’s how I’m writing this post. You should try it.)
Most things are done quietly and without much fanfare, and because media convinces us that important things happen with a lot of excitement, we are missing out on the great victories, or losses, of our own lives.
So this is a wakeup call.
Your decisions are costing you, silently, every day, and you are putting things off because it is in our nature not to fear things which are far in the future.
But viewing it as a bet puts the loss front and center, like it should be.
You are betting your life on the resolutions you made this New Year. You should want to succeed at them very badly, and should work hard to do so– get organized and learn more about it, not just hope (which is what most resolutions really are).
Bets are won by those that are confident and those that have more information.
So win your bets by becoming that kind of person.
People associate themselves very strongly with the decisions they make (even something as simple as enjoying coffee or going to bed late), but they don’t realize that they would be just as happy being the opposite kind of person, and be just a much “themselves.”
But no, there is no risk in changing. The real risk in staying the same.
I plan to be unrecognizable in 5 years. I plan to surprise everyone.
You should too.
Now, tell me how.
All knowledge, once set it stone, becomes dogma.
It is taught to you by your grandparents, your parents, your elders, and your peers. You believe it because they do. “Hey, they survived this long, they obviously did something right.”
All these things, in youth, are faith. Our world is limited so we’re taught about what we don’t know.
To someone who believes in God, blaspheming against Him is a little like being struck by lightning when walking through a field. Both have bad consequences, but neither has been experienced personally. Both are considered risky and, though abstract, can cause real fear.
Krishnamurti once said: “You can take a piece of wood that you brought back from your garden, and each day present it with a flower. At the end of a month you will adore it, and the idea of not giving it an offering will be a sin.”
At the end of the day, this idol he talks about is still only wood, and wood is dead, not alive, unlike the garden it came from.
The only way to test religion is with your own body, by creating your own experience. It is a truth that is in the moment and that you can carry with you and that you know. It is not like the wood, because it is alive. It is in you.
But if you present it with a flower, it will die and belong to the past. It will be unchangeable. It will be a religion.
I hear a McDonald’s franchise costs over a million dollars to buy.
When you buy one, though, it basically starts to print money. They have the system down so well that you can plop a McDonald’s down anywhere and tell ahead of time how much money it will make. Likewise Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and all those places. A franchise is essentially a business in a box– a machine.
Other businesses, the unique ones, are machines too. As I sit here at my local coffee place by the canal, I realize suddenly that the gears beneath it are identical to the place I go to downtown. Different owners, different staff, different food– same business. It’s a formula, and that means that there’s a lot of it you can predict.
The only part you can’t predict is the human element. Can the staff upsell you their lattés, or make you show up more often? Once you’ve got it running, though, that too is mostly math. You know how much you make any day of the week under most circumstances.
If you’re a freelancer and you mostly work with clients, you may never understand this, because your business doesn’t work this way. You have low overhead because it’s basically you and your work, but it also can’t be automated. You can’t let your success work for you as much, unless you use existing infrastructure. (It’s why singers release perfumes.)
I bet if you run enough businesses, you start to see the machines inside every business. If you know real estate, you can walk into a building and see how everything is going to work 5 years from now, and tell the risk of the tenants from how they greet you.
By the way, we here online should be able to do the same thing with websites. Can you?
No matter how interesting your idea, it is never as unique as you think.
Surprisingly, this is good news. Any idea too revolutionary is hard to place in the mind, and hard to fit into any existing structure. A bike with a motor is easy to understand. A teleportation device is not. So rather than creating a new box (Twitter is… what exactly?), you expand an existing box. This is a much easier process, but unfortunately it is also more competitive.
The true revolution is never actually external. It is not exciting. It has no explosions, and no crowds gather for it. It is a silent, humbling, internal experience which forces you to question assumptions and often makes you feel like a fool. This is the exact opposite of the 30-second sound-byte infomercial we see on the news, or the feature length movie full of drama and backbiting. We need a creation myth, but it is just that– a myth. When the cameras are on, we see stardom, but when they are off, what we don’t see is the everday. (The Situation never has a prostate exam.)
The reason the revolution cannot be televised is because it is internal. You are it, or you are not. That is not exciting unless it is talked about, and if it is talked about, it’s often because it didn’t happen.
The bait is that our environment tells us one thing (brilliant ideas, reality TV stars, etc.) but the reality is silent struggle and examination of previous assumptions, collaboration that could go nowhere, but suddently becomes incredible.
None of this comes from the product itself. All the work comes from within, and it takes time. This is why, when it comes, your success will surprise you. It will not be what you think it is.