Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Gamified Life

As a hacker who also wants to be a filmmaker and musician, my life takes some weird twists and turns.

I kicked some entrepreneurial ass in 2010, but returned to hacking for hourly rates in 2011. Here's why: I took a job that didn't pay very well because I got to work with a very accomplished actor. It was a sacrifice and in some ways a very cool experience. However, although educational, it was a flawed deal overall, and the type of flawed deal which entire careers are often made of, here in Los Angeles.

It took me almost a year to recover momentum. The worst casualty of the experience was my calendar system, which I stopped using for a while. There's something just fundamentally self-abnegating about working for less than you would normally charge. I think it saps your confidence, maybe. Anyway, I'm very glad to say I've recently returned to this system with gusto.

I've described my calendar system in detail in previous posts, and there are other people using similar systems, even related apps, so here I'll just summarize: I use a paper calendar, and I mark a solid horizontal line through the current day every time I do something I've decided to make a daily habit, and a solid vertical line (through the relevant day of the week) every time I do something I've decided to make a weekly habit. (I also give myself dots or dashes when I don't totally miss or totally hit.)

You can read the other links if you want to understand how the system works. What I want to describe here is the effect it has.

First, the subjective effect: I go through my days thinking in terms of points. I don't even give myself points per se in this system, and yet I think of any given day as a space in which to collect points. In a very broad sense, a dotted line represents less points than a solid line, but really, I think in terms of points because a lifetime of video games has conditioned me to do so.

And then there's the objective effects. In 2010 I lost about 70 pounds, radically improved my health, went from hacking for hourly rates to being completely self-employed, and generally just kicked ass all over the place. I went off track in 2011 and stopped using the system, but in 2012, I've made pretty significant progress in terms of my interests in filmmaking and music; I've shot a bunch of footage for a short film, got a few more shoots planned, and although editing is a slow process, it's going well. I've made enough tracks this year to put together a credible album, and you may even see that album on sale here on this blog pretty soon. I've also got a secret entrepreneurial project which, although it's again a slow process, is likely to achieve a nicely positive ratio of high profit to low effort.

But going back to the subjective effects, I don't think in terms of "soon I'll have this" or "soon I'll have that." I think in terms of "I got these points today, and I have these other points yet to win, before I go to sleep at the end of the day." That's all it takes to get things happening.