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27Jul/103

Pwning Life

My brother, miltownkid, is infamously known from a video he posted to youtube of his xbox dying back when he still lived in Taiwan. It has since blown up (+2 million views!) and has become a pivotal point in his life even. He went from being a general jokester, to uploading one video, to becoming a mini-youtube celebrity  seemingly overnight (even though its actually been a multi-year process, more on that later). It's been a blessing and a curse because, although gaming is big on his list of things to do, my brother is much more multifaceted than a one-line descriptor of gamer.

Casey, my brother, originally moved to Taiwan to master Mandarin and Taichi as well as general wisdom and sagedom (not a word, I know). However, ever since kind of blowing up on youtube he has had to adopt the title of gamer as an evermore sentient part of his identity. These "clashing" identity attributes have culminated into a new project, pwninglife.com, a personal development blog/vlog for the gamer generation.

The term “pwning life” is an idea that popped into my (miltownkid‘s) head January 18th, 2008. The next day I made a video trying my best to capture the feeling of this idea.

Pwning Life is “personal development for the gamer generation.” A skill we gamers learn at a very young age is how to put forth enough effort in a video game to get better at it. Put in enough effort and we eventually PWN. This exact same formula is as true in life as it is in video games. Put forth enough effort and you will PWN any aspect of life (health, finances, spirituality, relationships or work/career).

The only problem is making the leap from using this skill in video games to using it in life. In video games the objectives are clear (save the princess) and the methods are well documented (don’t get hit by the fireballs). Objectives in life are not so clear and the methods are often times overly complex, vague or confusing. This website will help bridge that gap by both documenting my objectives and sharing my methods, sharing methods which have been successful to others and helping YOU do the same with yours.

Start Pwning Life Today

One of the first steps miltownkid suggests is to come up with your vision by using a number of thought exercises:

  • You Just Won The Lottery
  • Your Perfect Day
  • A Conversation With God
  • Make An “I Want” List

I think the method that works best for me is the "Your Perfect Day" exercise. I actually have a blog post saved in the que on the topic of process vs. outcome. I'll get into more detail  about that once I post on that topic, but the synapsis is that I'm currently waging an internal philosophical battle with myself about whether the process you take is more important than the end result you're looking for. I don't have this figured out yet (which is why I haven't posted it yet), but my intuition tells me the process is much more important; maybe the outcome is a good tool to focus the direction of your process?

What's my perfect day?

If you haven't already guessed it, this is a really difficult exercise. I'll just start listing some things and I guess I'll just have to circle back and update as I get a better understanding.

A perfect day involves:

  • This first one is easy as it's been something I've been saying since I was a kid: a perfect day starts by waking up without an alarm; whether it's due to having a flexible work life or my circadian rhythm in check
  • Some form of physical activity, preferably play but I'll take a nice long walk as well
  • Eat really good, high quality food
  • At least one form of creative expression
  • Experience a genuine loving connection
  • At least one challenging problem that needs to be solved and a resulting solution (see creative expression above)
  • Have at least one experience a day that elicits a novelty response
  • Have scheduled time to read

That's all I can think of right now. I know they're really general and I'm sure it would be helpful, if not more beneficial, to detail more specifics, but I'll take a general list that's published over a specific list that sits in the purgatory of the blog que right now.

15Oct/090

Do You Suck at Doing What You Love?

What if you were just plain not good at some passion or hobby that you love?

It's a question that came to mind recently. Especially with my last blog post. My intention with that last post was to build momentum behind some ideas I (and some friends of mine) had; a sort of rally cry.

But here I am months later, school semester fully underway, and work rapidly picking up steam. I can't help but to look back at that and ask myself, am I too ambitious? Or is the reality that I just lack good ideas worth executing?

I feel like pursuing entrepreneurship would be tantamount to "finding my calling."

But what if I'm no good at it? What if I can't think of any good ideas?

Given the knowledge that you're a "sucky entrepreneur," do you push on anyway?

If it brings fulfillment, maybe you should...

17Mar/093

Stress as a Motivator

Somewhere along the line, I’ve been labeled as a pretty calm and collective guy buy my friends, and people who are generally close to me. I always chocked it up to the fact that I’m kind of a science guy who likes to take a Spock-like logic and reason based approach to life. But I came across a thought recently while talking with my partner, about relative levels of stress (her baseline ability to be stressed out is a bit higher than mine).

The conversation came to light while talking about focus. She’s at that point where a lot of things are beginning to converge; mainly keeping up with matters of career, health, relationship and just life in general. There are so many things going on in life right now that things can get really overwhelming very quickly.

So the question came up about how am I able stay focused even though I spend the entire week away from home and I spend all day Saturday in school? I hadn’t really thought of it because my life was so busy, I was just going with the flow (so it seemed). But it was at that point where I fully realized how stressed out I was (am). See, it’s not that I’m a too cool fool, it’s that I’m so sensitive to stress that I employ all of my essence to extinguishing whatever in my life is causing me stress.

So what’s the take home message?

I’ve always had this belief that stress should be avoided at all costs and that somehow, if you ever got stressed out, you were less of a person for not being able to “handle your shit.” Maybe we shouldn’t be so averse to stress, maybe that’s the way our bodies and minds let us know what we should be working on and striving for. Let’s embrace our stress, acknowledge its existence, determine its cause, and channel its power to extinguish the root cause. Let’s use it to give us focus and to accomplish our goals.

Stress can be the fire under your ass that pushes you to do great things.

24Jan/091

Cephalopods & Organic Design

My girlfriend is really into cephalopods so whenever I come across something of interest, I usually send it her way.

Here goes a pretty cool wall mural that I came across:

I think it's the intersection of art, science, and creativity where our appreciation for each other really materializes.

This is another example of the kind of stuff that I like, and I'm pretty sure she's really into:

I hope you like.

22Jan/092

2008 in Review & Welcome to elliottpayne.com!

2008 was a big year for me, as you might be able to tell by the severe lack of updates to my blog. There's a lot I want to say here but I may have summarize for now.

  • Welcome to elliottpayne.com - First and foremost, I'm switching the blog over to elliottpayne.com. I'm making the move to coincide with some of my earlier thoughts on Web 2.0 and about generating an online presence. In summary, our online persona's and offline persona's need to coalesce as one and we need to move toward a more accurate representation of ourselves regardless of the venue. This move is the beginning of such a transition. I'm not sure how I want to format it, but I want to (either through tags/categories or pages) write posts that represent my various interests, mainly separated by the following categories: personal, professional, and creative.
  • Holy career change batman! – 2008 was punctuated by a massive career move for me. I went from being a manufacturing engineer in a dysfunctional working environment (let alone all the damn metal shavings that would always get stuck in my shoes) to a business consultant for a software company. I posted briefly about this right when it happened, but this is such a huge deal for me. This was always one of my dream jobs, and something that I was hoping to be able to someday do after I finished my MBA and here I am, still a year away from graduating, already at the “promise land.”
  • What economic downturn? – Consultants get paid significantly more than engineers. Just an FYI. So when the news broke that we were basically going back to the stone-age, I was getting on a plane to fly to a client and getting paid much more than I used to in the process. Of course the fantasy of a dream job and the reality of that same job are never in alignment. I’ve been traveling 100% (gone Monday through Friday, home on weekends) since the end of September. The pay bump for consulting isn’t because it’s difficult (it’s challenging no doubt, but in a fun way), it’s because I’ve spent more time with the bartender at a stupid micro-brewery in a dingy suburb of Philadelphia than my charming, lovely, wildly creative, stunningly sexy, scientifically genius, philosophically wonderful, and intellectually stimulating girlfriend in the last few months. There’s no free lunch here. Sacrifices are being made, but I have hopes and dreams beyond making money, so I’m hoping everything pays off in the end. Besides, student loans are no joke, gotta make it up somehow!
  • We got a puppy – Miyagi is the most awesomest laid back Chinese Crested you’ll ever meet. And I’m glad he keeps my lady company while I’m away. He’s also damn adorable (and I’m comfortable admitting it).
Miyagi!

Miyagi!

  • I sold my CRX – Seems like a piece of minutia at first glance, but this car has meant a lot to me. One of the things that motivated me to go to engineering school in the first place was my first passion of car racing. I used to literally close my eyes and imagine myself taking laps around Nürburgring when I would get stuck on a thermodynamics or deformable body mechanics problem and not have an answer after 4+ hours of really intensive work on just one problem (man those classes sucked). I’d close my eyes and remind myself of why I was putting myself through the pain and the hell of it all. A very momentous chapter of my life closes with the sale of this fine automobile. Gladly, it goes to the home of another car enthusiast and hopefully I’ll be able to grace the wheel some day at a future autocross.

I used the proceeds to fund my latest passion of photography and bought myself a new D-SLR, then banked the rest. This was also the first major step of uncluttering my life and putting more focus on what matters to me. I will return another day to racing (the WRX is pretty damn fun to drive too), but I need to focus on priorities right now.

So you can see 2008 was pretty big year for me. And I think it’s also pretty apparent why I haven’t been updating at all. I’m starting to adjust to the travel, so I’m hoping to work the blog into my routine.

I’m a fairly active blog reader, so I’ve installed a widget to the right that shows my shared google reader articles. If I haven’t been updating in while, at least check out some of the things I’ve been following out in the ether. At times, that says more about me than anything I write.

23Sep/084

Getting Comfortable With Uncomfortable

I find the fact that I'm sitting at a bar an hour outside of boston sipping on a mezcal margarita an interesting metaphor for this post. I'm on my second client for as many months as I've been working at my new job. My earlier posts indicate how big a leap this job has been for me, and the fact that I've been sitting face to face with customers almost every week since I've started working here is testamount to that fact.

This has been a great challange for in ways that I haven't really experienced before. Even as I struggled through the rigger of engineering school, I felt like I was just going through the motions. It wasn't easy, but for some reason it felt more effortles. I've travelled for professional reasons before but I've never had the stakes of missing a wife (for all intents & purposes) before; I've never questioned my descisions before either.

I'm being pushed to limits that I feel I've never been pushed to before; personally and professionally. Stress is building, I miss my girlfriend, and I have a deliverable due that is barely defined... Yet, some how, I feel envigorated by this?

Sometimes it's hard to know what you're capable of until you're forced to perform. And I think it's at the point where you're just about to crack where you're able to see how much you can grow.

I might as well put down my phone, eat my diner, and get to finishing my accounting homework. And look forward to the day that I get to benefit from all this.

15Aug/081

HOW A New Job Can Make You Happier

I kept my last post brief because it had been so long since I posted, I wanted to at least give a quick update. Now that I'm back on the horse, I want to spend a little time on the How. Some people say that you shouldn't put so much emotional real estate into a job, and that career satisfaction is as much about your state of mind as it is what you actually do: I fully agree with that sentiment, but I think there are some other factors involved as well.

Focus on the context

Sometimes a new job is needed because your current job is so depressing, sometimes a new opportunity presents itself and is such a good fit for you and your goals that you can't pass it up. There are many driving factors that affect your emotional relationship with your job and why you might need a new one.

Your current job sucks!

  • Toxic environment - sometimes the environment you work in is so dysfuctional that you come home stressed out, depressed, and exausted just from having to put up with the people you work with. This is one of those self evident things (hopefully) that should be easy to spot in the wild.
  • No respect - similar to toxic environment, but can exist in its own right. You don't need to be admired by your colleges and adored by your superiors, but you should be able to at least be treated like a human.
  • Dead end - and lastly, a job doesn't have to be a torture chamber of an experience, sometimes the opportunity cost of staying at a job can set you back for years and really put a hamper on your long term goals and happiness.

The new opportunity is so much better than what you do now:

  • An offer you can't refuse - Whether you've been on an agressive job search for months or an aquaintance you met last week offers you an amazing job out of nowhere; sometimes it doesn't matter how good or bad your current job is, an opportunity presents itself that is SO great that it's a no brainer to move on and progress your career to the next level.
  • You know what you want - And what you're doing right now ain't it.  Getting a job in the field you want will, by definition, place you in a happier environment unless...
  • You don't know what you want - You don't like what you're doing now, but have no idea what you'd rather do instead.  This is your opportunity to experiment! You might come across a new line of work that really inspires you.  What's the worst thing that could happen?  You get another crappy job?  Quit and start all over again.

Well there you have it.  A short list of items that I've found true to my job/happiness hunting experience.  I'm still in the honeymoon phase right now though, so check back in a couple months and see how happy I am.  But the fact of the matter is that all jobs have their down points, but the key is to know when those down points have crossed a line and be keen to when that happens.