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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...

25Aug/091

A Primer On Regretting Your Online Prescense

This topic has been coming up a lot lately as the use of twitter and, especially, facebook is becoming more and more ubiquitous. A lot of people are becoming concerned about how their constant updating will be perceived and whether or not they will look back and regret some of their past contributions to the public sphere.

I recently watched Primer, a movie about a group of young entrepreneurs who mistakenly invent a machine that allows you to travel back in time. Once they realized what they invented, they tried to determine how to monitize or sell this important technology. They soon realize that it would be too difficult to sell and potentially dangerous for other people to know about. So they decide to use the technology to game the stock market & become rich (in a nutshell, of course there's more to the story).

What does this have to do with your internet persona & over sharing? Well, a lot of the decisions we make & ideas we harbor are a product of our life experience and our assumptions of our realities based on our understanding of the world. This is inherently a dynamic process and we gain new perspectives of how the world works everyday. So it goes without saying that many of our approaches to life can fundamentally change as new information and understanding come to light, changing our assumptions and ultimately our ideas and philosophies. In the case of Primer, their understand of the world changed in such a drastic way that they were forced to re-evaluate their ethics & morals. Do you tell your angel investor? Do you pitch the technology to VC's or DARPA? Or do you "cheat" the market, become rich and buy a private island in the Caribbean (the whole reason you got into entrepreneurship in the first place)? Does the end justify the means?

This an exciting process that is really interesting to watch unfold. Why should we feel regret? What new experience has reshaped your reality today?

16Jul/090

Calculated Inexperience

This thought is a bit of a follow up from the previous post.

I'm a not a very traditional engineer in a lot of ways. I suck at simple arithmetic, I'm very extroverted, I get bored by tedious & repetitive tasks, and I'm very into artistic expression. But one trait that fits the bill is that I'm a very analytical person. I follow a very stoic and logical philosophy when it comes to my approach to life. But I'm also a hypocrite in that I'm a very emotional being... more on that later.

I've been spending a lot of mental capital on figuring out what my next step should be and a lot of that debate is centered around the contrast between instinct & advice or common wisdom. I have a strong interest in starting a venture; of course, the right way to go about doing this is to study up on how business are funded, how venture capital works, get an MBA, analyze the prevailing market trends and, of course, drink from the firehouse of information that's out there about current or formerly successful entrepreneurs. Like I said, I'm going to do this thing right if I'm going to do it.

But here goes the problem, there is no "right." There's only did, or didn't. Logic follows that startups fail more than they succeed and any analysis of the situation will always bring you to the same logical conclusion. Don't.

So I return where I left off at the part about being a creature of emotion. I love my job right now. In fact, it's my dream job. It's very challenging, very dynamic, offers endless learning opportunities, and I'm highly respected by my colleagues. As I write this, I'm 27 years old and am blessed with such an amazing life; but, if I just work for the rest of my life, I've basically reached my peak. Sure, I'll finish grad school and make more money and gain more responsibility, but I've cleared a lot of the greatest hurtles to success. I have to stop thinking through this so much and I have start getting emotional!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PhQTZcG5S8]

I recently watched this video from my youth again and realized that success isn't enough, I have to do great things. I had suppressed my memories from my childhood so much that I forgot how much of a fighter and survivor I was and had to be to make it through that crap. I can't waste all that effort on complacency & a BMW M3, I have to act! I need to be young, stupid, bold and naive. I need to try to reinvent the world and be so ignorant that I think I can!

Let's go!

15Jul/090

Limitations On The Wisdom of Elders

One of the topics that I keep revisiting in my mind is the concept of reinventing the wheel. On the one hand, I want to use whatever ground work that has been laid before me and I want to learn from other peoples mistakes; on the other hand, I want to trust my instincts and work through problems my own way so that I can foster creativity & innovation.

Sometimes we need to challenge the convensional way of doing things because those methods were developed under a different set of constaints and, therefore, had different limitations build in. Othertimes, we can work & think more efficiently if we use solutions to problems that were created through generations of iterations of trial and error.

What's the best approach?

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.

2Mar/093

Education, Experience, or Expertise?

The Case For Education:

As you may or may not know, I’m in the process of getting my MBA. I have an epic love/hate relationship with school and I have only had a brief two years in life (between undergrad & grad school) where school wasn’t an overbearing and all consuming portion of my life. The short and skinny of it though, is that I genuinely appreciate school, education, and academics. This is a far cry from my brother who has struggled with school his entire life. His is the classic case of “too smart for his own good,” where he ended up going through three different high-schools before graduating, and getting generally shitty grades and pissing off as many teachers as possible.

My brother’s take is obviously more extreme than my own, but somehow I think we end up with the same conclusion. Signing up for a “program” and executing it isn’t enough. I thankfully ended up getting interesting classes this semester. The one that is most closely aligned with my interests and the general direction of this blog is brand management. The marketing staff at Carlson is fairly highly regarded (close associations with Target, Best Buy, IBM, et al), but I highly doubt my professors are very active on facebook , myspace, twitter, linkedin, and the like. Web 2.0’s impact on the field of marketing and brand management is dynamic and is in constant flux.  These areas can't be taught in an academic setting, you have to live (or die) by the sword.  You have to get in the shit (so to speak).

So Then, Experience is Most Important, Right?

Well, not exactly.

Jon Gordon recently made a call for a national tweetout, his reasons are perspective, my reasons are more focused on having all of the people who consider themselves to be marketing experts and Web 2.0 gurus shut their damn trap for 2 seconds while I try to have conversations with my friends and family. Yes, I'm being somewhat of a hypocrite since I really enjoy marketing (and particulary branding) right now, but sometimes it's frustrating that every time you write something in 140 characters or less, you may have to be mindful of the potential impact on your personal brand.  Bullocks! [/rant]

But seriously, I do enjoy the fact that I’m participating in a lot of these new venues. It is still unclear how the facebooks & twitters of the world will generate revenue, but it is clear that the world of marketing will coalesce around these Web 2.0 properties in one form or another. So, education clearly isn't enough, and participating in some of these websites (phenomenons?) helps to understand the momentum of a lot of the unfolding Web 2.0 services.  But just because you dance in the mud a little here and there, doesn't mean your contribution is moving us forward as a society, or that you are becoming an expert on the matter.

Jonathan Rosenberg recently posted an email originally addressed to fellow googlers on the google blog that really resonated with me:

"Of course, the greatest user experience is pretty useless if there's nothing good to read, a truism that applies not just to newspapers but to the web in general. Just like a newspaper needs great reporters, the web needs experts. When it comes to information, not all of it is created equal and the web's future depends on attracting the best of it. There are millions of people in the world who are truly experts in their fields — scientists, scholars, artists, engineers, architects — but a great majority of them are too busy being experts in their fields to become experts in ours. They have a lot to say but no time to say it."

I think it's no secret that my blog is completely anemic in the updates department.  Not to whine or anything,  but my life schedule is completely insane.  This semester has been super crazy.  I travel every week for work, consulting clients who have serious levels of anxiety (is there such a thing as an ERP implementation where the client isn't riffe with anxiety?  If so, I wan't that project!).  Meanwhile, I spend Saturdays at school from 8am to 4pm. And somewhere in there, I have to spend time with my partner of 4 years (just celebrated!), do laundry, pack, and leave again.

So How Do You Develop Expertise?

Honestly, I can't tell you from where I'm sitting, but an ungodly number of bloggers will try.  This post was originally going to be about education, then it morphed into experience, then into expertise, then I realized I couldn't really separate them as discreet topics to blog about.  My suspicion is that it takes not only a combination of education and experience, but also a certain amount drive and perseverance.  But more importantly, it isn't anything that can be absorbed through a 1000 word blog post and that you should be quite skeptical of anyone trying to sell you that kool-aid.

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.

20Jul/081

A New Job CAN Make You Happier

Well, it's been a long journey (7 months to be exact), but I finally made it! I started a couple of weeks ago as a business consultant for a large software firm. I pretty much kept my job search to myself over that time and I wasn't just looking for a new job, I was looking for a new direction for life.

I just got back in town from training and it's good to be back. I just want to post a quick update and let you know I haven't died.

Next time around I'll tell you how a new job can make you happier, not just that it does.

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