Everything is Amazing, Nobody is Happy: How I Became an Indie App Developer

by phil on Tuesday May 1, 2012 3:36 PM

On March 8th, 2012 I gave a motivational speech at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. It was delivered to about 150 creative employees, and I talked about the relationship between my personal development and my successes in indie app development. Here is a video of the talk:

My first story is about Tarot and iPhone app development (starting at 1:46), and my second story is about meditation and 3D Porch (starting at 16:35)

This was one of five talks given during Hallmark's annual Trends Week. As you can see from the poster, I received the same billing as Temple Grandin, who was listed in 2010 by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 most influential "Heroes". I got the gig after a friend forwarded an excerpt from my upcoming book Dear Charlotte to the trends manager at Hallmark.

Transcript of the talk after the break:

(Thanks to Marita for organizing this event, to Eric Rltvty for the headshot, to Rusty for letting me use his picture, and to "kidjazz" for the intro music)

Clip of Louis C.K.

I want to begin my talk with a video clip from someone who I think is my favorite comedian right now. You might have heard of him, it's Louis C.K. and you might've seen this video.

Conan O'Brien: Do you feel that we now, in the 21st century, take technology for granted?

Louis C.K.: Well yeah, because now we live in an amazing, amazing world, and it's wasted on the crappiest generation of just spoiled idiots, that don't care. Because this is what people are like now: they got their phone, they're like "UGH! It won't..." WILL YOU GIVE IT A SECOND! It's going to space! Can you give it a second to get back from space? Is the speed of light too slow for you?

(cut to clip)

Louis C.K.: Because everything is amazing right now, and nobody is happy.

Everything is amazing and nobody is happy. The reason why I play that clip, because even though I'm going to be talking about technology and things I've done, like creating apps, it's ultimately all going to circle back to the topic of happiness.

My desert of unemployment in 2008

So my first story begins at the start of 2008. So let's take our minds back to that point. Let's see, Obama and Hillary were duking it out. He hadn't won the Iowa caucuses yet and the housing crisis had yet to happen. So it was a blissful time. Many of us still had our homes. But where was I at the time? I was unemployed. I had just left my job as a video game designer for a company called Aspyr. I had worked there for a year-and-a-half, and I just left there willy-nilly. And for five months, I did absolutely nothing. Actually, I'll take that back. I did quite a bit. I saw every episode of 24, which if you know anything about 24, that's 24 episodes multiplied by 45 minutes multiplied by 8 seasons. And so you can pretty much get a picture of what I did of my time. And on top of that, I watched every episode of The Sopranos and every episode of Six Feet Under. Those were the pleasurable parts of those five months.

So the backstory of all that was that I was very depressed. But, there is a silver lining in all of this. It's that I had an incredible amount of free time. And I think the thing I liked most is that I spent more time with one of my friends named Rusty. This is Rusty. He's a friend of mine from Aspyr. He's a video game designer. He's from Mississippi and very Southern. He's sort of the opposite of me. He's sort of more libertarian-leaning, I'm more on the left-wing type. He's all about Southern comfort, Southern cooking, and I'm from a cosmopolitan background, always living in big cities like San Diego, San Francisco, and now Austin, TX.

But during this vast period when I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I went on a lot of interesting walks with my friend Rusty. We walked around Austin, which if you haven't been to Austin, it's a gorgeous place. It has this wonderful lake that we walked around, and we would just debate and argue about religion, about philosophy, and about politics. It was 2008 and everyone was talking about politics back then. We almost got into a lot of fights over some of our issues. He's obviously a Ron Paul person.

The thing about Rusty is that he's not religious. And we would always have discussions about religion. But one time, on one of these long relaxing walks, he said, "You know Phil, I'm getting into this thing called Tarot."

And I'm like, "Tarot? Okay, what's that? Is that the fortune telling thing?"

And he said, "Yeah, but it's a lot more than that."

When he told me this, it really piqued my curiosity. Because knowing that he was an atheist, why would he get into Tarot? Why would he believe in something that in my mind was sort of akin to astrology? I have a lot of respect for my friend, and I really enjoy his perspective. He then said, "You know what Phil? You know what I want to do for you? I think you need a tarot reading."

So, I said "Sure, why not?" I have nothing better to do with my time. I'll go over to your house and sit down and do a Tarot reading.

My first Tarot reading

So a little briefer on how Tarot works. It's been around for 300-400 years. The cards are very old, with very old symbols that have had meaning for centuries. I'll show you a sample card right here: it's the Two of Wands, which looks oddly similar to the photo I just showed of Rusty. And there's recurring symbols in Tarot. So, for example, here we have these wands. Wands appear in about 13 of the cards. Wands represent messages. Or maybe for modern times, they could represent an email you got, so this guy has an email behind him, an email in one hand, and the world in the palm of his hands. It's whatever you want to make of it really, but you ground the symbols into the life story of the person you're giving the reading to.

So when I had a reading with Rusty, he sat down with me, and we pretty much spent ten minutes shuffling the deck. He asked me random questions, like, So when is your birthday? Okay, April 25th. The number four, then. So I want you to cut the deck four times. So I do that, then he draws a card and let's say it's a two, then he draws two cards. And this continues on for a while.

Then he's like, "So, What do you want to know? What's on your mind?"

And I say, "You know me. I left my job as a video game designer. That was supposed to be my dream job because it combined technology and art. It gave me incredible freedom, and yet I still don't know what I want to do. I'm almost going bankrupt right now just watching TV. So, how do I figure out what to do with my life?"

And he said, "Okay, that's very interesting," and we started doing a reading. He started drawing cards. In Tarot, you have a thing called a spread where you draw a different card for different slots on the table. The most basic spread is a past/present/future spread, where you draw a card for the past, you draw a card representing today, and draw you a card representing tomorrow.

The "Wheel of Fortune" card

Now the card he drew for me for the present was this card: The Wheel of Fortune. This is one of my favorite cards in Tarot. Let me describe a little about it. There's four winged beasts around the edges and they're all reading books. If you get this card, this could be a card about, most literally, that you should go back to school. Or you it could be that you need to be more academic. Or maybe you're too academic. But a very important interpretation of this card is about opportunity and about cycles of opportunity and how these cycles recur. And so I got this card, and we're already at minute 30 in the reading. And I'm sort of in this deep, almost semi-meditative state during the reading. And I'm thinking, "opportunity, cycles of opportunity. What is happening right now?" I started to think about what is happening this year. "Okay, there's the political thing going on." And then it struck me, I thought about Steve Jobs. It occurred to me that a few months before, he had just given a presentation about how he was going to put apps on the iPhone. And for some reason it came up in my mind, that since 1999, he's been on a tear with product releases. Every single thing he had released up to that point had been a hit. The iMac, the iPod, the revitalization of the Mac. And the iPhone was a big hit. And I just got this feeling, "This guy is going to do it again." He's gonna strike gold again this summer, and it's gonna be huge. In two months time there would be an App Store, and I bet there's going to be a million people who want to download apps, but yet there's only going to be maybe a handful of developers who are gonna get ready for this. So what if I got in on that? What if I sold my 401(k) that I had accrued for just a year-and-a-half and bought a Macbook and started reading books and started getting into all this stuff?

And so in the middle of this reading I'm getting excited. I'm almost not paying attention to the rest of the reading. Because in a way I feel like I got it. I know what I want to do, I should just jump on this, and this will take me off. But then, a new anxiety came on me. I didn't know what I would do actually. I would get that laptop spend all that money, but what app would I actually create? I had never really created an app before. I had worked as a game designer making games, but never really making a full product that people could use and like. And what about selling it or creating the marketing for it? And so I was thinking, well what should I do? I have no idea. And so I started paying attention to the reading again, looking at the cards seeing if maybe there were some clues in there.

What now?

And then a very interesting card came up. It's called the Ace of Pentacles. This card comes up to me, and I'm reading it thinking, "What does this card mean Rusty?"

And he says, "Well, Pentacles usually represent concrete things." Pentacles is this circular thing with the star in it. Pentacles represent money, wealth, your car, and your mortgage. They're very specific material things. And the hand, in relationship to the pentacles here, would be sort of mean that the material thing is in the palm of your hand. It is right there in front of you. Maybe the opportunity is right in front of you.

So I'm sitting there holding this card, thinking, "Okay, it's in the palm of my hand. The opportunity is sitting right here in the palm of my hand. And in my other hand, I have my iPhon." And then I'm thinking, "Palm of my hand ... what is in my hand? Holy crap! A tarot card is in my hand! My first app should be a Tarot app for the iPhone!"

That's right my first Tarot card reading told me to make a Tarot app for the iPhone. No joke. And so I completely shut down from the reading. He wanted to do more cards, but I bolted right out of there. Next day, I went to the Apple Store and got a Macbook, picked up some books, and I then just started coding. I made this Tarot app, and then after two months, just as I had imagined, there were hundreds of thousands of people who wanted to download apps. When the App Store opened up, I was there on Day One. Because I had gotten there early, the name of my app is just Tarot. I was able to reserve that name before anyone else.

And I remember the announcement, and I remember the day. I'm like, "I'm not going to check the sales stats until tomorrow. I don't want to think about it, I'm going to be just stressed out about it all day." The next morning, when I checked on my computer, I saw that it was a thousand bucks. Just out of nowhere, for this Tarot app. And I'm like, "Holy cow! I could do something with this!"

And for the next three months, I made Tarot Pro, I upgraded my main Tarot app, I made a Palm Reading app. And I got super excited. All of a sudden everything was good again. I had money in the bank, things were going well for me. And up to this day, I still make apps.

Why Tarot?

So the question is, "What is the real lesson in all of this?" Well for one, hopefully it's a little bit of a pitch for Tarot. I think a lot of people could benefit from it. But, I think that deserves an explanation. Why Tarot? Why was this interesting to me?

I'm not that superstitious or supernatural myself. I don't really believe in ghost, I don't carry lucky charms, and I don't read my horoscopes. But for some reason Tarot in particular speaks to me. And over the years, I thought about why. People have asked me, "Why did you make a tarot app? Why did you get so pumped up after doing nothing for such a long time? Why did Tarot take off for you?"

And I say, "Well, I think it has to do with sort of my understanding of the way the mind works. When we think, when we talk, we're sort of like a boat on a lake. And we move from one spot to another spot, taking sort of the same routes. Maybe there's our water cooler thoughts, then maybe there's our thoughts in the morning, and then there's our thoughts about our family. But we sort of skirt the surface, going round and about in our own loop."

But what a tarot card reading does, is that it calms the lake. And with the reader, the reader sort of guides your boat to a specific part of the lake, and he says, "Now that the lake is still, don't you see the fish sort of rustling underneath?" And he sort of says to you, "Maybe you should drop your line here."

And you drop it in a place where you may not have explored before on the lake. And you drop your line and in the process you realize you get in touch with your quiet, but most important desires. I think that's really the secret to all of this. It's about getting in touch with your quiet but most important desires.

I think the keyword is "quiet." And that's why you need the stillness of that lake. And so maybe there is a relationship with the fact that I spent five months doing "nothing." Maybe that gave me the stillness I needed to go on walks with Rusty, to open up my heart, to be open to something like a Tarot card reading. To be open to risk. Risking my 401(k) for a laptop, following Steve Jobs. And I think all of that's true. In looking back now, I think the way I summarize it all, is that there's an etymological and a literal relationship between serenity and serendipity.

My landmark post, "Eight changes to my life after just four weeks of meditation"

So that's my first story. The second story starts in the beginning of 2010. And, before I get into that, i have to sort of rewind a bit. I've been blogging forever. I've been trying to be some kind of successful blog star since 2002. But after writing 3,500 posts across many different blogs, that dream still hasn't taken off. I have not become this guy that can just wake up and shoot thoughts off the top of his head in his pajamas, and somehow pay bills this way. That was always the dream. But, there was this one post that I wrote, roughly a year ago, that is still my most popular post.

It generated hundreds of comments, went around Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News, and a few other places. And I'm going to share a little bit of that post with you today. The title of that post is, "8 Changes to My Life After Just Four Weeks of Daily Meditation". Eight changes to my life as a result of just four weeks of meditation. That came out February of last year.

But before that, I have to talk about how I got into meditation in the first place. And so an article came into my feed, and it was a study about meditation. In the study, they took a bunch of participants who had never meditated before, and they told them, "Okay, we're gonna take an MRI scan of your brain right now. And then we want you to meditate for 45 minutes a day, and do this for 8 weeks, and keep a journal, and keep track of how many minutes a day you meditated. And then at the end of the week, we're gonna take another brain scan." And what this study showed, is that after just eight weeks of 27 minutes-a-day of meditation for these people, an MRI scan showed that they had increased brain activity associated in parts of the brain associated with stress-regulation, empathy, increased self-awareness, ability to manage stress, and reduced depression.

And when I saw this article, I was blown away. I was completely fascinated by this. I had read many articles about meditation before. Meditation will appear on the cover of TIME every three years, with some new study about some Buddhist guy who gets electrodes hooked up to his head, and they will show that his brain changed during meditation. And I had seen those before, and I had tried meditating before, and I would initially get excited about it. But then I'd always fade out. But for some reason this study was different. I had never seen it laid out so specifically. Eight weeks, 27 minutes a day, MRI scan.

So I sent this letter to my friend Ricky, not to be confused with my friend Rusty. Ricky is also a game designer and that fact will play in later. And Ricky felt the same way. He said, "This is amazing, why don't we try to duplicate this study? Why don't we participate in this?"

And I said, "Well, I don't have an MRI machine, so I can't see whether I have any changes."

But he said, "No you're a very introspective person, and you have your blog, so you can record what's happening and we can talk about it."

And I said, "Naah, I don't want to do that." I had tried meditating before, but had failed.

The next day he says, "No Phil. We really should do this study, and I have a good idea for that. We'll create a little spreadsheet where we'll keep track of every day that we meditate." And I think this has something to do with the fact that he's a game designer. We're all very competitive people. He knew that if we had this spreadsheet, and marked off days that we meditated, it would help us keep track.

So I said, "Okay, fine, let's do it, why not? I think this could work for some reason." And so I did this, and I was amazed. After four weeks, I was like, "Holy cow! I've meditated for 28 days in a row now." And I did it exactly like the study said. 27 minutes a day. And I could already start to see changes in my life. Big changes. It affected everything that I did. And that's when I sat down and tried to keep track of everything that had changed, and that's where that list came from. That's were the eight changes to my life came from.

The results

And so, let me go through a couple things that happened. The first one is: I obliterated arbitrary rules from my life. And by that I mean, for example, how before meditation, I had to eat my breakfast at a certain time. I have to eat a certain number of calories a day, and if I don't have my lunch before 2 p.m., then I'm going to get a headache at 2:30 p.m., and then I need to sleep before a certain time, and if I don't get six-and-a-half hours of sleep or eight hours of sleep I'm going to be frustrated. And then I need to check my email, and then I need to do this or that. And meditation just destroyed all of that. All of those things just disappeared. And how did that happen? A lot has to do with what is my favorite part of my early experiences with meditating. And it's an image that is completely burned into my head. The first thing I do after meditating is I turn off my alarm on my iPhone, which helps me keep track of how long I meditated. And in those first sessions, I would look at my phone, and I would see these bubbles with numbers on them, and notifications and emails to be checked. And I would look at it and think, "THIS IS INSANE. What I'm staring at here is the definition of insanity."

And why that happened is that, I realize now, is that those thirty minutes while I was meditating, it showed me what a sane mind is really like. It gave me a reference point to say, "Wow, this is what my mind should feel like at every second of every day." And I would come back to the old world, and see all of those notification bubbles, it was just so stark to me just how insane this was. And that frame of reference has carried with me ever since I started meditating. When I went to my computer, I would feel the same way too. I would see my Google Reader subscriptions all piled up, and I would have tabs open to HuffingtonPost and Drudge Report, and I would see these large headlines with their colors and bold fonts, and I would feel like those headlines were literally yelling at me at that time. And so I just closed all that, deleted my bookmarks, and changed my whole routine.

The 3D opportunity

And so that was just one change that happened in my life. The other 7 were equally as big. Let's look at what happened to me at the time, around these four weeks into this meditation thing. It was around March of 2011 ... so last year. It was a month before SXSW, which was about to happen in Austin. SXSW is this mega-festival that happens for 10 days that envelopes the entire city, with interactive, movies, and music, and celebrities come from all across the world for this one convention, and it's a great time to launch a product. And I started to think.

At the time, I was getting really into 3D. I had just seen Avatar, and again, sort of like that Wheel of Fortune card, I started to think about opportunity. I started to think about cycles. And another thing that I realized is that Nintendo was about to come out with a new product called the Nintendo 3DS. And if you don't know anything about the Nintendo line of handhelds, they have the Gameboy, which was a mega-hit, and they have the DS line of handhelds. The first DS sold maybe 40 million of them. And I knew that around the time that I was writing this post, they were going to release a 3D version of this in Japan. And that a month later, a week after SXSW, they would release one in the US. And so I thought, "Wow, if they sell as many 3DSs as they sold their previous DS lines, then that means by the end of this year, there will be millions of teenagers carrying around 3D cameras in their pocket!"

And so what is a 3D camera? This is an older 3D camera, it looks like an normal digital camera. You open it up it and see it has two lenses. This lens takes a picture from the left eye perspective, and another lens to takes a picture from the right eye perspective.

And I was thinking that, "Man there's gonna be a million kids walking around the streets of the US carrying 3D cameras in their pockets and they're going to be taking 3D photos of everything they see. And they're going to need a place to share it, and they're going to need a way to categorize it, and put it on Facebook." And so I thought, "Why not create a 3D photo sharing site?"

And very similar to the Tarot reading, I had that rise of excitement when I came up with this idea, but then the immediate drop into anxiety. And I said, "Woh, woah. Wait a minute, Phil. SXSW is in a month. You're gonna try to get all of this done before SXSW? You're gonna build this site, get the camera, get cards, get T-shirts, get cameras and do all this stuff in one month?"

The launch

Now the pre-meditation Phil, the old Phil, the one who hadn't meditated before, would have been completely been overwhelmed with anxiety. Even just that one thought alone would have stressed me out for a week. I would've sat around thinking, "No, it's too fast, there's no way you can get this done in time. You've never built a web app before." I had done iPhone apps, but never like a website where people are sharing content. The thing has to be up 24/7. What if it goes down? What if people upload inappropriate photos? How do I moderate that? And it just brought up an explosion of questions.

But every morning, the meditation brought me back down to center. It calmed me down. And the way I think about how meditation works, it's like we live in this dust storm everywhere. And meditation just sort of projects it on a wall so that you can see it for what it is. It doesn't get rid of it. It doesn't shut down your mind. But it sort of puts you on top of the mountain, so that you're looking down at the hubbub, rather than sort of being crushed by the milieu below.

And so, I was able to do this in a short period of time. I put this website together in a thing called Ruby on Rails. I ordered a Nintendo 3DS from Japan. I called my friend Anthony who speaks Japanese, to help me translate the Nintendo 3DS, because I couldn't read any of the buttons. So I'm sitting here with the device, and I can't even read it. But somehow I'm able to make it so I can take 3D photos and upload them to my site.

And then I buy 500 3D glasses and I walk around like this and go up to people and say, "Hey, have you every had a 3D photo taken of you before?" People are like "No, I haven't." And I'm like, "Okay, well, would you like to have your first one ever?" And they say, "Okay, yeah sure." So I would take a photo of them, then I would post it on my site, and I'd hand them a card.

And so this a photo of me roughly a year ago, I'm this guy. Yup, this is a photo of me taking a 3D photo of my friends, pretty trippy. And the site that I created is called 3D Porch. Right now, it's still the number one 3D photo-sharing site. And this is one of the early photos that I took on one of the first days of SXSW.

And after I took this photo, a woman comes up to me and says, "Um can I pull you aside? I want to ask you some questions."

"Okay sure," I said. "Why not."

And so she sat me down, and she said, "Are you okay if I record this?"

And I'm like, "Okay, fine."

"So I'm from CNN, and I have a few questions for you."

And I tried so hard to mask the excitement on my face. But inside there was explosion going on, like, "Holy ****. What the hell is happening right now?" And that evening, while I did not appear on the CNN TV show, my site turned up on CNN.com.

And that was the best SXSW I ever had.

How did this happen?

I was walking around thinking, "Wow how the hell did this happen? How, in one month--which surprisingly coincided with when I started meditating--how in one month did I go from having no app, no nothing--and a product I'm not really a part of, in the 3D space--how did I go from nothing to something and this product launch and it's working and people like it and I'm on CNN. how the hell did all this happen??

It obviously had something to do with meditation. But why? Why did it work this time? I had tried meditating a few times before, but why was this time the one that stuck? And I've had a lot of time to think about that and reflect on that. And I think a lot has to do with the fact that Ricky and I were both game designers.

And there's this book called Flow. And since this is a trends conference, this book is driving a lot of the trends you're seeing right now. There's a book called Drive that just came out which is about the new motivation of the workplace. All of the ideas in that book are generated from this book Flow which came out in 1992. And this book [Flow] is now, I think, the most cited book in all of academia.


It's called Flow and it's by an author named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which is kind of a mouthful. And what is flow? so, you might've heard the word "flow" before. But when I think about flow, I think about a football player, when the chips are down--and the football players will report this--they'll report that time slows down, and that they lose self-consciousness and are just flowing automatically. They say they're in flow, and they throw the best passes of their life. And it's an extreme rush through their body. They feel completely invigorated by this.

Surgeons report the same thing when they're doing an awesome surgery ... I guess ... I don't know what makes a surgery awesome. For an hour they lose themselves--"Haha, yeah they live, woo-hoo"--and I think ordinary people feel this way too sometimes. Sometimes you just have those days where you look at the clock and it's 6:30 and you've completely lost track of time. You've lost yourself completely in your work, for the entire day. And this guy, this psychologist, devoted his whole life to studying this. He said that this is the optimal experience. We need to experience flow every single day. Everyone will be more productive if we could just figure out how to get everyone in flow all the time.

And so, there's about four different pillars that make up flow. And each one of these could be its own lecture. But I'm gonna talk about one of them that is probably the easiest one to understand. And it's this concept of measurable inputs and measurable outputs. Measurable inputs: When you're able to look at, in a very numerical or quantitative way, what you're giving into it, whether it's the amount of minutes you're doing in something or amount of years you've studied in something. And then you're able to see output, measurable outputs. The rewards are concrete, they're not vague. They're very specific. So measurable inputs, measurable outputs.

And when I look back now at how I got into all of this in the first place, it had nearly everything to do with the structure of that one study that I talked about. It was the first study I had seen that was so specific about the benefits of meditation. It said, "8 weeks, 27 minutes a day." So that's the measurable inputs. You do exactly that. And then the outputs: increased brain activity in these parts of the brain. Inputs and outputs. And why that was so beautiful is that if for some reason meditation didn't work for me, if I'm like, "Well I tried meditation, I didn't really get any benefit out of that." If I didn't follow the 8 weeks and 27 minutes then I couldn't blame meditation. I could only blame myself.

And so when you have these measurable inputs and measurable outputs, a virtuous cycle happens. You start doing something, and you see a result, and then you appreciate it. It reinforces what you have done. At four weeks, when I wrote down this blog post noticing the changes in my life, even though I didn't have an MRI machine, I was looking for things like my anxiety levels, I was looking at whether I was more calm. And I was able to measure those things and write them down and make it into a concrete package. And that reinforced me to keep going with it. Every single time I saw an improvement, I stuck with it, and I kept thinking about that study.

Our spreadsheet

And another aspect of that, is that me and Ricky were both game designers. And this is our little spreadsheet. You know just after four weeks, as you can see, it has all "Yes"s in it. And in a way, just creating this little public spreadsheet was a measurable output. We could see, at a glance, that we had kept up with the program. In a way those "Yes"s stacking up were like a progress bar in a video game. And good video games adhere very strictly to the principles of flow. And (it's hard to see back there) on one day, Ricky had a fractured meditation, where he meditated only ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night. And so he put a little asterisk by it, and I made fun of him the whole time for this. I'm like, "Ahh, we got to put an asterisk by your name. Kind of like how we have to do this with baseball players." And that motivated him to stick with it, he's like, "I got to make sure that I don't screw up ever again." And then I have to keep up with that too.

So I think a lot of why this was so successful was the whole structure of the meditation. And so, if I'm gonna tie all of this back to the initial movie clip, and tie it back to sort of how this is a trends conference, there is a trend happening right now. It's called "gamification". It's about the gamification of everything around us. When I go to Mint.com where I manage my finances, I see little stars pop-up and badges saying, "Congratulations, you've spent less money this month on this category than you did the previous month. You get a little star, you get a little point. Would you like to share this on Facebook?" So now you have bragging rights and whatever.

So the game design industry has been about flow for ten years, but now it's starting to get into other industries. Companies are going to try to turn everything around you into a game in order to increase your engagement.

The gamification trend

More importantly I think, since you can ignore ads, companies are gonna start adopting gamification to get more productivity out of their workers. They're gonna try to atomize your work into more concrete inputs. And then they're going to have daily meetings. This is actually a very specific practice, which is now popular. Half of all popular games now are created with a new production methodology called Scrum.

The old way--and you might be familiar with this production methodology--is called the waterfall method. In the waterfall method, there's an original group of designers. They create a design doc, and then they hand it off to producers who then turn it into work schedules. And like a waterfall, it then passes on to the actual designers who then do something with this.

The problem with the waterfall method, is that for the first months, the actual people who are going to make the thing you're trying to make, are doing nothing while they're waiting for the head designers to get done with their spreadsheets or whatever. And when they're working, the head designers have nothing to do. And the schedule is always completely off. And for the longest time, games had been created using the waterfall method.

But now more than half of all video games that are successful are created with this thing called Scrum. Where everyone takes their workflow, or their tasks, writes them on little note cards, and they pass them around like they're little trinkets, like they're little achievements or stars, and they try to mark them off. And every day, they have a meeting about how many cards they got rid of the day before. And this is just in the game industry. But I swear, in 10-15 years, it's gonna be everywhere, at every company.

What you should do

But so, the real lesson of all of this, I think, is that everyone should tap their own inner-game-designer. While these companies are already on top of this, they're already able to hire consultants in flow and Scrum. But, what if you were able to take this and apply it to your life? What if you were to take your aspirations, your plans, whether it's a diet, or some position you want in work, or something you want to improve in your life. And what if you applied the strictures of flow to it? What if you made measurable inputs and measurable outputs. What if you had a way that you could share these outputs with friends? Then I think what you'll find, is that you'll be able to create permanent habits for yourself by following this philosophy.

And so I believe that as everything around is us going to get more amazing, perhaps if we wrest the tools of "gamification" for ourselves, then we can be happy too.

My book

And so if you like what I had to say, or the style of what I had to say ... I'm working on a book right now, that talks about things very similar to the interplay between self-improvement and self-actualization. Between what you do inside here, and how that leads to changes outside of your life. And so, I have an excerpt for you guys to take home. You can read it on your Kindles or iPads. So if you take one of these and pass them around. And the best compliment you could give for me is either feedback about what I said or what my book is about. Or you forward this book onto other people.

The name of Book is Dear Charlotte: A Life of Self-improvement. It comprises 80 imagined letters written to my friend Charlotte about things I've done in my life, and how those have led to changes like getting into apps, finding work that I love, or finding happiness.

Thank you.

1 Comment

Great talk, I enjoyed it. Very interesting story of self-realization/exploration. Nice delivery and engaging demeanor.

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