I made a startling discovery recently: all that video-game playing from age 8 to age 26 seems to have resulted in some permanent gains.
A few years ago, I basically swore games off. But similar to how meditation makes a person more resilient against all of life's absurdities, and how team sports instils a sense of how to cooperate and compete, it seems like the people that sought to master complex games from our generation are now able to take and build on them. The people who were mastery-oriented in playing a myriad of games seem to grasp a whole set of concepts faster and easier that are directly applicable to success today.
I had a phone call a few hours ago with one of the volunteers helping to make the GiveGetWin Tour 2015 a big success. He's already helped line up two of the dates between the coastal cities as we transit across America and I wanted to go beyond talking about Tour logistics and also make time to help him reach his goals.
His questions were a set of questions I get often: if I want to be able to work on interesting projects, with interesting people, and lots of freedom, how do I do it? How did you do it?
I could have, and eventually will, run him through the mechanics of getting to know people, how they come to trust you, how deals get struck and work gets done.
But on this call, I felt a need to emphasize some more fundamental points. His goals are good but broad: be able to make enough to support himself while traveling; he wants freedom.
My advice sums up to this:
First, figure out what you want.
Second, figure what you need to do that.
There's a lot more options and different timeframes of possibilities if you want to earn $500 per month or if you want to earn $5,000 per month. There's different possibilities if you want to make earned income where the transaction ends when you've completed the work, as opposed to the value in often-smaller transactions with established businesses that know and expect repeat purchasing.
Likewise, if you were just laid off and need income within two weeks or you're in trouble, you have very different options than if you're graduating in two years. In the latter case, you might engage in some actions that will be very smart to do but won't pay off until many months from now, or engage in a course of skill development that will take time to be worthwhile, or begin to form relationships with people that are not at all potential current buyers in the current form of their business or life.
So I encouraged this talented gentleman to really nail down what he wants, and then to figure out what he needs to do that. This is not original advice; many people have said it before me. But it is valid advice.
After that, I recommended strong expense control and getting a good credit scoring going, the former being advice I give everyone young, and the latter being advice I give everyone who is an American.
And yet, you know, this stuff isn't fun or sexy.
Sales and high-stakes negotiation seems, on the surface, to be very fun and sexy. I'll tell you, well, this is only sort-of true. Sales and negotiations might seem sexy from a far distance, but like anything else, as you get deep into the work, it just eventually becomes another set of moving pieces to navigate. There can be exciting moments and glory and you're certainly doing something important when you're working on sensitive and important things with other people -- but really, it comes down to being organized, thinking things through clearly, and do the right things at the right times.
Meanwhile, expense control and managing one's credit score often seem more trite and mundane, not fun, not sexy.
Now... perhaps I'm odd or something, but I actually find a lot of joy in managing the mechanics of things like a credit score, and I enjoy the times that I go rather deep into things like expenses and related details.
But let's say it's not naturally fun for you; fair enough; let's go a step further and say you're feeling stuck and suffering and aggravated that you even have to deal with this.
This is, by the way, a really common sentiment among the young ambitious people I know. They get aggravated at all the details that are coming at them that aren't the fun, sexy, amazing, gigantic stuff they want to work on.
And this is where I'd like to point you towards a video game that gave me a nice mental model, the game Final Fantasy Tactics for the original Sony Playstation.
Tactics is a tactical role-playing game. You start off controlling one character, and eventually wind up leading a small army.
The strength of your army is more-or-less the strength of the individual soldiers in it; you're able to choose different mixes of squadrons to employ in battles. For instance, during a raid, you'll be able to send one team onto the rooftops to neutralize the enemy castle's archers, and two teams to storm the main gate after that's done.
Here is where Tactics shines: your characters level up like a normal role-playing game, but they level up very specifically based on their "job."
"Archer" is a job, so is "Priest," so is "Knight," and so on.
As you get more experienced, you get abilities and attributes corresponding to your job. So Knights get stronger and get knightly abilities, Archers get more dextrous and get archery abilities, and so on.
Many of the better jobs in the game require prerequisites: you have to be a Squire before you can be a Knight.
Some lessons -- attributes, skills -- can only be learned in the lower-ranked jobs.
There's lessons you can only easily learn as a Squire.
I think life is like that, too.
It's no fun at all to be broke. That is completely and totally true. However, there are lessons and skills that are easy and necessary to learn when you have no money.
Railing against this is most likely a mistake, but it's a common mistake.
It's understandable, of course. If you're young and aggravated at being broke, it's hard to know what comes next. If you knew that three years hence you'd be doing very well for yourself, you'd probably calm down, learn what you can, and enjoy the process.
In fact, you'd get through the whole being broke stage faster if you do that.
But it's understandable why people don't do that.
Frankly, I like ambitious people. There's a predictable set of flaws that ambitious people frequently have, and I accept most those, even though they can at times cause friction.
So it doesn't bother me if someone young and ambitious that I know is chafing at their current position in the world and refusing to learn the Squire's Lessons from it. So be it. Controlling expenses? Bah, who wants to do that?
It would bear mentioning briefly what happens if you don't learn them, though: you've then got the awful position of needing to go through life without that skill, or needing to potentially go backwards when things are a lot more complex and highly leveraged.
I would firmly encourage you to look at your current situation as an excellent training, especially the most aggravating areas of it. John Rockefeller obviously took a lot from his time as a bookkeeper and clerk; Meyer Rothschild obviously took a lot from learnings about doing low-level money-changing in small amounts. Would Rockefeller have built Standard Oil if he'd been chafing at his time as a clerk and refusing to learn about shipping schedules, insurance, and the details of books and numbers? Would Rothschild have built the foundation of the modern international banking system if he hadn't mastered the state of changing the small coins of the fragmented European principalities?
I suppose it's probably seems preferable to be a Knight than to be a Squire, but rushing into "knighthood" only to be slain on the battlefield seems an error. Meanwhile, the diligent Squire who learns to polish and maintain armor and weapons, knows horsemanship and animal husbandry, knows about acquiring food and provisions, and treating wounds...
The castle is made of rocks? Maybe so. And Squire's Lessons seem well-worth learning.
I shudder to think how many hundreds of hours I spent playing "Civilization."
But I learned some good stuff:
These lessons have held up pretty well in the real world.
Great post, the analogy with FFT really anchored me. There are also the dark and holy knights in the game, the special types of vocations that we cannot evolve our characters into (unless you use cheat. For example, using cheat codes you can evolve Ramza and any other companion into the special vocations). Maybe in life is the same, we can work our way, exploring possibilities and trying out new vocations, looking for something that suits us better in career. Of course, depending on the circumstances, we can always go back and assume another vocation, as the conveniences arise. I wonder who are the special classes of our world. The representatives of the dark and holy knights. Or, if there is a cheat/hack in life that could make mere beings, like me, to become one. Just kidding.
I absolutely loved this. I find myself in an awkward situation of going "backwards" from my current situation in order to build better social skills- something I thought unimportant and had no interest in while younger, but now find myself sorely lacking.
Good thoughts. Glad to see another post.
I'm more of an Advance Wars guy than a tactics dude(I don't like leveling up), but it sounds really great. Will give it a play soon.
I think games like Minecraft are immensely valuable to this new generation. Lots of sound principles in such a simply game. I'm glad it exists.
My route to where I am began through Warcraft 3s and starcrafts map editors. Believe it or not they've essentially got programming languages built-in. I shit you not I wrote an evolutionary algorithm in wc3 to teach bots to play mini games at a young age. I never even considered that those skills would eventually transfer to systems engineering. Kids naturally love to learn and build things and some games are ideal for enabling them.
I've gotten to the point where I really trust myself, so I don't force myself to control expenses or time manage anymore. I see it as mostly frivolous overhead that hinders my focus on my big projects. But the only reason I see it like this is because I've been there and internalized the lessons. I control expenses through automatic lifestyle now. I think that rings true to your thoughts of leveling up. Once you internalize the lessons you can go to the next level safely.
Side note. I'm extremely fortunate right now. I'm really doing what I love and putting large amounts of downtime into my personal big project all while living nomadic and saving up a lot of money, and I attribute much of that windfall to the lessons I've taught myself from your blog and ikigai. Im glad you exist Sebastian!
I feel like I'm at this exact situation, however when I'm focused on maintenence type tasks I feel like I'm just doing those tasks as an excuse to not focus on developing cash-generating skills. How long would you say it takes to be in squire mode? I feel like I've been in squire mode for 2 years already.
My two cents that I hope help:
You can actually live your whole life as a squire. There's no definite point where it's like "okay I've been a squire for my 50 years, time to level up! ". The difference between a squire and a knight is that a knight has internalized the lessons he's learned as a squire and so he doesn't have to actively think about them anymore. This can come at the slight cost of optimality. For instance if I'm not constantly thinking about saving every penny, then I'm not going to save as much as if I've just internalized a set of rules for myself and so have become cost-aware, but that's okay.
The benefit comes from not having to spend more precious brain cycles on maintenance. The way to "level-up" is by sparing extra brain cycles to be spent on taking on the new lessons of the next level. When you feel like you've internalized maintenance and don't have to worry about it anymore, you've essentially moved on.
The equivalent game metaphor is like moving from an absolute beginner to a novice. When you first pick up a new game you struggle to learn the controls and hold the controller right. Even that is a challenge. As you get better you internalize the controls and you're not thinking about what button does what anymore. You leave the level of learning the controls and you become the Mario on the screen. Now you're practicing hitting those goombas.
My advice would be to try to automate your maintenance tasks. Set clear boundaries for yourself that you never break under any circumstances, such as "no sugary drinks or snacks" or "exercise at least a little every day", depending on your current maintenance needs. Once you don't have to think about it anymore and you just automatically comply with the rules, then you have the time to move on.
After that it's like Sebastian said: figure out what you want. Not everyone becomes a knight. Maybe you're an archer. What's YOUR next level? You can't start developing that higher-level set of skills until you know what they even are and know why you want them.
You say you want to start developing cash-generating skills. What sort of things do you enjoy that could potentially bring in money? Build up the skills that can make what you enjoy make you money and then you've leveled up.
What's after that? Internalize the money-making skills and re-iterate. The sky's the limit! Sephiroth isn't so tough.
From "Ambition reported to reduce lifespan and happiness" -
Judge explained that ambitious people who were successful in school and at work lived longer; however, ambitious people who did not find success in these areas lived shorter lives. “So, if one is to be ambitious, one had better insure that they translate it into success. Otherwise, they may experience the negative effects without any of the positive.”
However, despite their successes, he noted that they were not successful in terms of what might be considered the most important variables: happiness and longevity of life. He explained that even though ambitious people ought to have the happiest lives in the world because they attain so much, they were only slightly happier than the “slackers” and lived for about the same length of time. However, those that did not attain successful careers were less happy and significantly more likely to die before less ambitious people.
Welcome to 2014. For me, it feels like my year started in June. Being on a semester system in school, it feels like January-May was a totally different year.
It's been a bit exciting, if not grueling. I've grown a lot, but at the same time, I've fallen back towards resistance and am still struggling with Step 1 of How To Take Control of Your Life. When I let the biggest hindrance go, I start to look for something to fill the time with, and sadly, I fell back into it.
I was wrong about a ton of stuff this year, but I can also say I was also really right about a lot, too. I've probably made a ton of mistakes that are going to affect me in the long run, but the time to change my life is coming up one week into the New Year, so we'll see how it goes.
I think I'm struggling the most with a sense of direction. I know what I want to do in the long run, but right now, no options seem viable for my unique situation. Yes, maybe I'm a teenager convinced that I'm a special snowflake, but it's still difficult in the present. One of the best skills you can have is to look at your present hardship as how you do when you look at your hardship in hindsight.
All I can attest to doing this year is trying.