6 Accomplishments of 2017 I Did on My Own Time

(<2 minute read) Here are 6 accomplishments of mine in 2017 that I did on my own time outside of the office.

Advertisements

I’m a strong believer in moving forward. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent way too much of my life holding grudges and being anchored on past trivialities. One day, the concept of time started clicking (pun of the day, folks) and I realized I still have enough to accomplish great things. I also realized I did NOT have time to sit and moan about how unfair life could be.

So I became goal-oriented and plan-driven, logging everything for periodic reviews to get the most out of life. What better way to do that than over the holiday break? Here are 6 accomplishments of mine in 2017 that I did on my own time outside of the office:

#1) I published to this blog on the first Monday of every month in 2017
This was a goal I set in the summer of 2016. Give or take some lighter posts, I’d say I nailed it.

#2) I submitted an entry for a weekend Game Jam
And boy am I rusty! Learned a few things about VS Code and Mac development, but I clearly need to work on some degrading coding skills.

#3) I took the N5 JLPT
That’s Japanese Language Proficiency Test, specifically the basic level. I don’t yet know if I passed, but I know how I feel I did and that’s a good measurement of my progress towards fluency, which is the only reason I took the exam.

#4) I played a fully online match with my son in the mobile game I’ve been working on
I added multiplayer to my game, using Tuesday nights to work on the code. It’s got a long ways to go, but the fact that it was playable from start to finish brought me great joy.

#5) I took my family to the beach
What? A 14 hour drive with two boys is not an accomplishment?

#6) I bought a new house
Working hard to keep my financials in order gave me the opportunity to provide a bit more breathing room for my family.

Summary
Goals help shake you out of your rut and help you experience life. Sometimes, you fail at them. Like, horribly fail at them. But, if you can adjust your perspective, you can see positive results, whether its a lesson learned or thicker skin. And you get that by consistently getting up and doing.

Any accomplishments you’d like to share from 2017?

Part 1: If My Coworkers Were “Magic: The Gathering” Cards

(2.5 minute read) A game is like a project, the creatures are like my team and other spells are like processes/curveballs that cause it all to pivot.

One of my favorite parts of my job is it’s like I’m constantly solving puzzles. They’re not the same as they were back in my development days, much more complex and abstract now. I often have to figure out how we’re going to put the team together and how we’re going to tackle a given project. It doesn’t always work. But, if I monitor things closely and shift my strategy accordingly, this yields the best chances for success.

One day, this got me thinking of a parallel in the game of Magic: The Gathering (aka MTG). A game is like a project, the creatures are like my team and other spells are like processes/curveballs that cause it all to pivot. Land cards are obviously the setting (e.g. working from home, open office, dim-lit loft, etc.). Yes, I’m a geek. Shove it.

So this post, the 12th post of the year, the post during the holiday stretch from Thanksgiving to the New Year, the only post I’m a day late on this year because I was busy studying for the JLPT (I will likely write a post on that some day), this post is going to be simply for geeky, nonsensical fun. It is certainly part of my craft to have some fun along the way too. Over the past few years, I’ve thought up “what if so-and-so was a MTG card?” and jotted it down in my notes. And so that’s exactly what I did.

Enjoy.

Disclaimer: images were found on the internet. I used the site I found them on in the “artist” section of each card.

1511241314623986.png

apathetic analytics engineer.png

articulate sr. tpm.png

cautious program manager.png

costly contract developer.png

daily standup.png

devout iphone developer.png

elon musk.png

jr. developer.png

race condition.png

subtle scope creep.png

tireless vp of tech.png

It’s been a fun year writing these posts. I’d love to hear your thoughts on subject matters I can dig into next year. Here’s a random selection of topics I have written down:

  • X Benefits of Inspiring People
  • How to talk to clients like they’re people
  • Getting over the fear of asking the stupid question
  • Managing depression
  • That moment when you lose control
  • Jumping on to a sinking ship

See you in 2018!

Part 2 of this series will come out at a later date…

Be Proactive: Why You Should Prepare for the Worst Case Scenario

(3.5 minute read) You won’t be able to turn every type of scenario into butterflies and sunshine, but having a contingency plan gives you a guided path to follow instead of spinning around like a Reactionary Headless Chicken. #bandname

When life gives you lemons…

We’ve all heard that old adage. “Make lemonade!” you instinctively reply. Or something else humorously sarcastic for those of us who are sick of this saying. But, how many of us have been truly knocked out by a life-punch? How would you have approached that situation differently if you had a second chance? What if you had already built a plan for it and reacted based on that?

Let’s hone in the subject matter’s scope to the typical work project and then expand outward to a more general sense of life itself. The experience here can lend itself either way.

The Necessity of a Contingency Plan
Quick quiz: have you seen or discussed a contingency plan for your project(s) or company in the past 6 months? If no, you’ve got a problem and regardless of where you are on the so-called totem pole, you need to raise a red flag. The first step of creating a contingency plan is simply asking “what could happen?” Any one can do that and assuming others are is a risk you shouldn’t be a part of.

This all may sound like paranoia but consider those who study martial arts. They have built muscle memory that instinctively kicks in (pun intended) when the threat of a fight appears. There are situations from earthquakes swallowing servers that bring your e-comm site down to your team all getting bed-ridden-sick right during the final stretch of a critical project sprint. You won’t be able to turn every type of scenario into butterflies and sunshine, but having a contingency plan gives you a guided path to follow instead of spinning around like a Reactionary Headless Chicken. #bandname

Whether you’re a part of a corporation maintaining a digital ecosystem or a software vendor pumping out projects for clients, neglecting to ask “what could happen” carries significant risk. It takes a little bit of effort, but think of it as an umbrella for that eventual rainy day.

Okay, now that you’re sold on this, go here for guides on how to create a top-notch contingency plan!

What would I do if…

  • …if I lost my job?
  • …if a loved one passed away?
  • …if I got sued?
  • …if I got a terminal illness?

These are dark thoughts. It’s a bit stressful to think of earthquakes taking down your site, but personal worst case scenarios are depressing thought-paths. You’ve probably considered a “what if” question or two in solace when your mind is allowed to wander. But, you probably haven’t sat down to specifically think of it and devise ways in which you would respond to these scenarios. Which is why I recommend you set a date. Sitting down with the intention of thinking through these possibilities can be cathartic and bring a peace-of-mind. Personally, I have a Google Drive trove of “so this happened, Stay Calm and Do X Y Z” documents that I create on a regular basis. And, of course, there’s a Trello board too.

And the thing is, for the longest time I would make a mental note of “I need to write this down”. I had seen coworkers and family lose their jobs. I had seen divorce shake up families. I had seen children with disabilities. All of this hurts my soul and I wanted to write down the “what if this happened to me” as if to take it off my chest and put the feelings elsewhere. But yet, I kept not doing it. Not until I finally blocked off some time. It felt so good afterwards that I scheduled a recurring reminder.

Final Thoughts
I wonder if meticulously writing down my plans for responding to misfortune is like a mental martial art that trains me to make appropriate judgement calls in the heat of the moment. And the event doesn’t necessarily have to be something I spent time planning for. I’ve had a few stretches in life that were really challenging and that made me realize I’m not immune to really bad days. It makes me incredibly thankful for what I currently have because there’s no promise the great cosmos gives me that I’ll have it tomorrow. So maybe I am a bit paranoid and writing these things down is overkill, but it makes me feel at ease. Ultimately, your personal zen is what matters, so do what it takes to have it and protect it.

Google often makes us lazy. Consider stopping right now and spending five minutes or so jotting down how you would respond to some worst case scenario of your choosing without consulting Google (or the next best thing). Just you and your mind. Meditate on what you write and let me know if you got any value or if it was a waste of time. Inquiring minds want to know!

The Garbage Man Stan Complex

(3 minute read) – The Garbage Man Stan complex is that moment when you’ve crossed the point of no return and failure is imminent. You have to be aware of your own limits and make the right decisions to avoid getting trapped into that situation.

There are times when you have to disconnect mentally just to handle all the things in front of you to keep them from blowing up. Eventually this becomes a game that you will inevitably lose. I call this the Garbage Man Stan Complex.

Garbage Man Stan?
I’ve participated in a handful of game jams (i.e. developing a game from scratch over a small set of hours) in my past. I don’t get too as often since career, family and side projects dominate my life now. But, every once in a while, I make a concerted effort to join a community of indie developers and create something tangible, maybe even presentable, within an impossible timeframe. The sense of accomplishment of turning something in within time is rewarding enough considering my side projects take years to complete. For more reasons why, Martijn says it best in his post, The Many Benefits of Speedhacking.

There’s one game that I made during TINS 2007 (yes, an exact decade ago) that I’m particularly proud of. It was called, you guessed it, Garbage Man Stan. Marvel at its next gen level graphics:

gms

The randomly generated rules (it’s a game development competition…are you surprised?) called for a theme about garbage, using current news events and utilizing smoke and flame effects. I started with the following synopsis:

The player, playing the part of Garbage Man Stan, will maximize their revenue by incinerating a steadily increasing flow of delivered garbage for as long as possible until one burner inevitably overflows thus ending the game.

The most exciting game ever, right? That is quite literally THE game. Everything else I did beyond that point was to add a factor of fun or make it more of a novelty. The trucks bounced like they came straight out of a 1930’s cartoon classic. Side note, who’s playing Cuphead right now? Anyway, proud to say I placed in the top three in Technical, Genre and Artistical in a group of 20-ish people with this game.

The Complex
Getting back to the day-to-day, it often feels like stuff is being dumped on my plate faster and faster and it is up to me to address it before it overflows and I lose the game, so to speak. I am not talking just work or life, but everything, the “a billion and one things” conundrum. I’m sure most can relate. I know my strengths and I am better at depth than breadth. I prefer to focus in, consume all the data and think deeply about what something means and what should be done about it. I am also happier when this is what I get to do. Nonetheless, life for me currently is more about how well I can package up chaos and make it look beautiful. It’s taken a while to adapt to this, but discovering I can do this, and do it well, has been very rewarding in itself.

The Garbage Man Stan complex is that moment when you’ve crossed the point of no return and failure is imminent. You have to be aware of your own limits and make the right decisions to avoid getting trapped into that situation. Failure to do so can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, mistakes and/or poor project outcomes. Not to mention the overflow is just that: a negative impact to others’ lives.

While we’re on the theme of games, consider the Sims. A Sim has needs that are constantly depleting at different rates based on the Sim’s personality. This is true of work too, but at a more abstract level. How long have you sat on that email? How long have you been ignoring that co-worker? How long have you let a bug live in production? Even though you’re hitting the highest priority items as fast as you can, inaction on another can also cause you to lose the game.

Summary
If you’re in an impossible situation and there’s too much to do, the best you can do is all you can offer. Even if you end up in checkmate, the good thing about life is that it does go on. Expel the feelings of defeat, learn from what went wrong and go on as a better version of yourself. That’s called experience. You’re going to be just fine, but you have to keep going.

Speaking of game competitions, I’m participating in TINS 2017 coming up on October 20th! If you’re a developer, whether you’ve done any game development or not, you should consider joining! The last competition I did was in 2015, so I’m a bit rusty. And my time to “just code” has also taken a significant hit recently. I’m excited to see if I’ve still got it. Follow me on twitter @supersilvey and cheer me on!