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.

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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!

8 Ways Basketball Helped My Career

Basketball is one of my Digital Disconnects.  Shooting hoops is cathartic and brings back fond memories of shooting hoops with my friends around the neighborhood.  Not to mention, it gives me an opportunity to exercise.  On the flip side, reclining to watch a closely contested NBA classic whilst indulging on some over-the-top 8-meat pizza of some sort is equally welcome.

But as I play, watch and study the sport, I noticed some parallels that I’ve used to inspire and elevate my own professional game.  Why not take your personal hobby and apply it in a way that bolsters your career?

And without further ado…

1. Master the Fundamentals
Whatever career you take on, know the fundamentals.  Master the fundamentals by always being a student of them.  Your college education and your professional experience are not enough.  Actively practice them everyday.  When you execute the basics of your position with a monk-like zen, success follows (just ask 5-time champion, Tim Duncan, aka Mr. Fundamental).  Others will take notice and might even be inspired themselves to refresh on the basics.

2. One Game at a Time
It’s easy to overwhelm yourself with the future.  Coaches continually have to hone their team to the game in front of them.  Not the games they’ve already played nor the ones they’re going to play afterwards, just the immediate one in front of them.  I want my team laser-focused on the milestone we’re trying to accomplish.  And if that’s too far out, what’s the goal for the week?  Or the day?  Goals, projects, life…they’re marathons and each step along the way matters so don’t get lost looking too far ahead.

3. The Clock is Always Ticking
I am meticulous and methodical in how I operate.  But life is in constant motion and if you dribble for too long, the 24 second shot clock will go off.  It’s important to be aware of this pressure so you’re managing the clock to your favor and not vice versa.

4. Don’t Dwell on Missed Shots
It’s so easy to swirl on faux pas’ and embarrassing missteps.  There’s a negative energy there that degrades your ability to execute causing more mistakes.  You shot an air ball, so what?  Laugh it off and be a factor that helps your team on the immediate next play.  Life is too short to be thinking about how short it is.  I have to remind myself of this one a lot.

5. Adjust Accordingly
A well-timed 20 second timeout can shift the momentum of a game.  Bake in a halftime in your project to assess if you are on track to meet your goals.  If not, why not?  How do you correct it?  How do you get your team to operate differently?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen teams come out after halftime with a brilliant new plan and dominate the second half.

6. Make Everyone Better
There’s a stat called BPM, i.e. Box Plus/Minus.  It measures how a team performs when a player is on/off the court.  Regardless of how you feel about LeBron James, the dude tops the BPM charts and that has led to significant results, namely six straight trips to the NBA finals.  He literally makes everyone around him a vastly better player.  So I ask myself, how can I mimic this in my day-to-day?  What can I do to make each of my team members reach and exceed their potential?

7. Never Underestimate the Heart of a Champion
What is more awesome than the force of shear willpower?  Against all odds and doubt, the ability to rise like a phoenix and fight through blood, sweat and tears is incredibly inspiring.  When I believe “I can do this”, I often find that I can.  Here are some recent feats in the basketball spectrum:

  • The Golden State Warriors, led by Stephen Curry, beat a 20 year record by winning 73 of 82 games during the 2015-16 season.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, were the first team ever to win the NBA Finals after getting into a 1-3 hole in the series, bringing the city its first NBA Championship.
  • Russel Westbrook averaged a Triple Double throughout the regular season, the first person to do so since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62.

As Russel’s motto goes…“Why Not?”

8. Have Fun
I have no hard statistics to backup this, but high-drama, dysfunctional and/or frustrated teams tend to be doomed for early exits.  When players are enjoying and savoring every moment, they light up and that energy is noticeably contagious.  I can’t say this enough, bad days are in each of our futures.  For how long and how bad I can’t say, but I can bet on the inevitability of them.  So have some fun!  Love what you do or find ways to. I’m also willing to bet surprising opportunities will open along the way if you choose to do this.

As this post rolls out, the first round of the NBA Finals will be wrapping up.  It’s a great time to be a fan.  Also, my son recently finished his first foray into team-oriented basketball which was an awesome experience as a parent.  And I put together my best March Madness bracket to date.  If you can’t tell, I could spend a lot time talking about Basketball.  There’s a lot more going on here then simply throwing a ball through a hoop!

Inspiring and motivating are key skills of a solid leader.  Know what inspires you and take it to heart, whatever it may be.  Use it to craft your approach and set an example.  Why Not?