All posts by jonjones

Been busy brutally murdering imaginary people.

Been quiet lately. Finally bought my copy of Relic’s wildly entertaining RTS, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.

At my core I’m a long-time RTS nut, and this game tickles all my favorite spots. I’m a big fan of extremely graphic violence, sci-fi and great art, and this game has all three. Additionally, the focus of the game is on meaty, visceral, brutal combat unlike most RTSes, which emphasize base building and careful strategy. Dawn of War is just fun as hell to sit down and watch.

You control entire squads of marines as a single unit, and they’re all animated individually to interact with enemies on a very personal level. My favorite interaction is a giant mech called a Dreadnought picking up an ork, hefting it in the air, and squeezing buckets of blood out of it while roasting it at point blank range with a flamethrower, then tossing it aside while it looks for another victim. The first time I saw it ingame I just started laughing and couldn’t stop.

It got me thinking about how much fun it would be to work on a game like this. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized this:

Games I like to play and games I like to work on are two different categories..

I’d imagine most people thinking of entering the game industry want to make the type of games that they enjoy playing the most, and that most other people do, too. I’ve proven to myself rather thoroughly that this isn’t always true.

For example, as much as I love playing RTSes, the insane polygon constraints and sheer amount of intricate busywork involved in developing art assets for them is an enormous turnoff. Seeing Age of Empires 3 at E3 made this excruciatingly clear to me as I saw all the work the artists had to go through to make every constructed object smash apart realistically and I imagined how I’d go about it, wincing and thanking heaven that I didn’t have to do it.

Another example: Rise of Nations, the terrifically fun RTS from Big Huge Games seems at first thought that it would be fun to develop for. Then I realized how each individual race has their unique units (peasants, knights, archers, etc), their unique architecture, and a series of chronologically advancing updates for each unit type, through the stone age to the Renaissance to World War 2 to present day, and I realized what a truly daunting workload that’d have to be.

Working on Daxter PSP is a blast because of the dramatically reduced number of art assets compared to your typical RTS and the increased amount of time allotted to work on each asset that the reduced scale makes possible.

Put simply, I can put as much time into one character as an RTS artist may have to put on a set of 10 tanks.

The kicker is that I’m not even that big a fan of platformer games. Unless you count The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the first platformer I’d ever played was Jak and Daxter, which I quite enjoyed, particularly from an artistic standpoint. But it’s not necessarily one of my favorite games. And does it really need to be?

What I like most about working on Daxter PSP is the increased amount of love I’m able to show toward each art asset I create. My primary job is creating the characters (which, for the fanboys’ sake, I’ll say includes several familiar cameos as well as quite a few new faces, including the new female in the series, who is effing hot 🙂 but the real delight comes in creating the enormous animated set pieces that Daxter interacts with in the game.

Because of the increased freedom of the camera movement in a platformer like Daxter, we’re able to do a lot of crazy things with the camera in certain minigames and dexterity challenges that you can’t pull off in an RTS. In our E3 demo at the end of the Wine Cellar level, there’s an enormous animated set piece I created that regulates the pressure of a giant boiler. It’s eight animated valves, a progress meter and approximately 1.4 miles of wiggling, jangling pipes on the verge of bursting from steam pressure. You have to mash the buttons perfectly in time with the valves lighting up to release the pressure and exit the level.

I was able to have a lot of fun experimenting with camera placement and focusing the detail toward where the player was able to see most, and get to push crazy detail doing it. This isn’t the type of fun I’d be likely to have in another game, because I actually have input on how it’s presented to the player and don’t have to worry about much else aside from that and it looking good. 🙂

Ultimately I just get more opportunities to make the type of art assets that interest me most, without regard for what type of game it actually is. I just thought that entire subject was a fairly interesting distinction people might not think about, and figured it was worth bringing up.

I wonder if it’s the same for programmers, level designers and game designers? Anyone?

All Marketers Are Liars, and I’m a dick.

In my last post I was criticizing the media overexposure of Seth Godin, the writer of tremendously popular marketing books such as Purple Cow and All Marketers Are Liars. I was prating on about how I was sick of hearing about him and this and that and so on and so forth, enough so that I avoided reading his books.

Through a bizarre course of events, I found myself with a free copy of All Marketers Are Liars, his latest book. After I posted about that, he actually found my blog and posted a gentlemanly comment on it, despite my dickness. You can see what he said in the comments of my last post. 🙂

Feeling quite the dingus since I haven’t actually read the books I was criticizing, I dove into reading the book and was pleased and surprised to find that, in fact, it’s one of the best books on marketing I’ve ever read.

To set aside time to read it, I made a trip out to the beach last Monday, busted out my beach chair, plopped it down a few feet from the water, aimed toward the sunset and burned through a huge part of the book in one sitting. It was bliss. I haven’t devoured a book that quickly in quite a while. It even distracted me from Winning by Jack Welch, which I love.

The book is terrific. I’ve mentioned before that always felt like, as good as the other books I read are, they’re almost all vague high-level concepts I have difficulty finding a direct application for.

All Marketers Are Liars is an extremely well-written distillation of marketing theory, human psychology and practical applications woven into a series of bullet points explaining how storytelling is an immensely powerful marketing tool, and his thesis is punctuated generously with relevant real-world examples both well-known and obscure.

What’s interesting is that he weaves a wide array of concepts like Positioning, word-of-mouth marketing, branding, viral marketing and classic storytelling into one solid, cohesive picture, all described effortlessly, engagingly, and with a surprisingly common touch anyone can understand.

I find this remarkable because these concepts are usually presented as different facets of this hulking, unknowable and faceless beast called Marketing. This is intentional because the natural instinct in marketing a book on marketing is to become deadly focused on one single thing and write an entire book or series of books around it to carve out their own niche. It’s been constant divergence ever since, to the point that it’s difficult to see how anything fits together. The really interesting trick here is that Seth broke away from the flock with a strategic convergence of concepts to synthesize another, bringing them together harmoniously.

Usually I want to stomp the life out of people that say things like “This man brought [some vague concept] down to the people!” but it feels like Seth Godin’s accomplished that with a coherent, integrated, differentiated marketing strategy explained clearly and without pomp. The impressive part is that he’s apparently an extremely avid reader on all manner of subjects, such as biology, neuroscience, psychology, and distills their teachings and marketing-related applications into something that’s fun to read.

The whole book feels like it was written straight from his heart, showing his passion, enthusiasm, lust for life and hope for the future as well as his anger with unethical marketers and fraudsters. It’s really no wonder he’s so popular, because even if you’re not interested in marketing, it’s fun to read it simply for insight into why we like the things we like.

I was so, completely wrong about this guy’s work, and I need to watch my damn mouth in the future. 🙂 I’m going to buy the rest of his books, and I’ll comment on them as I read them.

Buy the book!


I loathe stepping onto the Trend Train, but I thought this was interesting and funny.

There’s a wildly successful author of marketing books named Seth Godin. He’s written some critically acclaimed and commercially successful books called Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside.

He’s also an aggressive self-promoter and shows up basically anywhere anyone talks about marketing, and if you’re as interested in reading business books and business blogs as I am, it’s impossible to avoid him. The blogs I read constantly talk about his books, how influential he is, what he’s doing that week, what kind of food he’s eating, what’s in his garbage, what he looks like when he’s sleeping alone in his house and safe from harm or so he thinks, etc.

It’s aggravating to me, because I tend to get very quickly fed up with people that are in the limelight for too long and are hard to avoid. Overexposure simply irks me, and besides simply being irked, I find myself increasingly irked by the mere fact of having BEEN irked by something, which sends me spiraling down a compounding vortex of irkdom.

I hadn’t read any of his books yet because the gist I got was that he was simply repackaging existing concepts and giving them silly names. i.e., the key concept behind Al Ries and Jack Trout’s seminal work Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind was taken a decade or two later and relabeled “Purple Cow.” On an immediate superficial level this strikes me as, pardon me for saying, jerkoffery. I strongly dislike self-indulgent cuteness — you’re a grocery store CHECKER, not a point-of-sale systems operator! — so I’ve been somewhat avoiding his books because I infer that it’s all sort of like that. And in any case, they seem primarily to serve merely as tools for him to promote his marketing consultation services. That’s actually pretty cool and exactly how I’d do it if I were him, but in my mind that makes me less likely to want to read it.

Now to introduce the second player in our story. I’ve mentioned them on this blog before but I’d like to introduce you all again to They’re a business bookseller that has fantastic book reviews, a genuinely interesting blog that’s updated with their new reviews, a great website and reasonable prices. They’re a titch above what you’d pay on Amazon, but you get wonderful freebies that Amazon won’t do.

For example, they advertised on their blog that, for their first birthday, they were going to give away free copies of books they’d been sent to review before publication to anyone who emailed them saying “Happy birthday!” I did this, not having bought anything from them before, and they sent me a free copy of Nobodies to Somebodies: How 100 Great Careers Got Their Start. I finished reading that last week and it’s one of the better books I’ve read in a while. Easy to read, very inspiring, very diverse and definitely worth buying.

At this point, they’d won my loyalty through sheer coolness, so I bought an autographed copy of Winning by Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric). I’m still working my way through it and it’s an absolutely phenomenal read, but that’s besides the point.

So yesterday I’m at work and I had a package delivered to me from 800-CEO-READ. I had no idea what it could have been because I hadn’t ordered anything from them. So I open up the package and find a note. They have a Perfect Book Club where they send people that have bought books from their site a free copy of a book that a major publisher wants in the hands of early adopters like me. This happens every month.

And, lo and behold, the copy of the book they sent me was All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin, the author I’d so assiduously avoided reading. How about that? His self-promotion and marketing prowess have so invaded my life that HE FOUND ME AT WORK!

At this point I’d had enough of trying to avoid him and I really had no excuse not to read it. So I started reading it, and I’m only a few pages in but so far it’s actually pretty good. There isn’t enough to comment on yet but there’s certainly more to come as it happens.

Just another one of those funny things that happens to me.

Oh, incidentally, I installed a web tracker on my blog to keep track of how many people come to the site and it’s quite a bit higher than I expected. I don’t know who most of you guys are but I really thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading me. 🙂

Also, I’ve re-enabled anonymous commenting. Not sure how that got turned off.

2,500 ladybugs delivered!

Ladybug delivery day. I’d forgotten. Got a phone call this morning.

mom: “Hello? Jon? Hi, it’s your mother!”

me: “Hi mom!”

mom: “Normally I wouldn’t call you in the morning, but um, I think I got a package of yours. It says it’s live ladybugs.”

me: “Oh. Happy Mother’s Day!”

mom: “…what?”

me: “I ordered that for you. It’s a box full of live ladybugs.”

mom: “…WHAT?!”

me: “Yeah! Have you looked at them yet?”

mom: “No, I’m just looking at the box. I haven’t opened it yet. There are LIVE LADYBUGS in here?”

me: “Yep! Two thousand five hundred live ladybugs.”


At this point she breaks into hysterical, spastic laughter and manages to choke out a “Jonathan, WHY would you send me twenty-five hundred live ladybugs for Mother’s Day?” to which I quickly chirped, “Because I can!”

I stayed on the phone while she read the instructions. “Two thousand five hundred ladybugs is enough for a 2500 square foot garden. JONATHAN, WE’RE IN A 900 SQUARE FOOT APARTMENT!” and she started laughing hysterically again. “WHAT am I going to DO with these?!” and she read further about how to keep them alive and said “Oh, no, you have to keep them refrigerated so they’ll live. David, honey, can you clean out the refrigerator and put these in there please? Oh dear, oh dear.”

I explained to her that I ordered them on the internet and opted against ordering the full 70,000 live ladybugs and also against five giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and she started laughing again, the mad laugh of a normal woman pushed to the brink of insanity. “THANK you for NOT sending me seventy THOUSAND live ladybugs OR giant cockroaches!”

me: “So what are you going to do with them?”

mom: “I.. god, I don’t know. *more insane, confused laughter* I guess I’ll go around the apartment complex and let them loose in the bushes? Or take them over to your brother’s house and released them? I have no idea!”

me: “And that’s the fun of it. See, since I moved out I get the feeling that you don’t have enough to do. Above all else, I like the idea that through the power of the internet, with VERY little effort on my part, I can create a problem in your life that you have to solve. Now, really, did you have ANYTHING else to do today before you got the ladybugs?”

mom: *long pause, then the laughter kicks in again* “Well, no, I guess not.”

me: “There you go. Have fun! Let me know what you end up doing with them, and take pictures if you can. Love you, mom! Bye.”

mom: “What? You’re just going to –”



Been focusing on reading more lately, since I actually have time to. I find that one helpful anchor point of sanity during crunch is FORCING time into my schedule to be able to read or relax or do something constructive besides work. I’m getting out of my post-crunch funk a LOT faster than last time. I’m getting better.

Reading more of Nobodies to Somebodies which is now released and even more worth reading. Nearing the end.

Also bought an autographed copy of Winning by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Why autographed? Well, because I’m a whore, that’s why. I’d like to say I didn’t start giggling and do a happy little dance as soon as it was delivered to me at work, but I’d be lying.

But before I do that, as soon as I finish Nobodies to Somebodies, I’m going to finish reading The Motley Fool Investment Guide : How The Fool Beats Wall Streets Wise Men And How You Can Too which has been recommended to me by several people. I’ve read it off and on but crunch usually kills my interest in reading.

My interest in investing has been rekindled by a reader of my blog that contacted me last week. He’s an investor and loves Warren Buffett as I do, is a huge video game fan, and likes what I say well enough to invite me to join, a fantastic investor’s discussion board, and a hell of a lot more. I’ve been digging into it for the last couple days and getting a feel for it, how it all works and where to start. It’s full of unbelievably knowledgeable people and fantastic analysis, advice and commentary, and an intelligent moderation and reputation system that has cash rewards for the best posters.

In short, it’s a fantastically valuable resource I intend to contribute to and use as best I can.

Going to dive into investing as soon as I knock out some outstanding debts, like the Dell Inspiron 9300 notebook I picked up in March. Fantastic machine with a BEAUTIFUL 17″ screen that’s completely replaced my desktop PC. My only regret is that it isn’t faster (1.6ghz) but considering the amount of cutting-edge gaming I do these days (hint: none) it wasn’t practical to do more than that.

That’s all for now. May update this post again later today.

Ah, time… how violently you kick me in the brain.

Ladybugs due for delivery this Wednesday. Word on the street is, females lay 10 – 50 eggs every day, so assuming half of the ladybugs my mom gets are female and fertile, she could be looking at 60,000+ brand new ladybugs within a month. Tee-hee. Can’t wait for the reaction and how she takes care of this problem. Stay tuned.

Beginning to emerge from my crunching stupor. Finished everything on my task list last night, and to my surprise, I was able to go home before midnight for once. So I’ve been taking as it easy as possible and relaxing today, hoping nothing crops up, and in the meantime I’ve been paying all the bills I’ve studiously ignored all month.

On a note of disturbing relativism, I’m becoming acutely aware of how much my internal sense of time relies on arbitrary structures, such as a “weekend.” I had a total of one day off in the last month, and excepting that, not having weekends to indicate what time of the week or month it is it feels like the entire month I just went through was just one very long, continuous, neverending week. Sort of like that last sentence.

I never know what day of the week or month it is, and all the time I’ve put in at work destroys the sense of the passage of time on a day-to-day level as well. “Thank goodness it’s Friday!” I’ll hear someone say, to which I reply with a very startled “It is??!”

In my head, I don’t even remember the month of April. It’s just gone, like it never happened, except that our game has a HELL of a lot more art in it than in March. 🙂 That’s probably for the best, because I’d rather forget it ever happened and move on to thinking about what to do with my time, instead of not having it.

That’s hardly a complaint, though. They told me at the interview here that they’re going to crunch like mad for this project and future projects, and that when they say ‘Ready At Dawn’ they damn well mean it. They also said that some of the guys here actually live here during crunch. I mean that literally. At least four people here spend the night at the office for up to a week at a time, sleeping maybe four hours a night before getting back to work. That’s hardcore, and I respect the hell out of them for that. I especially respect the founders of the company because they work as much or more than *anybody* here. You know they’re serious.

So yes, I knew what I was getting into, and it’s a price I pay gladly for a job working on a *kick-ass* video game with amazing people.

And in other news, I’ve been forcibly making time to read and have any anchor point of sanity that I can. I’m still passionate about business, and I managed to finagle an advance copy of Nobodies to Somebodies: How 100 Great Careers Got Their Start from a blog I frequent called 800-CEO-READ. It’s an online business bookstore and review site, and has absolutely fantastic reviews and resources. I highly recommend them.

Anyhow, Nobodies to Somebodies is a fantastic read so far. The author approaches over 100 high-profile successful people in business, non-profit organizations, politics and more and interviews them, and weaves it into what is essentially an analysis of the transition from a nobody to someone successful, with a series of relevant and fascinating anecdotes gleefully sprinkled throughout.

The author does his best to come away with a series of methods of how people made the leap and is weaving a pattern of success to examine and understand better. I’m still only partway through it, but I love it. I’m such a sucker for business famous success’s biographies, and even aside from that it’s a highly compelling read. It’s definitely worth a purchase once it’s released. Again, wicked mad props to 800-CEO-READ, yo. Read their reviews and buy their books. They’re on the bleeding edge of the latest and greatest in business books.

Aside from that, I’ve been enjoying reading Business 2.0, a magazine I recently discovered. For biz magazines, it’s decent. It’s mostly light, fluffy reading, but enjoyable and inspiring overall for stories of how this company or that CEO pulled off something impressive. There’s an article about four tightly focused and well-positioned companies that are successfully competing with Wal-Mart that was surprising and interesting, if not particularly thought-provoking. Definitely worth subscribing to if you like that sort of thing.

I’ll finish off this post by saying that Kung Fu Hustle is one of the best movies of the year, and if you liked Stephen Chow or Looney Tunes, you should see it.

Thousands of ladybugs for mother’s day? Oh, Jon, you didn’t!

A more light-hearted post.

A few months ago I ran across a website where you can order all kinds of beneficial insects for your garden and have them shipped to your front door. My first thought was, “Man, what a great idea! It’s amazing how the power of technology and the Internet has brought us to a point that we can remotely fulfill practically every need imaginable.”

Then I looked more closely and saw that you can order them in batches of 70,000 or more, which is absolutely staggering. The fact that someone can order 70,000 of anything is pretty funny to me, especially if they’re alive.

And so my second thought was “What if I shipped 70,000 ladybugs to someone at random?”

The idea bobbed around in the back of my brain for a while. Every possible scenario of what someone would do with 70,000 ladybugs went through my head and I never stopped finding it hilarious. Every step of their thought process was a riot. “Hey, Jon sent me something!” then “Why’s the box buzzing?” then, when they open it, “AAUAUUGUGHHHH!!!”

However, I never acted on it, and the idea fell by the wayside.

Today at work I restored my old bookmarks to a new version of FireFox and saw the ladybug order page, and the idea was rekindled. Even better, I realized that Mother’s Day is this week. 🙂

The box of 70,000 seemed unnecessarily cruel for my mother, who’s a dear, sweet woman, so my sympathy got the best of me and I shipped her 2,500 live ladybugs instead. It’ll be arriving at her doorstep later this week.

I love that technology lends me the ability to create a problem in her life. 🙂

I’ll post more as it happens.

Warren Buffett. Decidely not smorgasbord nomenclature!

Been quiet lately. Went through a month or so of crunch that’s killed my desire to do much of anything lately besides playing World of Warcraft.

Her’s a quick plug to my buddy Rich Carlson of Digital Eel. He’s an indie game developer with his own company and several critically acclaimed titles under his belt, and quite a funky and interesting guy on top of that. He’s living the dream of the true indie game developer and enjoys his life to the fullest, and I couldn’t be happier to see someone that has actually made it exactly where they want to be in life. Check out his blog and his games!

I’ve been gradually breaking out of the stupor by reading Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist. It’s the biography of Warren Buffett, king of investors and last I checked the second or third-richest man in the USA behind Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft. It’s fascinating. It shows how he started from nothing and did his best to squeeze all the irrationality out of the stock market to make it work for him. It’s an amazing read, really inspiring, all the more so because I started reading it when I was first getting interested in investing. Nice to come into it having a role model.

The most interesting part of his character to me is how ordinary he is, despite his wealth. Perhaps the book used qutie a lot of creative license but for all intents and purposes he seemed like a normal guy without any expensive tastes. Making money was just a game to him, at which he excelled. I loved in particular how he’d zig when everyone else zagged, in ways no one understood until later. He’d stop investing when the market was at its best, dodged a couple stock market crashes, then stepped in and made an absolute killing when they were at their worst and everyone else was too scared to invest. Hearing how cool, logical and calculated he was in comparison to most everyone else is amazing, and inspiring.

I’ve moved onto Jack: Straight from the Gut which is the autobiography of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric and his climb to the top and what he did while he was there. I’m still getting into it. It’s interesting, not as good as Buffett, but still inspiring. I suppose I’m developing a fetish for biographies of successful businessmen. Well, if I’m going to have heroes, why not them? 🙂

Aside from World of Warcraft, which I enjoy, I’ve been playing the demo of Capitalism 2. It’s an extremely complex business simulator that’s also used by some business schools to train their students. Harvard, Yale and Duke are examples.

The game has a single player campaign mode, in which you can set out to achieve business goals they set for you. In the demo (which is all I’ve played so far, the full version is due to arrive any day now) there’s Entrepreneur mode and Capitalist mode.

In Enterepreneur mode, you have to build up a supermarket business that generates a certain amount of revenue and profit in the allotted time. Basic, but good for learning the interface.

In Capitalist mode, you’re a technology startup that’s made a major innovation in palm computing. You raised $50m through an IPO, you have one R&D lab and 40 years to dominate the computer industry and generate $400m in revenue per year.

It’s pretty challenging, given how fast you have to act not to go bankrupt. You have to set up more research and development studios to develop new technology you can utilize or license to competitors, build factories to start manufacturing the products you’re researching, build mines and oil wells to get the raw materials the factories need to mass-produce the product, then build retailers to sell the product.

There are many ways to approach the game, such as becoming a pure R&D powerhouse that sells technology to others, or skip retailing and sell to your competitors, or buy up your competitors and other businesses to generate cash to fund your own retailing operation. It’s extremely open-ended, very realistic (as far as I can tell) and ridiculously fun if you’re into that sort of thing.

I enjoy games like Tropico for its financial economy management systems, and this is just an ORGY of goodness along the same lines. The best part is that the game is a couple years old and only costs $9.90 from I keep checking the mail every day, because I WANT it!

In other news, I’ve somewhat given up on taking notes in books. Since I’ve done it I’ve increased my reading comprehension and retention dramatically just by getting used to what to look for and pay attention to. At this point it’s only been slowing me down, so I’m more selective about what to note. When I do note it, I just write down the key takeaways of the book into my pocket notebook, where I write down all my thoughts.

It’s an interesting occurrence because I never anticipated having my memory improve and making notes unnecessary. I always had very little faith in my ability to retain knowledge without writing it down and took for granted that I could actually improve it.

See, I considered taking notes a cop-out, just a very cheap hack to patch up the retention problem. Why? Because it was easier than trying to actually get brutal and fix it. Imagine my surprise and unexpected pleasure at finding I could have it both ways. 🙂

I’m all about self-improvement, and doing it unintentionally is totally new to me. I’d like to figure out a way to go to bed and, when I wake up, I’ve mastered a foreign language. I’ll see about that.

And that is all for now.

Time to start a new tradition.

What I’m reading now: Ten Day MBA: A Step-By-step Guide To Mastering The Skills Taught In America’s Top Business Schools

Excellent read so far. Up to the chapter on Accounting. The first feature that really struck me about this book is that it focuses on direct application of knowledge instead of theory like everything else I read.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a healthy respect for theory and high-level concepts. I’ve just read so damn many books like that and while I’ve still learned a lot about that very fine slice of knowledge, I don’t always know how to apply it to my situation.

Thinking further, many of the business books I’ve read — particularly the books on marketing — are tailored toward the extreme newbie beginning idiot. Again, this is fine, but I feel like I’m ready to move on, and for a long time, despite all I’ve read, I’ve still felt unsure on how to actually APPLY said knowledge.

I did manage to apply what I learned about marketing when I was the marketing guy at Liquid Development, but that really ranks somewhere between the logical result of months of preparation and simply ‘tarding my way into success. Put simpler, two parts preparation, one part dumb luck. Or is that how it normally goes? 🙂 In any case, I still felt like I was flying blind and that the books I’d been using as my guide were only telling me part of the story.

But Ten Day MBA is different.

I’ve read a good deal of books on marketing. In fact, I spent about eight months solid where that was all I read. But until I got to the chapter on marketing in Ten Day MBA, I didn’t know how it all fit together. And now I do. It’s like a breath of fresh air. FINALLY, all the high level concepts, theory and different pieces are drawn together into one large, beautiful, coherent picture. The author, Steven Silbiger, just whips out Da Knowledge, rattles off a beginning-to-end step by step walkthrough of marketing as a clearly defined PROCESS. Everything I had learned to date suddenly fit together with this vital, beautiful piece of information.

I GET IT! I really get it!

I knew from the first ten pages that this book was going to be a winner. See, part of my process of reading and learning involves extensive note-taking. I don’t always trust my retention of information, especially when I’m reading as much as I do, so I have to — you guessed it — brutalize the information into my brain! For this reason, I never read a book I want to learn something from without a pen and a Post-It notepad at my side.

  • First I read everything very carefully, very critically, making sure I grasp each concept as it’s presented to me individually, and then again in relation to the whole.
  • Next, when I encounter information that I know I want to retain, I get my Post-It notepad, write down in my words what I just learned and why I find it significant, then I peel off that Post-It and stick it to the page and move on. I repeat as necessary.
  • Finally, when I finish a book, I open it up again and go through each note one by one and transcribe what I wrote and what the passage in the book was, except organized in a way that makes sense to me. I use a program called Mindjet’s Mindmanager which is a mind-blowingly terrific program for organizing and creating a branching hierarchy of data.

    What this means to me is that I can organize the book into different topics and subtopics and organize the information in a very clear-cut and precise way that’s meaningful to me. If the book lists, say, ten principles of branding a product, I’ll want to create a new subtopic called “Ten Principles of Branding” and transcribe and summarize each of the ten principles into one neatly indented and numbered list.

    Once I transcribe all my notes and re-write everything into text that means the most to me, that I understand, I’ve actually read the important parts of the book at least three times over.

    And not only that but I also have an extremely well-organized and custom Cliff’s Notes of all the books I’ve read that I can refer to at any time and even share with friends. Writing it down is the MOST important part of the process to me because, in my opinion, it doesn’t exist unless it’s written down.

    THAT, my friends, is how I retain knowledge.

    And back to my original point: I knew Ten Day MBA was going to be a terrific book because I stuck a note on at least every other page for the first 75 pages of the book. When I read a book of about 250 pages, even if it’s an excellent book, it will have perhaps 30 or 40 notes in total. Ten Day MBA is destroying that record easily, and it’s such rich reading that I have to break my reading time up into smaller segments just so I can properly absorb it all.

    I’ve always wanted a book like this that’ll give me an all-around overview of managing a business. The main subjects the author touches on is condensed knowledge from the MBA course he took at a top business school (he won’t say which), and that subject breakdown is this: Marketing, Ethics, Accounting, Organizational Behavior, Quantitative Analysis, Finance, Operations, Economics and Strategy.

    So far, it’s all information I can learn AND use. There’s so much here. I’m having a freakin field day with this book. If this subject is up your alley, GET IT!

    That’s all for now. It is late and time for bed.

  • Time Management

    Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is time management. I had to learn how to manage mine carefully when I was looking for a new job. Liquid Development needed me back in production to help meet milestones on a project, so they took marketing away from me permanently, and that was something I wouldn’t do. I was forced into working on art from 9 to 6, then coming home and working on art tests from 6 to 3am. That got me thinking, what can I do to manage my time more efficiently?

    The first place to start was to find out what I was spending most of my time on at work. My morning routine is usually to come in at 9, fire up ICQ (for friends), Yahoo (for work) and MSN (for Dea). Then I’ll drink my coffee and browse the news for about 15 to 30 minutes, then begin working. I began paying attention to every distraction around me and was stunned to realize how much time was spent on non-work.

    These are the biggest culprits I’ve found:

    1. IM applications. I get messages from people constantly and that distracts me from my work. And it’s SO easy to think “Hey, I wonder how X is doing” and just send him a message.
    2. Web browsing. I use Opera, and I can have as many windows open at once as I want without cluttering the taskbar. Nice feature, but makes it way too easy to get distracted browsing something.
    3. Music. Fiddling with my playlist or trying to find the right album to play gets in the way.

    The worst part of these distractions is that they not only occupy my attention, they occupy my mind and kick me out of the flow of working. Since I needed to reach a new level of productivity so I could focus on each task one by one and bust it all out like a machine. The more I considered it the more I realized that the tasks I had before me were almost entirely mechanical work. I was spending most of my time texturing characters, and I’ve reached the point where that’s a simple mechanical process. There are small elements of design in it, but almost without exception it’s something I can look at, know what I need to do to do it and just do it. Fatigue isn’t a factor.

    So I worked up a plan to solve all these time management problems and worked up a few other little schemes to increase my productivity. This is what I came up with:

    1. Close all Instant Messaging apps while I work. There’s no reason not to. I know it’s a distraction and I get amazing amounts of work done simply from doing this.
    2. Close email apps and web browser. These are undeniably distracting, and made a huge difference in my output.
    3. Turn off music and listen to audio books. I do like music, and it helps me concentrate sometimes, but playlist shuffling and switching songs doesn’t occupy my brain like it should and my mind wanders and I become tempted to use IM or web browse. It ties into the mechanical process I mentioned earlier… my mind doesn’t need to be completely focused on my task because I know instinctively what needs to be done and how. So a large part of my mind is left dormant. If I put on an audio book, that part of my mind is fully occupied and I can work freely and without distraction, and literally lose myself in my work. It also removes the need for playlist shuffling. This is the biggest productivity boost I’ve found.
    4. Turn the TV off if I’m at home. I’m in a 1bed apartment now, and I have a TV four feet on my right. Dea almost always has it on and I fucking hate it because it’s so distracting. If I can help it, I tell her to listen to music instead of TV and I turn it off and can focus.
    5. Use a stopwatch to time my tasks. This not only helps me achieve better productivity but it’s also a way to measure my progress. Since the tasks I have are mechanical processes, the variables of time are minimized and I can quickly and reliably estimate how long X or Y will take. It’s extremely interesting to measure my performance at a certain task, both for comparing my time to previous tasks and for seeing how accurate my internal sense of time is. I’ve begun pondering how far I can take this concept, and try and set performance records for myself like athletes do.
    6. Drink coffee, avoid alcohol. I get a wicked head-buzz from coffee that makes me feel like I can do anything and conquer the world. I do my best reading and thinking when I’m buzzed. Conversely, alcohol destroys that part of my brain, and even if I have a single drink at 7pm one night, sometimes my concentration is shot for half the day the next day. It’s sad, but I know that’s the cause now, so I can act accordingly.

    I’ve done all these things and watched my productivity increase dramatically. When I’m in that flow I can bust out a full character every two days, which feels pretty awesome. I also had some other ideas that I’m going to experiment with when I start at Ready At Dawn. It’s near-Draconian discipline, I know, but since I’m starting fresh in a new environment, why not experiment and see what works?

    1. Only ONE Instant Messaging client, for work colleagues only. Not even Dea gets this one. I know the people I’m working with will be busting ass as hard as I am and won’t bother me with trivial BS.
    2. Only ONE email account, for work mail only. I won’t have my GMail tray notification open, which is another distraction.
    3. No web browser bookmarks. I’m tempted to go through the full cycle, and if I keep no bookmarks at all (except for work-related bookmarks), I’m less likely to be distracted.
    4. Time blocks. I’m going to try setting hourly goals for myself and push my performance forward with the stopwatch like an athlete does.
    5. No disruptive music. Stuff like Mindless Self Indulgence, Slipknot, Atari Teenage Riot and GWAR really break my concentration and makes it hard to work. If I’m listening to any music I need to make it softer more concentration-conducive music like Mozart, Crystal Method or Frontline Assembly.

    I’m wondering how much of those I’ll keep doing after I start. Since I haven’t made any memory associations with RAD yet, I think if I start out feeling like it’s a place to work and NOT fuck around, I’ll be able to maintain productivity long term. It’s too easy to get distracted at Liquid Development, and I’m so used to fucking around there that it’s really hard to change those habits.

    That’s all I’ve got for now. Going to read a few books on the subject and see what else I learn. In reading Sam “Wal-Mart” Walton’s quasi-autobiography, I read about an efficiency consultant that Japanese companies have utilized heavily in maintaining insane levels of structure and productivity, and I found that interesting. I’ve packed that book away and the bookmark that I wrote that consultant’s name on is inside it, but as soon as I get to CA I’m going to dig it out find out who it is and start absorbing his wisdom.

    Thanks for reading!

    Take notes, improve your brain!

    Haven’t updated lately. Been busy. Took over duties as a marketing director for my company and still keeping up with sales and reading.

    Finished lots of books lately. Wrapped up the 48 Laws of Power, Patton on Leadership, How to Be a Rainmaker, How to Be a Marketing Superstar, and What Were They Thinking? Basically just leadership, sales and marketing.

    I’ve always had trouble remembering details of what I read shortly after I read it, so I decided that I’ll use Post-Its to use as bookmarks and to write notes on as I read a book, and then go back later and transcribe and edit down the bits of book that I liked and found immediately applicable. My knowledge retention has skyrocketed since I started doing this.

    It’s terrific. I end up reading the books two or three times, and I get to 1) remember more, 2) have a short, personalized summary of the book so I don’t have to buy it (unless it’s ALL good, like Patton and 48 Laws), and 3) I can share it easily with my close friends.

    There’s so damn much going on in my head since I started doing this that I’ve started having dreams about sales and marketing and what I’m going to do when I go back to work on Monday. I seem to have trouble finding time to absorb all the information I require these days.

    Another note: If you’re in sales in any company, sign up on immediately. It’s basically Friendster for business except immensely useful. Network like crazy and start getting everyone you know on your connections list, and then start using it for sales. It’s incredible, even simply for getting a name for making phone calls. I can’t imagine operating without it.

    It’s interesting finding out in so short a time how often I engaged in losing strategies like not socializing with people, closing myself off from the world and not being bold and proactive. Most people wouldn’t recognize me anymore. 🙂

    That’s all for now, getting back to transcribing Patton on Leadership.