Category Archives: Productivity

Productivity Tip #2: Remove icons from Quicklaunch bar.

You know the Quicklaunch bar next to your start menu on the taskbar? Remove your browser icon from that. The easier you make your browser to access, the more often you’ll access it. Delete that icon and leave it on your desktop, or, better yet, keep it nestled deeply in your Start menu so you have to WORK to find it. The more work it is to goof off, the less likely you are to do it. Time saved!

This is one of the best and most useful things I’ve ever done. I do less than half the web browsing I used to, simply because I made it harder to goof off than to focus on my job.

Sure, you can be super self-disciplined all the time.. or you can just understand that you will ALWAYS inevitably go for the path of least resistance, and if you can make it harder to goof off than work, you’ll end up working. It’s a fraction of the effort. People goof off because it’s easier. The solution: Make it harder. You’ve harnessed human nature and the problem is solved.

Productivity tip #1: Focus better with post-its.

I had the idea yesterday of helping myself to focus by writing down exactly what I’m going to do next on a post-it note and put it on the bottom of my monitor. When I’m done with it, I throw it away and put up another one. If I cannot avoid switching tasks before it’s done, I’ll stick it to my desk and put another in its place until I finish that one. When that’s finished, I put the other post-it back up.

If my mind starts wandering or I ever wonder what to do, I just look at the post-it on the bottom of my monitor, go “Oh yeah!” and get back to it.

I definitely use a To-Do list, but the bigger it gets, the harder it is to focus on just one thing at a time with all the noise around it. Having a single post-it note with a single to-do on it has been helping tremendously.
It’s been working really well so far for me. If you have a huge, varied workload and have problems focusing on one thing at a time, try this. 🙂

Destroy your timesinks.

Ever wonder where all your time goes? You get home from work, then practically before you know it, it’s bedtime. Where did all that time go? You sure didn’t get anything done, did you?

I’ve been finding that happening to me a lot lately, and I decided to crack down.

A few months back, I threw away most of my worldly possessions. Then I sold off most of the rest, including almost my entire DVD collection. I also downgraded to basic cable so I could spend more time doing things I cared about.

When I moved to Austin, I never got cable TV or internet. I just stole wifi from my neighbor, being the morally upstanding gentleman that I am. :)  Since I got here I’ve been spending a lot of time at home messing around on Youtube, Myspace, online dating sites, watching DVDs on Netflix, drinking beer, etc. I found that all of my evenings were relaxed, but mostly wasted on things that weren’t terribly important to me. Just pure time sinks. Unproductive activities with no tangible results or benefits to me. Just something to do to pass the time for the sake of passing time. One day, my neighbor locked their wifi connection, so I was internetless. So I decided to use that opportunity to make a change.

No more internet at home!

Not permanently, mind you… this is really just an experiment to see how long I last, and to see what I actually DO when I have no TV or internet. And to sweeten the mix, I poured out all my alcohol and stopped drinking alcohol at home. I never did it excessively, but I want every last bit of mental sharpness I can get.

So this past week I’ve been getting better, and I’m pretty amazed at what my body and mind automatically do when they don’t have an ‘easy out’ to spend time on. I’m only going to be on this earth so long, so wouldn’t it make sense to maximize what time I have and spend it wisely, instead of squandering it?

I still view time as a currency. Something you spend. You will never get any more time than you have, so it would make sense to allocate it wisely, no? But there are so many things out there that can just suck it up without you realizing it. And it’s easy to do. You don’t have to work hard at it, or learn anything to do it. You just let yourself get whisked away by it, and you wonder where all that time went. And you shrug, and keep doing it.

I hate that and it drives me crazy.

I guess I’m what you might call a Type A Personality. Very hard-working, impatient, hyper, always moving and improving and optimizing and trying to get things done. When I see waste in any form, or a problem, I get agitated, often visibly, and I want to correct it. So when I saw how much time I wasted, it really got under my skin.

So once I banished alcohol from my home, got rid of my TV, DVDs, music and internet access, I found myself with lots of very interesting ways to spend my time.

Mainly I’ve spent my time reading, cleaning my condo, cooking for myself, working out, and spending time with my cats and sugar gliders. Since I don’t have anything going on in the background to distract me, everything I do seems richer and more focused. It has more meaning. I’m not thinking of something else when I’m doing it, and every action I take seems to have more purpose, just because I’m more consciously willing it to happen. The intention to act is there, undiluted and beautiful.

It’s funny, because time seems to move a lot slower now. I bust ass at work (I love my job) and go 120mph all day, go home, and it all slows down. I get so much more done at home, I take care of all my bills, chores, and obligations, I feel more at peace with myself, my pets love the attention, I get to bed earlier, I get up earlier, and everything just starts falling into place.

So I’m going to see how long I can keep this up. I know not having internet access at home will start to bother me as time goes on, but I’m in a really sweet spot right now and I want to maintain it as long as I can.

Everyone should try this. Identify the least productive timesinks you have, and cut them out of your life. Don’t even leave them there to be an OPTION. Cut it out like a tumor. Then see how it goes. 🙂

What are your biggest timesinks?

Problem = Steps to Solution

Apologies for the lack of posts lately! Been very busy at work and spending lots of time out enjoying life and having friends.

Work so far at NCsoft is completely kick ass. For this game, I am the art department. We’re outsourcing all of our game’s art, which is terribly exciting for me since that’s been one of my biggest interests for my whole career. So lately I’ve been looking at artists of all kinds, sending out art tests, art directing, building a budget, scheduling, organizing data, putting new art into the game, writing documentation, etc.
It’s an incredible amount of work, and I’ve never done *all* of this at the same time before, but it’s an absolute blast. Learning to go from creating hands-on art from a micro level to starting to manage, lead and direct from a macro level is an INCREDIBLE perspective shift for me.

EVery day I come up against interesting and difficult problems that I have no idea how to solve. Finding the solutions to those problems is a thrill for me. I’ve found that, ultimately, all it comes down to is looking at a problem, breaking it down into easily digestible chunks, prioritizing those chunks and blazing through them one by one.

So far it seems like a skill, like riding a bike. I’m getting better at breaking down problems and solving them bit by bit. I’m even learning to apply that to my personal life… like how to improve upon things I wish I was better at.

I’ve never really seen this type of problem solving as a key life skill before, but it really is. No problem is so big that it can’t be broken down into smaller, more discrete elements and solved. The bigger the problem, the scarier it looks until you disassemble it into easily understood bits, and then it’s just like anything else.

It’s been a thrill to train my mind to look at a problem and start seeing it as a series of steps to a solution. And the fact that as many people rely on me as they do, and that I’m responsible for all the art on the project, is that much more incentive to get better at it.

So in short, yeah, NCsoft is kicking ass. I’m learning so much, so fast, that I barely have energy at home to read or kick ass on personal projects, just because I feel like I’m going 120mph all the time at work. And I LOVE that!

And the best part of all? No crunch!

I’ll get back to posting more soon, stuff like details on how I’m doling out work, organizing the project, directing artists, developing my tasklists, etc. I think I have a really great opportunity here to provide a unique perspective over time of how a mere artist ascends into management and figures out what the hell to do and how he’s doing it. Because if there’s anyone else writing from this perspective, I’ve yet to hear about him. 🙂

Make Friends Everywhere You Go

Here’s a fun little life strategy: Make friends everywhere you go.

Since I’ve been interviewing, setting up the move and calling dozens of people asking all sorts of questions, I’ve started getting in the habit of treating people like people.

It’s very simple. I’ll show you how to get the most out of every person you meet. This is all you need to do:

  1. Smile, make eye contact, shake their hand and get their name. This is SO important! You’d be surprised how few people will bother with this, and how much better service you can get.
  2. Show an interest in them. Find some way to relate to them. Even something as banal as the weather can work. Be a little self-deprecating, or funny. “How are you?” “Fantastic, I’ve almost waken up! Noon’s too early for me. How about you?” Try and find some way to connect with them and wake them up from whatever dry, boring routine they may be stuck in, and lure out the living, breathing, thinking human being inside.
  3. Give them a chance to utilize their experience. Ask your airplane seatmate what they do for a living, and what’s involved in it. Ask the nice lady at the deli counter what her favorite kind of meat is and if you can have a sample. Ask the customer service tech what he could do to save money on what you’re paying. Ask the waiter what his favorite drink is.

Be it a cashier at a supermarket or a voice on the phone, be friendly. Ask for their name, write it down and remember it. While you’re waiting on something, ask them something about themselves. One of my favorite things to do on the phone is to ask someone where they are. Because call centers are so spread out, you could be talking to someone in Phoenix, New York, Washington, Florida, Canada, or, of course, India. You can get peoples’ entire life stories out of them, and it’s often hilarious and interesting.

My favorite experience in that was talking to a Cox cable tech that used to work at a nuclear power plant. He told me all about what it was like to work there, the incredible dangers they faced, all the ridiculous safeguards, and how engineers late at night were able to create perfect synthetic diamonds in the reactor, on the side, just to make extra money. Fascinating stuff. AND he fixed my problem! You can enrich any experience, and calling tech support is a great place to start.

Showing an interest in them can make a huge difference. Once you stop treating people like objects or drones, they can really open up and be incredibly pleasant, and get you favors you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. This week, through simply being friendly, remembering names, showing an interest in people and making a friend, I saved $450 on one of my moving costs.

It’s incredible what people can do if they like you enough to bother, and if you’re bold enough to ask what THEY would do, or what THEY think. Give them a chance to utilize their experience.

See, I believe that, deep down, people really do like interacting other people, and being good at their job. It’s just that most people never give them a chance to do either one of those. When I went to get a new cel phone, I chatted with the salesman for a while, asked him questions about his own personal preferences in a phone or a plan, and we established a little camaraderie of sorts.

But when it came to getting a text message plan that was right for me, I was stuck with a bunch of choices I didn’ tlike. So I asked him if there was anything else he could think of that I could do, and he paused a moment to think it over. He remembered an old, obsolete plan that was barely left over in the system and was only very rarely offered. He found it and gave it to me, and I ended up saving HALF what other people generally pay. And I still enjoy it to this day.

More anecdotes: When I still drank coffee, I’d make friends with the Starbucks baristas and ended up getting free drinks all the time. When I ate out more, I’d eat Quizno’s religiously and get them to give me free extra meat, or custom-make sandwiches for me not on the menu, or give me free food and drinks anytime I wanted.

In fact, just this morning I was in a hurry, shopping for high-top shoes for the motorcycle riding classes I’m taking tomorrow. I was friendly with the salesman and got him to start really THINKING, and putting his expertise to work. He knew which kinds of shoes ran narrow, the conversion rate of shoe sizes between brands, and the best price for what I’m looking for and what stores to check out if I couldn’t find what I wanted there.

He made some strong recommendations to me, and I ended up going with a pair of shoes I’m VERY happy with that he recommended. How many times have you been in a shoe store where you just pointed at the shoe you wanted to try on? Give them a chance to utilize their experience.

Almost every time I get on an airplane, I’ll start a conversation with the person in the seat next to me, and we’ll end up talking for the entire flight. A couple months back I sat next to a cute girl, chatted with her a while, then we grabbed lunch together at the airport and chatted for a couple hours while we were waiting for our planes. I got to kill a couple otherwise boring and empty hours and meet someone new and interesting. 🙂

I even got my own travel agent out of it. I started talking to him, and he told me all sorts of amazing stories about the places he’d traveled all over the world. The incredibly deeply ingrained socialism of Sweden, inadvertently rooming with the US Olympic skiing team in Norway, and personally visiting the highest point of every state in the USA. He even clued me in on the best way to find great deals on travel, the fastest and cheapest way to get a passport, which airlines to avoid, the best times of year to fly, etc, all for free. He also gave me a huge list of sights to see and places to eat in the place I was traveling to. All for showing an interest in him. 🙂

Another example: At my local Target, I’ve made friends with the guys in the Electronics department. Anytime the lines up front are long, I can walk up to one of them and have him check me out at the never-manned cash registers hidden in the back of the Electronics department, and I NEVER, EVER have to wait in line.

Also good to make friends with: Human Resources. They’re the lifeblood of most companies, and the hub of most high-level information flow. Whether you’re inside or outside of a company, the HR rep can be a valuable ally. And I don’t mean this in a manipulative way… not at all. You can simply increase your chances of getting to the top of the pile, or getting advance warning of a layoff, or really any kind of information you might like to know. They tend to be incredibly connected, pleasant people, so it can really only benefit you to be nice to them. ALWAYS befriend HR people.

And the same goes for the office tech guy. If you need something difficult done to your PC, how much faster do you think he’ll get it done if he enjoys your company?

And don’t even get me started on the number of job opportunities I’ve had come to me just by being friendly and outgoing wherever possible. 🙂

In summary, BE OUTGOING! Make friends wherever you go. You should do it simply because it’s fun to do, and the bonus is that the rewards can be incredible!

Harness your inner idiot.

Earlier today on a web forum I frequent, someone asked other people what they do to be more efficient at work. I gave him a short list of what I do:

For me, it’s a few interconnected things.

1) Either completely close IM apps, or turn off window blinking notification of a message
2) Put on headphones and crank up good concentration music at a reasonable volume
3) Close web browser and relegate browser icons to desktop only (no quicklaunch!)
4) Remove anything distracting in your field of view from your workspace.

1) Get at least 7 hours of sleep.
2) Wake up 3 hours before work and eat a good, healthy, balanced breakfast
3) Drink LOTS of ice water. It’s good for you, keeps you awake and forces you to take fairly regular restroom breaks, which is a good way to get you up and moving.
4) Try to minimize your carbohydrate intake at lunch, lest you later succumb to Food Coma and try to bail yourself out with coffee and sugar.

1) Make a master to-do list for the next two or three days in no particular order, then blaze through each task until you finish or get sick of it, then move onto another
2) Classify my tasks, roles and responsibilities and devote specific time blocks of one to two hours each day to focus SOLELY on each facet.
3) Work on a timer for 15 or 30 minutes at a time, uninterrupted, then take a short (timed) break to answer messages, browse the internet, etc before returning to work.
4) Whenever possible, make decisions within the space of seven breaths.

As for getting up before work, I usually get up around 5 or 6 every day, and I feel like I have SO MUCH MORE TIME during the day when I do that than when I get up five minutes before work. I get to make my own breakfast, let it settle in my stomach, read, check email, check all my news sites, clean up my apartment a bit, play with my cats, and generally get a better feel for the day before I head into work. By the time I get there, I’m totally awake and alert, and I got all my goof-off bullshit done before I got in. So I’m ready to kick it into high gear and get shit done!

The idea behind all this is that I understand that I can’t really change my core behaviors. But I can erect my own little barriers that take advantage of the way I act naturally, and funnel it into doing something productive.

In other words, I create my own path of least resistance. If I can RAISE the barrier to entry of doing goof-off bullshit like IM and web browsing and playing games, and LOWER the barrier to entry to getting work done, I’ll do whichever takes the least effort. If I make web browsing some big bother, I just won’t want to do it.

Same for goofing off at work, checking news sites, IMing people, and so on. I know I’ll wanna do it. So I just force myself up earlier, get it out of my system, then shift into Work Mode even more easily.

Basically, I acknowledge Jon’s Inner Idiot so I toss him some shiny baubles to make it as hard as possible for him to distract me.

I call stuff like that a “hack,” as in a cheap-fast way to circumvent a problem rather than fix it outright. My own mind is held together by duct tape and rubber bands. 🙂

Because, face it, changing yourself is hard. I do it all the time, but sometimes my Inner Idiot fights back so hard, I decide it’s easier to trick him and give him an outlet for his energy than to try to tear myself up trying to “cure” myself.

Do you use any hacks?

You decide to fail every day.

Ah, it’s been a great few weeks. Daxter is gold and will be in stores in less than three weeks, and I’m getting my life back on track. I was in the mood to make some good decisions, so I gave up all alcohol, all soda, all coffee and all fast food, all of which were things I loved VERY much, and have actually invested thousands of dollars in over the last couple years.

I didn’t stop loving them… I still do. But I felt I was becoming too reliant on them, especially coffee, and I wanted to prove to myself that I don’t need anything. So I went cold turkey on all of them at the same time. I threw away or poured out every last trace of each of them that I had, and I’ve been clean for a couple weeks. It feels great!

The best part of all is that I got so caught up in the tide of good decisions, that I decided to start working out five days a week. To reverse my sedentary, miserable, pathetic lifestyle of the last 17 months.

I went into it full force… I threw out all my unhealthy food and spent hundreds of dollars on ALL fresh, delicious food. I put myself on a very strict diet that I used to use. I bought a dumbbell set and cobbled together enough makeshift exercise equipment to do everything I need to do inside my own apartment.

In the first 7 days of diet and exercise, I lost two inches on my waist and added half an inch to my biceps. I’m packing on muscle, I feel alive and full of energy all the time, I’ve never been in a better mood, and things kick ass. Most of all, I have a very deep satisfaction in myself now, knowing that I’m making a LOT of good decisions instead of holding myself back.

Which brings me to what I wanted to talk about tonight… I came to the shocking conclusion that I decide to fail every day.

Every. Single. Day.

And not the good kind of failure. The kind that keeps you from trying harder. The kind that prevents you from being successful. The kind that holds you back from what you really want.

Every time I tell myself my art is ‘good enough as it is’ I decide to fail. Every time I go for seconds at dinner, I decide to fail. Every time I’m lifting a weight and I feel weak, I decide to fail.

This happens all the time to everyone, and they don’t even realize it. And that’s what holds people back from being successful.

Everyone has an internal sense of their limitations. They think they know how far they can go, how much they can eat and be okay, how good their art can be, how fast they can run… everything. They have expectations of themselves that they rarely allow themselves to exceed.

This works on both a conscious and subconscious level. I read a fascinating statistic in Business 2.0 recently about risk management. When cars became decked out with safety features that were supposed to prevent accidents, people started causing totally new kinds of accidents so that the same average number of accidents occurred. How could that be? The safety features are there, people know about them and everything should be fine!

No one knew why this was, until they did a boatload of research and discovered an interesting psychological principle: People automatically regulate the average amount of risk in their lives, whether they realize it or not. When airbags were added to cars, people drove faster. When the safe metal railings were put on sharp curves on the road, people took the curves faster and less safely. They automatically drove a little less safely, because they’re USED to the same level of risk.

In other words, people that are used to sucking, keep on sucking. They’re used to the way that things usually feel, so their subconscious mind kicks in and does what it can to maintain complete homeostasis — non-change. Your brain FIGHTS change.

See, this applies directly to any endeavor… people have a deep well of subconscious expectations of their own performance. The trick is to learn to LISTEN to yourself very, very closely and hear the little voice inside you that tells you to give up.

I never noticed this until I was doing shoulder presses, which involves lifting a weight straight up into the air, then back down to my shoulders. Over and over. Once I hit the tenth rep, I thought to myself “God, I’m tired… 10 is enough.”

And I listened to myself, and I was so shocked that I almost dropped the weight. Did I just tell myself to give up instead of trying harder?!

I managed to pump out another 5 before my arms literally gave out and could lift no more. But I was completely blown away. I can push SO far past my own limits, that I never even knew what I could accomplish. The implications are UNBELIEVABLE!! I realized then that I did this all the time… all sorts of failings in life. Dashed opportunities. Do any of these sound familiar?

“I should really do this. I know I should. Oh well.”

“Wow, is it this late already? I should go to bed. Oh well.”

“Well, this painting looks a little better than my last one. Good enough.”

We all do it. The way to get past it is to consciously learn to listen for that little voice that makes the decision to fail instead of pushing onward, especially when you KNOW you should. There’s no time like the present to improve, push yourself harder and become great.

So listen for the voice, and take action by ignoring the hell out of it. Make hearing that voice a trigger to try harder. Every time you do it, you’ll respect yourself more, grow in confidence, take bolder steps and get BETTER. Better at anything you do! Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Take action!!!

You’ll never have time.

I had an interesting realization at work yesterday, one that applies to a lot of things.

At Ready At Dawn we’re all kept very, very busy and we’re all given a flattering amount of responsibility. We’re constructing an all-new game with a new team with a new engine on a new platform from the ground up. It’s extremely intense, challenging, and fun.

There’s a running joke about having enough time to do something. When someone comes to me asking me to do something for them, they ask me if I have enough time to do it. And that’s the joke. Technically, none of us have “time” to do anything because of the enormous implications of what we’re accomplishing. But if I always accepted tasks on the basis of what I did and didn’t have time for, nothing but the bare minimum would get done, and I’d have a hard time being proud of what I’ve done.

My glowing little insight was this:

It’s not a matter of having time, it’s making time. Making time to do something you know is right is what separates the good from the great.

Anytime something new comes to me, instead of stressing, I simply keep that in mind, and do it. Everything feels so much better now, and I can’t get the smile off my face.

Don’t stop being better!

Hot on the heels of my Smart people are dumb, failure is awesome post is a followup! I can only imagine how anxious the edges of your seats are for you to stop sitting on them. 🙂

Another practical way to apply the “just show up” philosophy is finding ways to be better at your job. It’s not as obvious as it sounds, so do read on.

A lot of people, myself included, are naturally inclined toward finding better, faster and smarter ways of doing things. For artists, that’s how we grow. But most people do this. Some people apply it toward a career, some toward a hobby. There are many, many outlets for it but it’s all the same concept.

When people choose to apply this self-improving attitude toward their career, often it’s because they want to get further in life by being better, smarter, and faster at what they do.

Let’s say this is you. You’re a character artist. You find an awesome new way to create characters faster. You’ve put forth a strong initial effort toward finding better, faster, smarter ways of doing your job. You keep finding new ways to rock, and you try to make things better for everyone. You try to make a difference, and it’s all great at first.

Then… slowly… you realize, no one really seems to care. Your effort has no measurable impact outside of your immediate area of responsibility. People just aren’t as excited about your improvements as you are.

But why? You’ve found a more efficient way to do something. This affects them. It doesn’t make sense for them not to care.

This almost always happens. This is when you become discouraged, stop trying, and fall into the same grind everyone else seems to be in. Why keep trying if no one notices?

I’ll tell you what you can do to take a HUGE first step toward making these efforts matter:

Write them down.

Writing them down makes all the difference in the world. The real goal of having it written down is that the fruits of your labor exist outside your head. You don’t have to be there for someone to use them. They may even outlast YOU. These little ideas will be free-floating thoughts that anyone can grab and use without needing you to be there for them. They can be useful all on their own. Being identified with these, particularly if they help someone, is pure gold. And it’s not even that hard.

This ties in perfectly with showing up. Just as simply showing up and outlasting the competition can make all the difference, so can persisting in finding how to be a little bit better, a little bit faster, a little bit smarter than the rest, and writing it down.

It may not feel like it, but your effort DOES matter, but only so long as you write it down and put it out there for everyone to see, anytime they want! Whether it’s on a bulletin board or in a design doc or a technical specifications document, it still makes a difference, on many different levels:

1) You’re learning. This comes first and is most important. Even if you don’t communicate your little innovations (which you should), ultimately, you’re still getting in the mindset of excellence. You’re learning. You’re self-improving. Writing it down drills it into your brain, and you should do it if only for this single reason.

See, because of this type of thinking, your brain is being kicked into overdrive. It’s hungry, and you’re feeding it pure, juicy MEAT. And if you keep feeding it, the most amazing ideas will keep coming to you, and the awesomeness will only compound further and further.

2) It’ll always be there. Even if your peers or superiors don’t immediately acknowledge what you’ve done, if you put it out there anyway where people can see it, inevitably they’ll keep running across it… keep seeing it… keep eyeing it… and after a while, it’ll hit them right between the eyes, and they’ll get it. The more you do, the more omnipresent you are.

3) Your coworkers will notice. Just think about what it would look like to be the only guy that’s actively finding a better way of working. It’s never instantaneous, and it shouldn’t be. Establishing a consistent reputation as a self-improver, an innovator, has a lot of power if you can pull it off. Especially if your bosses see it and like it. Showing initiative consistently is very seductive. Just keep showing up.

Even if you put it out there and no one cares at first, you shouldn’t let it bother you. If it’s a total revolution, no one will get it at first. What revolution in history has worked perfectly, immediately? None. It totally scales up and down… these things take time.

Listen, even if they don’t understand it at first, or ever, by simple virtue of showing up, figuring it out and recording it for all to see, you’ll eventually be perceived as working a little harder. Or be a little smarter. Or, if they inspect the idea closely enough, perceive you as being a little quicker.

Ever wonder why there are 500 trillion books on writing written by authors that have never written? The authors that are writing don’t show up… so these other guys do instead. People buy their books, because they think “Hey, this guy wrote a book. He must be Sir Smarty of Pants-Town.”

Usually they’re wrong about that, but it’s the same principle. Show up. No one else will. If they do, improve your chances of competing against them successfully by actually being good. Earn the title of “expert,” or if you’re modest, “guy-that-is-knowledgeable-about-stuff.”

The reason people don’t always notice these contributions of yours is because, hey, they’re working too. Or maybe they’re not ready to learn about it. Some people make up their minds never to learn anything new, because they’ve figured it out well enough as it is.

You can’t change peoples’ minds, period. The harder you try, the less likely they will be to change it. People will change their own mind when they feel like it.

So if you’ve developed some wicked-crazy process improvement, the longer you leave it laying around, the more likely it is they’ll run across it and go for it all on their own. That’s about the best you can do to get into their heads, so putting it where they can see it is a good first step.

What also happens sometimes is that people will appreciate it and simply not tell you. Heh. Yeah, you wouldn’t think so, but that happens more than you know.

People are wrapped up in their own little world most of the time. They’ll forget to give you feedback. Or they’ll assume you’ll come to them and ask for it. It may mean the world to them but they just don’t communicate it. Silence doesn’t mean apathy… some people just keep to themselves. I’ve had this happen a LOT, and it’s always absolutely blown me away. I’d put something out there, no one would care, and a few weeks or months later someone would bring it up and thank me, and I never realized it made a difference. But it does.

See, I’ve started and given up on exactly this type of thing several times over several jobs. I assumed that because my contributions weren’t immediately noticed that I was wasting my time. Eventually I realized that it’s deferred gratification. If I only build up a little library of improvements over time, eventually it’ll sneak up on someone, kick them in the teeth (in the, uh, good way), they’ll finally appreciate it and it’ll all be worth it.

And the whole time, hell, I’m learning as I do it. I have everything to gain by trying, because I’ll always remember it, even if nothing else comes of it. But that’s the beauty of it… the longer I keep at it, the more likely something will come of it.

Most success isn’t made through years of ass-kicking, soul-draining effort, running at maximum power and expending every ounce of effort the whole time. It’s short spurts of effort, persistently carried out, followed by patience. Remember that. It’s never as hard as you think it is.

My overall point is… don’t stop trying harder. Don’t stop being better. Don’t let indifference discourage you. No effort is wasted. Be patient, keep trying, keep showing up, and eventually your efforts will pay off enormously, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

Smart people are dumb. Failure is awesome.

Been thinking about this lately and felt like committing it to paper… so to speak.

Smart people are dumb. Failure is awesome.

Let me explain.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to woefully inept people that end up rich, having great jobs, are in positions of power, get all the girls, etc. I wonder how they do it, even though they clearly lack much. By all rights, given what they’re working with, they should fail miserably. But they don’t.

People complain all the time about how the most mediocre people imaginable achieve things that we can’t reach. They can’t understand how. I mean, come on, I have everything that guy doesn’t, but why does he get what he wants and I don’t?

Why? He tries and you don’t.

I said before in my Marketing for Artists article that 90% of success is showing up. And that’s what these crappy people have that “smart” people don’t. The will to keep showing up.

If you’re running a race and everyone else gives up before it’s over, you win by default.

Let’s abstract that for a second: If they’re the ONLY person that keeps trying, who’s there to compete against? Who’s to stop him from winning by default, by being the only player?

It’s like a curve over time. At practically any endeavor, as time passes, people will start dropping out and giving up, slowly at first but then faster and faster. They’re only willing to go so far before throwing in the towel. The playing field narrows itself. Keep showing up. Keep trying. Be patient, give it time, and you’ll win because you were willing to do what they weren’t to succeed.

Sure. You’ll fail a lot on the way. You’ll make mistakes. Mistakes are when weak people give up and hand the trophy over to someone else. Persisting through the mistakes, embracing failure, and determining to keep moving forward is how you win. Every failure is an opportunity to learn, and improve future performance.

The end of the race, with the only other determined contender, is where quality, skill and intelligence come into play. Just doggedly ‘tard your way through the rest up until that point.

It’s all a game. Beyond quality, beyond intelligence, beyond any other factor, all you have to do most of the time is keep showing up, no matter what, and you’ll go places. Opportunities will start coming to you in ways you’d never imagined.

Here’s one real-world application for you: Applying for a job. Most people SUCK at this, and that’s why they don’t get jobs. Most people I know have given up after ONE EMAIL sent to a company they’re applying for. They quit before the race even starts.

After working in sales at Liquid Development, I learned that the follow-up call after initial solicitation is the most important communication you can make. Most people I would email, whether currently clients or people I was soliciting to, would never respond to the first email. Ever. It’s as if they never received it at all. I’d say I got one reply out of a hundred to the first email, if that.

After that, I’d sit on it a week, and send a follow-up to make sure they got the first one. At this point, usually within the next business day, I’d have a reply almost every single time. The response rate here was perhaps one in four. Whether or not it was a positive or negative response, it still got responses, and opportunities were either created or dismissed.

This fascinated me. Most people give up after only one communication, when the second one works almost every single time. You’d think that it would annoy people, but mostly, people are cool about it. They know they’re terrible about responding to email, and as long as you’re polite, everything is fine.

When I was applying for a job on my own, I sent out my resume and portfolio to probably 30 or 40 companies. I kept track of what I sent to who and what date, and followed up like clockwork after one week. The second email was always a quoted copy of the first, starting with a “Hi, my name is Jon Jones and I applied for such-and-such position at your company a week ago. I hadn’t heard back yet and I wanted to make sure that you received my email. I’ve quoted it below. Thanks!”

Then the floodgates opened.

Week one: 40 emails. Zero responses.

Week two: 40 follow-up emails. 35 responses within three days.

And you know what the best part was? The really, really funny thing? Every single response began with an apology for not responding sooner. Every single one, without ONE exception.

See, I was scared that I would annoy these companies by emailing more than once. Not so. Quite the contrary, in fact. It showed that I was serious about working with them. Giving them seven to ten days to respond is about right, in my opinion. Then comes the follow-up, which is the clincher.

Just keep trying politely, in an appropriate timeframe, until you get a solid YES or NO answer. In the game industry, most people will never even THINK of doing this! They’ll send out one feeble email and give up. Just one more email could have gotten them a job. Isn’t that tragic?

All it takes is showing up, again and again, until you get someone’s attention. THEN, and only then, do your skills come into play. They see your work, decide they like you, and it just gets better from there.

Some companies I had to follow up with three times or more. When I was applying at Ready At Dawn I sent something like ten or fifteen follow-ups because I’d caught our poor art director in the middle of a crunch. I kept trying. And it resulted in a job so fantastic I still can’t believe I have it.

Yeah. I got a lot of rejections. Almost everything I got back was a rejection. Oh, we’re not hiring right now. Oh, we’re just wrapping up this project. Oh, we’re not a game company and would you please quit emailing us. Blah, blah, blah. But I also got a handful of interviews out of that, and one of those interviews got me a fantastic job.

Why? I didn’t let failure bother me. I kept trying anyway. Failure is a part of life. The more you try, the more potential chances to succeed you have. If I apply to 100 companies and you apply to 5, who’s more likely to succeed? If ONE of your companies says no, they’ve reduced your chances of getting a job by 20%! But if one of mine says no, my chances are only reduced by 1%. Who’s trying smarter?

Let’s make the playing field bigger. If ten people are applying for companies and I’m the only one that applied at 100, my chances of contacting a company that has received NO other job applications is pretty high. See what I mean? Most people won’t even try that hard, and they make me win.

If I’m firing a shotgun at a guy, most of the shotgun pellets will miss. But all I really need is one to hit. The more pellets there are, the better my chances of succeeding. It just comes down to that, really.

Yeah, it’s messy, and a lot of failure is involved. But every failure is a chance to learn. Every time I fail and keep moving forward,

And again, it all comes down to showing up. The more you try, the longer you persist, the better your chances of winning get. It’s so simple that people overlook it. It’s so obvious that it’s instantly dismissed.

This is the way the world works, and this is why seemingly unfit people succeed. They just don’t give up and eventually they get what you want. And it probably annoys you because for some reason or another, you never even started. No gold star for you. 🙂

And that’s why I say smart people are dumb. “But I’m BETTER than him.” “But I want this MORE than him.” “But he’s so STUPID.” “But he’s ugly!”

But he still wins. Because you create excuses for yourself not to try. Because you’re “too smart” to bother trying, because of X, Y or Z reason.

If you were really smart, wouldn’t you be winning? 🙂