The happy secret to better work

Let me begin with a video. Take 12 minutes and 21 seconds and watch it. I’ll be here when you are done.

I love TED talks. I’ve posted a number of them before. This one, however, struck a chord with me because it touches on ideas that I have had for myself for years.

Be happy now, not later.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a short post about my philosophy on work. Whether you saw it at the time, the central premise behind it is that you should be happy with the job you have while you have it, even if you don’t like it and are looking for something else. Being happy with your job, even if it is just being happy with doing your job well although the job itself sucks, is the beginning of a ripple that will affect everything else in your life and everyone around you. You might hate your job, but face it, if the boss pulls you aside to tell you how awesome you are at the job, you feel great. And if your job is managing people, remember that telling people about the good things they do can actually have an impact on places they need to improve. Lead with bad news, then close with a few comments about the good stuff they do. You’ll actually bolster their spirit and that alone may be enough for them to improve in those problem areas. If all you do is yell at an employee, perhaps you should do both of you a favor and let them go, because your constant berating and never telling them anything positive is, for most people, actually going to make them perform worse, not better.

There is an old saying about crying over spilt milk and how you shouldn’t do it that no one these days really understands because who would ever cry over spilt milk? But the point of the saying is another thing I’ve talked about for years. The point is, once the milk is spilt, just clean it up. You gain nothing from being distraught or upset over the loss of the milk. It’s trivial. It’s not like a parent died or anything. Too many people spend too much time worrying about and being upset at things that have already happened and can’t be changed. They wind themselves up in knots, making themselves unhappy over past failures when they should be accepting them, learning from them, and moving forward.

Now, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t care about stuff that happened, but it does mean that you shouldn’t let it cripple you. And you aren’t going to just wipe it off and move on like nothing happened. No, the point is that you understand what happened, resolve to do better, and integrate the experience into who you are to make you better. Why did you spill the milk? Could it have been avoided? In the future, let’s try not to spill milk.

But how do we get better and being better?

The sticking point for most people is that everything they’ve been taught in their lives has led them to the road described in the video: that happiness comes after success.

I suggest taking to heart the list at the end of the video. You need to actively work at changing the way you approach life. Make sure you take the time to acknowledge and dwell on the positive good things in your life and not spend all your time focusing on problems and the stress of working toward future success and future happiness.

If you need a little push, you might consider giving SuperBetter a try. Jane McGonigal has been pushing “gamification” for a long time, and she’s finally unveiled her new project. This website isn’t going to fix your life, but if you work it you might find that using your old/current mindset of chasing achievements can be redirected into things that may help you be happier now and not later.

I haven’t spent much time at that site, so I can’t speak on its effectiveness. But if you know me, or can sleuth out my email from the site, feel free to hit me up as an ally.

Planning, Packing, and Points Between

I go to Dragon*Con every year. Despite the fact that we live in Atlanta (or near enough to it), we book a room at one of the host hotels and stay downtown for the weekend. It’s like a half-vacation. We go, we have a great time and love every minute of it, but we aren’t really “going on vacation”. Six years ago, I took another non-vacation. An overnight really. We drove to Savannah on Monday, stayed the night, and drove back Tuesday. That was our wedding. A couple of years before that, we did a long weekend in Savannah. You’d have to go back to, I believe, 2003 to find a real vacation-vacation in my life. We went to Cozumel for 5 days. And before that, we went to Mardi Gras in 2001.

On Saturday, the wife and I will be heading up to a little cabin we rented in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We’ll be coming back on Wednesday. Five days and four nights, away from home, in another state. It’s been about nine years but we are finally going on vacation.

When we go to Dragon*Con, the weekend is pretty well mapped out. There are panels and parties. I’m on staff. It is, as far as vacations go, pretty regimented. When he did Cozumel way back when, there was little plan. We had a hotel, all-inclusive, and that was it. I’d been to Cozumel before and mostly just gone to beaches and bars and the usual stuff (I was part of a group of 30 people who went together). But this time it was just us. One day we rented a jeep and just went driving around the island. We found some unoccupied beaches and a little restaurant on the windward side of the island. It was great.

This time around, I’m aiming for something in between. The final day we have to check out of the cabin early anyway, so we are just going to check out really early and drive over to Asheville and visit The Biltmore, and then head back home that night. Either on the day up, or one of the three middle days, we’re planning to spend some time touring the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. We also plan to do some hiking, and of course a little casual relaxing. It’s cold here, and we are going north, so I expect some time spent in front of a roaring fire might be in order. And as weird as it sounds, we are planning to curl up and watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night. We don’t have cable TV anymore, so events like this are something we don’t get to watch at home.

The cabin has a kitchen, and we are trying to plan some meals to cook and foods to take with us for snacking, though we probably will eat out at a couple of places that have been recommended to us. We are driving up, so the only limitation is what we can fit into the Jeep Cherokee.

And then we get to packing clothes. It is still winter, so we’ll dress warm, maybe throw in an extra couple of sweaters and make sure we take our jackets. There are no plans to do anything super fancy so no suits or cocktail dresses.

I’m very excited about the whole thing, probably more than I should be.

The Last Minecart

There is just something great about this, and part of it is that so many people simply won’t understand it at all.

I’ve finally gotten my own Minecraft server running again, and for the first time in about thirty restarts it finally has coal.  I’m working on getting the maps working, and I’m in need of upgrading the RAM on the server.  I’ll post links later once I’m sure it is all in order.

The Great Divide

So, I’ve started playing World of Warcraft again.  In large part to play with a couple of friends.  The wife and I have been playing a couple of weeks now, but we’ve yet to actually play with the friends we came to join.  You see, they started before us and as such they are about ten or so levels ahead.  We have been trying to catch up, but since they keep playing also we essentially only succeed in keep the gap consistent.

Another friend of ours decided to join us too.  A little later than us.  He’s about ten or so levels behind us and in similar fashion he is trying to catch up but is really only keeping the gap consistent.

People keep telling me that it’ll be okay when we hit the level cap, which will only take a couple of months (or so they tell me).  For the moment, the wife and I are splitting our time between some characters to try and slow ourselves down a bit, which will let the man behind us catch up but lets the people in front of us get further away.

I really dislike this, and it happens in every game.  Well, not in EVE.  Whenever I get into discussions about class based or skill based systems, after going back and forth for a long while I always end up settling on the fact that either system works and either can be better and that it all depends on the quality of the system.  But one tangent that always emerges is that I wish less MMOs were level based.

I understand that, in general, people like levels, because it’s an easy way to measure progress and be rewarded.  Ding! But levels divide your players, which can be good (spreading them out over different level appropriate areas) and bad (you now have to deal with special coding for any PvP interactions around the power increases levels provide and prevention of power leveling, etc).  In my opinion, games need to find other ways to reward people, and to separate power from what is essentially time played.  In EVE, it doesn’t matter if you’ve played for 5 years or 5 months, once you get into a ship the only thing that matters are the skills related to that ship.  And a 5 month player can kick the ass of a 5 year player given the right ships and situation.  But when was the last time a level 15 killed a level 80 in WoW?  Never?  Is it because the level 80 is better or because he’s been around longer?  Neither actually, it’s because the game doesn’t allow people of that sort of disparity to fight in most cases because they are well aware of the futility of the position of the level 15 player.

We need an alternative to levels/time defining power in fantasy games.  And we need ways for people to play together no matter how long they’ve been playing without starting over.


I’m still chewing on and basking in the glory of the season finale of Lost from last night.  I wanted to post something, but I didn’t want to spend much time on it, so you get this.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

The Living Dead

In time for the Halloween season, I picked up a collection of zombie short stories called The Living Dead.

One thing I have learned over the years running into zombie fans on the internet and out in the world is that everyone has their favorites.  Some like the slow Romero zombies (my personal favorite), others like the fast running Dawn of the Dead remake style, while still others prefer the hoodoo voodoo zombies, and there are many more flavors.  This collection of short stories pretty much covers them all.  From the cursed living who return from the dead to the mindless drones and even to actors playing extras in Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead at the mall.

Because of this wide range of coverage, I can’t say I loved every story.  In fact, I’d probably say I only loved maybe a third of them, possibly less.  Some of them I could barely trudge my way through, so alien were the concepts of zombies envisioned by their authors (hence the reason why it took me well over a month to read the whole thing).  But, it did make me realize how wide the idea of “zombies” can run, and that perhaps the ideas I’ve been nurturing are not as common as I thought they were.

When I closed the cover of this tome, I was relieved to finally be done what, in part at least, had been a chore to get through.  But I was also satisfied, and really, what more can you ask of a book than that?

30 Days of Game: Travian

Welcome to October 1st, and to our first installment of 30 Days of Game.  This is where I play a game for roughly a month, and then review it.

First up: Travian.  From their own page…

Travian is a browser game featuring a world with thousands of other real players. One begins the game acting as a chief of a tiny village.

To get a decent idea of what the game is like, I suggest running through the tutorial.  It only takes a minute.

Basically, you start with an empty village surrounded by resources.  You place your town hall and then get to building.  Each resource field (woodcutter, clay pit, iron mine, cropland) produces a set amount of its resource, which you can increase by building up the level of the resource.  In town, on the various plots, you can build a variety of buildings, from armories and stables to warehouses and crannies (for hiding resources from attackers).  As you construct buildings and upgrade them, you unlock new troop types and other abilities.  Eventually, you can raid and even conquer other players.  Yes, its a PvP game.

Its like a real time strategy game, only slower.  Every building, upgrade or troop training takes resources and time.  And while each building’s ability is independent (can be researching new armor, new weapons, training foot soldiers, horsemen and building siege devices all at the same time), setting your people to work on building or resource upgrades are only allowed one at a time.  So you need to plan, which buildings do you need first?  Do you go offense and raid other players for supplies or do you go defense and protect against other raiders?

You can join alliances with other players which allows you access to a private message board on the site for your alliance.  And each server is generally allowed to run for 300 days (100 for speed games) before it resets and starts over.  So, yes, this is not your traditional neverending MMO grind.  The game has a finish, and leaderboards, and enough servers that you can pretty much always guarantee that one is going to restart soon or has recently restarted, so there is less worry about jumping in and being so far behind the curve that you can’t possibly win.

The City of M`antra G`ald - My City
The City of M`antra G`ald - My City

Now, technically, I’ve been playing for more than 30 days, because I couldn’t think of a new game to start and I was already playing this one.  However, I’m enjoying what I am now referring to as a Lazy Time Strategy game.  Early on, when build times on things were very short and didn’t cost too much, I visited many times a day to keep my peasants working.  Lately, I visit two, maybe three, times a day, trading goods with other players and kicking off my next project or sending out armies to do my bidding.  Through my alliance I have heard other players talk about getting bombarded and overrun, but I haven’t had any trouble with that just yet, and I might not before the server resets.  I am just now getting to the point where I might be able to found a second city, which took longer than it would have if I’d gone straight for it.

Travian isn’t a deeply enthralling game, but I definitely think it is one I am going to continue playing because it is enjoyable and doesn’t require a dedicated hardcore player to enjoy it, although I am sure more hardcore players could find something in this game – be it min/maxing the build orders, or just crushing your neighbors.

Gone to Con…

It is that time of year again, when despite living “in Atlanta” I drive downtown and stay in a hotel for four days.  Dragon*Con.

As I have the last couple of years, I’ll be posting my rundown on what I see and do each day, as if anyone cares.  Mostly I do it so that I can remember what it is I do myself.

Anyway… if you happen to be going, I’ll probably be spending a bunch of my time around the MMO track or the Apocalypse Rising track or the Writer’s track.  The only place I know I will be for sure is Sunday at 1pm I plan to attend the screening of 20 Years After.  I would say, “I’ll be the guy with the shaved head and the goatee” but there will be approximately 2,851 people who match that description as it is, as my friends call it, “the Dragon*Con uniform”.  Instead, look for my hat… I’ll probably be wearing or carrying a tan baseball hat that says “Founded 1733 Savannah, GA” on it.  If you approach me, be sure to speak the passphrase, “The Cheese Stands Alone”, so I’ll know who you are.