Posts Tagged‘goals’

Why The Planetary Annihilation Kickstarter Is Crushing It.

I have to admit that I was somewhat sour on the whole Kickstarter idea for quite a long time. Not that I thought it wasn’t viable or anything like that, there are many many projects to prove to the contrary, more that in the age of near instant gratification for nearly anything you can care to dream of the idea of shelling out cash long before a product would ever grace my presence made me…apprehensive. It was also partially due to the fact that I didn’t really need nor want most of the products I saw on Kickstarter, even if they were technically cool. However I’ve recently backed 2 projects that I really wanted to see succeed and both of them I backed at something of a premium level.

The first was the OUYA, the crazy Android games console that could shake up the console market in much the same way that the Nintendo Wii did. Of course it could also easily go the other way as whilst the Kickstarter numbers were impressive they only translate to some 60,000ish consoles which in comparison to any of the 3 current major players is really quite small with most of them selling that number every week for as long as they’re available. As long as the hardware gets delivered to me I will consider it successful as whilst its primary purpose might be gaming it will make a solid media extender for a long time to come thanks to its use of Android as a base operating system.

One that really caught my eye though was Planetary Annihilation. Now game Kickstarters are always fraught with danger as the majority of them will never make their funding goals however whilst Planetary Annihilation didn’t have an explosive day 1 like many high profile projects do it did have consistent funding growth over time. In fact it was only just last week that it reached its seemingly lofty funding goal of $900,000 but it’s steadily been growing ever since. It’s rather contrary to many of the other high profile Kickstarters I’ve seen over the past year or so with many reaching their funding goals early and then staying steady until a last feverish burst before the final deadline. Looking at the way they structured their rewards you can see why this is so.

Most Kickstarters start out with their initial goal and upon getting more funding than they expected will usually try to make an announcement of what they intend to do with the extra funds. Whilst its admirable that many do come up with good ideas it usually comes late in the piece so the stretch goals can’t be used as a carrot for those who were on the edge of funding them or not. Right from the beginning though the guys behind Planetary Annihilation made it clear that they had many additional stretch goals already planned out should they get the requisite funding and, just to make people want to fund them more, kept them secret until previous funding goals had been achieved.

Additionally they continue to add value to the more premium tiers to encourage people to up their pledge level. This means people coming back to check on how the Kickstarter is going will have that little extra incentive to jump up to the next tier and indeed the vast majority of their funding is coming from the $95 and above tiers showing just how effective this can be. Whilst the extra rewards didn’t really mean that much to me (I pledged $250 because I’m one of those crazy collector’s edition nuts) I was definitely happy to see I was getting even more for my money.

With just 11 days to go on this particular project it’ll be interesting to see how many more of the stretch goals the Planetary Annihilation guys can hit before they reach the end of the funding period. In the week since achieving their funding goal they’ve already added on another $200,000 so it’s quite possible that they could hit their next stretch goal without too much trouble. Whether this consistent funding flow builds to a mighty crescendo at the end thought will have to remain to be seen.

I’d definitely recommend backing them though, even if you only spend $20 to get the full game upon release. Some of the guys behind Planetary Annihilation are the same people responsible for Total Annihilation and the first Supreme Commander, two games which took the traditional RTS idea and took it to a truly epic level of scale. If anyone can pull this kind of game off these guys can and I really can’t wait to follow this game from the alpha stages right up to its final release.

Artificial Barriers to Progression.

This blog is one of the first things I have to get done in the morning before I can work on anything else. It’s a strange habit I developed over a year ago when I found myself with quite a few things to write about and decided that I’d slog through them at one idea per day until I ran out of material. Today, whilst my blog posts are longer and generally a lot more thought out, the core idea behind them doesn’t seem to come as easily as it once did. This very post had me scrounging around for a couple hours to find something to write on until it finally dawned on me.

You see this blog is a kind of artificial barrier to me achieving any goals that I might have set forth for the day. There’s really no compelling reason for me to do this before anything else other than for the joy of it or the small hope of Internet fame. Realistically if I didn’t write a post today nothing bad would happen apart from me disappointing a few of my lunchtime readers and the hit count going down for a day. Still I’ve managed to convince myself time and time again that until the post is written, proof read and scheduled I can’t get any meaningful work done as it will sit at the back of my head, constantly nagging away at me until I cave into it.

The concept of artificial barriers isn’t new to me either, as it’s something that I’ve dealt with in many different aspects of my life. Pretty much any endeavor I’ve undertaken has usually come to a point I see myself thinking “If only I had that piece of equipment” or “If only I could do X” and use that as an excuse to shelve a project completely. The barriers themselves really didn’t exist and they were merely an excuse to placate my own inadequacies rather than dealing with them the hard way (I.E. working with what I’ve got). Over time I’ve gotten better at identifying the times when I’m engaging in these games of mental gymnastics with myself, but that hasn’t seen me drop the habit entirely.

It all came to a head last night when I was eying off the new MacBook Pro models that Apple has released. I’ve long said that it would probably be my next laptop as I need a mac machine to do the iPhone development work I have planned plus I have plans to do a bit of travel in the coming months, and something relatively portable with a bit of grunt would fit the bill nicely. Still in the last month though the amount of development work I’ve done would total about 4 hours or so, as I’ve spent the better parts of my weekend playing games and generally avoiding spending any of my free time working. In the back of my head though the excuse has always been “I need to start coding the handset application now” which leads me down a spiral of analysis ultimately ending with “I’ve got an iPhone, I should do that first”. Buying the MacBook rubs up against the fiscally responsible side of me who tells me I don’t really need the device, and hence we arrive at yet another artificial barrier to me progressing towards my goals (I could quite easily just code up a Windows Mobile version to get the infrastructure in).

I’ve picked on people in the past for doing this as well because really you have no excuse apart from some internal desire that’s manifested itself as this artificial barrier. Primarily I see this when people tell me they’re not happy where they’re working but once you dig a little deeper you find that they are quite comfortable where they are, and the idea of facing the unknown is far more scary than dealing with their current set of issues. For my current artificial barriers it would seem to come from a deep rooted belief that all the work I do is crap, and I shouldn’t bother with it anyway. This could also be because I just scrapped the last 2 months worth of work after talking to someone who’s in the industry (and gave me great insight without even knowing it) and I’m faced with yet another giant wall to overcome, but again it’s not the barrier I’m making myself think it is.

If you’ve managed to get this far into this post let me just say thank you. Whilst this blog is almost entirely self serving (in the fact that I’m really doing this all for myself, although I like to think I’m producing something of worth) this blog post is my way with dealing with the current climate of change that’s surrounding my life. I’ve had quite a hectic month and it doesn’t look like it’s going to settle down anytime soon. Hopefully though once everything settles down I’ll be able to rekindle my passion for starting my own company and bring something to the world that will really be of some worth. There’s nothing more therapeutic for me than making my own weaknesses public as, for some strange reason, it motivates me to work on them. Maybe I’m just some kind of weird exhibitionist in that way… 😉

The Impossible 10 Year Plan.

Ah to be young again. It wasn’t that long ago that I could be still counted amongst the ranks of teenagers, fresh out of college and blasting my way onto the university scene with all the subtly of a drag car in a library. Back then I was still young enough to believe I knew everything and was able to predict my direction in life with the utmost certainty. It was settled, I’d get my degree, land a secure job and fight my way all the way to the top and become a CEO of some mega corp. At the same time I made an informal bet with a good friend of mine that I’d be a millionaire by 30, building on the idea that I’d leverage my savings and possible future home purchases to reach that lofty goal. Those years were probably the most liberating of my life and knowing exactly where I was going was something that I wore proudly.

6 years on however, I don’t think my teenage self and I would get along very well 😉

Back then I was all about knowing your direction to the umpteenth degree and following it to the letter and honestly back then it worked pretty well for me. That wasn’t because it was a good plan and I barely deviated from it; more it was because for the first 4 years of my 10 year plan I was stuck in university so there really wasn’t a lot of room for variation save for failing a class (which I didn’t, thankfully). After finishing my degree and managing to land the coveted job at a large multi-national company I was all set to start my ladder climbing but it took less than a year for my spirits to be broken, dreams of project management shattered and my focus changed from that lofty goal of CEO to generating as much income as possible at any moment whatever the cost.

It was then that I scaled back my goals to something I felt was a bit more managable, around 5 years or so. That meant when I was 23 I thought I had everything planned out till I was 28 which again seemed to work quite well. Instead of just career goals though I started to include more of life’s basic pursuits, love and children. It was a scary thought at first, as it is for any man, but soon the thoughts came to warm me with a soothing amount of certainty. Yet again however these carefully laid plans started to get dashed with the reality of life. Our dreams of going overseas right after the wedding were torn down by the staggering amount of work and cash that would be required to achieve it, and my world was turned upside down when I faced the trifecta of losing my job, buying an investment property and trying to help plan a wedding that would be happening in less than 3 months time.

Whilst it all came clear in the end it taught me that even 5 year plans are probably too long and incapable of dealing with the reality of life: the unknowns.

So right now you’ll rarely ever hear me talk about plans that are longer than a year, just because everything can change so fast that anything longer than that has a good chance of being completely scrapped. Additionally the lofty goals I set myself when I was 19 seemed so complex that the time frames I gave them were in the order of decades, a classic example of Parkinson’s Law (although I’d hesitate to call it a law). Now when my planning only stretches out so far I’m forced to work within the bounds of shorter time frames and things start to look that much more achievable. Sure I’m still working on unkowns but the beauty of it is that they won’t remain that way for decades. The only thing worse than trying something and failing is not trying it at all.

It all comes back to my core belief that setting goals or dreams that are unachievable are the root cause of people giving up on them. I whole heartedly encourage everyone to dream of better things but if you really, truly want to realise them you have to break them down into achievable chunks. Then you know that every step you take is towards that final prize, the dream that you once held up on a pedestal finally becomes a reality. It’s after one of your dreams comes true that you start to look at the others more seriously.

Maybe I’m channeling Tony Robbins here but every time I hear someone talk about their dreams my first compulsion is to ask them “What have you done today to achieve them?”. It’s these infinitesimally small steps taken as often as possible towards your goals that will see them become a reality. It’s so easy to put excuse after excuse up to stop you from exerting the smallest amount of effort towards a life more like the one you dreamed of but if you power through and start achieving you’ll find the willpower to continue on.

Achievement is the self fulfilling prophecy to your dreams.

Dreams, Goals and the New Years Resolution Fallacy.

I was never really a big believer in the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing, mostly because the goals people were setting seemed far too vague for my liking. Sure I can appreciate the fact that you have aspirations to improve your life in certain ways but using lofty ideas like “Lose weight” or “Get a better job” leave a giant gap between reality and the place you want to be. Whilst the New Year is a great time to look back and reflect on the past year it shouldn’t be the only time you’re making goals for yourself, and once you make the shift from setting large, almost unachievable goals to small incremental targets the progress you make can seem quite astounding.

It seems to be trendy these days to say you don’t make resolutions but I’m not sure what the reasoning behind that is. I can understand the motivation that a new year’s resolution will more than likely fail (88% according to this study) but what I don’t usually hear from the same people is “these are the goals I have for myself”. So in essence whilst they may appear to be more intelligent on the surface for foregoing the futile exercise of setting themselves a resolution to stick to they fail to make any achievable goals for themselves. This I believe is the heart of the problem.

I put new year’s resolutions in the same category as dreams. The reason they appear to be unobtainable is because they are so far from your current situation that the path towards them is extremely unclear. However if you take a modular approach to breaking them down into smaller and smaller pieces you’ll find that although there might be a lot of work to get to them, they’re far from unachievable. It was thinking like this that lead me to coin the phrase:

When one of your dreams comes true you start to look at the others more seriously.

It also comes down to a fear of change that many of us hold. There’s potential with any change for it to blow up in our faces and the fear of this can lead us to avoid making any real progress in our lives. However, as author Tim Ferris points out in his book the 4 Hour Work Week (currently reading, review pending) it is most likely that we’re afraid of the unknown and when we set out to define it you will usually find there is nothing to be afraid of. Again it comes down to breaking down whatever problem or dream you might have down into manageable chunks that can be achieved in a short timeframe. Nothing is more motivating than success.

I guess the whole point of this post boils down to is this: make goals constantly and use the new year as a time to reflect on all your successes and to gauge how far you have come. Everyone is capable of great things and the sooner we get out of the trap of pushing our dreams away for sake of the status quo the sooner we can all live our dreams.

Maybe this is why my parents always called me a hopless dreamer 😉

Ideals of Life: The Transition.

I’ve noticed that whenever I start a project or define one of my dreams there’s always a couple stages I go through. Initially I’ll get an idea about something (this blog is a good example) and I’ll muse over it for a while. During this time I’ll do some research on it, discuss it with friends which gives me a really good grounding from which to work on. Then comes what I believe is the hardest part, which is actually getting off my ass and working on bringing this idea into reality. After working on it for a while something interesting usually happens, and this is what I refer to as “The Transition” whereby I’m no longer driving myself to achieve this goal, it’s driving me to completion.

More recently this came to me whilst doing my daily CrossFit work out. I’d completed the routine for the day and this is when I’d usually just pack up and leave. After thinking about leaving for all of 10 seconds I immediately thought I could easily do another 10 minutes and the best thing was I wanted to. Now up until this stage I’d been making myself do the workout of the day and not really adding to it, as per usual I was doing the minimum work required. That day marked a change in my attitude towards doing these daily workouts and the transition from me driving myself towards the goal and the goal motivating me.

What usually triggers the transition for me is when I start to see measurable results from the effort I put in. I find it hard to start anything that I can see immediate or short term results which is why I always split most of my long term goals up into smaller ones so that I don’t lose motivation. Some of the time though I’m lucky enough to discover something  that doesn’t require small short term goals to keep me motivated, like my dream of becoming a pilot and eventually an astronaut. Although I’d class dreams as separate entities from goals, as they pose their own set of challenges.

But that’s a post for another day! 🙂

Ideals of Life: Ambition.

Show me a man who has nothing to do and I’ll show you a man with no ambition.

I’ve always wondered when people tell me they have nothing to do, whether it be at work or in their personal life, whether or not they realise what they’re saying. I’m one of those incredibly lucky people who’s been able to be focused on my goals for a very long time and it’s a quality I see in so many successful people. The common term used for this is ambition or drive, as a lot of successful people will tell you they just felt the need to achieve their goals. This idea came to me after a few weeks of one of my housemates telling me he had nothing to do, and I realised it was because he had no real ambition for any goal.

There are many things in life that can lead us to have a lack of ambition. I often find myself hitting road blocks in plans (like my last 3 week struggle with banks, brokers and lawyers ugh) that lead me to question what the point of it all was, and then throw my hands up at the situation thinking there’s nothing more I can do on it. Sometimes this is true, there are times in life when you can’t make any progress on a problem and the best thing you can do is leave it. What you have to avoid is the trap of never going back to address that problem as with time comes wisdom which can often be applied in ways you may not have previously thought of.

I’ve found the best way to keep myself motivated is to have 2 sets of goals. The first set is a set of small short term achievable goals that are mostly based on time invested. Something like this blog is a good example. It takes me about an hour every day to write a post and that’s something I can easily achieve without having to sacrifice anything else. I also have goals set for myself in the games I play (yes admittedly its World of Warcraft, but that doesn’t invalidate the idea!) and that small reward keeps me motivated for the rest of my activities. The second set are long term goals that I’m constantly working towards, like financial independence or getting my pilots license. It’s this combination of almost instantaneous gratification and long term prospects that keep my ambition going, and leaves me with few dull moments where there’s little for me to do.

The hardest thing about all this is finding what drives you, but once you discover what your passion is so many things seem to fall into place.

Ideals of Life: No Achievement is too Small.

I’ve often seen people crushed under their own desire to achieve greatness. It would seem that when confronted with a large task or ambition instead of breaking it down into simpler and more manageable tasks we see each step we take as an exercise in futility. A great many self help books will describe such a process as making small achievable goals for yourself constantly, rather than work on what may amount to an insurmountable problem. Using this idea of small but constant achievement is something that I have used continually throughout my life and something that I more recently came to see the benefit of.

In my teenage years I was critically underweight, being around 185cms tall and weighing about 60kgs. From a BMI perspective this counts as “underweight” although that was pretty obvious if you were just to take a look at me. I didn’t suffer from any eating disorders I just didn’t put on weight no matter how much I thought I ate. When I turned 19 I started doing traditional Wu Shu and Tai Ji and after about a year I’d gained about 10 kgs. Whilst I didn’t end up gaining anymore after that (and stopping Wu Shu due to work commitments 2 years later) it did show me that as long as I kept at something and made small progress constantly I’d eventually end up where I wanted to be. More recently one of my friends (who I did Wu Shu with) put me onto CrossFit and after only about 3 weeks of regularly doing their work out of the day I’ve noticed significant improvements in my health and physique. They also encourage setting goals like beating your own personal bests and the like.

I think this idea came to me from my background in engineering. With any problem I was given whilst studying there was a heavy emphasis of breaking everything down into its most basic forms so that it would be easier to comprehend. I often found myself with assignments that looked so huge that I could never complete them, but after the first couple I got into a routine to solve them. It usually went something like:

  • Open a new document and put the title down
  • Fill out all the housekeeping bits
  • Get the sections outlined
  • Start work on the code/electronics
  • Fill out a couple sections
  • etc

Getting the title down always seemed to get me over that initial “its way too hard” hump and kicked me off in getting things done. We had quite a few assignments that were semester long and I wouldn’t be able to complete certain parts before we’d covered them, but having the framework down really helped keep me motivated to get it done a long time before it was due.

We all face challenges in our lives and no matter what kind of person you are there will be times when you feel like your surrounded by insurmountable tasks on all sides. The key is to identify what you can do to chip away at it because once you find that, your problem doesn’t look so big. I believe Lao-Tzu summed it up perfectly:

A journey of a thousand miles began with a single step.

Straight Line Theory.

Way back in my college mathematics days I came up with a simple yet highly philosophical theory about people’s motivations, goals and the direction that they take to get them. I came up with it initially when tackling the problem of parking somewhere, and the seemingly strange way people would attempt to park as to avoid walking too far. The idea came from the basic mathematical principle that the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line. Take the example we have below, a typical car park with the destination labelled:

diag1

Now, the typical behaviour observed in this kind of situation is for the first row (1-1 through 1-6) to fill up first, as they are perceived as being the closest to the destination. However, this is not the case, if we draw in a circle originating from the center of the goal we’ll see the direct straight line distances between the spots and destination, shown thusly:

diag21

The distance to the destination is actually about the same for 2-1 and 1-3, however most people would only take into account one dimension when thinking about the shortest path to their goal, and 1-3 looks much more attractive then 2-1.

This theory applies to almost any endeavour that someone may undertake during their lifetime. The quickest path to your goal is always the one with the smallest amount of deviations from the path. You’ll notice people who don’t reach their goals are often distracted from their desired path easily, and instead end up taking a wobbly path to their goal instead of heading straight for it. I’ve known quite a lot of people who are very successful despite their experience in a field and when questioned about it the response is always the same: “I knew what I wanted to do and I just went for it”.

I thought about this idea constantly for a long time and I ended up asking myself, do mathematicians lead significantly different lives to “normal” people? The question is inheritly flawed, as all of us lead decidedly different lives from what anyone could call normal, and I’m sure we all have different definitions of what a normal life entails. Rather, I came to the conclusion that depending on what your passion is in your life your perspective will change because of it. I’m an IT engineer and as that all my problems get framed in terms of technology and processes. Someone who is say a nutritionist will frame their view around keeping their mind and body healthy and so on. It’s an extrapolation on that old saying, when all you have is a hammer all your problems look like nails.

So, whatever you do in your life look for the straight line. Keep your eye fixed firmly on the goal and start walking directly for it, you’ll be suprised how quickly you can achieve something when you don’t let other distractions get in the way.