Why do you think I named my company Happion Labs? My first and foremost priority with it was happiness, not money. Happiness unfortunately doesn't always come that easily to me (though a lot easier to me than some), and Happion Labs in the end was something of a failed experiment that I maybe stuck with longer than I should have. And as I gave up on it and relegated game development to the category of 'hobby' or 'side project' I went through the sads.But the year wasn't all bad; for one thing Daniel Cook turned me on to this habit-forming thing at the beginning of the year:
And I've been doing it ever since, using the Habit Tracker app for Android rather than post-its. When I went into it it was with just a couple of fairly well established habits (running a few times a week and taking supplements every day) but at this point I'm also doing spaced repetition learning with ankidroid, meditating 9 minutes a day (sounds so much easier than 10), getting up earlier, drinking less, and getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night. (I'm shooting for 8 but my body just won't listen.)
I also went back into therapy this year. (Which scares me a bit to write; I guess I'm still worried about the therapy stigma. But here I go, trying to normalize mental illness!) I didn't stick with it for long because I didn't feel like I was getting that much out of it, but my therapist gave me one stellar life-changing piece of advice which was to continually listen to positive psychology audiobooks. I was listening to fiction while running, driving, and doing chores and when I swapped in audiobooks it 'gave me a diet of positivity' as she put it.
A couple of these audiobooks were magical thinking, the modern equivalent of Think And Grow Rich (I'm talking particularly about Joe Dispenza here, don't tell my ex-wife because she's the one who recommended him) but most of what I listened to was inspiring, motivating, and affirming. I made various decisions and strategies this year that directly came out of these books.
My best source for a list of positive psychology books is Scott Crabtree's blog:
If you want to read a book that will not just entertain you, but might just make you happier for the rest of your life, I suggest these books.— Happy Brain Science (@ScottCrab) April 22, 2019
Have you read any of these? What did you think? What books am I missing from my list that I should read next? https://t.co/5UC9FayEfg
(Side note: while social media is correlated with depression and I've definitely had my share of triggers on twitter this year the handful of positive psychology or mindfulness tweets I've seen has more than made up for it.)
One of the important and early ones was Succeed by Heidi Halvorson. This book pointed out that the mindset we have when trying to attain goals is very important, and although the magical-thinking Think And Grow Rich / The Secret type books might say 'just be positive' the evidence-based Succeed points out that the mindset is to both believe we can do it but at the same time believe it will not be easy. People who think achieving their goals will be easy, whether it's weight loss or finishing a novel or what, are more likely to fail than those who don't, because they might get complacent; they might allow themselves to be tempted because they're overconfident in their ability to resist temptation; and other reasons.
So after reading Succeed I reframed some of my goals. Dungeon Life became a thing that I was going to work on just to learn, not to make money or to necessarily become popular. (When you approach a goal with the mindset of learning rather than some criteria of 'success' you're more resistant to critical feedback, for one thing, and game developers sure get a lot of critical feedback.) I've been working on Dungeon Life ever since, part-time, and been much happier with my work on it than before.
The other goal I reframed was getting a real job-job-type-job. To be honest, I thought restarting my career after doing the indie game dev thing would be easy. I mean, like, I was the tech lead on Spider-Man 2 and stuff! But nobody was hiring for gameplay programming or lead positions and when I branched out to possible other areas I would either be ghosted or choke on the interviews. I realized: getting a job was going to be hard. I read in one book that 1 out of 10 onsites result in a hire. So to succeed at my goal I created new habits: one was to apply to a new position or follow up on an existing query every day, and another was to study how to take job interviews: I read Cracking the Coding Interview, practiced the algorithmic stuff on LeetCode almost every day. I also hit up my friends for referrals. It took many months but eventually I landed what I expect to be an awesome position: a lead coder on the Minecraft team at Microsoft! I don't know if I would have landed it if it hadn't been for Succeed, or, for that matter, my friend Max Szlagor.
My most recent read, Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin, was a surprise. It turned out it's a book about habit forming (look, I'm reincorporating. It's a storyteller thing) and I recognized a ton of myself in it, for example how I stopped strength training after my last Spartan race. That's the 'finish line' effect and why I've also stopped doing leetcode once I got offered the Minecraft gig. (Not ashamed of quitting leetcode though, as much as I enjoy doing it, if I'm going to have habits I want them to be the most important habits I can have and I'm not sure leetcode makes the cut.) It turns out goal setting can be harmful to habit forming unless you set a new goal as soon as you reach the old one. Hey, is that why I never wrote a second novel?
One strategy from Better Than Before is the 'clean slate' strategy: when facing a life change, it's an opportunity to commit to other habits as well that will be more likely to stick. How convenient that I'm starting a new job soon. I've been afraid that I'll let habits like running and meditation slip once faced with possibly long days and commutes, but Better Than Before has me thinking that if I build my cardio habit into my new schedule it will stick. I'll let you know.
Another thing Better Than Before reminded me of is that I'm a believer in a low carb diet, but I've let my dieting habits slip over the past few years. I want to recommit to a low carb diet again. So I've been keeping it down to around 100g a day for the past few days...and am pretty much hungry all the time now no matter how much protein I eat. :P But armed with the habit tracker I think I'll be able to stick with it. Again, I'll let you know.
Well...I've ran out of time for today, so I'm going to stop here. I've read a bunch of other books and I'll talk about how they've affected me and what I think of them in Part 2.