Happy New Year!

I know. I’m very late, but I didn’t mean for the new year to start without me! What can I say about 2009? What does 2010 have in store?

Let’s look back on 2009 first. I created an index card and kept it with me throughout the year to remind me what I wanted to focus on:

This year\'s focus!

My four main focii: being more decisive, creating more value, delivering more value, and being healthier.

Being more decisive was meant to remind me that I need to be more active in my pursuits if I expect to make a difference. I may want to run my own business and create games, but unless I make bigger and better decisions, I’ll continue to get mediocre results.

Creating and delivering more value? Those two were inspired by Steve Pavlina’s article How to Make Lots of Money During a Recession. Creating and delivering real value to customers is the best, most sustainable way to earn a living. You can probably trick people into parting with their money, but if you can deliver your creations to people who are willing to pay for it, you’ll be well ahead.

And finally, being healthier. I wanted to lose weight and feel as fit as I did when I was in high school.

So how did I do in each focus last year? Miserably.

At the beginning of the year, I was able to leverage the work of outsourced contractors to create a Facebook game, Sea Friends. You can read the post-mortem, but here are the key highlights:

  • It was the most aggressive schedule I have worked on outside of 48-hour game development competitions.
  • I learned a lot about what I can accomplish by leveraging other people’s time.
  • I got a taste of what life is like when you put everything else on hold and dedicate your time and resources to a single pursuit.

That last bit, however, got me in the end. I spent way longer recovering from this project than I would have liked. Between a day job and working on this project, I had no time for relaxing. I couldn’t afford idle time or time spent on anything that wasn’t getting that game finished. I paid someone else to shovel my car out of the snow during this time because I couldn’t afford the time to do it myself! So I needed to take time off, and unfortunately that downtime lasted much longer than anticipated.

And as for Sea Friends, it’s not a very good game, but it still had a few hundred daily active users as recently as a few weeks ago. I could have spent time improving it, but between feeling burnt out and the proprietary nature of the Flash file, I couldn’t motivate myself to do so. I’m not proud of it, allowing those two things to stop me, but it’s what happened.

After Sea Friends, I had a whole year to release a new game, but outside of Ludum Dare competition entries, I didn’t finish anything. So much for creating and delivering value.

I suppose I’m being overly negative. Late last year, I also invested in an online educational course on Internet business development, and since my focus has been there for the past few months, that’s why there has been a drop in the Thousander Club entries (and blog entries in general!). What I’ve been learning there should help me not only with GBGames but also a different website I started.

The focus that resulted in definite improvement was the focus on being healthier. I went from 188 lbs in February to a peak of 192 lbs in May down to 180 lbs in December. That’s a net loss of 8 lbs, and 12 lbs were lost between May and the end of the year! I’ve also been playing soccer, so I’m feeling more fit in general, too. Aside from a pulled hamstring in October, I’ve been improving my health slowly but surely.

So if 2009 was a mediocre year for me, what makes me think that 2010 will be any different?

Because I’ll be leveraging Purpose, Discipline, and Habits this time around.

Last year, each focus was practically the equivalent of a bad New Year’s Resolution. They were vague, and I didn’t do anything to change my life so that each focus played a big role. Yeah, I had a reminder in the form of that index card, but what was it reminding me to do or be?

I realized I didn’t want a repeat of a mediocre year, and so I decided I was going to make changes to my life to ensure it.

First, I didn’t want to feel aimless, drifting from one interesting project to the next without accomplishing anything. I needed to figure out what I really wanted out of my life. I needed to figure out my purpose.

Using the exercises in the book Life on Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired Life, I was able to get a good start with this statement:

A Life on Purpose is a joyful life of freedom, continuous learning, encouraged and supported creativity, insatiable curiosity, and prolific creation, all driven by passion and a desire for excellence, powered by a healthy body and soul.

Bam. It’s great to have something to help me make decisions. If it doesn’t lead to more freedom and fun, I’m not interested. If being that person’s friend is discouraging and stifles my creativity and curiosity, I don’t want that friendship. If my heart isn’t in it and I can’t improve, why should I bother doing the same old same old? And if my health deteriorates because of it, why should I accept it as a fact of life?

Ok, so what do I want? Generally, I want to be a prolific creator. I want to be a lifelong learner. I want to be fit and healthy. I want to be a leader and role-model. I want to live a life of passion.

I’ve identified four major goals that I want to accomplish this coming year, and while I won’t be able to list all of them here, they all pass my “Is it a match for my purpose?” test.

One goal is to earn regular revenue from GBGames. So far, the only revenue I’ve ever earned is from ads, and it was never significant in the first place. I could basically pay for web hosting. With the recession, my revenues have dropped.

So how do I plan on changing things this year? Hasn’t my goal always been to earn revenue from GBGames? Yes, but I never gave my business the attention it needed. This year, I’m taking steps to change my life so that I can give it that attention.

There is a quote I like about discipline: “Discipline is remembering what you want.” A lot of people fail at keeping New Year’s resolutions because they think they need to dedicate all of their will power to accomplish it and they burn out. Will power is great for short bursts of focus, but it’s the wrong tool to use for the long haul. Discipline is the right tool. Will power will let you do things to change your environment so that discipline is easier to maintain. For instance, if you want to lose weight, using will power to avoid eating all of the junk food you keep in your home every day is a poor use of the will. A better use? Dedicating an afternoon of throwing away your junk food, shopping for healthier food, and planning healthy meals. Now you have healthy meals and snacks because you used your will power to change your environment to match your goals. Set your life up in a way that makes it easy to remember what you want out of it.

How do you do so? You install some good habits. If you can get yourself to go for a walk every single day after dinner without fail, you’re a long way along your goal of becoming more fit, and each day it becomes harder to fail.

So how do I leverage my purpose, discipline, and habits to help me accomplish my goal of earning revenue for GBGames this year? Frankly, my business plan is still being formed, and it’s the subject of another blog post. That said, in previous years, my business has suffered because it was always an afterthought. Development hours were squeezed into weeks full of non-development. 2010 will be the year that I gear my daily actions and habits toward improving my business. I’ve already taken stock of my current situation, and I’ve identified what needs to change. While I feel behind already, this work was important and needed to be done to pave the way for the rest of the year.

In previous years, I believe I have written inspirational posts about how things were going to change, but I never stuck by those convictions. This year feels different. It is different. I’ve hit a point where what I knew intellectually about the connection between action and results is now intuitively known as well.

While I intend to write more about my plans, for now, days after Groundhog’s Day, here’s to 2010!

5 comments to Happy New Year!

  • Happy (belated) NY, buddy! Would you tell us how to write Flash games or give us some pointers on hiring out for games on our column? Both are experiences that we could learn a lot from.

  • “Write an article for ASPects” has been added to my list. B-)

  • Casey Dunham

    I think you have hit it right on. Most people don’t understand the difference between Will and Discipline. I am finally at a place both financially and mentally where I can focus on my own company and game development. A friend of mine and I started an LLC just before Christmas and haven’t been able to start on our own project as of yet, since we both have been starting new jobs. It’s time to get into gear however, and to get started on it.

    To aid me in my goal of turning my game company into something sustainable, I have decided to set aside certain hours of the week specifically for game development. Currently, this is going to be Friday nights, since I just go out with friends and spend money, I can also help save some.

    Casey

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