If Life is a Game, Then You Make the Rules [Leverage the Compounding Effect of Consistency to Accomplish Great Things]

consistencyThis seems like a good post to kick of the New Year.

I recently shared the idea that it may be helpful to think of life as a game: The Tao of Tetris. A quick sum…

  • Use your resources wisely
  • You compete against yourself
  • Life moves fast
  • Play in the present

I’ve enjoyed this perspective. It’s allowed me to seek opportunities to improve, but not take life, and myself, too seriously.

That balance between improvement and enjoyment is a tight line to traverse. Erring on the side of fun seems the wise choice, and games are meant to be enjoyed. Good match.

Your gaming strategy becomes the art of improvement. Your systems are your daily practice. The practice is the set of rules we choose to live by.

The daily routines, rituals, and habits. The consistency that accomplishes great things.

This is not an invitation to make promises we won’t keep. It’s an opportunity to make daily progress, keep score against yourself and enjoy the process.

Where to start? Gather info, make a plan, get to work.

Take what you can from others, but this is your life, your time, your skills. You are unique. Build your unique game.

I’ve kept the eye on the interwebs and located some ideas to kick us off.

There are more great ideas to be found. But no need to wait. Now is the time. Simple. Actionable.


The greatest tool at our disposal is the right attitude. Open. Creative. Excited.

Inflexibility breaks. Flow creates.

In my humble opinion, meditation may be the best training ground to build the right attitude muscle.

Ryan Holiday shared a post about the great power of greeting it all with a smile – awesome story about Jack Johnson…the boxer, not surfer/singer.

The world is going to try to knock us down. We will face unfairness, animus, even evil. How will we respond? With anger? With rage? By letting it get to us?

No. We should instead respond with the excitement and smile of a Jack Johnson.

Personal Rules Lead to Great Things

Every game starts with a set of rules. A framework to build the game.

Understand the rules so we know how to bend them. Know the standard so we can exceed expectations.

Rules may seem limiting, but personal rules offer freedom. The freedom to simplify and clarify.

Reduce decision points. Stop negotiating with yourself. Know your clear direction.

Your personal rules lead to power, independence.

Kaizen Method

A strong overarching strategy is 1% progress, daily. The Kaizen Method.

Leverage the compounding effect of daily progress.

It applies to all aspects of life, and you can tackle many habits at once. Simply ask…

What is one small thing that I can do to improve X?

The Art of Manliness has a great post discussing the Kaizen Way – interesting background and simple suggestions.

System-focused, not goal focused. Build your systems to continually improve. The goal is progress.

Kaizen has become my first thought when considering how to improve. But the game of life is broken down further into multiple systems.

Each of these systems is broken down further into individual steps – habits. Each of these habits is the opportunity to improve by 1%.

Regardless of your goal, narrowing down your focus to small manageable tasks that can be done daily is the secret weapon to achievement. – 10x Your Results, One Tiny Action at a Time

Fail More

The vast majority aim for mediocrity. It’s a bit of a paradox, but the medicore has the most competition, while few aim for great.

99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive. – Tim Ferriss

Ryan Holiday wrote a great book on this subject a few years ago – The Obstacle is the Way.

Obstacles are exciting. The large majority will give up. Keep pushing.

Aim high. Don’t be afraid to fail…seek failure!

Present, Pause

The Ancient Greeks had two concepts of time – Chronos and Kairos.

Chronos is the time we refer to on the ticking clock. Kairos carries a spiritual significance – a sense of presence and attention to the moment.

Chronos is a necessity to operate in the daily world. But Kairos is where we find joy, motivation, and greatness.

Create Kairos – know your purpose, set aside quiet time, create quiet space.

Be ready to pause when the opportunity presents itself.

There is a new Leonardo da Vinci biography the interwebs are buzzing about. One of the highlights the author has pointed out is da Vinci had distractions just like we do today. One of da Vinci’s strengths was the ability to pause and focus when he was inspired.

You can’t always schedule quiet moments for reflection. Even when we can schedule Kairos, inspiration may strike off schedule.

Cultivate the habit of the da Vinci Pause. Cultivate Kairos.

Be present. Be aware. When inspiration strikes, pause. Focus on the moment. Focus on the inspiration. See where the flow takes you.

Create Your Time

The game of life is a long game. There are daily, moment to moment, opportunities to improve.

Systems and daily practices evolve. The game evolves. We evolve.

The evolution of the best you is a fantastically rad process. But it helps to have a few reference points to start from…

  • Bullet Journal
  • Deep Habits: Plan Your Week in Advance
    • Cal Newport – “[T]he return on investment is phenomenal. To visualize your whole week at once allows you to spread out, batch, and prioritize work in a manner that significantly increases what you accomplish and goes a long way toward eliminating work pile-ups and late nights[.]”
  • Perfect Morning Routine to Have a Good Day – AOM
    • 10 minutes
    • Rule of 3 – three most important items to accomplish
    • Set Intentions – purpose helps Kairos time…see above
    • Plan for fires – what distractions could come up today
    • 15-20 minutes of physical activity
    • Set a reward for the end
  • Fixed-Scheduled Productivity – Cal Newport
    • “Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way. The beneficial effects of this strategy on your sense of control, stress levels, and amount of important work accomplished, is profound.”
  • Productivity tips that could be worthwhile…
    • Single task – forget multi-tasking, one task at a time
    • Nightly prep for the AM
    • Sunday prep for week
    • Text to audio – pro tip, 2X speed
      • I just realized Instapaper does this, and I’m “reading” more now than ever.
      • Only way I listen to podcasts as well.
    • Meditate
    • 1 minute rule – if it takes less than a minute, do it
    • 7 second rule for clothes and dishes – do you have 7 seconds to put them away?
    • 1 touch rule – only touch things once; clothes, mail, dishes, emails, etc.
    • Stand while on the phone – conversations go faster, less distractions, and motion creates emotion
    • Big projects before lunch
    • Automate repetative tasks
      • Outsource, virtual assistant?
    • Know when/where to work. Know your personal cycle

10 Tips for Raising Little Dudes

Did you go vote today? The votes are being tallied as I type. Who will be named the next US Pres?

The Dude’s election prediction: The Man wins again.

The good news, we can finally stop talking about voting and elections very soon. And the 24 hour news cycle will find the next tragedy to focus on. Yay!

Let’s speed up this cycle here on DKB and focus on something meaningful – the kiddos.

I’m not sure who this Susan Sontag cat is, but she’s got a sweet top 10 list of tips for raising little dudes. (Tip o’ the hat to Brain Pickings for sharing the love.)

First, a reminder of how The Man views the kiddos – yes, this is what you voted for today…


 – Thanks for sharing the love Lew.

Ms. Sontag’s 10 rules for raising super rad little dudes…

  1. Be consistent.
  2. Don’t speak about him to others (e.g., tell funny things) in his presence. (Don’t make him self-conscious.)
  3. Don’t praise him for something I wouldn’t always accept as good.
  4. Don’t reprimand him harshly for something he’s been allowed to do.
  5. Daily routine: eating, homework, bath, teeth, room, story, bed.
  6. Don’t allow him to monopolize me when I am with other people.
  7. Always speak well of his pop. (No faces, sighs, impatience, etc.)
  8. Do not discourage childish fantasies.
  9. Make him aware that there is a grown-up world that’s none of his business.
  10. Don’t assume that what I don’t like to do (bath, hairwash) he won’t like either.

“Buzz” Shares His Story Rules



Little Dude LOVES Toy Story. “Buzz. Buzz? Buzz?”

We must have watched “Buzz” 50 times. Easy.

Other than the awesome graphics, it’s impressive how amazing the Toy Story story-lines are.

I’ve never ventured into the world of fiction writing. Although, I think it would be very cool. But it’s a bit intimidating. Creating a great story from nada seems like a lot of hard work. With a good chance of the end result being crapola.

Luckily, we have help from Pixar – the writers of Toy Story. One of Pixar’s story artists, Emma Coats, recently tweeted a series of 22 “story basics.” Pretty great to get the inside scoop.

Not sure if I’ll ever head down the fiction path, but it’s nice to know I have some great basics.

Here’s the top 10, and you can find the full list here

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

Hats off to Kottke.org for sharing another great link.

Santa Has Rules

Rain on the weekend is usually a bummer.  But after a 12 hour shift of manual labor on Saturday, a rainy Sunday is somewhat of a blessing.

I intended to catch-up on some yard work and clean up the work area from Saturday’s project, but just as I started, the rain began to fall.  Being forced inside was a bit frustrating at first, but a relaxing day inside grew on me pretty quickly.

However, for kids, a day inside is the antithesis of relaxing.  I’m not sure if we get lazier as we age, but parents clearly don’t share the same level of energy as kids.  And when they are locked inside with limited options for entertainment the pent up energy begins to build.  By 3PM the built up energy is ready to explode.

Signs of nervous energy begin to grow.  The feet start tapping.  The body starts to move.  Spontaneous dancing.  Lots of spinning in circles.  Attempts are made to turn furniture into trampolines.  Eventually it leads to pestering the parents looking for something to do.

The Princess started her Sunday lock-down with all of the above, which eventually led to following the Dude around the house, primarily hanging off my clothes, but also telling the same jokes over and over.  And I use the word jokes loosely.  It was mainly the Princess hiding where I can see her and then jumping out to scare me.  Clearly we needed some activities.

After listening to “I want that,” following every commercial, it occurred to me to have The Princess create a letter/list for Santa.  Yes, I know it’s only October, and don’t get me started on the concept of  Santa, but from a practical perspective, I see the value in kids using their imagination, this will give her time to think through what she’s asking for, and most importantly, this will easily kill an hour in lock-down.

However, prior to starting this process, the Dude needed to lay down some ground rules.

Dude:  “Santa likes to bring you gifts that help make you a well rounded person.  Like art, music, books, or paints.

The Princess:  “No, he brings toys.”

Dude:  “OK.  He likes to bring toys too.  But he has rules.  1.  Santa needs specifics.  2.  He will not bring the same toys you already have. And 3.  He will not bring multiples of the same toy.”

The Princess:  “Whatever.”

The Dude is easily dismissed, but I’m also the funding behind Santa, so these were necessary rules.

The Princess likes to explain what she wants with vague descriptions like “It’s small, but gets big.  And it’s round.  And you can play with it.”  Any idea what that might be?  I have no clue.  She also likes to ask for the newer versions of toys she already has that are collecting dust in her room.  And lastly, she likes to ask for complete sets of toys.  Like every My Little Pony.  Do you know how many MLP’s there are?  I don’t either, but The Princess does, and she can name each of them.  She wants all of them…even though they all look the same, do the same thing (nothing), and an abundance are collecting dust in her room.

So, Santa needs some rules.

Dear Santa,

I’m The Princess, and I’m super rad!

Hearts & Stars 4-Eva.

The Princess

  1. Unicorn pillow pet
  2. Barbie & the Mermaid Tail movie
  3. I have plenty of lipstick.
  4. Squeekies

It’s a work in progress, but the process was fun, it gave The Princess a reason to concentrate and think, and it burned some time.  All around winner.

The thought process definitely burned a bit of energy, but not nearly enough.  So, after the Santa exercise, we resorted to the simplest form of rainy day entertainment.  Rain boots, raincoat, and some splashing in the rain.

Singing In the Rain

Singing In the Rain