I’m the type of person who rolls their eyes at cliche motivational stuff, but there is a reality to it. It’s easier to accept that reality if you find it for yourself. I want to kick off the year by laying out the foundation of how I got started and being more clear and personal in my communication. So I give you my “cliche motivational” origin story.

In 2013 something life-changing happened to me. It happened after I made my first game, Red Tie Runner. For the first time ever, I finally had real, tangible, personal proof of a thesis that I had developed over years of schooling.

The first 3 years of my high-school experience I was utterly depressed. I was never all that happy at school, but it took a nosedive when high-school started. Every day at school was monotonous, repetitive, and precisely delegated. Furthermore, there was little relief after the school day ended; my nights were consumed with hours of homework from advanced classes and extracurricular actives. The only reprieve was in whatever free time I had and the rare two or three classes a year that were on a subject I was engaged with. Classes where the teacher was actually passionate about teaching the subject, not just teaching the test.

This depression was a result of an epiphany I had sometime in middle school. Up to that point I had defined myself by grades: “How well did I do on this test?”, “How many advanced classes am I taking?”, etc. These were the main concerns I consistently held. These thoughts and efforts to hold up to a standard I saw little real-world value in constantly degraded my quality of life. Not to say good grades are useless, but I recognized where I wanted to go with my life. I realized I wanted to work with people who valued the work I did, not how well I did on standardized tests.

Eventually it got to a point where I asked myself why. What was the point of it all? “Why?” is a very dangerous question, one that launched me into a three year existential crisis. I was trying to grasp my own existence, my ultimate goal in life, while school was too busy teaching me that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

The epiphany was this: everything I had done to this point was a part of a predefined path. I was following the good student paradigm, and I honestly can’t fault anyone for encouraging me along this route. It’s the safest, most socially acceptable and common route to a “successful” life. What I do fault is the system, for making it seem like the only route.

I realized something. I didn’t give a damn about my test scores or grades, or at least I thought I didn’t. (That idea was still so far ingrained within me that I upheld those grades and advanced classes against my own desires). It was from that epiphany that I formed my personal thesis, the one that made me realize my time at school was wasted: my free time has value.

This seems like an obvious statement, but to someone who grew up thinking school performance was the most important thing in life, it was eye-opening. The ultimate value in that time was that it actually was “free”. Free of an assigned utility and open to limitless possibilities. It would follow that if the possibilities were limitless, and I found my education at school to have little value to me, there must be a way to derive more valuable education outside of school.

So I did just that. I spent the summer of my junior year developing an iphone game, something I had always wanted to do. Suddenly, BAM, there was my proof. After that summer I felt immensely fulfilled. To the observer it may not look like much more than a mediocre plaforming game, but to me it signified a personal triumph over school.

It felt like I had learned 3x as much as what I had from the last 3 years of school combined because I was producing personal, tangible, and professional value. I had always wanted to make games, and had smaller attempts previously, but never had finished one. The most important thing I got out of that summer is something greater than any diploma or degree; I learned how to teach myself.

After that, I kept working on games and taking risks. My senior year I took classes I actually cared about, not the ones I thought looked good on a transcript. I did as much homework as I could at school to maximize the time I could spend at home working on games. I started college because I didn’t know what else to do then, even though I knew my heart wasn’t in it. I struggled in college, and was disappointed to be forced into more general education classes.

Anyone can do well when they are pressured into something. I did well in school despite how I felt in it. But I don’t want to do well. I want to thrive. I want to do better than exceptional. It’s all or nothing for me. I found my passion in creating things and I’ll be damned if I’m pressured into following the safe route.

To date I’ve made over $15k from game development. Not enough to live on yet, but enough to prove that I have to capacity to create value in that marketplace. I’m currently on an indefinite leave of absence from university and enrolled in Praxis. I’ve always had a goal in mind, but now I have a clear path in mind to that goal.

If I go back to college, I’ll do it because I see personal value in it. Not because it’s the normal thing to do after high school. If you asked me then: “Are you making the most efficient effort you possibly can to achieve your dreams?” The answer would be no. So that’s my only resolution for 2017, to always be able to answer that question with a yes.

Ask yourself the same question, and react accordingly. Are you making the most efficient effort you possibly can to achieve your dreams?

You are the only person who know the heart of your goals, and only you have the power to create the path to achieving them.

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