Life

2013: Year in Review

Zombicide

2013 has definitely been my year: I managed to get into my dream career, I went on the trip of a lifetime through four European countries, and I finally flew the coop and moved out on my own.

Despite that, I have spent the last couple of days (when writing this, in late 2013) feeling like I was in a bit of a funk and thinking that I was actually disappointed in myself. However, I am pretty sure that’s incorrect, and that I am quite satisfied with what I have accomplished in 2013, but I wish to do much more for 2014.

As with 2012, I have created The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for 2013.

The Good

I started 2013 off with a bang: I managed to get my dream job of building video games. I joined Massive Damage in early January as an Associate Video Game Producer, and got bumped to a fully fledged Video Game Producer in July. I work with a team of incredibly smart, talented, and passionate people who know how to have fun, and I’ve been a part of a bunch of products that have been incredible learning experiences.

Prior to joining, I had been a bit aimless in my career aspirations, but getting into the games industry has made the end goal clear – it’s always going to be about video games.

In June 2013, I went away for three weeks on a trip through Europe with three of my friends. We backpacked our way through Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Ibiza, Madrid, and Lisbon, eating and drinking our fill for three weeks. It was a trip of a lifetime, giving myself a much needed break and exposure to the world at large, it also gave me incredible stories and experiences that I can never forget. I will eventually get around to actually working on the photos I took throughout.

Thanks to work, I became completely enamoured with board games, starting my collection with Zombicide. Since then, I’ve grown my board game collection to 11 titles, and I’ve spent many a quiet afternoon or evening rolling dice or throwing down cards. My favourite for the year is a definite tie between Zombicide and Ascension, and I look forward to discovering more titles in the new year.

In November, I managed to finally fly the coop and moved into an apartment in downtown Toronto with my best friend. It’s been a move that’s been in the works since July, but took its sweet time in being realized. The independence has been refreshing, the shorter commute has been a blessing, and a place to call my own has been pivotal in furthering the next steps of my plan.

The Bad

To supplement The Good, I have created a list of things that did not go according to plan this year, but in a change of pace, I am writing down how I think I will correct that for the 2014.

I haven’t saved nearly as much as I wanted to. For reasons I would rather not go into, my savings have stagnated in 2013, and I can really only blame myself. The part of me that demands fiscal responsibility has really slacked in the latter half of the year, and that will change. I am creating a few side projects that will hopefully alleviate the situation, and I plan to do a bit more nights-and-weekends consulting. I have many plans for 2014, and I’m not letting myself ruin it.

I did not get enough exercise at all this year. After going to the gym on an almost daily basis last year, I hardly went this year at all, to the point of stopping in July when things got a little too crazy at work for me to go in the mornings. I no longer have an excuse with my apartment having a pool and a solid gym, I will break this bad habit in 2014 or I will die trying.

I find solace in distractions. Every time I sit down to start a project, or improve myself, I find something to get lost in. Surfing the web (read: Reddit) has really crippled some of my ability to be productive, so I will change this in 2014, with specific time set aside to do only personal improvement work, no distractions allowed.

I did not complete any personal projects in 2013. I often came home exhausted, in a bad mood, wanting to do something else, or any combination of the three. This led to zero personal projects being completed in the year, and I feel like I let myself down. But, bad feelings aside, I will complete at least 1 in the first two months of 2014, or I will take away my discretionary spending budget.

The Ugly

I lacked any sort of organizational ability. I spent most of this year, outside of work, in a frazzled state of disorganization. I can chalk it up to any number of things, but once again, this comes down to my own silliness.

I think 2013 is the year I learned that I constantly overextend myself, and that I don’t spend enough time on any single project or task. I will become more single-minded and focused for 2014, as I don’t have the time or money to really do otherwise.

What’s Next for 2014?

I have high hopes for 2014, in that I’d like to finally grow and improve in ways that I haven’t before. I want to become a better producer, I want to become a better developer, and I’d like to be a far more complete adult. (Sounds silly, but it is exactly what I need.)

I am going to get back into regular exercise, I will set aside time for honing my skills and building new ones, and I will spend far more time developing and polishing ideas.

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to reading my year in review, I appreciate it. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to give me feedback, ask questions, or share your own insights and experiences. I am always open to good conversation.

I am looking forward to 2014, and I hope you are too.

Happy New Year friends and family, here’s to you and yours.

October French Month: Week 1 Progress Update

Jon Lim - Duolingo Week 1

Original Post: October Project: Back to Basics with French!

After spending 15 minutes every day on Duolingo, every day for a week, I seem to be making solid progress. Level 5 in French, completed Basics, Basics 2, Phrases, Food, Animals, and working on Adjectives and onward.

The most difficult part has been setting aside time every night to learn, with the necessary quiet and state of mind to be receptive to what I learn. However, it seems like I’ve settled on a nice rhythm so far and haven’t missed a day yet.

You can take a look at my progress (and my stream!) in French on my Duolingo profile.

Here we go, week 2.

October Project: Back to Basics with French!

October Project: French with Duolingo

My September project failed miserably – I hardly had time to spend thinking about structuring an entire website let alone having the brain power to do so. I can’t blame anyone but myself but I’m course correcting and picking projects that are much smaller in scope and therefore much easier to keep up with!

October Project: Spend 15 minutes every day learning French on Duolingo.

My time in Paris, albeit short, was very fruitful. My French slowly came back to me and, despite trouble with vocabulary, I managed to hold my own while out and about. I’d like to brush up on my skills and get to the point where I can have decent conversations in French.

I’ll try to make weekly updates with a new screenshot of my progress, but otherwise, you can look at my sad, sad progress on my Duolingo profile.

My Advice to Young Me

I’ve spent most of my teens and twenties listening to advice. Follow your passion, don’t give up on your dreams, do what makes you happy… I bet you’ve heard it all. Not that I’ve become jaded or cynical, but that sort of advice never served me well.

I’ve compiled some advice that I would have given to my younger self that’s actionable, that doesn’t set unrealistic expectations, and makes you better as a person in general. While I learned most of this as an entrepreneur and while working for startups, I would wager that this applies to anyone and everyone.

Be Resourceful

When you aren’t given clear instructions or a clear path to the end, you really need to get creative about getting things done. Build genuine relationships, don’t panic, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you aren’t taking a well-defined path in your life, you will need to create your own and that means being open to trying anything and everything at least once, and you’ll more likely enjoy the ride too.

Be Resilient

You’ll hear no. A lot. Or things will come crashing down. Or anything in between.

You have to learn that this isn’t awful, and you just have to brush yourself off and redouble your efforts. No one ever nailed everything on their first time, and you shouldn’t believe that you are the one exception to the rule – just believe that hard work will lead you to success.

Be Balanced

No one ever gained more productivity by working more hours in a day or ignoring their health or ignoring their friends and family. Spend time with family, friends, and loved ones. Keep them in the loop – they will centre you, humble you, and encourage you to be even better than you are now.

Be Yourself

There will be times where you feel like you need to change the way you are to fit in, you think you need to fake a certain personality type to feel at home. Don’t do that. Nobody wants to deal with the facade you raise for the sake of fitting in. The right people will accept you regardless of who you are. *cue after school music*

Be Better

The last thing you should ever become is satisfied with yourself and not spend more time becoming a better person in some shape, way, or form. You must constantly work hard to improve your mind, body, and soul – read books, learn languages, try new things, brighten other people’s days, and work hard to fix your flaws. This is slow, this can be painful, but it’s completely worth it.

Together, this advice forms the mantra that I live my life. Sure, it can seem like common sense to you and I, but it really doesn’t hit home until the day that you’ve set out on an entirely new path, the day that you realize that you’ve failed, the day that your friends feel like strangers, the day you feel like a stranger to yourself, and the day that you realize that you haven’t grown.

Thanks for reading, hope you found it useful.

Goodbye Nights: The Start of Small, Actionable Projects

Goodnight Moon

There are 24 hours in the day, and I already spend around 20 hours a day sleeping, eating, commuting, or working, which leaves just about 4 hours for whatever it is that I can cram in there.

Those 4 hours are about to disappear.

Starting in September (that’s THIS month!), I will be attempting to create small little projects for myself. These projects have to be completed by the month’s end, and I am giving myself the entirety of the month to design, build, and deliver these little projects.

This month, I’ve been toying with the concept of board game discovery.

I’ve long felt that board game websites, such as Board Game Geek, do a great job of providing the core game data along with a vibrant, and growing community. However, they fail to do any sort of good job at showing me board games similar to the board games I most enjoy. Their Top 100 list is too broad and general (and, occasionally too hardcore) for my tastes.

THE IDEA: Build a website that allows me to look at games, and immediately view related games. For example, taking a look at Zombicide, it would show me other games like Pandemic (because of the co-op factor) or Last Night on Earth (because of the zombie factor.)

The specifics have to be worked out, but of course, and I have the rest of the month to do so! If you’d like to make suggestions or even pitch in (however that maybe,) don’t be shy and reach out. I’m always happy to have collaborators.

This audacious idea of building a project a month is a healthy mix of wanting to fulfill my goal for 2013 of building more content, and simply wanting to solve some of my problems.

Will I make any money off of this? Ideally, but I’m not banking on it.
Will I become famous for this? Probably not.
Will I have fun?

You bet.

Happiest of Birthdays

Birthday Cake

Yesterday was my birthday.

Typically, I don’t acknowledge it or make a big deal, but yesterday was really fun. It was a work day, but it was just so… satisfying. Here’s the gist of it:

  • Midnight phone call from my better half
  • Stepping out of my door and sinking into a full foot of snow
  • Seeing the stark contrast between our game today and our game two weeks ago
  • Logging onto Facebook, seeing dozens of messages, and logging right out of Facebook
  • Awesome birthday cake (as pictured above) from the team
  • First win at Pandemic, after two false starts, during game night
  • Arriving home to find my Kindle Paperwhite had arrived, two days after ordering

Just a happy, happy day.

Thank you to everyone who spent the time to say hello and send their love, I will respond to everything. I swear.

Eventually.

2012: Year in Review

"Oh what's that, the new year?"

“Oh what’s that, the new year?”

Yes, you know it, it’s time for that ever clicheed end of the year blog post/review/brain fart!

Well, I didn’t do one of these for 2011, and I was only setting goals with my end of 2010 post, so I thought it would be nice to start the tradition of looking back on the past year.

2012 was quite the tumultuous year for me: I left an awesome job with the smartest people I know to attempt to make a product, floundering with no direction and focus, and taking another serious swing at furthering my marketing career. On the flip side: I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been, I dipped my toes into the world of video game development, and I’ve created a solid plan for what the next year is going to look like.

The Good

While not numerous, the bright spots of 2012 were there, and they are long term changes that started this year and will continue to be a positive aspect of my life going forward.

In March, I decided to get back into shape. During university and the working years afterward, I let my physique and physical health slip a little too much. Sure, I was still a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court, but I was starting to feel pudgy and slow, and even worse: I was starting to feel a lot of joint pain.

I re-started my membership at the YMCA and made a commitment: go swimming every weekday morning, and get at least 30 minutes in the pool and continuously push myself to go farther, go faster, and be more efficient. While I didn’t end up going every weekday morning as promised, I went for 115 days and swam a total of 77.9km, which is significantly more than I imagined I could do. The swimming waned near the latter half of the year, but it was because I was rapidly shifting from weight loss over to strength gains, and was spending less and less time in the pool and much more in the weight room.

In addition to consistent time at the gym, I changed my diet. I made a few simple changes: switch from white rice to brown rice, eat equal parts rice and vegetables for every meal, and no more drinking except social situations, limiting myself to two (or four) drinks at the most. This switch accounted for a significant portion of my weight loss, I am sure, because I lost about 20 pounds over 8 months, and have been able to keep it off despite my many binge days of both food and alcohol.

Besides physical health, I also made a dream come true: I built a video game from (mostly) scratch. My buddy Wayne Sang and I built a game for GitHub’s Game Off 2012 competition, creating Octocat Attacks in a little over a month using an open source game library called Flixel and an open source pixel art app called Pixen. Our game isn’t anything revolutionary, but for two rather inexperienced game developers, it was a fantastic experience.

Lastly, it took a while, but I seem to finally have a plan in place for the future. I spent most of this year really soul searching, because it was extremely difficult for me to accept that I could take “just another job” and not take personal stock in what I worked on. I am still narrowing down exactly what I’d like to do, but at least there’s a coherent direction: I want to work for a product that I personally find interesting, building and testing marketing campaigns to drive users and conversions for a sound business model. It still sounds like a lot of junk coming out of my mouth, but I’m working on finding that perfect fit.

The Bad

I spent much of 2012 feeling rather disparaged, and I will be honest: waking up in the morning was tough.

I left The Working Group because I needed that focus on products. It always felt like our products didn’t get the love they deserved, and it was thoroughly affecting my work on said products, so I decided to cut my losses early and move on. I owe those guys everything for giving me a chance and really believing in me and pushing me to grow and become a better person, and so thank you to the partners at TWG and the rest of the team for being one of the best experiences I have ever had professionally.

With my departure from TWG, a very cynical side of me came out. I distanced myself from the community, from friendships I had forged over the years, and from companies and products that I long supported. I can’t really pin this cynicism on anything in particular, I just know that I withdrew into my shell, and I am sure it negatively affected me in ways that I can’t even fathom.

With this cynicism, I managed to lose focus. For a long time. I spent at least 6-7 months in a state of complete shell shock, for lack of a better term, not knowing what would come next and what I even wanted to do. It feels really funny to even write this down, because it feels silly, but it was what it was: I felt like complete shit because I had no idea what was going on. I felt like I was twiddling my thumbs waiting for an idea to strike or for a company to come calling, and fortunately, these feelings of sadness and melancholy sparked what came next: determination to succeed.

This determination is still in its growth stages, and has always been around, but has been beaten to a pulp with my attitude this (and previous) year.

I also can’t discount any of the friends and family that stuck by me, despite not having a thing going for me and being completely abysmal to be with for most of this year. To the true friends who let me be sad and did their best to cheer me up, who knocked sense into me when I needed it most, and who cheered me on regardless: thank you. A million times thank you.

The Ugly

Focus. Still not enough of it. Ever.

What’s next for 2013?

Well, to be honest, I don’t exactly know.

I have laid out a plan to get from where I am to where I want to be, but plans and situations change. It’s something I’ve come to accept.

One of the first things I’m focused on doing: finding a place in the professional world where I fit.

It’s been a really difficult and humbling month and a half of job searches, but I figure that the only place to go from here is up. We create success through failure, right?

Regardless, if you read this, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to read what my year has been like, and I hope you take the time to share your own thoughts of the past year. It’s always interesting to look back at the past year and see what memories and feelings jump out at you immediately, versus what requires concentration to recall.

You’ll also note that this was very non-personal. I like to keep the personal stuff to myself and a select number of people, and I hope you understand my reluctance to overshare.

Finally, one thing I definitely need to change in 2013? Writing. I don’t do very much of it anymore. Never mind photography and videography, so 2013 is going to be the year of content.

Happy New Year, friends and family, here’s to you and yours.

Thoughts on Ubiquitous Photography

Photography is Fun!

If you follow my blog (hello, all five of you!), you’ll have seen a post I made in October talking about scaling back in social media. Funny enough, there was something else that I subconsciously scaled back: capturing moments with my camera.

I like to think I’m a photographer. I bust out the camera, whether it is my phone or my SLR, at every opportunity and I enjoy snapping a few photos. Perhaps capturing a video while I’m at it.

But lately?

I couldn’t put my finger on my hesitation to use my camera as of late. I enjoy capturing moments, especially with friends, that I don’t get to regularly enjoy. Even when I eat meals that I don’t normally eat, I used to take photos.

So… what’s happened?

I could make excuses like some abject sadness that’s taken over my life, or that my iPhone’s camera no longer wishes to operate without heavy persuasion, or even the very unlikely scenario of extraterrestrial life showing up on Earth to steal my camera.

None of these are true, but I think I finally figured out what’s happened: I’ve shifted my priorities from “capturing moments” to simply “experiencing moments.”

It’s one thing to be able to look back on all the great photos I’ve taken of really unique experiences, but it’s completely different to be entirely immersed in your experience and simply enjoying it. My guess is that ever since Instagram blew up, was bought, and everyone started posting photos of their food and some random brick wall they found (which I was also guilty of), I’ve grown an aversion to wasting valuable experiences by being focused on taking photos of it rather than actually participating.

Sure, I can take photos of food that I am eating, but I will immediately put my camera away after the shutter snaps and pay complete attention to my meal and my eating companions.

I’d rather enjoy what little time I devote to my friends, my family, and the experiences that we share, over being able to show strangers on the internet what I am currently doing.

I raise my glass to you life bloggers and sharers, but it is definitely not for me.

Scaling Back on Social Media

For the past few months, I’ve been scaling back on the amount I share on various social networks. My tweets have been coming with less frequency, I no longer use Path or Instagram, and I’m not sure I am even using Pinterest correctly.

I’m not knocking anyone who uses these platforms on a regular basis. They’re definitely where the digital world is heading, and people are definitely integrating them into their day to day communications.

But it’s just not for me.

This, coming from the guy who would post food photos at every opportunity, or would use twitter as a complaints board. It really just isn’t for me.

Why was I posting food photos anyway? What value was I contributing by doing so?

I couldn’t answer that question to myself in a satisfactory manner, so I stopped. Instead, I wanted to take the time I devoted to dilly dallying on social media outlets and divert it into being… a person. I wanted to have good conversations and not look at my phone. I wanted to write and create rather than consume the social channel feed.

And that’s where I’m going: back to creating.

Being Lost

Hi, my name is Jon, and I’m a bit lost in life.

*pauses for greetings*

I’ve spent the last month flip flopping between ideas, contemplating re-joining the working force, and generally being unhappy. I started September with the idea that I could take a serious attempt at becoming a good developer and building a web product that would give me some level of monetary comfort. Progress was good, until one day I sat down and just did not feel right.

I beat myself up for pursuing ideas purely for the sake of a piddly amount of money, ideas that did nothing to better the world. In short, I felt that I was selling myself short and I was underachieving.

From there, I set out on the hunt for ideas that could make a meaningful impact on the world, to society, or at least better the lives of those who really needed it. However, this started this rather vicious cycle of falling in love with an idea, realizing that I don’t have any sort of expertise in this space, and becoming dejected at the idea of being “just the business guy” in a venture, and then being sad and frustrated that I haven’t figured things out yet.

Right now, there’s no happy ending in sight.

So why would I bother writing all this out and telling people? Because, as awesome person Guy Gal told me when I told him this story randomly: “Success is all in the recovery.”

Things will get better. Eventually. And no, it won’t be because I wait patiently for an idea to strike home; things will get better because I will work hard to create opportunities for myself. I am going to go out there and pound the pavement, meeting new people and learning about problems, and taking a crack at creating the solution. It’s going to be disheartening, frustrating, and difficult.

But who said success was going to come easy?