Here’s what I learned in 2015

A year went by. Boy it was fast.

And yet, when I look back at 2015, a lot of things have happened in my life: I settled into a job (though I thought I won’t), I finally cracked a system for creating and holding to new habits, I started working on my own side projects, and my financial state and my general well being were improved.

A Job

After the shut down of my venture Stix, I had to find a job. Our financial situation was still solid, but it was worsened during the 2.5 years of being an entrepreneur. During my job search many opportunities popped, but I couldn’t wait for all of them to ripen – I had a deadline: a long-planned family trip. The holiday season was coming right after it and I just couldn’t see myself without a job (and a salary) for several more months. So when the deadline was about to expire, I had to choose. And I did.

The final decision was mainly between two options:

  1. Become the first product manager in an early stage startup that was trying to tackle an interesting problem in the search space, but didn’t finish its funding round.
  2. Lead a new product in a big and already successful startup in the mobile ad space.

Other options were either eliminated or not yet ready to give their verdict.

It was a tough decision. But eventually I chose the big startup. It was against my original intuition, as ad tech is one of those areas I am really not passionate about. But the vibe in the company was good, people looked happy, and I had a good interaction with my potential boss (the COO). For a few weeks I had hard time fitting myself into this world. My mind was rejecting the decision and I felt I made a mistake. I thought of leaving. But my boss didn’t give up on me. And I am glad he didn’t. Because after a 2015 strategy planning offsite, I became to realize there are challenges that I found interesting. My role was extended and I took the lead of the UX team as addition to my original role as the product manager of the flagship product of the company.

Looking back at 2015 it feels like it was a great decision:

  1. The product I am leading grew from inexistent in 2014 to a market leader by the end of 2015. This is a very satisfying experience. I had to deal with the insight that the success of your efforts is not just a function of how hard you try. There are so many other factors… and most of them are not controlled by you.
  2. My feelings about the vibe in the company were correct. No company is perfect of course, but working with smart people in a great culture is super important. I had worked in the past for a company with an inspiring vision but bad culture – and it sucked. I still miss the feeling of purpose, of doing something of importance for humanity, but I was surprised by the effects of good culture and good people on my overall satisfaction.

And finally, the role allowed me to curve out time and experiment with new habits and personal projects. These, in turn, helped me in regaining my self-esteem and improve my general well being.

A side note: I can’t exactly know how my life would look like if I had chosen the role in the small startup, yet it came to my knowledge that it was shut down only 9 months after our negotiations (in spite the fact they managed to raise the funding round).

Habits

Throughout the years I have been trying to set yearly (and sometime even longer term) goals for myself. And although I had pretty good success achieving long term goals, I always had a problem with creating good habits. I had a bunch of new habits that I wanted to pick up, and then I tried to make them stick.

These year – I think it was after I read a few articles about habits – I decided to try a different approach:

  1. Each habit had a daily or a weekly goal
  2. I didn’t try to achieve all of them at once. Instead I focused on acquiring a single habit in a timeframe of 4 weeks (some call it “the 30 day challenge”).

The first habit I selected was pretty small and easy – to floss my teeth daily – but I wanted to start this new system with an easy win. And so I flossed for 4 weeks without missing a day. And then I selected to add a habit that was important for me (and my wife) – to wash the dishes every day.

And so, step by step, habit after habit, I was able to make real changes in my way of life. The habits I acquired include:

  1. Daily flossing
  2. Daily dish washing
  3. Daily weight measuring (which I did in order to balance my diet)
  4. Daily planning
  5. Daily journaling (to reflect and be greatful)
  6. Daily mediation (goal: 60 minutes/week)
  7. Practice Aikido (goal: 120 minutes/week)
  8. Work on personal projects (goal: 10 hours/week)
  9. Read fiction books (60 minutes/week)
  10. Read (or listen to) professional literature (60 minutes/week)
  11. Sleep more (42 hours/week)
  12. Walk more (70,000 steps/week)

The approach isn’t perfect: some habits needed more than 4 weeks to stick, some of the habits still create a challenge in meeting their goals. And yet, this systematic approach is the best I used so far. I find it works because of these factors:

  1. It focuses on a single habit. A single challenge makes it feel achievable, even easy to do.
  2. After 4 weeks most of the behaviors were easy to do, almost automatic. It feels like it rewires the brain.
  3. Every new habit I acquired (right from the first) created a feeling of achievement that pushed me further in acquiring more habits.
  4. Although it takes time to make a habit stick, during a single year you can easily gain at least 10 new habits.

I feel that habits are a great way of changing your life. It’s like hacking your brain into doing things that might be damn too hard. All you need is 4 weeks of focusing your energy on a single challenge.

I already have a list of new habits I am going to pick up in 2016.

Side Projects

One of the most important habits I created is working on side projects. I managed to remove some procrastination habits (like consuming content) and started utilizing the free time I had after 9:30PM. Since acquiring this habit I am able to have 10-15 productive hours every week!

I used the time to pursue my passion – game design and development (Yes, closing Stix didn’t reduce my love for the domain).

I started working on 2 projects:

Goldilocks

A game that was originally planned to be an interactive story for kids, but transformed into an endless runner-shooter game inspired by the classic fairy tale and the cold war era. I work on the project with a friend and a Global Game Jam counterpart, Omer Nainudel.

I deep dived into prototyping the game (using Construct 2), and iterated the concept with dozens of versions until I have arrived to a unique and fun gameplay. Lately, implemented the cool art Omer has created, which makes the prototype feel like it’s almost the game itself.

Here’s the prototype: http://goldyultrasliderart.site44.com/
Tap on the left side too shoot. Swipe up to jump. Swipe down to slide. Hold (or swipe and hold) to get into Supermode. Better play it on your mobile.

Too lazy to play? Just watch the trailer on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/goldilocksgame/

We want the production-level game to be built in Unity or Cocos2D, but we are missing a developer, so if you are a game developer or you know one – drop me a line.

Hit n’ Run

A game inspired by the classic Spy Hunter:

I wanted to recreate the same experience of fast-paced driving action that includes hitting and blasting cars, but can be easily played with a single thumb even while walking.

I had this game occupying my thoughts for some time already, but now that I had the time and the ability to demonstrate my vision, I worked and iterated this game as well.

This version has has better steering model: http://drivertests.site44.com/

And this one expands the game design with virtual currency and powerups: http://drivercoins.site44.com/

Since then I created a partnership with a good friend of mine, Danny Livshits, who covers the development cost of the game, while I’m responsible for everything else. We have a game with 90% of the functionality ready for soft launch, but we are still searching for an artist/designer, so if you are one or you know one – drop me a line 🙂

Beside these two I have more game concepts I would like to work on, but I’m actually restraining myself from starting too many projects at once.

Well Being

The combination of the economical safety, the success of the product I lead, my systematic approach for acquiring new (and healthy) habits, and my ability to envision, demonstrate and execute my passion-driven projects transformed the way I feel.

While the shutdown of Stix and the months that led to it, left me exhausted and powerless, questioning my ability to create successful products, then my Supersonic experience proved me that I can create world-class market-leading products.

Although after closing Stix, I wasn’t sure whether I can execute my own vision, always dependent on others abilities, my side projects proved I can take an idea and make it a reality.

And although picking up new habits was a constant struggle in my life, the fact I finally cracked the system, made me feel that any goal is within my reach.

Summary

It was a year of recovery, a year in which I found and reinvented myself. It was a year I learnt some new things about life, and some new things about myself. It was a good year.

I already have goals for 2016, but what would I achieve, and learn, and discover is still to be seen.

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