One of the best books I read this year didn’t cost me a dime. This book is called The Tower, and it’s written by Chris Guillebeau. I think you should pick it up and give it a read yourself so I won’t spoil too much, but I’ll share with you how it impacted me this past year – and how that will affect me for years to come.
Chris was spend a lot of time playing a game where he had to maintain many aspects of a tower. I had a problem similar to Chris’s in that I had another game that I played: Smurf Village.
Now I was a big fan of The Smurfs growing up, so when the game became available for the iPad – a game that was reminiscent of other games I use to play like Sim City and Populous – I downloaded it. It was, after all, free.
I began to play Smurf Village with a great deal of fervour. I didn’t go so far as to buy any smurfberries or spend any money on in-app purchases of a similar nature, but I did occasionally untether my device from the wireless network, manually move the clock ahead an hour so that I could obtain more precious crops faster than real time would allow, and then go “back in time” shortly thereafter by going back online.1
So I continued to build my village. It grew to massive proportions, meaning it took more energy to maintain it. But I was winning.
Not so much.
I was actually losing. Losing out on time spent on better things. Things that made real progress. Things that propelled Mike Vardy forward, as opposed to Mike Vardy’s Smurf Village forward. As a matter of fact, I was regressing by getting too involved in the game – and while I don’t habitually play games, when I get into one it is very tough to pull me away. It happened with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It happened with that game’s sequel. It even happened when I played The Bard’s Tale back in the day.2
I don’t know exactly when I realzied that the village was winning and I wasn’t. It might have hapened when I looked at the clock in the wee hours of the morning one day and realized I should have been writing something like this instead of spending my time on a game like that. Regardless, I figured it out. And when I did, it led me down a path to figuring out other things.
Like time spent on social media, for example.
I knew I wasn’t spend a ridiculous amount of time on Twitter, Facebook, et al…but I knew I was spending too much time on those platforms without having much of my own stuff to share. I also belonged to far too many networks, so I whittled them down to something far more manageable. And because I did that not only did the value of each service increase, but the value of the updates I offered through each service did as well.
I became more mindful about using some of the services. Path became a place I’d spend more time in. App.net has also seen more updates from yours truly as of late. I was fostering relationships online in smaller circles, and making a bigger impact.
Through the village I also realized that I could build so much more with my iPad than just smurfberry patches. I could spend more time on the device building posts like this. I could spend more time on the device writing something bigger – like a manifesto.
Chris’s book resonated with me in a way that few books have. He turned his focus from the tower-building game to his tower-building life, and he had the courage and the generosity to share his story. It’s not a long story, but it certainly is a full one.
And you can go and create your own tower anywhere you choose. Just make sure that you do it.
1 This is one piece of lifehackery I wouldn’t recommend.
2 I couldn’t rest until I beat those 99 berzerkers, 99 berzerkers, 99 berserkers, 99 berzerkers, and 99 berzerkers.