Building (and Burning) Bridges

Portland, Oregon, has a TON of bridges that span the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, unsurprisingly earning Portland the official nickname of “Bridgetown.” As the Willamette divides Portland down the middle, starting at the top, there’s the St. Johns Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Marquam Bridge, Tilikum Crossing, Ross Island Bridge, and the Sellwood Bridge way down at the bottom. So, with my car packed up full of my belongings (again), I departed Portland thinking about all bridges in my life…

The very first bridge in Portland was the original Morrison Bridge, built in 1887, also happened to be the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. It was an architectural marvel, finally allowing people and horse-drawn buggies alike to pass over the Willamette. It was originally a toll bridge, but the toll was dropped in 1895. The Morrison Bridge has been rebuilt a number of times, the most recent redesign was in 1958.

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St. Johns Bridge, Portland, OR.

My favorite is the beautiful blue St. Johns Bridge, where you’re 205 feet off the water!

Bridges physically connect two locations that would otherwise be unconnected (or too cumbersome for success), bonding the “places” (not just the physical locations, but the inhabitants and spirit) together through building and exchange of a bridge. Goods, people, whatever. We all know this. Bridges are cool. But if you really dig down on the friendship-bridge metaphor, it is both inspiring and painfully honest.tumblr_nvrmk9sId81rt7qgbo1_500
It takes a lot of energy to build a bridge, and equal energy to maintain it. Both sides of the bridge benefit from the connection, some more than others at times.  If the tedious, general upkeep is not maintained (the check-ins and touch-ups), even a well-built, and well-traveled, bridge can break down over time. Here it comes… the same is true with our friendships.

I love Portland, and I had a great time living there. I made some amazing connections, friends I’ll keep for the rest of my life. But what about those people that didn’t become my best friends? What about the people that wronged me? And perhaps more introspectively, how do we address the relationships that have grown to become imbalanced? How do we build the right bridge?

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Tower Bridge, London. (Not in Portland)

There are so many quotes about burning bridges, I chose not to include one in this post, simply because we all get the metaphor by now. We like burning bridges because it’s an instant satisfaction, exciting, energy-filled exchange where you hope the end result will be complete and total destruction of your enemy and there’ll be exclamations in of worldwide vindication that in the end, they were wrong and you were right! And we all know, it rarely (if ever) ends like that. Instead, you’re emotionally drained, somewhat ashamed, slightly confused, and the ripples of your outburst will continue to echo outward, essentially ruining your reputation behind you (i.e. burning other bridges)… Not so cool now, huh?
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But old bridges aren’t actually burned. Not even old wood ones. Bridges, when they’re decommissioned, are for the most part disassembled. The bridges are stripped down to the bare bones before destruction. Many pieces will be salvaged, reused, repurposed, into other objects in our everyday lives. What if we applied that principle to “decommissioning” our bridges?

What if, rather than exploding at that friend that never returns your phone calls or text messages, you simply, gently, emotionally disassemble that bridge, piece by piece, and put that energy into other facets, other friendships, other bridges?tumblr_nnszn1e0ZY1rt7qgbo1_500
The need for connections is a symptom of the digital landscape we’re currently creating. The idea that things can be connected is being celebrated. The belief that everything should be connected is, in my opinion, sometimes needless and counterproductive. Some bridges just don’t need to exist, and that’s okay. We are not only defined by who we choose to associate with, but also who choose not to associate with.

Some bridges should not exist. You don’t need to be “friends” with that guy that never calls you back. You don’t need to be “friends” with the owner of the company that fired you. You don’t need to be “friends” with that roommate that you really didn’t like. The truth is, those were never large, sturdy bridges to begin with. They were footpaths. A dangling line across a chasm. It served it’s purpose when you needed it, but it isn’t intended to last the rest of your life. These bridges are okay to let go.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to burn bridges. SO BADLY. Ultimately, I just let them be. There’s was little fire. Maybe we’ll cross over them again sometime in the future, or maybe they will fall into the relentless river of time and life. I valued them, but I can’t look back at the bridge and wonder if it will make it, I’ve got to keep moving forward, over the bridge.IMG_1007The bridges that we should be spending most of our energy on are the bridges to the future. What are we doing today that will connect us, in a positive way, to where we want to be in the future? What kind of incremental bit of progress, which plank can I add today, to get me one step closer to the other side, where I ultimately want to be? And who can I connect with, work with, support, and partner with, where we can achieve our goals together?
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For me, that’s filmmaking, and that’s not going to happen in Portland, Oregon. And despite all the reasons to stay (Fall in Portland is the best, the solar eclipse, Crater Lake, etc.), I have to build on my 15 years of screenwriting and put it all into action, to finish building that bridge, with a complete move to Los Angeles.

So yesterday, I loaded up my car with every item I own (for the sixth time in just over two years), said goodbye to Portland, and I’m currently on my migration South.
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I’ll see you in Los Angeles!

CHE

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Photo Set: Northern Ireland

The trip to Northern Ireland was by far the most important part of my trip. I was going to meet a “new” friend, someone I’d written about extensively over the last five months, to interview him and speak with him about the project. This is what I love about writing! 
Our adventure started at Waterloo Station…

Northern Ireland is picturesque, with rolling green hills of farmland and trees. It is a place of tradition, simple needs, and simple wants. Life on the family farm. Animals.IMG_1445  This is the cottage my friend Colm built, by hand, on his family’s land, which he can trace back thousands of years.… and these are his cows!The first night he took us to Brysons for dinner and a couple of pints (of Guinness, naturally). He’s well known around there, and rightfully so, he’s been going to that same bar for over 30 years!After a morning spent working, we decided to break for the afternoon and do a little exploring around Northern Ireland. We had a couple destinations on our list, but we were up for the adventure! Colm told us some great history about the places we visited!
This is the Northern Coast!
As a Game of Thrones nerd, Matt absolutely had to see The Dark Hedges!We also checked out Dunluce Castle!The last night was really special though, when Colm took us to The Crosskeys, a bar that’s been operating since 1654. Yes, 1654. The history there is never-ending, and there’s even a ghost that haunts the bar! We stayed late (like 3 AM), long after the bar had closed, drinking Guinness and singing songs with the a group of guys and the owner. It was one of those nights when I was given a rare opportunity to get a peek inside someone’s idyllic life, and it felt like a scene from a musical. Despite the downsides, and Colm’s had many, his life is rather wonderful.

Unfortunately, we had to leave early on Sunday, but spending the weekend with Colm was an experience I’ll never forget. Until next time, he’ll just be “going with the flow.”
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BONUS: In the picture below, I am holding an actual comm, a letter written on cigarette paper and smuggled out of Long Kesh Prison in the early 1980’s. These tiny pieces of history were integral in spreading the horrors of what happened inside those walls.

This finishes my European trip! Relive the beauty, starting back at Photo Set: Love in the South of France!

Photo Set: London and Rochester, England

I’d had about as much romance as I could handle, so it was finally time to say goodbye to France and move onto the next destination. I hopped on the high-speed train from Paris to London, under the English Channel.IMG_1146
It was a really cool experience, and apparently super efficient, which made me question why we don’t have these high-speed trains in the United States. Commuting around California would be so much easier!
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My time in London was going to be primarily spent writing and researching, but I did manage to get out and see a few things. The first night I spent with my cousin, then joined my friend in Waterloo for the week. It was go time!
Naturally, I checked out the London Eye and Big Ben because they were so close by!IMG_1190IMG_1194IMG_1239
Here’s a segment of the World War II memorial. I couldn’t possibly capture it all.IMG_1223
And Big Ben! IMG_1225
This is a Marriot hotel now, but for 64 years, this building was the London County Hall!IMG_1237Mary Jane Seacole was a Jamaican businesswoman known for setting up the “British Hotel,” a pseudo-hospital for sick and convalescent soldiers during the Crimean War. In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton.IMG_1690
I ran into a friend in a tiny bar (small world right?) and she invited us to join her and her friends for their Fourth of July festivities, on the lawn by Tower Bridge. We may have been on the other side of the pond, but we held it down for ‘Murca. Shotgun!IMG_1292
The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment… naturally.IMG_1300
One of my favorite little gems in London is The Graffiti Cave and The Vaults Theatre, by Waterloo Station. If you’re into street art, this is the place to check out! The entrance is relatively unassuming, reeking of danger and “Do Not Enter,” but we all know that’s where the best stuff is normally hiding…
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It’s an entire tunnel covered in graffiti, top to bottom. It’s unbelievable! So colorful!IMG_1305IMG_1312
This is a shot of the ceiling! Anybody know the artist?IMG_1313
… if so, let’s get on a conference call! (That was a joke about the four phone booths.)IMG_1333
It turns out, a friend of mine from my days in Australia lived just outside London in Rochester, so I took a day to go see her and explore Rochester. It’s a really cool city! And look, another awesome castle!
IMG_1345The Rochester Castle was built in 1087 to protect England’s south–east coast from invasion.IMG_1591IMG_1360
And this beautiful church!
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Charles Dickens lived in Rochester, and is said to haunt the moat on Christmas Eve.IMG_1372

As a first-time American traveler in Europe, I was enamored at the age (old) and resilience of the buildings and castles. There’s so much history in Europe, it’s like America is brand new!

I took the train back to London late on Thursday night, because we had to be up and out early on Friday. The sole reason for my trip, the research, the history, was the next destination on my trip… Northern Ireland.

CHE

Did you see the other photo sets? Photo Set: Love in the South of FrancePhoto Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled CityPhoto Set: Mont Saint-MichelPhoto Set: Normandy and Cancale, and Photo Set: Dinan and Paris

Photo Set: Dinan and Paris

We left Saint-Malo and headed toward Paris, not without making a pitstop in Dinan, a beautiful old village along the way. Gorgeous old architecture, and beautiful views!IMG_0887IMG_0919IMG_0909IMG_0938IMG_0898IMG_0896We arrived in Paris at the perfect time, rush hour… which also happened to be happy hour! I booked a bed in the Generator Hostel, located not too far from where Graham and Kate were staying, so after taking this picture from their window, I kissed them goodbye and headed toward my hostel.IMG_0965IMG_0974IMG_0986IMG_0991I only had one day in Paris, and as I wandered around one of the most romantic cities in the world, I was making a list of the places I wanted to see in Paris… when I come back with someone I love. (Yeah, that’s sappy, whatever! It’s my trip!)IMG_0995IMG_1059Accordingly, I spent most of my day at the Eiffel Tower, eating a baguette, drinking Rose, smoking cigarettes (sorry, mom!), and writing in my journal. It was so quintessentially perfect that I couldn’t possibly not, you know what I mean?IMG_1062I also made this cool time-lapse!ezgif.com-optimize
My last night in Paris could have been a quiet one, if everything had gone to plan. As I was heading up to the rooftop bar to watch the sunset, I ran into a group of young travelers from Southern California. We chatted, drank, played foozball, then headed out to Bastille for dancing. This is the last clear picture I took that night.IMG_1140.jpgThe last morning in Paris, I checked out, and walked along the river (trying not to throw up from a vicious hangover), heading to the train station…IMG_1114IMG_1123
My trip to Paris was far too short, but I definitely have a list of things I need to come back to see. What’s the old phrase, “Always leave them wanting more?” Well I want more Paris, that’s for sure.
But now, the adventure must continue, I was about to jump on a train to London!

BONUS: Is it just me, or is this Space Invader?
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Check out my other photo sets from France! Photo Set: Love in the South of FrancePhoto Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled CityPhoto Set: Mont Saint-Michel, and Photo Set: Normandy and Cancale.

Photo Set: Normandy and Cancale

It was a rainy day. We’re talking, big, fat, ugly drops. We debated the game plan…
“We’ve come this far, I would remiss if we came all this way and I didn’t go to the Cemetery at Normandy.” Graham said, matter-of-factly. “They didn’t exactly call off the invasion because of rain either.”
He was right, of course. So we loaded into the car and drove the two hours to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. When we finally arrived, it was apparent this was not intended to be an enjoyable experience. It was meant to change your perspective on a pivotal moment in world history. New appreciation. Gratitude. Respect.I didn’t take many pictures of the museum, you should really go see it yourself if you can, but some images were just too powerful not to capture…
The memorial, established June 8, 1944, features this beautiful, 22-foot tall bronze statue titled The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves There are 9,387 Americans interred here, most killed during the Normandy invasion and the ensuing battles of World War II…
… many are still unknown. The mosaic ceiling inside the chapel at the cemetery, depicts faith in a time of war.IMG_0745The weather finally got to us, so we sloshed our way back to the car and made our way home, with a dinner pitstop in Cancale, famously known as the “oyster capital” of France. And let me tell you, they weren’t kidding!IMG_0757
The small town is nearly overrun by restaurants, close to all of which specialize in some kind of seafood… and oysters. It’s no surprise when you hear that Cancale harvests roughly 25,000 tons of oysters every year!IMG_0760IMG_0772By the time we finished our amazing (and cheap) dinner, the rain had finally let up, so we spent the last remaining daylight at the beach (before the tide came up) and on the pier in Cancale. Special.IMG_0781IMG_0795It was the perfect way to spend our last night as a group together.
Tomorrow the group would be splitting ways, most returning home to the states.
But me? My European trip was only halfway done…
IMG_0799… next I was heading to Paris.
CHE

Catch up on the trip! Love in the South of FranceSaint-Malo, The Walled City, and Mont Saint-Michel!

Photo Set: Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune located approximately a kilometer off the Normandy coast of France, and it looks like a goddamn fairy tale. (It is, nearly, a fairy tale, as the city was the inspiration for the Disney film Tangled.)IMG_0399Part monastery, part fort, part village, Mont Saint-Michel is designed to mirror the feudal system, with the monastery at the top, the village at the bottom, and there were allegedly houses outside the walls for farmers and fisherman.IMG_0407We arrived in the afternoon so the tide was still low, allowing you to walk around the outside of the walls (if you so desired). It was really rocky and muddy, so I decided to pass, but inside the walls is unbelievable… yep, that’s a drawbridge!IMG_0409Narrow, steep streets, lined with little shops, restaurants, and cafes.IMG_0412According to the legend, the archangel Michael appeared in 708 to Aubert of Avranches, the bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on this rocky islet. From then on, it was referred to as Mont Saint-Michel.IMG_0418Saint Michael, considered an “archangel,” was not only a healer, but also a defender of the people, famously depicted slaying Satan in the form of a serpent. The Eagle represents Saint Michael himself, so there’s gorgeous gilded statues interlaced with the architecture. Here’s the Eagle head!IMG_0444IMG_0462Behold… the abbey! A destination for monks (and once used as a prison), the abbey is breathtaking, silent and still, a series of Gothic rooms and vaulted architecture. Since the island is somewhat small, and flat land is difficult to come by, the sacred space is divided into many rooms for their individual purposes!IMG_0467

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The dining hall had a beautiful overhanging installation of feathers, hanging over the middle of the room. It was easy to imagine the long tables of monks dining here.IMG_0496IMG_0512One of my favorite parts of Mont Saint-Michel is the giant tread-wheel, which required six workers to power the hamster-style wheel, allowing the monks to haul up thousands of pounds of stones and supplies from the landing below!

IMG_0533IMG_0521IMG_0575IMG_0473From the ramparts, you can see (intruders?) for miles! The tide’s starting to come in!IMG_0558IMG_0557The bridge to access the island was built in 2014, allowing later access to the island and helping with the tidal flow around the island. (See how the water came in?!)IMG_0607
Walking along the walls and ramparts, it’s hard not to feel a little romance, right?IMG_0632
Cemeteries in magical places like these are especially fascinating to me, when you consider the small population (under 50) that has lived here consistently over the generations, and those that have fallen here by chance, now remain forever.IMG_0657IMG_0660Mont Saint-Michel is by FAR one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to in my life, so I had to snap this panorama before I left, and I think it’s the best photo I got.IMG_0685And the trip continues! Where to next you ask? We take a somber, rainy trip, to the American Cemetery in Normandy.

CHE

Did you see the photos from Chateau de Bouthonvilliers and Saint-Malo, The Walled City? You gotta check them out!

Steamroller Printing with Magnetic North

This past weekend was the 2017 Portland Letterpress Printers Fair! Artists from all over Portland gathered at the Redd building in southeast Portland to share their craft, support the arts, and have a good time!

One of the main draws to the event is the steamroller printing. Studios entered to create these massive linocut stencils, which are then printed on 4×4 pieces of paper using a real steamroller! These prints are then raffled off with proceed benefitting the Portland Printmakers Alliance. (I bought 12 tickets.)

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Massive linocut by the artists at Magnetic North! (Photo courtesy of Walker Cahall)

All week I’d been stopping by Magnetic North, sometimes with planned meetings to see Walker, sometimes completely unannounced. Great people. So when I saw Walker’s picture of the final massive linocut, I knew this was going to be something special. This was sparking my creativity, how should I say, “bigly?”

This is Portland. We make art, rain or shine. For a little while at the beginning of Magnetic North’s printing session, the rain came down, so the canopies went up. It might have even hailed. But it was short lived, and in a matter of no time, we were back up and printing.

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A little rain wasn’t going to stop the steamrolling!

The first color the team decided to use for their print was green. (Great choice in my opinion.) Everybody chipped in with a roller, making sure the ink is nice and even.

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Green was the first color used.

Chances are, the paint may have been a little thick on the first one, but look at how pretty it was!

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Make sure you don’t miss a spot!

Once the linocut was properly inked, you move it over and place it on the plywood guide. The blue tape is for the linocut, the yellow tape is for the paper. You put a cloth over the top so the paper doesn’t get dirty or damaged.

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Laid down on the plywood guide to ensure the steamroller delivers an even press!

Look at all the detail, too! I love the succulents theme. It works great with the green, too!

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Looks centered to me!

Once everything was lined up, it was time to bring in the steamroller. Sadly, I was not allowed to drive the steamroller, or even get remotely close to the driver’s seat. It was an absolute blast to watch, and I have to admit, it’s a pretty sweet way to make large prints.

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The steamroller!

Once the paper is peeled up, you’ve got a beautiful finished product! Thanks boys!

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Successful round of printing!

The prints get put off to the side to dry, to be raffled off later!

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Setting the print to dry!

After we did a couple rounds of printing with the green, it was time to switch to black.

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After a few rounds of green ink, the team switched to black.

If there’s any extra paint on the guide or on the tape around the linocut, it could get on the paper and smudge. We had to take a quick break to scrub off some excess ink with acetone.

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Touch ups!

All clear!

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In order to keep the paper from slipping, we applied tape to the paper. Smart move!

How about a time-lapse?

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Look at that pressure!

The best part about the whole steamrolling process is peeling up the print at the end. You never know what could go wrong (or right) under the press, so the final reveal is always a blast to watch.

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Peeling up the print is so cool!

Here’s that beautiful finished product!

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Beautiful final print!

As of the publishing of this post, I did not win the raffle and have yet to acquire my own print from the awesome linocut! Nevertheless, I was incredibly inspired by the creativity I saw from all the vendors at the fair and from all the prints being made and sold.

So much fun! Can’t wait to go back next year!

CHE

P.S. I want a steamroller! #bucketlist

Kickstarter Postmortem: Redefine Success

Over the course of February, I ran my fifth, creative crowdfunding campaign, this time for Happy Hour!, a sequencing card game based on the concept of bartending and making mixed drinks. The drinking game was created in partnership with Walker Cahall, a graphic artist out of Portland, Oregon, but more importantly, a longtime friend. Our goal for the campaign, only lasting 28 days, was to raise $6000 dollars. The campaign ended up raising a total of $6117, or 102% of our goal. While this looks to be a successful campaign, there was much to learn.

This is a public postmortem in hopes that others may learn from our mistakes.

Where We Excelled:

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Artwork. Walker Cahall (Waltronic) is an absolute professional, and the best thing we did for our campaign was to showcase Walker’s artwork in it’s many forms. We had a handful of Recipe cards and a few more Ingredient cards ready by the launch, but one of the best parts of our campaign came when Walker volunteered to make these tiny animations to support the campaign.

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These animations were immensely popular with our followers and on social media. When we shared these images and animations with the proper tagged (i.e. #whiskey), we started to gather the attention of distilleries and alcohol brands. Although these “likes” and “follows” would prove to be of little benefit to the Kickstarter campaign, but we do believe the future of the Happy Hour! card game lies in creating partnerships with a handful of these brands. (More on this later!)

Facebook Marketing. We decided that based on the crisp, graphic design of the game, and Walker’s amazing animations, we would run some “experiments” in targeted Facebook and Instagram advertising. We boosted posts and created campaigns. We spent approximately $75 on Facebook advertising with an average CPC of around $0.57/click.

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Not without surprise, we did run into some issues when it came to marketing the game on Facebook. First, there are regulations on the amount of text that can be in a featured image or video. A lot of the animations indicated what percentage of our goal we had achieved (25%, 50%, and cheers!) and some other cute animations, but ultimately, we were only able to run a few of them as campaigns, and a few were hobbled from the beginning.

Advertising Alcohol to Minors? Another interesting issue we ran into was the concept of the card game in relation to it’s content of alcohol. Alcohol is the theme of the game and consuming alcohol is not a requirement to play (although optional and *highly recommended*). Our goal is not to promote binge drinking, but rather, educate players on a dozen mixed drink recipes they may not have known before. One of our prime demographics for this game would be college kids, but many of those college kids are under the age of 21. There are laws that prohibit advertising alcohol to minors, but that’s now what we’re doing, we’re promoting a card game!

Is it okay for college freshmen (soon to be drinking age) to play a game that teaches them the proper portions for cocktails? 

Play Testing. We play tested this game in excess of 25 times with friends, family, strangers, and while live streaming from various drinking establishments. We had a review sheet that we asked everyone to fill out after playing, asking them to elaborate on their favorite parts of the game and the areas that need improvement.

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Thanks to these play tests, I can tell you that Happy Hour! is (without a doubt) 25x more fun now than it was when we first created the game. The more we play tested, the better the game became. While this is outwardly a good thing, it may have also been a major hinderance to our success. (More on this later, as well.)

Where We Underperformed:

We knew we were being aggressive in launching the campaign when we did. We knew that our game would be educational and beautiful, but we wanted to put the concept out into the world to see how many would be interested in getting a card game about bartending. We were hoping the Kickstarter would be both a proof-of-concept and a digital storefront all wrapped into one… because that’s the ideal outcome for a game like this.

Kickstarter Page at Launch. We looked at a handful of Kickstarter Pages of successful games similar to ours, specifically card games. (In retrospective, this part of the research may have been too thin.) There is a massive market for games on Kickstarter (over 500 live projects and millions of dollars raised). We did our best to structure the Kickstarter in a similar manner to how their pages were organized, hoping to emulate their success.

There were a few areas in particular where we fell short,

Gameplay. A majority of the successful games on Kickstarter not only have elaborate gameplay instructions and supporting images, but they also have a video of someone demonstrating the different methods of gameplay. We originally started with an infographic, but we took it down once we had changed the gameplay beyond similarity.

With Happy Hour!, we were still working out the best method of gameplay. We knew the “bartending theme” was sound and the concept of assembling ingredients was a fantastic base for a competitive card game, we just wanted to make sure that the gameplay was the perfect balance of entertainment and educational (how many recipe cards are on the counter? how many ingredients are in the bar? should we take more than one? can you play a drink a shot on the same turn? how many alcohols are required to use the “make it a double” card?), so rather than locking in on one method of gameplay, we intentionally left it vague. Ultimately, the lack of specificity in how the game is played most likely played a major role in our lackluster performance.

Rewards. An effective use of your reward tiers can help alleviate a lot of the stresses and the simple math of getting your campaign funded. I’ve experimented with these in differing degrees in my previous campaigns and Happy Hour! was no exception.

We started with just three tiers: Early Bird ($25), Happy Hour! ($30), and the Poster Pack ($65). Each one of these categories included shipping, but on face value, they seem really high, especially for a game that consists of just cards. If I could go back, I would include shipping additional, and drop all the prices by $5. $20 feels like a deal, and $25 feels like the right price for Kickstarting a game.

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We were just hoping to sell the game and maybe make a little money on top with the posters, but ultimately, we didn’t sell out of either the Early Bird or the Posters level, so we added another tier above and below. For $5, you can get some drink coasters with Happy Hour! artwork on it (may be CNC’d or printed on thick card stock), and for $125, you could become an Official Sponsor of Happy Hour! These two categories generated nearly 20% of our total revenue.

Also, in an interesting turn of events, we had three backers pull back their funding, a first in any of my campaigns. One was a backer that publicly supported the campaign, posted a highly critical note for improvement, and when I messaged him thanking him for the support but asked him to send that kind of message to me privately, he withdrew his pledge (than backed us for $1 to post that he was “withdrew his pledge” on our wall, then cancelled the $1 pledge, then claimed he still supported us). The other two, completely unknown to either myself or Walker, withdrew their pledges after the game was successfully funded. Walker thinks they are just trolls.

Email Marketing. As I’d written about in January, I used a freelancer from India for lead generation in more than a dozen categories of businesses we felt would be interested in our game, now or later. I downloaded the Google Streak extension and proceeded to draft and execute scheduled mail merge emails to each of the different categories. While it was exciting to have over 1300 seemingly relevant contacts, I ran into a number of issues, including…

Dead Email Addresses. Of the 1200 email contacts I was given, nearly 200 of them were dead or discontinued. I would also say that another 200 were sent to a mailbox that was not once checked. I mentioned this to Shah, so he sent me an additional 150 email addresses, which also contained some dead emails.

Miscommunication. Going through the email contacts, it became apparent to me that the language I used in my request was not as specific as it could have been for my freelancer in India to translate and execute on. In retrospect, I should have asked a little bit of his methodology in collecting the information: if he has a “bot” that scours web addresses for email addresses based on a series of keywords, I would know that I need to give 12 very specific keywords, but if he had a program that he wrote himself, perhaps he could choose better than me?

This inadvertently manifested itself in soliciting my drinking game to the president of a dry fraternity, reaching out to breweries and wineries (which aren’t in the game), and contacting a bunch of tabletop game conventions on the East Coast which I’d never heard of and have no desire to attend. It did generate some leads, but overall, it was probably not a super effective use of my time and $60.

Personal Contacts. We wrote emails to our friends, families, and mailing lists about the game and showed them some of the artwork. Ultimately, I don’t think we had enough in place on January 31st when everybody saw the page to excite them enough to donate. A good percentage of the early backers were Walker’s personal contacts, while my base was much slower to come around to donate. Perhaps I’ve overstayed my welcome.

Redefine Success:

Shifting Perspective. While the game did have a ton of traction, Walker and I had a very serious conversations about the campaign and playing out the scenario of failure. We had a lot of people, over 100, who believed in us enough to put their money on the line to help us make Happy Hour! come to life, how would they feel if we let the campaign fail?

As I mentioned earlier, our ultimate goal was to have Kickstarter serve not only as the proof-of-concept (“This is a good idea!”) and a marketplace (“I’ll buy that!”). Accordingly, the $6000 we were seeking to raise was in part so that we could afford to purchase the game in bulk and create a huge inventory of the game to sell ourselves. Those that missed the campaign could purchase it directly from us, and they’d receive it like everyone else. We’d also try to put these games into stores and retailers.

Unfortunately, the game proved to be a good concept, but as it was currently advertised on Kickstarter page, there was not a heavy demand for it. Thus, we sought additional financial support to ensure we met the goal. Even more unfortunately, this meant we had to completely rebudget based on our new financial obligations. While it does slightly hinder our ability to deliver the game we wanted in quantity, it was a necessary step required to succeed and we’re thankful for every penny we received from all of our backers.

A Quick Note About Chemicals. If you are considering a crowdsourcing campaign, be prepared for your body to go through a serious chemical rollercoasters throughout the course of the campaign. All Kickstarter creators should have the Kickstarter application on their phone throughout the course of the campaign. It’s your finger on the pulse.

The downside (if you allow it to be) is enabling “Push Notifications” when your campaign receives a new pledge. So not only do you have the endorphin kick of the push notification, but your phone is interrupting you to tell you that you just made money. This will start to creep into other corners of your life, including 3 AM wake ups and while you’re in the bathroom (obviously).  If your campaign is struggling, the kick is even more powerful. You’ll tap your phone in desperate hope of receiving a pledge you didn’t know about. How about now? Anything? Please beware.

(You can turn off the push notifications but I recommend it at the beginning of the campaign to get a gauge on how the campaign will likely run.)

Now What?

The Real Beta Test Begins. We play tested the game over 25 times, but it was often while Walker or I was present to answer any questions, concede to new suggestions, and make small rule changes (once a “douche card” was suggested to increase volatility between players), and more! Now, we’re creating Happy Hour! to be put out in the world to our family of backers for their turn to beta test the game.

With our backers’ feedback, we’ll be able to refine Happy Hour! one more time before we attempt to launch it into the commercial realm. Rather than flat out failing, we made the investment into our game, and our community, to expand the beta testing process beyond the borders of Portland, Oregon into your living room, bar, or around your campfire.

One Last “THANK YOU”:

Thank You! We couldn’t have done it with the support of our friends, family, and the Mystery Tin community. From everyone at Mystery Tin Games and Waltronic, thank you for backing our game and we can’t wait for you to help us make it something really special

Cheers!

 

Hiring My First Freelancer

In preparation for my upcoming crowdsourcing campaign in February, I decided to get started early on the market research and lead generation I’ll need to run a PR and marketing campaign.

Happy Hour! is a competitive drinking card game, challenging players to collect ingredients to deliver drinks like a real bartender! Not only is Happy Hour! fun to play, but players are also subliminally learning facts about their favorite alcohols and drink recipes.

In order for Happy Hour! to have a wildly successful campaign, we would need to market the game (and it’s future possibilities) to the alcohol, nightlife, and cocktail cultures. I knew the areas that I wanted to focus on, but I honestly didn’t have the first idea on where to start. For Dinner’s Ready!I sought out celebrity chefs to endorse the game. This project was going to be a much bigger project that quite frankly, I wasn’t interested in doing.

I decided to outsource the project to a virtual assistant. I figured somebody else out there has had a similar need to acquire contact information, so chances are there is a freelancer that runs a “bot” that scours the internet to return a spreadsheet containing rows and rows of contact information. However the information is collected, I’m sure it was going to be happen faster than I could do it.

Here’s my original job posting on Upwork:

I’m looking for someone to help me build a database of alcohol-related contacts for marketing an upcoming crowdsourcing campaign.

I’m looking for you to fill out a spreadsheet containing the following data:
First Name, Last Name, E-mail Address, Company, Phone Number, Note

Ideally you would locate approximately 100 contacts for each of the following categories (roughly 750-1000 contacts):
– Bartending Schools (online and offline)
– Bar and Restaurant Chains (North America)
– Tabletop Game Stores (North America)
– Alcohol Brands (International)
– Distilleries (International)
– Fraternities (North America)
– Adult Gaming Communities (online and offline)
– Relevant Newspaper Contacts (online and offline)
– Drinking and Liquor Blogs
– Tabletop Game Blogs
– Famous Bartenders (if there is such a thing?)

If doing this kind of research sounds interesting and fun to you, please Submit an Application! Also please include the recipe of your favorite mixed drink. If you omit this, I will not consider your application.

The response I received to the ad was not what I had imagined, but it was definitely what I needed. I received a message from Shah, from Bangladesh, India. He cut right through to the core of my job, and he didn’t waste time with my challenges. Maybe he didn’t read the whole post? Maybe he doesn’t know the word cocktail? Maybe Shah doesn’t drink?

Nevertheless, this is the response I received:

Hi, I can do the task.You can trust me in your project.I see all of your requirements and ready to star now. Please reply me and give me the opportunity. Thanks. Shah.

Looking over his freelancing resume, I had to trust him. His portfolio was extensive in just one area: scouring the internet for e-mail addresses. Despite the secrecy around Shah’s favorite cocktail, everything seemed good enough for me so I reached back out and we started working out the kinks, mostly negotiating the price per 100 rows of contact information. Ultimately we decided on 1200 rows of contacts.

Hi, Sir Here is first 100 rows. Kindly See my attach and check this. I start first Country – USA. keyword Bar and Restaurant Chains. Please replay me. Thanks,shah

His grasp on the English language is starting to wear thin, but that’s not what I hired him. I hired him to track down info, and here he was delivering the first 100 rows, less than 24 hours after we started the project. As I went through the information, I noticed he had collected contact information for dozens of restaurant chains in Montana. While that information may one day be important, in pitching a cocktail-related drinking game, restaurants are probably at the bottom of the list. Shah and I recalibrate on goals, and locations, then I sent him back to check in at 250 rows.

Sure enough, 12 hours later, Shah sent me the first 250 rows. Everything looked great so I sent him off to collect the remaining 950 contacts as I tucked into bed, Shah just returning from his lunch break in Bangladesh.

As I thought about it more, there’s no way that Shah can be doing all of this research by hand. He’s got to have a bot or something scouring and collecting data. If that’s true, then he should be able to turn this thing around in a few days. Since it’s my first time hiring a freelancer, I decided to reach out to Shah to see how long it would take to get the full 1200 addresses.

Yes Sir Thanks for replay. I will complete it within 2/3 days. Or ASAP. Thanks- Shah

My man, Shah!

On Friday, I got this e-mail:

Hi, Sir, Here is Completed Task.. Kindly see and check my attach. Here is 9 tabs, Total 850 Rows. Previous 350 rows. Total 1200 Rows Completed. Rate $5 + $1 Upwork Fee. per 100 Rows. So, Total, 12* ($5*$1)= $72 USD. You Already paid $30.00 . Thanks-Shah

I checked into the spreadsheet and I was happy to see that he had collected a majority of the data I was looking for, but there was one caveat: the bars listed in the spreadsheet were all from Charlotte, North Carolina, rather than Portland, Oregon. So I reached back out to Shah, asking if there was any chance he was able to collect the 100 bar contacts in Portland.

After a little negotiation…

Ok I will Add new Row for that.

I woke up this morning and pulled up my e-mail, and sure enough, there was Shah!

Here is new Sheet. Kindly see and check this. 

He provided one last spreadsheet with 99 bar contacts for Portland, Oregon (and one from New South Wales, Australia, which makes me sure he’s using a bot.) But that was absolutely great, and I couldn’t have been happier with the results of my first attempt at outsourcing.

All in all, this entire data collection project cost me a little over $70, including fees, and saved me hours upon hours of my own time. Collecting this amount of information would have most likely taken me a full 40-hour week, but working with Shah, the project breaks down to roughly $0.05 per contact. Not a bad deal!

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
The Wisdom of Shark Tank 
is a mega-post of the insight I gained by watching every episode of the investment show Shark Tank
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

The A-Z of My 2016

I thought a creative way to retrospect on this past year was to create an A-Z “mega post” of my year, briefly touching on my experiences from Austin, Texas to Yoga, some of my favorite songs, and a handful of my ambitions and personality quirks.

As a disclaimer, I’ve included affiliate links to some of my favorite products. No biggie!

tumblr_o2se7xsh0q1rt7qgbo1_500A: Austin, Texas. I visited Austin in February for a business trip to attend the Mother Earth News Fair. We spent a few days in Austin, kicking around to multiple coffee shops (including the Tom’s flagship coffee shop) and unique bars (like the “secret” bar behind the bookshelf in a hostel) in search of the perfect Manhattan. I didn’t get to spend enough time there, but Austin, “I love you so much.”

B: Bees. Over this past year, I have been a vocal advocate for pollinators and honey bees. Their role in the ecosystem as a keystone species is unparalleled and there’s no doubt their existence is in danger. If you are interested in getting involved with beekeeping (it’s really not that hard!) I recommend checking out the good work over at Bee Thinking.

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-7-56-58-pmC: Card Games. I did a lot of “research” into card games this year, with a few of my favorites being Morels, One Hit Kill, and of course, Cards Against Humanity. Next year, Mystery Tin Games will be coming out with three games: Happy Hour!, a card version of the game “Hex,” and Robin Miller Presents Dinner’s Ready! Keep an eye out for Happy Hour! in February 2017! And if you haven’t already picked up Dinner’s Ready!, the healthy eating  card, you can get pick one up here! (Thank You!)

D: Mr. and Mrs. Graham Douds. This year one of my best friends in the world, Graham Douds, got married to his beautiful fiancé, Kate. As a member of the bridal party, we traveled to Cabo San Lucas for a bachelors weekend and later, in September, they were married at a beautiful ceremony in the Napa Valley. I couldn’t be happier to be part of their special day and seeing the way they love each other is nothing short of inspiring. Cheers!

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Mr. and Mrs. Graham Douds

E: EDM. Yeah, yeah, go ahead. I’ll admit it, I listened to more than a little EDM this year, and I can’t say that I’m ashamed. I truly believe that there is nothing more human than dancing. There’s no “right way” to dance, just move your body however you want. Whether it was dancing at the splash stage at What The Festival, in the front row at the Crystal Ballroom, or in my car  on traffic, I can’t help but dance and smile. I’m not saying it’s the greatest music ever created, all I’m saying is that you should try it sometime.

F: Freelance. This year was my first official foray into freelancing on the website UpWork. Forbes believes that 50% of Americans will be freelancing in 2020, many outside of their day jobs. If you’ve ever been paid to do a job for somebody, i.e. your day job, that skill can now be made available to anyone on the planet. And you’d be amazed what people are looking to outsource. This year I mostly focused on writing jobs, including blogs and screenplay adaptations. In 2017, freelancing will take on a much bigger role in my life, including hiring some of my own freelance help.

G: Groceries (Fred Meyer). OMG. Have you ever been to a Fred Meyer? Holy shit. I mean, these places are amazing. It’s like a Safeway, Best Buy, and Target had a love child and while arguing over paternity they decided to name it the innocuous “Fred Meyer.” That’s Oh yeah, did I mention they offer gasoline, too? Whatever you’re looking for, chances are they’ve got it. It’s a one stop shop. Thanks for the hookup, Fred G. Meyer!

H- Hawthorne. For a majority of 2015 I lived and worked in the Hawthorne neighborhood in Southeast Portland. Despite the fact we were paying INSANE RENT for our apartment that was the size of an open matchbox, Hawthorne is an interesting neighborhood. Over the course of one block you can find a tattoo parlor, vintage clothing shop, get your haircut in an airstream trailer, fill your growler with kombucha, pick up some vinyl records, and get your bicycle tuned while getting an artisan coffee and a donut. While there’s no doubt the Hawthorne is the result of gentrification (as I was reminded often by complete strangers when they saw my California license plates), it’s still a fun neighborhood to check out when you’re in Portland.

15327450_10211139875630103_1152892381576227980_nI – Intimacy. For the first time in the last 7 years, I’m not dating anyone. It’s not easy to be broken up with and asked to move out. It’s even harder to continue living together while the divide becomes more and more apparent. Love isn’t for the weak or the scared. Love is for the daring, the risky, and those who desire to give more of themselves than they’d ever expect to receive from another human being. Loving with your entire heart is dangerous, but ultimately an important growing experience, just like the pain of the inevitable heartbreak when you lose it. I’m not bitter or angry, I just miss my best friend. But I recently saw this meme, and despite the spelling errors (maybe intentional), it made me feel a little bit better.

tumblr_o97jzb8ntm1rt7qgbo1_500J: Justice. I can’t say I got the justice I felt that I deserved, but I had more interactions with the police and the judicial system this year than I have (in total) since I left the legal field. I received a couple tickets, almost got my car towed, appeared in traffic court to defend myself (and lost), and recently attended a hearing to appeal my unemployment case. Needless to say, it’s better to stay under the radar than on it. Putting that behind me in 2017.

K: Kiiara – Gold. One of my favorite songs from 2016, Gold is a super-glitchy, sexy jam that sets the mood whenever you turn it on. The song just drips with seduction. If you stand in front of the mirror and turn this song, I promise you’re gonna feel yourself. It tastes like money when I speak.

tumblr_ohmj0i86rw1rt7qgbo1_500L: Louis the Child. Another one of my surprise favorites this year, I saw Louis the Child perform twice, once at What The Festival and in early December in Portland. These two kids, literally 19 years old, are dancing their way into their fans hearts. Admittedly, most of the people in the crowd were freshly-legal, scantily-clad girls straight rolling (awkward), but these kids are somebody to keep an eye on. My favorite song is probably their most popular track, It’s Strange.

M: Magnetic North. Since moving to Portland, I’ve reconnected with my high school buddy Walker Cahall (Waltronic), a graphic artist and printer. This year he became the manager of his creative space, Magnetic North. It’s an awesome space with desks, screen printing machines (for paper and fabric), CNC machines, and paints galore. They hold events every month, inviting the community inside to see how the magic happens and pick up some amazing art! If you get the chance to stop in, do it, and tell Walker I sent you.

N: National Felons League. This has been the sixth year of our Fantasy Football League, The National Felons League. I was the commissioner for the first five years (not earning a penny for the first four years), but this past season I handed off the responsibilities. Perhaps it was the best decision I’ve made, because this season I got to the championships, but came up short. 2nd place! Cash money, please!

tumblr_o3ywr3TaZN1rt7qgbo1_500O: The Obamas. Write the President. Seriously, do it. Whichever President you prefer, the outgoing or incoming, go ahead and write him a letter. It only costs $0.47 of postage to tell the President of United States of America whatever you want. That’s it! Earlier this year, I sent a copy of my healthy cooking card game Dinner’s Ready! to First Lady Michelle Obama, and I received a letter back! Also, as part of my previous job, I sent a letter (and awesome t-shirts) to President Obama to thank him for his Presidential actions to protect pollinators, and he sent us back a great note back! I’ll have these forever! Thanks, Obama!

P: Pacific Northwest. As a Southern California boy living in the Pacific Northwest, it takes a little getting used to the seasonality. The winters aren’t the same crisp clear skies, but rather a constant state of overcast with short spells of daily rain showers. Since I moved here in fall of 2015, we’ve had a couple of snowstorms, too! Snow days! The truth is, as somebody who frequently stays inside to create things, I don’t mind being an indoor cat for a few months during the coldest part of the year. Aside from the weather, the PNW has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Miles of beautiful hikes with waterfalls, pools, and breathtaking views! Come visit!

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Q: Quixotic. Lately I’ve come to embrace the fact that I may hold some quixotic views about my role in the world I live in. I am eternally optimistic that we can achieve the idealized world we all aspire for while desperately holding onto shreds of what we actually have. Perhaps my over-idealism stems from an unrealistic confidence that if I continue to work hard, and treat people well, the world will reciprocate in the form of success and happiness. I’m not exactly “tilting at windmills,” but I do find myself occasionally lashing out with aggression towards figures from my past as if attempting to “right the wrong,” an act that is foolishly impractical in the pursuit of progress. Next year, I’m letting it go.

tumblr_nwzlm6lyrk1rt7qgbo1_500R: Rabbit. No, I’m not talking about these creepy shrunken heads I found at Paxton Gate, I’m talking about my sweet ass white, 2009 VW Rabbit with 2.5 Liters. This car has been my saving grace, from road tripping the 16 hours from Ojai to Portland, carrying Dinner’s Ready! boxes to the Belmont Street fair, or napping in the back evading a domestic-squabble, my Rabbit and I are thick as thieves. For Christmas, I got her some new windshield wipers and a new rearview mirror. In exchange, we made it the 16 hours back to Portland safely. Thanks, babe!

S: Bernie Sanders. I attended my first political rally this year for Bernie Sanders. I have always been into politics, but this was my first rally. My boss had given me the morning off so I could go to the rally, and it was a magical experience. While the major news networks were busy showing an empty stage waiting for Donald Trump, they were missing out on the tens of thousands that came out to see Bernie Sanders at rally after rally. The only reason why the mainstream media even mentioned this particular rally was because of the famous “Birdie Sanders” moment. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

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T: Ookay – ThiefAnother one of my favorite jams this year, I’ve probably played this song over 100 times, jamming out hard with air-saxophone. With a mixture of dance beats, digitized vocals, and a little jazz influence, this song makes you smile for all the right reasons. If you want to have even more reasons to smile at this song, you really should watch the videoI guess I’m just a selfish ghost.

U: Unemployment. I won’t get into the details of my unemployment again, I’ve done that already, but I will take a moment to address a perhaps unspoken downside of unemployment. When you’re forced to pay attention to every penny you spend in fear you won’t make rent or your credit card payments, you will psychologically (and physically) withdraw from the world around you, in fear that you will be roped into a situation where you have to spend money. You have a social life that is slowly diminished to cheap beer in your buddy’s living room, or even worse, drinking tea alone at home, starving. I’ve made the choice to emotionally leave the unemployment struggle behind me in 2016, so I’ll be back to my jovial and outwardly social former-self.

V: Voodoo Doughnuts. If there is one thing Portland does well, it’s donuts. And you can find a different kind of donut in every neighborhood. Small ones. Sugary ones. All kinds of crazy donuts. The craziest doughnuts are downtown at Voodoo Doughnuts. You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen it, it’s worth the hype, even if purely on a creative, culinary level. Delicious!

tumblr_o96gazYUv01rt7qgbo1_500.jpgW: What The Festival. This was by far one of my favorite music festivals that I’ve been to, and it was also my first experience volunteering at a festival. Despite the torrential downpours on Friday, eventually the sun came out, which made me love and appreciate the experience all that much more. If I had my ‘druthers, I’d love to go again this year. Want to tag along? Pre-sale tickets go on sale next week!

X: Xbox One. My parents gave me an Xbox One last year for Christmas, and it’s definitely one of the best things I had this year. Honestly, I don’t play very many games, but there’s a few I like; Rainbow Six Siege and Fallout 4 were at the top of my list this year, but even more importantly, I’m hooked up with HBOGO and Netflix through the Xbox One wifi. BAM! Never before have I had such a massive amount of content at my fingertips, and I can only imagine it’s going to get bigger (and better) next year. I think it’s probably in my best interest to implement some television watching parameters for myself next year, or else I am going to be an (even more) unproductive slob, but it’s super cool!

Y: Yoga. I was never big into yoga. I was successful at acrobatics when I trained at Circus Center, but I was never a fan of all the mysticism that is commonly associated with yoga. This year, however, my significant other took classes to become a Corepower Yoga instructor, and I was a frequent student for her homework training. I even did some partner Acro Yoga (thanks, Master Lu Yi!). Surprisingly… I kinda like yoga. Near the end of the teacher training sessions, I finally got the hang of the different poses and my body felt really good, almost longing for more physical activity. It was obvious I had not been physically active over the last year, that’s gonna change in 2017.

IMG_4825.jpgZ: ZZZZ (a.k.a. Sleep). Sleep is fucking important! I know it might seem like an easy (and likely) entry for “z” but in all honesty, I really try my best to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. This means, most nights, I’m asleep by 10:30 and up at 6 AM… sometimes 6:30 AM. I occasionally pulled late nights writing or socializing, but for the most part, I was in early because this year I learned a good lesson about myself and my work. I’m a morning person. I get my best work done in the stillness of the morning, before the rest of the world is awake. In 2017, I’m stepping that up the early morning work even more.

What about you? What are the A-Zs of your life in the year 2016? What lessons are you carrying forward into 2017? Let me know!

Thank You from MysteryTin.com! We’ll see you in 2017!

——-

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular posts!
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.
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Find Your Funk, Save the World Once you found your purpose, there’s nothing you can’t do.