Have You Been Gamified?

A gamer. Likely the first image that flashes through your head is a recluse in a dimly lit room, carefully constructing the perfect fortress or barking orders into a headset – directing a squadron of cybernated soldiers to sweet, sweet victory. But, in many ways, you’re probably more of a gamer than you think.

Games have been around forever. The oldest chess piece dates from 465 A.D., excavated in a palace basement in Albania. From family game night to a round of “I Spy” or “20 Questions” to pass time on a road trip – you’ve been gaming since your adolescent years. In today’s culture, friendly competition has infected so many aspects of our lives. In the last few months you may have participated in a State of the Union drinking game, picked the Oscars, and filled in your annual March Madness bracket. It was hardly surprising that coinciding with the start of the “Big Dance,” an explosion of alternate brackets began circling the social-sphere, inspiring debates on everything from the best Disney movies to the best Mariah Carey singles.

We participate in these mini-games to increase our interest in things and events that, otherwise, may only command a passing glance in our busy lives. I just checked my fantasy baseball team. Without the game, who’s achieving the most success on the diamond would have never wandered through my brain today, or for matter, the past few years. The digital world has connected us to so much information, so much entertainment, and so many possibilities, that the best way for anything to capture our attention is to become a game.

Games create competition, and give us someone to cheer on. The only reason you can name an alpine skier or a figure skater is because you watched the Olympics and were following your country’s team, which, uncoincidentally, dominates Olympic coverage in your region.

In business, this can be used to your advantage. Gamification, or, the application of game design to non-game contexts, is an important new technique for success in today’s fast-paced digital world. As a consumer, you’ve been gamified already – whether you realize it or not. From the digital badges on Nike+, to the progress bar in your Mint account, to your current Starbucks level. These game mechanics, among others, are being consistently employed by market-leaders in their product development to increase engagement and attention among their customer base. If you’re not thinking about gamification in your product design – you should be.

Perhaps more importantly, adding elements of competition to internal projects can capture interest and boost productivity for you and your employees. This is often overlooked as leadership obsesses and struggles over how to halt decreases in productivity caused by new-age digital distractions. Instead, consider how you can borrow from the elements that make these distractions so distracting in the first place, and implement them into your project management and ongoing operational activities.

Want to learn more? There’s even an online Wharton course offered in Gamification. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself watching a progress bar move a little closer to completion after each assignment.

The Very Best of Meditations

Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is full of inspirational dogma. These are some of my favorite passages.

2:11 (Excerpt)
But death and life, success and failure, pain and pleasure, wealth and poverty, all these happen to good and bad alike, and they are neither noble nor shameful – and hence neither good nor bad.

Your ability to control thoughts – treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions – false to your nature, and that of all rational beings. It’s what makes thoughtfulness possible, and affection for other people, and submission to the divine.

People who are excited by posthumous fame forget that the people who remember them will soon die too. And those after them in turn. Until their memory, passed from one to another like a candle flame, gutters and goes out.

But suppose that those who remembered you were immortal and your memory undying. What good would it do you? And I don’t just mean when you’re dead, but in your own lifetime. What use is praise, except to make your lifestyle a little more comfortable?

You’re out of step – neglecting the gifts of nature to hand on someone’s words in the future.

5:16 (Excerpt)
The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.

Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone – those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us – a chasm whose depths we cannot see.

So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignation, either. As if the things that irritate us lasted.

So other people hurt me? That’s their problem. Their character and actions are not mine. What is done to me is ordained by nature, what I do by my own.

The best revenge is not to be like that.

If anyone can refute me – show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective – I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.

6:44 (Excerpt)
My city and state are Rome – as Antoninus. But as a human being? The world. So for me, “good” can only mean what’s good for both communities.

6:47 (Excerpt)
The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patient with those who don’t.

When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them.

It’s good to keep this in mind.

Do your best to convince them. But act on your own, if justice requires it. If met with force, then fall back on acceptance and peaceability. Use the setback to practice other virtues.

Remember that our efforts are subject to circumstances; you weren’t aiming to do the impossible.
– Aiming to do what, then?
To try. And you succeeded. What you set out to do is accomplished.

Treat what you don’t have as nonexistent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them. But be careful. Don’t feel such satisfaction that you start to overvalue them – that it would upset you to lose them.

“And why should we feel anger at the world?
As if the world would notice!”

To watch the courses of the stars as if you revolved with them. To keep constantly in mind how the elements alter into one another. Thoughts like this wash off the mud of life below.

Everywhere, at each moment you have the option:
– to accept this event with humility
– to treat this person as he should be treated
– to approach this thought with care, so that nothing irrational creeps in

You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they’ll still go on doing it.

To accept it without arrogance, to let it go with indifference.

To do harm is to do yourself harm. To do an injustice is to do yourself an injustice – it degrades you.

To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be one.

Continual awareness of all time and space, of the size and life span of the things around us. A grape seed in infinite space. A half twist of a corkscrew against eternity.

The soul as a sphere in equilibrium: Not grasping at things beyond it or retreating inward. Not fragmenting outward, not sinking back on itself, but ablaze with light and looking at the truth, without and within.

12:3 (Excerpt)
Your three components: body, breath, mind. Two are yours in trust; to the third alone you have clear title.