Thursday, December 8, 2011

Achievement Unlocked

Lately, video games, or frameworks around video games (like Steam), have been adding something called achievements.  By collecting some set number of gadgets, you earn such and such an achievement.  By simply reaching this or that stage in the game, yet another achievement is unlocked.  I've played a bit of World of Warcraft in my time and have earned only a small number of the achievements available.  I'm fine with this, as I don't have enough free time to dedicate my life to it.

However, what about real life achievements?  Collect $1000000 and earn the Millionaire achievement.  Say, "I do" and earn the Married achievement.  Visit another country and earn the World Traveler achievement.  These are but a few 'titles' that our society throws at us. But how about achievements that matter only to us?  What achievements do we want to earn that society isn't prepared to recognize? 

What about the Mr. Jones a few miles away with the collection of hubcaps?  Epic Hubcap Collection achievement unlocked!  Or Ms. Covey in Chicago with 43 cats?  Epic Cat Lady achievement unlocked?  Ok, these are a few off the wall ones.  But what about you?

What achievements do you want to earn in your life?  Use an entire season pass to see the Yankees?  Walk the Appalachian Trail? Earn a PhD in underwater basket weaving?  Visit the south pole?  A trip to orbit with the Russians?  Um, actually, I'll take that last one. 

Here are my personal proposed achievements.  As always, these are a work in progress.  I know I won't earn all of them, as I'll continue to add and modify them.

  • become fluent in a second language (Japanese) and visit the country
  • become competent in a third language (ASL)
  • publish a book (kid's book first - have one in my head)
  • be a good father
  • be a competent piano player
  • be a competent singer (learn to sing and play piano at the same time)
  • be a competent ballroom dancer (start with private lessons)
  • be well read (pick 25 books for each year, from all subjects)
  • be knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects (The Great Courses - Google it)
  • visit at least ten countries on four continents (5/2 down)
  • be a competent juggler (start practicing)
  • be competent at yoga (take lessons)
  • put on a solo Shakespeare play, record it, and put it online
  • earn a black belt in Akido
  • build a full robot
  • create a backyard botanical garden
  • help someone else achieve their dream

Some of these are probably unexpected for those that know me.  Earn a black belt?  I know I'm not Bruce Lee, but it's doable.  Anything can be done, within physical and mental limitations, given enough time and effort.  I firmly believe that.  My biggest hurdle is deciding what to do and what to do first.  Many of these will take years.  Some will take a bit of prep work and then a one-time push.  Some will take a bit of luck.  And some will require a bit of time, money, and craziness.

I've spent many years trying to decide what one big thing to dedicate my life to.  I've also spent time trying to force myself into a regimen of generalistic interests.  Right now, I have these as long term goals that will make my journey interesting.  I'm working on some right now and will hold off on others until I (finally) move to where I want to be. 

How well will my journey go?  Like all journeys, there will be dead ends, wrong terms, and occasional accidents.  Such is life.  If I were to easily achieve all of these goals, then they were too easy.  If I have a 10% success rate, then they were too difficult.  Life is a grand experiment in what to do and how to do it.  That's part of the fun.


  1. I recently enjoyed achievements for the first time, on a little iPhone game called zonr. What I've always done in games is come up with little goals for myself and seen if I could accomplish them. The achievements in Zonr seemed mostly to match with the goals I was interested in anyway, and I guess that's what sold me on it. Before I'd thought achievements were silly and didn't add anything; but now I see that they make the game less linear, because of the variety of possible goals.

    There's a TED talk or two about a group who's trying to work towards having videogame-like achievements and points built into our daily lives; and there are certainly already implementations of this, like diet and exercise sites for keeping track of calories. But these people envision eventually having everything we do get catalogued and achievement-ized.

    I don't remember if you ever met Dr. Spruiell, one of the linguistics professors, but he looks at social life in terms of 'points'... people try to figure out what gets them points in a given social circle and then they set out to do those things. In some social circles Epic Cat Lady is indeed an achievement. One of the cool things about social circles, though, is that you can make anything into an achievement; if a cat lady starts attending your knitting circle (or whathaveyou) you can choose to "give points" for that.

  2. If life were about maximizing a score, we would have AI by now. And I would be afraid if everything were tracked and publicly scored.