Life Is A Video Game, Here’s How You Win
The Mastery Letter #1
I've always been obsessed with video games.
First it was Halo 2, then World of Warcraft, and finally Overwatch.
I would binge them for hours and hours.
I always felt like complete shit after and procrastinated all the shit I needed to get done, but I kept doing it anyways for the longest time because the instant gratification was too difficult to stop.
For video games specifically, the amount of stimulation and novelty in these games creates massive dopamine spikes, therefore leaving a trough afterwards.
Do this 10 hours a day, and your baseline will be bottom of the barrel, difficult to complete tasks, work etc.
Tiktok is the same way. We are not evolutionary wired to take in that much novelty and stimulation so quickly, so it releases massive amounts of dopamine.
Dopamine is the fundamental chemical in our brains that plays a part in everything we do as humans.
We can think of dopamine as a currency and it’s the way that you track pleasure, track success, track whether or not you are doing well or poorly.
Our ancestors used it to continue to hunt during long, cold, dangerous winters.
Top CEOs have hacked their dopamine system to have insane drive to push their businesses and networks to new levels.
It is what we cash in to use for focusing and pursuing goals. We have a finite amount every day, and it is up to you to spend it wisely.
Similar to testosterone, dopamine makes effort feel good. Your brain essentially rewards you while you are on the path to completing something.
We all have a baseline level of dopamine, some higher than others due to genetics, but mostly from habits.
When there is a big spike of dopamine, there is always a big trough after.
Here are some examples of the most common bad habits that spike dopamine above baseline for a short period of time, and then drops it tremendously after.
Sugar = +300%
TikTok = +150%
Video games = +200%
Nicotine = +250%
Alcohol = +300%.
Cocaine = +250%
Doing these enough times slowly lowers your daily baseline of dopamine.
Now, let’s think about the opposite of cheap pleasures. I call these delayed gratification activities.
These are high leverage activities because for the amount of time you spend on them, you get massive benefits.
This is me sport climbing an 11a route which is a little above my limit. I couldn’t finish it, but the rewards of going out on a hike with friends, disconnecting, and facing difficult challenges is unmatched.
During the climb you are completely focused, and when you are done you feel great the rest of the day.
You essentially trade a small dip in dopamine due to the discomfort from the difficulty for a slow burning increase for the rest of the day. This is option A. Option A is a trade you should make every day.
Exercising such as rock climbing, lifting and running will increase dopamine by 200%, for extended periods of time without a drop afterwards.
This is me incline benching 180 x 5 as a new personal record. This is where the magic happens. Maximum intensity in the gym focusing on incremental progress results in long term dopaminergic increases.
I like to lift after 3 hours of deep work, around 11am. This works perfectly to prime my body and mind for the rest of the day.
After you’ve finished these types of activities, you’ll feel amazing, and your dopamine will remain steadily increased for the rest of the day.
Stay consistent with delayed gratification habits long enough, while avoiding cheap dopamine spikes and your daily baseline will increase.
Thus, leading to much more fulfillment.
For example, there have been days where I’ve worked, read, done some writing, lifted, cold showered, sauna and meditated and I could stare at a fucking blank wall I was so at peace.
Here are what I would consider S tier habits to add to your routine over a course of 6 months.
Goal plan at the beginning of each month
Goal review at the end of each month
Having a set sleep schedule including weekends
Eating Whole Foods
2-3 highly focused 90-minute deep study/work sessions per day
Socializing (phone call/in person)
In the modern world, most people consume their dopamine reserves with what I consider D tier habits such as:
Vaping / cigarettes
Consuming self improvement content and never applying any of it. AKA self help masterbation.
The D tier habits sap away our ambition to create, build, achieve mastery, create impact and fulfillment.
This is option B of the daily trade. You will trade a hefty drop in your dopamine for the day for a large, temporary spike in cheap pleasure. This is absolutely not worth it, and why I recommend option A.
Think about this analogy…
Dopamine is like your mana bar in a video game. Mana is used in a video game to cast spells to destroy enemies with crowd control, offensive abilities and area of effects, getting you closer to completing a quest for rewards.
If you use all of your mana, or let an enemy leech it away, you have no way to defend yourself and you die. (Assuming you don’t have mana potions)
Dopamine is also a finite resource used to create, build, and pursue your dreams.
If you use all of your dopamine on D tier habits, you will fail in life. No dopamine means you do not have the drive to plan and lay the foundation of habits needed to reach your goals. D tier habits have a compounding effect towards bad decisions, one bad habit leads to another and so on…
S tier habits have the same powerful multiplier effect but in a positive direction. You want the multiplier on your side.
The most important battles you will have in life every single day is choosing S tier vs D tier habits. There is a constant war in our psyche between these two, and it eats easier over time as you build new routines using systems.
Economies have evolved over the last 100 years from locomotives, to steel, oil, real estate, internet, and now we are in an attention economy.
Your attention and focus require dopamine. This means society is trying to take your dopamine. They are leaching your proverbial mana slowly so that they can harness your attention into more money and energy of their own to create, build and pursue their dreams.
I am taking your focus and attention as we speak, but it is a net positive because you will become aware and improve.
The mainstream news is another thing you should cut out immediately if this is something you do regularly.
Online news, newspaper, tv news, scrap all of it. It’s all negativity and taking .1% probability events and making them look like it’s commonplace.
There is zero value from keeping up with it. Focus on what you can control.
Voting is important of course, especially locally, but other than that small time it takes to vote, ignore politics completely.
Control what you can, which is your daily habits and goals, nothing else matters. If something out of your control pops up in your life, you can find a solution then. Other than that, pay zero attention to outside factors you can’t change.
Always start with what not to do, or what to remove, this is easier than adding habits.
In a nutshell, you must budget dopamine the same way you budget calories and finances.
How do you actually do all of this, you're thinking?
By using my simple systems.
I will talk more about my systems on future blogs.
Smell ya’ later
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