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Evolution

Things have changed in my life these past few months. I’ve felt my heart and soul evolving, expanding. I’ve felt this expansion for a while, this loving more being angry less. I manage my mind and heart better, and though I still go through the lows I just go with the flow of them. I’m reaching a place of equilibrium and balance, even in the sadness.

I feel my interpersonal relationships are doing great. My growing and adapting perspectives on life have made people who I once considered intolerable and hurtful in my life to actually be quite pleasant, enjoyable. I am now open to all that they have to teach me and no longer take so many things personal. For the most part it’s not personal.

Today I reflected on the pain of those suffering all over the world, refugees in Syria, violence in Mexico, Africa’s genocide and more. My heart is hurting and my depression I am learning is fueled in direct relation to the pain of the world.

One of my greatest reasons for sadness has always been less about my inner pain and more about the pain in the world. The world is at war with itself and I feel it in my heart, I’ve always felt it. For as long as I can remember. People used to say I keep getting down on myself because I can’t save them. If we’re walking on a beach and I’m throwing starfish back into the water, I’m depressed because I couldn’t save them all. But turns out, I don’t have to reach the moon. We just each have to be our own light and that light has an effect on people, one after the other, it’s contagious. The more light you have, the more light others absorb. Some light’s are ahead of their time, but I truly believe we’re in an era where more and more people are waking up. You see it in the 50/50 splits, where youth want to break down borders vs. other generations that might want to build them. You see people changing, and change makes people afraid, and it’s that fear and sadness that’d driving people to close their doors. But only a disaster that ended in the destruction of all humanity could stop us from connecting with each other .

I want to show people it’s possible. Working so hard every single day to show people there’s hope. To show myself and little fig that there’s hope. Even with my dying breath I’ll still be trying to build and implement a plan that will save the world or damn well come close.

On a spiritual level I have recently let go of all organized religions and have stepped down from Buddhism. I spent this past month trying to fulfill my dream of deepening my practice, joining a Sangha and going from self-ordained to fully ordained. It was in that search that I came upon the realization that I did not need to be ordained or even need to be recognized as part of any ‘religion’ to be whole and one, and to practice and continue my mission to expand my heart. I need no labels, no acknowledgment for my deeds and I will continue to learn from the greatest teachers around me, life, everyday people. Part of me has wanted a spiritual teacher or guide for some time to let me know if I am on the right path and not speaking dreams that would lead people astray. But I don’t need anyone to give me permission to beat the beat to my own drum, and maybe in trying to seek that permission I lost myself a little. The wrong paths have definitely brought me ‘home’ again, and now I feel more confident than ever.

But with that confidence I’ve made a decision. In the past I have described myself as a spiritual counselor or teacher. I no longer believe this to be true or accurate. I am no one and I have nothing to teach. I am just someone who loves, and pursues loves and wants to take part in the love by allowing it to flow through me. I have no other religion but love, and I continue to be a Guardian of Life.

Here’s to that life.

More to come on projects and developments soon.

We’ve Moved!

This June has been spent  migrating from Zenratstudios.com to Zenratstudios.org and organizing further. In conjunction to that we’ve been busy raising funds to begin implementing some of our plans! We’re still busy at work between bootstrapping our project and updating the blog.

The websites are not quite working on mobile, and need some work, but there’s only one person building all this right now.

More to come soon!

Entrepreneurship, Depression & Loneliness The Bane of Start-Ups

It’s no secret that I struggle with mental illness. Frequent Highs accompanied by steep Lows, my mood is about as volatile as the Bitcoin Stock Market. Couple this with my strong views, opinions and crazy dreams about the world, talk like “we can save” it, we can use games to save the world, one game, one story one person, one YOU at a time!

Alongside my severe and awkward communication style. Sure some people say you communicate just fine, you are doing great. But the energy it takes to translate my thought, my tone of voice, and my facial expressions into their language, constantly hearing. Why are you talking to me like that?! And you need to socially get in line, adapt and gain some social tact or get out of the club, or putting those off who don’t know me personally (which is what business is all about transacting with people you DON’T KNOW personally)— as a result my life has been a lonely one, such that out of necessity I’ve had to learn to value solitude.

I see the world differently, I stand apart from the world. I feel different even though I know that I am no different than the rest of the world, I truly believe: We are all one. I feel like a dreamer most days. Looking at the map of problems in the world, and figuring out what solutions are out there, trying to bring them altogether. My thoughts and viewpoints are extreme, the very thing that allows me to sit with the world and understand it and love it for what it is, is the same thing that causes me to stand apart from the world sometimes even downright loathing it for its cruelty. It’s hard to love the world all of the time, and yet it is part of my practice, and something I work on bit by bit, every single day, even—especially when it comes to loving myself, flaws and all.

As the main founder of Zenratstudios, and as an Entrepreneur I tend to avoid speaking of the downs. Of the challenges, pitfalls, at least not without giving it a positive twist. But today I want to write about the challenges of having mental illness, particularly depression and the loneliness of being a leader, an entrepreneur, a visionary and a creative writer. Creativity and depression seem to go hand in hand and yet that seems to be a requirement for Entrepreneur’s, to see outside the box.

I am a hybrid Dreamer/Architect. My brain functions completely different in that my personality shifts from “Left” and “Right” brain thinking, according to are you a left brain or a right brain tests for fun it always says, “You are both, your brain is divided and shifts from one side to the other”. It’s funny because I always feel divided. I feel differently, I see differently, I identify in ways that people find hard to understand. I feel like pure energy trapped in a body that is always shifting into one mind from the next, the only thing constant is my evolving dreams.

These feelings aren’t unique to me, some of them are even pretty common. So here are some thoughts about why people who have Mental Illness also make great Entrepreneur’s but struggle.

The Thing That Makes Us Different, Sets Us Apart: This Makes Support Hard To Find And Teams with Compatible Personalities Challenging to Build

Visionaries and great leaders are rare. The ability to think outside of the box and be able to separate yourself from the crowd is not something that everyone can do, in fact we’re designed by default to herd, like sheep around a sheepherder. Visionaries are a special breed. They are the brilliant scientists, the engineers, the architects, the great writers, holding entire worlds, landscapes, and maps inside their head, just waiting to be made real, to transport what is dream into reality.

Imagine drawing a building at 4 or 8 years old and saying, one day I am going to build this. People who can’t do it, or believe it’s too hard will tell you to keep dreaming and do something sensible. And you alone will have to be the one to find a way to say, yes, yes I can, and pave a path so that others can see, all the while they tell you it’s not possible. By default Visionaries live in a dream world, a fantasy world, we’re constantly dreaming and our job is to be able to acquire the skills to make those dreams real, or to acquire the assets and finances to hire people who can.

Because of this mentality we have that sets us apart, it may be hard to find support. Imagine for instance being a Techie in a world where 98% of people who surround you are non-techies. No one knows what a blockchain is, or about the new and innovative features. Imagine being a Game Developer in a world where 98% of the people that surround you don’t care or even trust games, downplaying their value. Or Imagine being a Writer in a world where 98% of the people don’t write. Now imagine you find a niche, a group the 2% of people in society who think like you, who are trying and exploring this new technology…and now imagine that the type of people exploring the same thing you are exploring are a demographic different from yours, have a culture and mindset different from yours, making you stand out like a sore thumb among even your own ‘niche’.

Can you picture being an Evangelist Christian Female working in a field that is predominately Male and Atheist leaning?

As an Entrepreneur the ability to find like-minded people, who support your vision, and who would even want to join your team, where personalities mesh is possible, but hard. The challenges of that, building a team, and having support, and being set apart and different even among your own team is lonely. If building a team, and finding support for their ideas are hard imagine how lonely it must feel for these ‘visionaries’ finding close friends and even lovers. How common is it for truly genuine and authentic leaders to build both strong healthy families, and a team?

And yet their entire success rides on their ability to find common-ground and build connections and bridges with people who may or may not understand them. In a world, in a species where we’re taught to trust that which is like-us and to conform with the majority in order to survive, being a visionary can quickly turn into a witch hunt.

It is for this reason, that an important qualities a person has to have in this field are: Passion, Perseverance and Persistence. Steve jobs himself said “You have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing because it is so hard…that any rational person would give up.”

Another tip is to learn how to view the no’s as constructive criticism. For every challenge, or no, or I can’t, or You can’t, that is brought up, be willing and able to view it as simply a challenge, a puzzle to be solved. For every puzzle and challenge there is a solution, transform those You Can’t’s into Challenges and Puzzles to be solved, and then jump, climb, or fly over them.

We’re aware that: 9 Out of 10, or 3 out of 4 Start Ups Fail, And we Might Be One, Esp. If We Don’t Adapt (And A lot of us Won’t)

We know that there is a huge amount of risk that comes with being a start-up. The biggest risk is failure. We may have quit our jobs, be working on shoestring budgets, trying to bootstrap and reach out to people who only want profit, who need to feed their families. Everything is riding on the success of this business and yet, we know that we’re going to fail at it 9x’s out of 10. So it means that we have try 10+ times, tweaking the formula until we get it right. There are a lot of people who don’t tweak, or adapt, or try. If it fails they just give up.

But knowing that, knowing that your ability to plan and strategize and to be able seek and find help whether it is paid or community resources, and the long road ahead can be even more daunting. Everything is riding on your success.

To survive we have to rethink how we view failures, to see failures as a positive, bringing you one step closer to the solution, because now you know what WON’T work. We have to constantly be adapting, flexible, open to new things. This is a learned trait. We’re not taught to compromise, to adapt, to be flexible. We live in a world where new technologies crop up every day where we have to be innovative. For a long time we’ve been taught to value traditions, to stick with the old and distrust anything new.

Moreover we have to have the ability to keep moving forward, to keep trying, again and again, to gain increasingly more skill. Aside from that the biggest skill is to not think of it as daunting, think of it as fun. When you play a video game and the whole world is on your shoulders game designers have found a way to make it fun, in that same way you can design and develop your own life, gamify it in such a way where failing, is part of growth and growth is transformative, painful and yes just like in games can be made fun.

It’s Cutthroat World Out There

We’re surrounded day and night by people who are in this to make money, who need money, no one will help you for free. The same people who you hang around with may view you as a competitor, rather than someone to cooperate with, maybe you even view them as a competitor. They don’t have time to hear you or to read your 15 page business plan and give it feedback. Would you yourself have the same time if it were in reverse? The people by majority that you reach out to, don’t care about your dreams, they just care about their own thing, it is all about money, and making a living and how can interacting with you -help them-.

It’s for this reason to make it you have to detach and develop thick skin. You cannot take anything personally, and have to remember that everyone wants something from you, they want incentive. You have to create incentive, you have to create value. To give people a reason to work with you. What do you have that makes you so special? You have to prove yourself, earn people’s attention, figure out what it is that they want and then give that to them. Time is precious, tons of people are vying for their attention. And you’ve gotta figure out how to get it.

Thick skin is a huge must, not taking things personally, and really being able to make it fun, turn it into a game. When a game is fun and enjoyable, pleasurable, and when you don’t take anything personal you never have to attack people, get on the defensive and so forth. It’s all fun and being a good and friendly sport is part of it.

It’s hard, but the biggest thing I’ve learned in all this is that developing thick skin, while keeping a soft, open and friendly heart, and treating it as engaging and fun, an adventure is the best medicine to take the edge off of the stress.

In time your efforts may allow you to find people who share the vision, but there’s a lot of walking alone and paving the path that needs to be done before many people even agree to step onto the rollercoaster with you.

The World Isn’t Always Ready For The Gift

Sometimes we’re just ahead of our time. Sometimes 10-15 years ahead, sometimes 100 years ahead, sometimes we’re a whole evolutionary gap, or species, or even a world ahead of the rest of the world. Imagine what it was like to be Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe or Emily Dickinson, to have so much to give to the world, and to have the world not be ready for it. Imagine being Leonardo Da Vinci flowing with ideas, but not having the technology to create them.

Mad genius. Sometimes that’s the case, but keep trying anyway.

The Financial & Social Challenges, Loneliness & Stress Exacerbate Mental Illness

It is all the more reason to be able to have support. Sometimes though, especially for those with mental illness, all you have is your resolve, and your commitment to keep moving forward even on days where you can’t take another step.

To bring this closer to home, it’s days like today, I just lay in bed and read. Nothing makes me smile, or laugh, not even the things that usually do. It’s as though each low I build a tolerance for the new tricks I use to circumvent my brain to be happy before. All I can do then is let myself cry. Sometimes I even slip up and verbally attack the only people in my corner, and withdraw which creates a cycle by which I make a point to try hard to withdraw and keep people away, to protect them from me and my lows when I need someone the most.

So where do we go to when we have no one to go to, when our tongues are sharp and our hearts are soft and bleeding? This day in particular, I just let myself be sad, I surrender into it. I acknowledge that I hurt, that this is going to be an uphill climb, that there are going to be bad days or weeks, and I do my best anyway, knowing that my best wasn’t the same as my best yesterday, but it is my best today.

Times like these, I think about people in countries like Syria, strong, beautiful people risking their lives on dwindling fees, rescuing girls in a world that doesn’t care about them, and I think to myself. If they can get up every day and find the will to move forward, then so can I. I can’t look at the world this beautiful world, and watch it destroy itself and hurt others without stepping in and doing my part. No matter how challenging it is. No matter how hard the climb is.

If there is a skill I need to learn, then I learn it, if I need to raise funds, then I will. And if I have to learn how to survive in solitude, alone, without emotional support, then that’s the agreement I made when I pursued the road less traveled. I’m not going to give up. And neither should anyone who else who has a dream, who truly has insight and something of value that they can learn to hone and harness and give back to others.

I remind myself why I’m doing this. If I have the energy I read about things in my field, that inspire me. I read about brave activists, I watch Ted Talks, I listen to It gets better stories, I keep an eye out for hope, and I keep. Moving. Forward. Even if I have to drag myself, even if I have to type one key at a time, one day at a time. Because sometimes, when you have a dream that so much bigger than you, when it is more than you, that’s all you can do.

So here’s to all those entrepreneur’s out there, struggling with mental illness. This post is for you. I understand your journey, I feel it. I stand in solidarity and my message is to keep moving forward, keep trying. Figure out your gift to the world, and you find a way to give it. We need you, we need more people like you in this world, people who have the strength to stand against adversity who climb the highest mountain and give us messages of hope, even when it feels like it’s the end of the world. You’ve got a gift for the world, whether they’re ready or not. This is a call to all heroes to stand up, to keep moving forward. It’s a call to me, it’s a call to you. One person, one story at a time.

Re-Envisioning Zenratstudios With Blockchains

Background

April 28th The DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) launched a Crowdfunding company that would be run without Staff or CEOS. For those who don’t know the company is a piece of software that runs on Ethereum (a type of world computer like Android, or Windows existing within the internet) using blockchain, the same technology that powers the digital currency bitcoin, but with more added and complex features.

TheDao is a company running on Ethereum, to whose shares are known as “Dao Tokens”, they are valued and backed by Ether the cryptocurrency or fuel that runs the Ethereum (world computer). Members who buy these Dao Tokens are ‘shareholders’, and shareholders as a whole can vote on what proposals for new businesses they will fund. Proposals are “contracts” written in code that communicate to TheDao which is written in code, an agreement that members vote on. Curators are the arbitrators of this code (in Zenratstudios basic and limited understanding of it). The proposals are requests to use a portion of the “Funds” within theDao for their own projects.

Note: This is our basic understanding of TheDao as of today 6/1/2016, there may or may not be inaccuracies in part of our thinking. Blockchain technology is a new concept for us in general as up until recently beyond the ‘currency’ Bitcoin and altcoins, we did not know much about Blockchain, what we know is that Blockchain is fascinating. It offers a programmable solution to real world problems, it can handle complex thoughts and ideas, and create entire ecosystems.

What is programming games, and writing stories, worldbuilding rich lore and rpgs but the same thing. The digital world and real world are starting to blur making what we can do and how far we can push the limits even more fascinating to experiment with.

Story & Challenges

We never intended to take part in the Dao’s community. Interest in theDao was simply as a speculator who thought this would be a great way to make quick money in order to fund our company and hire workers to manage the social media of our site. It was just another new coin to us. But bad news released on the same day of the release caused the stocks to go down and forced us to realize that we hadn’t really known what we had signed up for. This in turn forced us to realize we had a real stake in this and were ‘involved’ in what happened next. The fate of theDao as a company surviving and of the value of our “Dao Tokens” (and consequently our investment for Zenratstudios) depended on our (the members of TheDao’s)ability to work together with others as a community. This forced us to come out of the shadows of our workshop and explore social media which we had been avoiding, but most importantly to really engage with the community. It also forced us to explore more about what The Dao and Blockchains were (what we had gotten ourselves into rather than ‘just’ a coin).

What we found was a discovery of something that could be applied to our own company especially as we struggled to deal with the complex interconnected branches that Zenratstudios planned to be long-term and how to expand from our short-term position into that, scalability (the very thing blockchain is learning how to tackle now).

We had the games and books we wanted to publish, entire IPs, and services for publishing the works of others and more that we wanted to offer. We also had an idea that involved crowdfunding people in the communities game ideas and having them voted on by the community to be designed by our team once we had grown into it, to design games people wanted made but didn’t have the skills or teams to do so (once we had grown large enough to have a dedicated team ourselves). Zenratstudios also had the vision of creating an “ARG” and other types of similar games whose category we don’t know that required taking action, inspired by ChoreWars, Superbetter, Halo’s ARG.

However our limited experience with web development and time combined with our limited funds and increasing need to bootstrap made it difficult. We could not learn how to do everything, our survival was dependent on assembling a good team and delegating tasks in-house or finding the funds to delegate tasks out of house through independent contractors.

For this reason we decided to focus on bootstrapping, at present we have gone out and begun to invest a little bit of money into cryptocurrencies that we had set aside for the business.

Vision

Zenratstudios aspires to be several things:

  1. A Game and book publishing company
  2. A non-profit/for-profit hybrid organization
  3. A spiritual resource (based on eastern philosophies) for personal development and growth
  4. A Digital/Virtual Island/Culture “Existing nowhere and everywhere” with its own economy and a way to reward and pay members within the community for self-improvement and paying it forward.
  5. A live action ARG [alternate reality game that plants puzzles in the world and gives real rewards]
  6. A resource and asset to the community

We wish to provide solutions for some of the world’s problems using games, storytelling and gamification to do so.

In a video game every player jumps in and starts with nothing, and yet through hard work and fun they end up making money, finding loot, and purchasing the things they need in order to grow themselves and “Level Up!“. Imagine if life worked like that? If you could pick what you wanted to be, and be rewarded, for growing yourself as a person. Zenratstudios has always believed Games could save the world, since a very young age wanted to do just that but didn’t know how, thought maybe it was a crazy idea but kept working towards it.

Then Jane Mcgongial wrote the book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better.” and gave her speech on TED TALKS and Zenratstudios knew this was it. We could do this. But her ideas and what we wanted to do kept expanding, until we encountered TheDao and delved into “The blockchain”.

Game Company’s Where CEOS are paid just like everyone else?

For the past 24 hours I’ve been pacing back and forth thinking about how to apply Ethereum and Dao’s structures to our own business and company, reviewing the problems and challenges that come with it, the pros, and the changes that may occur. Before finally settling on what we want to do and why blockchain is the perfect platform for experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what games and cryptoeconomies can do.

The Pros of converting Zenratstudios into (at the very least if not autonomous) a semi/hybrid-decentralized organization is that it can offer income opportunity to underrepresented people in the community, can handle an economy, transactions and an ecosystem that rewards people for their contributions within the world. It truly helps us apply the game mechanics of a digital world to the real world, bridging a digital gap.

The Technical Cons and challenges are that:

  • Running on Ethereum costs money to operate (ETH/Gas) in combination of our other website management fees.
  • The price of ETH varies and increases, and costs more based on how efficient our code is.
  • The blockchain technology it uses relies on miners and fees (which comes with its own set of problems i.e. they require incentive rather than keeping the blockchain running out of the kindness of their heart)
  • Ethereum is a world computer that updates on its own, any update can break the code and require recoding on our behalf ex. Ethereum’s update from Frontier to Homestead. (we can’t choose whether we agree to the update or not, and would have to update our system manually coding to work with Homestead)
  • There aren’t a lot of documentations or resources available to help new developers
  • Zenratstudios does not currently have the skills and would have to hire or find a willing blockchain developer proficient in Ethereum willing to help, as Ethereum is complicated (it would take time to learn so ‘efficiently’)
  • Zenratstudios would have to hire or have someone on our team able to manage the code and keep it bug free (hacks etc.)
  • Experienced web developers would be required (out-house gets expensive) , so even if we attempted to take the time to learn how to develop on blockchain ourselves we would have a long road ahead.
  • We would much rather build on a more mature platform that allows us to use C# than a javascript based language for back-end code. (Update: Stratis and Counterparty sound promising).

A Social Experiment

In many ways Zenratstudios is attempting to perform a social experiment. We ask questions like:

  • Can Blockchain technology really reward people for paying it forward? How would it work?
  • Can a company and its culture really be its own digital country with values?
  • Can a virtual digital world online offer real income opportunities for anyone?
  • And more

One cool thing is that if we did think of Zenratstudios and other countries like Apple and Google with their own corporate culture and values, then as our own country what we our “citizens” would create of value (our services and products) to the outside world would be considered ‘exports’.

We know for instance that using blockchain technology we can create entire ecosystems and currencies, THE DAO shows us that we can create a global treasury or fund, and disperse it in agreed upon contracts to all members or shareholders who are apart of that fund. There are also services like Bitwalk that rewards people for walking, so what if we merged the two concepts: Rewarding people for real world actions and aspects of the Dao in a way that serves humanity in some way, shape, or form.

Imagine if instead of paying CEOs $119,222,614 – $ 18,755,952, that money was dispersed among members of the community. Traditionally when we work for a company our money goes into the company and we are given back some money for our time, with a portion of it taken by the company.

Here at Zenratstudios we are still working on how this would all work, right down to how we would be governed, and what the co-founders rules would be when more founding members got involved. There’s a lot to study, and many questions to ask. But the idea that all the money our games and products produced not only was equally distributed among all members within the community, but that it rewarded those members for paying it forward and giving back to the world around us, speaks volumes.

It’s interesting to us to see the many new ways that companies are applying these technologies. Can activists and people who wish to help Syrian refugees, victims of war, poverty, mental illness and homeless do the same? Can we solve things like world hunger, bring mental treatment to those in need?

I don’t know all of the answers to these yet, but we’re hoping that through this project we can certainly try.

Currently we will spend our time:

  1. Fundraising (bootstrapping)
  2. Restructuring our company and governance to fit the new proposed organizational structure (decisions)
  3. Preparing a structure compatible with Blockchain technology and Ethereum
  4. Exploring Cryptocommunities to adapt these new technologies into solutions that solve real problems

Here are some awesome links:

To Wait or Forge Forward as Pioneers:

Interestingly enough Ethereum is always evolving and it is still in its infancy. There will be other platforms that may expand or even make easier what we want to do if we wait long enough. Colony for instance may offer just the solution we need, or Ethereum may offer another update that breaks our code as soon as we finish, requiring us to have it rewritten – there’s no telling.

What we do know is that this is the way forward for our company’s vision to save the world one person at a time, the potentials are huge, we cannot let it pass us by.

Stay Tuned and follow us and our journey on twitter!

 

<em>Update: The DAO fell apart but the experiment was great, and we have since added more great blockchain technologies offering possible solutions to problems we’ve encountered. More to come soon on how our opinions have evolved since this post.</em>