“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”
1. Scaling Backwards Experiment
One of the most important decisions I have made this past few months is to scale. To Focus. To minimize. Less is best. Zenratstudios is going to go through a major shift within the next year. One of those major shifts is Scaling Back. We’re scaling back everything:
- Social Media Usage,
- Complexity à Simplicity
We’re going to focus on building everything one by one, one at a time focusing on the most important fundamentals and then gradually building up. Games and Novels are an important aspect of our economy, but more important than that is the community, the Hero Network we are working to build around that. I feel like it’s important to emphasize that community, to build and nurture that community. Up until recently I was stretched thin trying to build a viable minimum product to show how vast our ideas and concepts were, and what we wanted to build and trying to build it all within the first year so people could have a basic idea.
2. Minimal Marketing Experiment: Build Community First
Before Social Media was relied on for largely building and gathering an audience. The Achilles heel is that my team is not equipped with the right ingredients of people capable of managing social media. Concentrating efforts with minimum start-up capital. Communication takes up a lot of time, so here are the rules:
- Communicate Less, but Efficiently – say less, but say more with what you say.
- Pace things – don’t say everything all at once, build block A, then Block B, focus on the core fundamentals and then build that knowledge up
- No Reliance on Social Media or Normal Advertising strategies – because time and money is scarce, we have to deploy another resource.
- Word of Mouth is King – networking, the neural pattern of life and communication, the way ideas are spread.
- Personalized 1:1 – speaking to people in small 1:1 groups is key, this allows a more personalized conversation. Greater reward and pay off comes from interacting with people personally on their level, engaging with them. Time spent 1:1 with people, figuring out what they want and helping build tools that allows them to get it is more important than social media in the beginning.
- Invite Only Exclusives – the Hero Network will be an invite only exclusive
- Members Only – only those who participate in the pay it forward economy as Heroes can reap the most benefits from the system
Based on the feedback we get from the small groups of participants who initially sign up, the initial revenue we earn, we’ll then focus on some marketing. The Marketing Tactic at this moment is to build community first around a practical tool or idea. Engage them, help equip them with the tools needed to achieving their goals and develop a solution that can help all people.
3. Success Without an Initial Logo Experiment
This is a short one but essentially before I was stressing about branding, trying to hire and get people to help us come up with a Logo. The Logo we feel now will come with time. In time Zenratstudios will have a Logo that best reflects this mission. But for right now Zenratstudios will not have one right off the back.
4. Focus On Simplicity
This is The Hero System Broken into the basic Levels:
This past year I learned that two of the greatest strengths and concepts of Zenratstudios was our One Million Heroes project, the architecture for heroes. I realized that everything I wanted to do was centered around the idea of Heroes. Games, Products, Services – they were all centered around one thing, “You” what did we want with you. We wanted to inspire and motivate you to change the world by changing you, and the way we wanted to do was equip you with tools.
I came up with all kinds of tools to do that, to attempt to engage people with. A lot of the tools were focused on raising money and funds by offering services to people, which we could then use to hire people to help develop and build the network with us.
List of Projects each with their own requirements to staff and maintain:
- One Million Heroes (Social Revenue w/Reward systems)
- Hero Magazine (News & Community)
- The Hero University & Workshop (Education & Community)
- Games & Products (Fun)
These were all the methods we were using in order to help give people tools. Struggling to communicate that effort was difficult, attempting to recruit support, and find affordable but meaningful assistance was also hard. Motivating people to care for more than just money in some environments was also a problem. After much thought I realized these are all great things, these are things that need to get built, and will be built, but that none of this matters if we don’t have any solid ground to stand on.
So what did I learn from these projects. I learned the value of being known, but even more than that I learned the interconnecting force behind all these ideas was what we were trying to use the funds to build, what we were trying to do. And then I realized we could do that now. By asking what were the bare minimum things that I needed right now to be a Hero Today in my own life, to motivate and get people involved. What do people need and what can I do to get that.
- Community – a Sangha, a community, a network of support.
- Economy – a way to reward people.
One Million Heroes became the API, the architecture for how we’re going to design and build this system. So my goal right now is to build that community, to have us bound by a meaningful pay it forward contract, and to create a way to reward members in that community. While these major projects are still things we want to do, the most important project is the underlying architecture for it, the tool that connects us to that system, and the economy that will reward these heroes.
5. Practicality Not Ideology
One of the biggest mistakes I made this past year was trying to appeal to people’s values. Their desire to be Heroes, their desires to be good, without considering the individual motives people have, without realizing that people truly are focused on self-interest, their survival. To connect with people I tried to focus on ideology, on ideas, on labels. The more I did this, the more convoluted everything became. People attached their own symbols and ideas onto the labels I applied. They came in with different words for what things meant and would end up arguing with me over why it would work or not work, rather than just simply focusing on How. As soon as I mentioned the ideology that empowered me, that motivated me, that made me care, I would reach resistance even anger. I was not empathizing with people’s concerns or taking them seriously. I kept focusing on Ideology.
How could I motivate people, to make people care if they were simply getting stuck on the ideology, the words. In what way could I connect with people across divides? And that’s when the mantra Practicality not Ideology was born. I couldn’t focus on Values, Ideology, Meaning because uniting different groups of people meant that I was dealing with different values, ideologies, beliefs. People were going to differ, their agendas were going to differ. I had to change tactics. That’s when I realized Practicality was king. Focus on building something, anything, tools, laying out the steps. Leave out the ideology the belief systems, even if those systems fuel the way your tools development.
Because of this decision I now have made require a major rewrite of the website. We will save the world, but we’re not going to do so with ideology, we’re going to do so with practicality. Is it practical? Does it help? Is it realistic? Can it be deployed? Can the average joe use it? Kind of questions.
6. Emphasize Tools Not Technology
This is a short paragraph because not much needs to be said about it other than. Before I focused too much on Technology, it’s not about technology anymore, technology is an aid, an assistant. I have to focus on Practical Tools. What they do and how they help. And so my goals will be on narrowing down and getting as refined and as specific as possible, to the very core.
7. Focus on Refining Communication
Less is truly more, and my problem is I say too much and don’t get much across. In an attempt to express the complexity of my thoughts and mind, to share what’s in it, I’ve failed to reach a lot of people. My goal really is to find ways to simplify everything even if it means taking down the website sometime before spring to reframe and express what we’re doing in the most simplest of tools.
8. Effortless Effort: The birth of Wu-Wei Experiment
“I don’t do anything I don’t want to unless I have to.” – Ruth Stout
Several things I’ve been doing (for myself).
- I spend my time doing what I love: Learning
- Organizing my thoughts so that they are clear, concise and easily expressible to people, without overwhelming them.
- Designing a system that can function efficiently without technology (the gardening methods), and that when technology is added it improves it even more.
- Connecting and Designing community members that can utilize these tools
- Designing the gamification elements and rulebooks.
For me these are effortless because I enjoy them. Things I didn’t enjoy was every weekend stressing over social media, of constantly looking to recruit people and trying to convince them. By switching my focuses to practicality over ideology, I can give people a practical list of goals, explain what we’re doing, why and how we wish to achieve that. I’m still struggling to get things down concisely. My technical papers for instance are long-winded and can be somewhat vague but that’s because (1) struggling to find simple words to express concepts in my head, and (2) have ideas but not all the little details in place and look for feedback to help make sure ideas are rational.
In any case this year is the year that everything will become practical, focused, details. Less about the big picture, more about the details.
“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” – Paul Valery
9. Practical Tools, Current Goal
This is all I have right now. I’m not going to be blogging as much as I should because I can’t keep up with it. But I feel that this is an important update. If it doesn’t feel good to do, I’m focusing on something that does feel so good that I lose track of time just doing it. I’m taking more breaks, relaxing into it, and refining what the term relaxing means. Each week I expect to have produced one thing towards my goal. My current goal right now is to get the following out:
- The Hero Network
- The Hero Economy
- The Pay It Forward Contract
- Practical Tool
The Practical Tool: Food-Water-Energy Self-Sufficiency Harvesting Kit, that has no name at the moment. This is a piece of technology inspired by Farmbot.io, while we may not be using farmbot.io, it is open-source. This piece of tool looks at what people need and attempts to help them get it. The Kit is designed to harvest water from the air and to collect it, to grow food, and to utilize renewable energy to power itself. Reducing reliance on governments and companies. The goal is to make it so that we don’t have to do a lot of work here to get this going. Automating what can be automated, utilizing efficient and low-cost designs, and other architectural patterns to help reduce cost. From how it’s designed, delivered, automated. This is the first tool we’re working on getting to the public.
Everything else, the games, the books, those are all nice, little ideology based games with practicality hidden beneath them, but this tool tackles our most immediate survival needs, and breaks our dependency patterns. And it’s why it is my hope to get it developed and out hopefully by Spring.
The Pay It Forward Contract: Also known as the Hero contract. Whenever we provide a service or tool that helps benefit your life or make it better in some way at a low or no cost price, we ask that you sign a pay it forward contract. This is a Hero Membership where you become part of the Hero Network. The promise is that any excess food, energy, water that you produce with the tool you will either pay it forward by giving that excess a way in exchange for Hero Points (which can be exchanged within the system), and Karma points (a type of reputation and contribution points). The more you give the more karma you receive, the more karma you have the more power you have to make decisions, decide the course of the community, to receive rewards and to nominate those who will receive rewards, very much like our One Million Heroes project. The contract essentially welcomes you to play the game of Heroes with us.
The Hero Network: This is a community of Heroes, members who have signed up. They pay monthly or yearly membership fees that cover maintenance fees and labor and give them low-cost to free benefits. They gain access to games, books, education tools that we develop and build free. Heroes all start at level Zero, given basic tools and equipment, but they can level up, the more they level up the more real life benefits they receive. The benefits are largely rewarded by giving access to our items, and benefits. Those benefits include food, shelter, water, services, products, but also a source of revenue distributed from our Hero Economy.
When part of the Network you get access to a delivery system and paid labor force connected to a hero economy that essentially rewards people for participating in this system as a whole. Whatever practical tools we build Heroes in this system have access to it. In essence we recruit Heroes and have a pay it forward contract where you promise to become a Hero just by taking care of you.
Hero Economy: This is our internal economy. Somewhat like a co-op. Basically it works somewhat like equity. A portion of all funds we receive go into a treasury that is divided into 3 different layers. The Hero Economy shares a treasury by which we redistribute 45% of the funds we earn back into the people to fuel the actual economy. The other 45% goes to hire workers, to fund people we hire to help protect us legally, to keep things running, to essentially staff it. In time we hope to actually reduce the number of staff so that there is less staff meaning we can put more back into the people. This is different because there are very few companies that give up more than 1-2% of their total revenue.
10. Start Where You Are
So this is what we’re building, this is the focus. There are 4 different design elements, 2 of which involve programmers, the rest doesn’t so much. I have to essentially redesign the entire website to reflect these changes. I have no doubt that we can do this, that we can save the world, one person at a time, and that through games we’re going to make it happen. What I like about this system is that we can start where we are right now wherever we are, that’s the principle. Whatever tools we have right now that’s what we have to work with.
We are starting where we are, and enabling people to participate by starting where they are. It doesn’t matter how much money we have in our pockets this is buildable, accessible, open-source, achievable.
Always looking for great minds to recruit, so if you are interested in this vision come along for the ride. We’re reaching out to people and the first people to come on board and help us build this will be the first people to benefit from it.