Badass Points

04:06. The wake light has gradually brightened to 20% brightness, but I cut it off early. It's time to rise, silently and in darkness, cook some runny eggs, get on my longboard, ride through the empty streets to the CodeCombat command center, and begin hacking.

It's not actually that intense–Rocky gets up slightly earlier with a more annoying alarm, drinks raw eggs instead of runny ones, and then, you know, has to punch meat instead of keys. But I still feel kind of badass doing it–if I remind myself to.

Most of the time, stress just feels like stress. It feels bad. It's something to fight against. The pressure of trying to get everything done during Y Combinator weighs on me, my bug list is like overdue homework, and I'm not having fun, oh no.

But when I remember, I remind myself that this is actually pretty badass. Getting up when only ghosts and warlocks are awake? That's fierce. I approve. My weak human avatar wants to sleep, but it doesn't know what makes it happy. Longboarding through the grime to meet my destiny? I want that for myself. Hacking to the max until Demo Day and going to sleep at 20:00 for maximum productivity? Yes, this is the mission I accepted.

At these times, I remind myself of a scene in Cryptonomicon where the unassuming hacker hero Randy, who has been wiring the Philippines with undersea cables as part of a master plot, has just learned that an insanely rich and dangerous business partner named The Dentist might be getting wise to the schemes of Randy's cabal:

“Got it,” Randy says, and zips up. But what he’s really thinking is: why did I waste all those years in academia when I could have been doing great shit like this?

So when I remember, I give myself badass points. In that mindset, not only do these sorts of real-life challenges become a lot more fun, but I also get more done. This is why it's easier, more fun, and more productive to do a 120-hour workweek as a challenge than to do a couple 70-hour workweek as a duty.

Nick

Hacking on CodeCombat, a multiplayer programming game for learning to code. Mastermind behind Skritter, the most powerful Chinese character learning app.

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