Samorost “Unique Game Adventure”

Two words “unique adventure”.

Few things capture my sense of adventure in online gaming. I DO NOT game. However, once upon a time in my young adulthood, there was a game that hit all the marks and fulfilled my propensity for the off-the-beaten-path type things. That game was Samorost. Having thought about it recently, I was thrilled thinking about how the creators must have advanced the game from 2003’s initial version if it still existed. They did not disappoint, it is still up and running and the integrity of the original look and feel remains. Why is it unique? Because it was built to enhance your problem-solving skillset through puzzling while satiating escapism. A friend recommended it to me, and my interest grew from there.

The Unique Adventure

Samorost Gnome Character

Samorost was made by Amanita Design (Czech Indie Game Developer)/Jakub Dvorský  (1 (2003), 2 (2015), 3 (2015). It’s simple to play with point-and-click technology and features a gnome trying to save his planet. As you experience emersion, the world starts to unfold and you get wrapped up in its story. It is a unique adventure that you will only find in the world of Samorost. Its originality alone gives you so much to explore without the total effects of overstimulation.

Amanita Design’s original launch strategy was brilliant, they posted a free teaser of the game online in 2003 – which I don’t think exists anymore (the teaser). It has a peculiar and mysterious soundtrack that fits perfectly making it a true collector’s item. Now that this woman (me) is on summer break from grad school, I am chomping at the bit to rekindle with my old gnome friend (who I have been calling Samorost all these years. Once again, I am super pleased to see that this quality of game still exists. Now, I want to share it with you.  You can chalk this up to, things that I find time value in.

Samorost – “maverick”, Czech translation “object made from discarded wood”

Click here to check out more Samorost. I am not affiliated with the team, just a fan of the most unique adventure in online puzzle gaming that I have found yet. If you find the free version, leave a comment with the link. I would love to iframe it into this post.

The good good reads of my 2021

2021 has been raw. I am almost halfway through the Masters of Professional Studies in Real Estate (RE) program at Georgetown University (GU). It is true what they say, working and going to school is a BEAR of a task. While in the throws of an RE accounting course, what has kept me sane is a combination of Transcendental Meditation (TM), good reads, and working for an excellent and growing organization, JLL Technologies (JLLT). Before you dive into this list, you should know that there is no rhyme or reason to what I read. Most good authors recommend others to read, and one continues down the rabbit hole of in-the-know. The Head of my current team (Global Alliances – partnerships + technology) recommended at least two (2) of these titles. I am so grateful to have leadership around me who read and understand what contributes to healthy lives and teams. Because they are willing to pass it forward, I can pass this on to you in the good good reads of my 2021.

1. On Mental Toughness by HBR 10 Must Reads On Mental Toughness

Just so you know, I am also reading the same by HBR on Strategy. On this read, if you don’t push yourself, you will never achieve. Life is what you make of it. We all have choices. The writing clearly defines what your options are for a response when things go sideways (and they eventually do). Those responses are – active constructive, passive constructive, passive destructive, actively destructive. When you read this, you may take a walk down memory lane of situations that you handled well and poorly. In addition, you will understand and have a better idea of where others are in their journey based on the responses you receive. The writing has moments that may remind you of Simon Sinek’s the Infinite Game in relation to the fact that mental toughness is the practice of not being deterred, brushing yourself off, and evolving to play the game a little better until you reach mastery. As a former tennis player, I can tell you that a former coach gave me some sage advice and told me NEVER to miss in the same place twice. If I hit it in the net in error, the next should be to the fence until I stopped missing at all and that’s how you stay in the game. A few years ago, that same coach experienced a life-shattering event ( like 15/10 bad). Without a doubt, he may be the most mentally tough individual I have known. He identified the new path and turned the loss into an epic win in a matter of a few years. This was a decades kind of challenge. He increased his capacity, focused his energy towards the goal and put the ball between the posts. His wife is now free from a fifteen (15) year jail sentence in around six (6) years because of his grit. Did I mention that they have four (4) kids?

Learning the lesson and being consistent in your new response practice will get you further. I say practice because that’s what the takeaway is. Transforming your response to adversity takes time and practice, just like everything else. This is a good guide. If you have not or never experienced adversity via some sort of mechanism of denial, delusion, or privilege 

2. My Story by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – Visionary of Dubai

Dubai holds a special place in my many lives having grown up spending summers in Dubai among other places. Even as a child, I could see his vision for the uncapped development of the UAE, and oh yes, he has delivered. The writing is personalized. It feels as if he is sitting there telling you stories about his life and legend as a grandfather would. He will forever be immortalized in his writings and on every grain of sand in that desert. It is especially interesting to read about how he kept a peaceful and safe space throughout history while managing to remove the hand of the Empire from Dubai’s ports and land so that it can be what it is today whilst keeping peace among the tribes. I appreciated his affinity for Arabian horses, sport in general, and family above all. 

“Countries succeed when political power is used as a means to cement the people’s desires, and not simply as an end unto itself.”

Could be a lesson for corporates… just saying.

3. Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Now that I just wrote on “My Story” by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, I think that he may have been the OG of OKRs for succeeding in the UAE as he did. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) don’t just stand on their own. Continuous performance management is supported by Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition (CFRS). IMO CFRs are the key ingredients to this practice of setting proper goals and measurement that leads/managers often forget. It’s like buying bagels but no butter or cream cheese (hmm). If your organization uses OKRs and your leadership and practitioners hasn’t read this book, you can wave a long goodbye to the full potential of your initiative. This author gives you example after example of how to perform optimally, what that translates to in written format and in practice. It describes the result as the break down of those wicked corporate silos so that healthy networks can percolate. It also further involves each and every stakeholder so that folks have skin in the game.  That’s by helping employees better understand how their actions and projects impact the success of the organization at large with the freedom to pick their passions. 

“People who choose their destination will own a deeper awareness of what it takes to get there. When our how is defined by others, the goal won’t engage us to the same degree. “

4. The Moral Case of Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein

I did not purchase this piece. It was passed on to me from a network of O&G/Energy folks that I met at the North American Prospecting Expo (NAPE) this August (2021). I am grateful to have read this. So, many horrible far stretched items of vague and mismanaged points in this. But, it proves a great point about how anyone can publish just about anything as I am doing at this very moment. Strangely enough, the author does bring up a FEW good food for thought moments. The main takeaway is that there aren’t really that many other reliable AND cheap energy sources and so we shouldn’t just throw out fossil fuels as they have moved our society so far forward from where it would have been. If we have innovated our way out of many other issues, we can innovate and tech our way out of this so-called environmental/energy “crisis” as well. He argues that fossil fuels are not poorly affecting the environment but improving it among other things (unless I read that wrong – doubtful). On another note, I saw this guy on a dating app recently and after swiping through his photos in disbelief, it dawned on me that he is local to Houston, TX and that I eventually will be able to discuss my gripes face to face and should reserve my harshest criticisms for then. This might be a waste of your time to read, but it is entertaining. The version I had was filled with notes of disbelieve and counterarguments (good ones because it’s just so easy to point out how the author’s arguments are weak) from someone who eventually gave up counter arguing because it was just not worth the effort… he also drones on a bit hashing over the same point with the same weakness in argument throughout the book. I am not really sure why I am not mad that I read this. In either case, if anyone brings it up, I will be ready for both sides of the argument and not just my own views.

First-time Homebuyer Experiences

Map of the Greater Heights Area – #5

In 2020, I purchased my own home in an emerging neighborhood of Houston, Texas called Independence Heights. I served as my agent and saw something special in the quiet quarter between I-45 just north of the 610 Loop that encircles this enormous and growing city. I moved from my parent’s home in Bellaire also off the 610 and there were many comparables regarding how retailers were positioned throughout my new neighborhood. Although Independence Heights is no Bellaire, it is nestled perfectly on the borderline of Garden Oaks, a lovely neighborhood with tall lots and plenty of mature trees. The agent that upsold me was Rachael Hadzega. She assured me that the home was a good, energy-efficient build and that the neighborhood was coming up. Let me be perfectly honest, most agents are trained to say those things, however, like a good agent, she understood what to lean on. This was not just a home; it was also an investment. Further, the neighborhood was on the brink of a transition that could go in any direction given a fragile economic state due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. So, here is what I did right, and what more I could have/should have done better.

What I did right

  • I moved back to Houston, TX permanently in 2015. At the time, I was not able to purchase a home. I did, however, get my real estate (RE) license. Having a license was the source of $7 – 9 thousand in savings. It also connected me to a network of people with key information about local culture, neighborhoods, and opportunities. Although I was more interested in the commercial RE perspective, the license was an excellent first step to everything RE. It also helped me obtain plenty of data points to be able to make sound decisions moving forward.
  • A major factor of my decision-making process was the current and future health of my neighborhood. How did I assess this? I looked at neighborhoods that had already matured and took note of which retailers positioned themselves in or near my neighborhood of choice. I had the fortune of the perfect retail model to help establish the trend.  

Bellaire: Home Depot & Lowes, Chick-fil-a, PetSmart, Whole Foods & HEB

  • In Houston, Home Depot, Lowes, and Chick-fil-a tend to roll together in viable neighborhoods. PetSmart is in almost every “comfortable”
    The Whole Foods Market 365 mural reflects the African American roots of Independence Heights on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Houston.

    neighborhood in Houston, and not by mistake. Also, Whole Foods and HEB are some of the titans of the grocery industry. In 2018, before the pandemic and after Hurricane Harvey, the opening of Whole Foods 365 Market was a tipping point for this neighborhood. Whole Foods introduced a new product/brand to support the variety of demographics that the neighborhood is comprised of. HEB followed in 2019. Retailers make their RE location decisions based on a healthy supply chain, demographics, surrounding growth potential, and more. They have determined that their businesses complement each other, a winning combination. After I pinned the neighborhood, I began to dig further into my personal preferences such as a gated community and the accessibility to outdoor activities. The things that you seek, often seek you too.  Established businesses like the ones mentioned have put a ton of resources into their location intelligence models. Know the experts and trust that they have done the heavy lifting.

  • I had the advantage of being in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. Therefore, I drove various neighborhoods to review and assess damages. You can have a perfectly good home, and an excellent location but the risk vs reward of that purchase needs to be taken into account. In Houston, I searched for investments that were outside of the flood zone and near but far enough from the bayou waterways to have a fighting chance in the case of another major flood. Given the history of the neighborhood not flooding during Harvey, that also meant that investing in flood insurance became optional. It was another cost savings opportunity.
  • HOA fees can be insane if not a little rude. HOAs are businesses. The costs rarely, if ever go down. Make sure that you know what neighborhood policies are, how much they cost, and why they cost what they do. Speaking of businesses, ensure that your HOAs do not tie your hands by not letting you monetize your property. You may not want to, but it is always nice to have options. Specific examples are, can you rent, Airbnb, and what improvements are within policy guidelines?
  • Who you choose as a lender can help you gain financial leverage. This program may expire at some point, however, first-time homebuyers could beeligible for up to $30,000 worth of assistance in Houston, TX. Also, some lenders have a discount for the first-time homebuyer education course (if you are required to take it).
  • If you find that a quality builder or RE firm has invested greatly in certain emerging markets, check out their inventory throughout the city. Like the commercial retailers, the odds are that they have done their homework too. Get an expert like Rachael to outline the pros and cons of the options you have outlined. Even if you think you know the answer you could find out something that you didn’t know and that could reframe your search.

What I should have also considered

  • There was an easement on my property that I asked to be relocated before I even knew it was an easement. The telephone line stations were not installed in a straight line. One of them ended up in my backyard and to get to it, the service provider must enter my property. They can dig up my back lawn to burry telephone lines to other homes. Unfortunately, I picked that lot for a compelling reason. I honestly thought it could be a quick removal of the box. It was way more complicated than that. So, I must live with it, for now. Although, lucky me. There was a development in Houston around the same time where the developers forgot to oversee the installation of internet infrastructure within the community during the height of the pandemic and when everyone was working from home. Those residents were out of luck for over six (6) months.
  • The first morning that I woke up after I moved in, I experienced the train. It was way down the road and I did not think that I could hear it from my home. The area is not a quiet zone. When I inquired with a community leader, they gave me a comprehensive list of other items that the community wanted to prioritize. Some of those items were gentrification, extreme poverty, and rising taxes that were forcing the locals to move out of their long-time community. Moreover, in parts of town, there was an increase in flood damages due to an uptick in housing and construction coupled with a lack of progress within the infrastructure. Lastly, the I-45 expansion project may cause the neighborhood to shrink on the East side of town displacing residents due to eminent domain laws. The thunderous train was at the bottom of that list, as it should have been. Did I mention the rooster at dawn?
  • During Snowvid (the winter freeze week of 02.15.2021 – $18 Billion in damagest-shirts here), it was a shock to tout le monde. It left the city bruised but not broken. Right before the water to the entire city shut off for days, my aunt gave me some sage advice. She told me to fill my bathtubs with water. We usually drink filtered water and not bottled water, so we would not even have had water to drink as the stores were out of, well, everything! I was lucky to do so just in case and we had some form of water supply until we pooled resources with refugees. In my second bathroom, I settled for just a shower. Perhaps having a second tub would have been wise. As the water supply got lower and lower by day three, the second tub issue began to settle in. On a positive note, I also got to experience energy efficiency at its best. The home remained appropriately insulated throughout and my energy bill for last month was only $30.00. My energy retailer, Pulse Power, came through. It was fortune mixed with choosing the right team.

Suffice to say, I am learning a lot from my homeowner experience in Houston, TX. Also, I am happy to live in a diverse and growing neighborhood. Finally, I hope that hearing about my journey will enrich your point of view. You may not think of everything but there are ways to set yourself up for overall success. Oh, and if you are gearing up to be a first-time homebuyer, CONGRATS in advance!

The Top Ten (10): Must Reads for 20 and 30 Somethings

If you are like me, you know how exciting good reading can be. Not just exciting, but it can alter the course your life takes. If you are like me in other ways, you find it the most awful thing to read stories or books that aren’t well written. Below you will find books that made me think, wow, I am glad I read this. So much so that I thought it would be nice to pay it forward with this list of must-reads. I can’t guarantee that any of these will be your cup of tea, but they certainly helped satiate some existential need of mine to help support purpose and direction.  

1. The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton

This story gives us a front-row seat into the world of professional cyclists, what pressures they face, and what lengths they are willing to go as a collective to win. This particular journey details the life of a former associate of Lance Armstrong. It is a compelling anecdote of why people do what they do and that eventually, almost everyone gets caught.

2. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha is about a quest. It doesn’t feel like a short read. However, it is. Just when you think the main character is truly living their life, the direction changes. It brings out the ultimate question in the reader. What does your quest include, and are you reaching your potential?

3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison crafts one of the greatest stories that will have you wondering, is this truly fiction? Between the narrative on politics and culture, it will be hard to put this down let alone not vicariously learn a lesson or two.

4. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

You may want to purchase two (2) copies. That is one (1) for you and one (1) to pay it forward. Gladwell is most likely best known for this work of fact and fun. It addresses at what point and why things trend and go viral.

5. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Settle in because this is a long journey. It’s one that you must take when you are ready. Therefore, you may have a few starts and stops. First and foremost, it is about finding both peace and meaning. The final points will blow your mind.

6. People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck

It will confirm what we already know. There are bad (evil) people in this world. The question is, how do they affect others. Explore that vein in People of the Lie.

7. Comfy Slippers & a Cup of  Tea by Julie Lomas

A touch of wisdom propels you through this experience. The technique best used to reap the riches of this literature is to pick it up and start reading at whatever point you open the book. That’s correct; any page can offer something significant. Again, the goal here is to explore the fundamentals of life which, includes self-love and forgiveness.

8. The Magic of Believing by Claude M. Bristol 

It is the type of book that appears in your life at just the right time. It seems a bit cheesy, but you can’t help but get sucked into the narrative until you, too, start to believe. It highlights what you can do outside of working super hard towards a goal to be successful. Its theme revolves around how beliefs make things happen.

9. Connected by James H. Fowler

Could you have imagined that science proves that your friend’s friend’s friend can influence your life? It even explores the political influence and the blogosphere in the United States and Iran. You will be shocked at the research.

10. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle 

Enlightenment is the keyword here. Have you ever asked yourself what you could accomplish if you could move out of your own way? The Power of Now can serve as a guide to removing obstacles from your path to greatness even if an obstacle is you and how you identify yourself.