When I was 12, I decided that I wanted to make video games. So I asked my parents to let me go to the Xtreme Game Programming eXpo (XGDX).
Normal kids ask for an Xbox. I asked to hang out with 40 year old nerds talking about bump-mapping and neural networks.
Back then, my idol was Andre LaMothe—author of Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus. I followed him like some of my infamous Hack the System readers — I stalked the heck out of him. He posted on his web forum that he was hosting a Game Programming Conference, the XGDX, and immediately I asked my parents to get me a ticket for Christmas.
So I went. And I learned that he was going to be the editor for a new book series on game programming. So I got up the nerve to approach him. And the next day, on his forum, I told him that my goal was to write a book on video game programming that year. And he started…laughing.
“There’s no way I’ll ever let anyone under 25 ever write a book for me.”
And then he proceeded to list every reason why I wouldn’t be able to write a book.
I was too young. I was too inexperienced. A publisher would never take me seriously. And on, and on.
Of course this was all before I became the strapping, confident man that you know and love today:
Enjoy this unnecessary body shot of me and my handlebar mustache.
I’m not going to lie, at first, his “rejection” really hurt.
But it turned out to be a good thing because his rejection pushed me.
I went home and started working on the manuscript furiously. I wrote 80 pages in 4 days. Seriously. 80 pages about variables, loops, functions, arrays — and I was only 12 years old. And I submitted it a couple days later to his superiors.
And I got a publishing deal for my new book, Game Programming for Teens.
A year later, my book had become a textbook in schools. Soon after, I was teaching a monthly segment on TechTV with Leo Laporte. See my first television segment below.
It was a great feeling — and it all happened because someone had unknowingly pushed me to work harder and dig deeper. It was a much needed push.
What pushed me? Someone who told me I couldn’t succeed.
Andre was someone I respected, but he told me I was destined to be a failure — so I had to prove him wrong.
Years later, I again got a push I needed from someone unexpectedly.
Adult life is stressful and it’s really easy to settle when things get too hard, wouldn’t you agree?
It’s so much easier to do something we know we’re good at so that we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re happier, more amazing, more successful that we are.
That’s why we need people around us that don’t take our shit. For me, that person was Anna Leevia.
I met Anna when I was running one of my greatest hacks of all time — becoming a “famous” DJ in Berlin in 90 days.
I was feeling as confident as any fake celeb could possibly feel and getting paid thousands of dollars to throw great parties.
Anna was never impressed.
She wouldn’t let me settle for comfortable.
I remember telling Anna “Hey — how about we relax and watch some TV?” “Ok,” she’d say. “We can watch some TV—but first, we have to make a mix and upload it to your SoundCloud.“
“I just want to go chill in the park, join me?” “Sure Maneesh! After we record and upload a video to YouTube, ok?”
Every time I thought I had her figured out, a new challenge. She busted my balls and I liked it, because there was nobody else like that in my life.
Oh — and Anna was nice enough to join me on the Unplanned Private Plane Trip I’m taking right now. Here she and I are, talking about our little jaunt from Charleston to Miami today:
As we get older, it’s so hard to find people who really want to push us. The key is to understand: Who motivates you?
I’ve noticed this often in romantic relationships. There are two types of romantic partners — those who make you comfortable, and those who help you grow. It’s very easy to get comfy, watch a movie, and relax. But what if your partner pushed you? What if your partner helped you become better than you normally are?
I’m wondering: Would you rather have someone that pushes you, or someone that supports you unconditionally? Even if that means letting you get comfortable?
Let me know in the comments.