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How I Find Focus

I’ve never formally been diagnosed – but I’m pretty sure I’m an ADHD spider monkey.

From your perspective, it may or may not seem so, but I’m naturally bad at all sorts of things.  One of these things is focusing on a task for any extended length of time.

You know this is bad inherently, because everybody needs to get things done in their daily lives.  My perspective on it, though, is infinitely worse.  To do anything of consequence that I really want to get done (write a book, make software, do a good job at the office) I really need to focus.

I even have the talent to double down on this exceptional trait (my ADHD spider monkey-ism) when it comes to personal projects.  Literally every day (I’m not kidding) I find something I want to do, make, or learn.  I have a long list of books I would like to read, courses I would like to take, and projects I want to make with my hands.  Any given moment can seem like the perfect opportunity to start something new!

The big problem is, the new thing will prevent me from completing the current (now old) thing.

So I have a double issue, micro focus (just getting the task at hand done when I want to check Twitter instead) and macro focus (completing whole projects).

See?  ADHD spider monkey.  I bet you have horrific visions of an obnoxious monkey jumping around trees and screeching at people with my face on it now.  I’m sorry, don’t think of me like that, please!

Stumbling on my Superpower

The effects of my lack of focus have recently become rather bothersome.  It was only a few months ago when I took a new opportunity to work with an incredible team, and I also (obviously) regularly work on my own projects solo.  It’s one thing when I feel like my flow and focus outside of regular work hours wanes – it’s another entirely when I feel like my primary client (my job) has the possibility of suffering.

There’s a lot built into this besides what I’m about to share with you – sleeping better, getting rest both mentally and physically, getting beyond wintertime sickness.  But I still felt like I could do better than what I know I can give daily when I’m performing well, and that bothered me.

So when driving home, listening to an interview with one of my mentors – he presented a thought that floored me regarding managing your energy.

Most people are distracted by technology, their smart phones, time, etc.  I am no different, certainly.  But take that away and you’re still simply distracted by your thoughts.  You might daydream, feel like you’re tired, drift off, have “brain fog”, whatever you want to call it.

If you don’t realize it – this is a tremendous energy suck.  You might be deep in anxiety about your self-status (money, abilities, health and happiness) or you could simply be frustrated that you don’t know what to eat for dinner tonight.  Regardless, it’s difficult if not impossible to get the crap out of your head so you can have a little space, rest, and mental peace.

What if you could – just for a moment – stop thinking.  What would that look like?  When this concept was brought up, I was so stunned I didn’t quite know what to do.

Turn off my thoughts?  Wow – it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I would have relief.

I’m not quite sure where the exact connection came from in my mind, but I know that I have an uncanny ability to focus on certain things subconsciously if it’s something I’m listening to.  If I’m doing the dishes and listening to a podcast, I can track right along and tune everything else out.

The thought occurred to me – what if I do this a bit in reverse?  What if I use gentle noise to remove every other distraction around me, and if I’m listening to it then it will probably take the focus of my thoughts as well.

The next day, I put pink noise on in my headphones at work – and so much time passed uninterrupted that I forgot to stand up and take a break.  It was so surprising to me that it felt like I’d discovered some sort of superpower.

Certainly I’ve done the “listen to music without lyrics while studying” thing – but nothing’s ever come quite close to this.  I’m able to literally tune everything else out, both in the world and in my thoughts, and just get done exactly what I need to get done.  It’s a bit unreal.

What I Use

If you want to try this yourself, it’s super-duper easy.  I don’t create a custom pink noise track or pull up noise on YouTube.  I’ve found an app and a website that works super well for me.  The app is available on both major mobile platforms and doesn’t cost a thing.

myNoise on the web

myNoise for iOS

myNoise for Android

It’s easy and simple, loops well, and I haven’t had any issues with it yet.  The apps also provide a way to try out other sounds – such as if you’d rather use running water, rain, or other tones.

Obviously, if you’re working on audio editing or sound creation – this won’t work.  But I’d suggest you give it a try for your other tasks that don’t require active listening.

Additional Suggestions

I’ve had some people inquire about other concerns with long-term use.

While I’m not an audiologist – and you should not treat my thoughts as medical advice – I can give you some somewhat educated thoughts from being an audio professional.

Will this cause hearing damage?

If you’re listening loud enough to anything, you can induce hearing damage over time.  I only listen loud enough to pull my brain away from exterior distraction.  Usually I can still hear a bit of what’s going on around me, but not a lot.  Do not listen so loud that you can’t hear anything else, especially in headphones, and take regular breaks.

What about listening fatigue?

I imagine this will cause you fatigue, just like listening to any other audio sources for an extended period of time.  I feel like it will differ slightly – as when you’re listening to mixes you’re also inducing a mental aspect to listening fatigue.  When you hear the same loop over and over, you’re bound to stop hearing it accurately fairly quickly.  So long as I felt my ears were pretty fresh, I would take a break after listening to any noise, and then attempt to work on any active listening work.  It will take a bit of experimentation on your part to figure out your own personal threshold.

Isn’t this a bit of pseudo-science quackery?

I received some interesting feedback on this, actually.  Check out these conversations that spawned on Twitter:

So that’s it!  Try it out – put on some pink noise for yourself – or other noise – and see if it helps you get focused incredibly quickly.

I’d love to hear about if and how it works for you – tweet me!  @adamtcroft

 


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Don’t Do This

What follows is a raw, completely unedited (sorry) excerpt from the next book I’m in the process of writing (you can preorder it here).  In it, I cover a big no-no (in my opinion) when it comes to working for free.

If you’re looking to break into audio for games, you may be tempted to jump at the first opportunity that arises to just do something.  Often, that’s a hobby developer doing something awesome on the side – but with no money.  This is not a solution to your catch-22 where you need to have industry experience to get a job in the industry.  I outline other, successful solutions in the book.

If you’re looking to break into the audio-side of the games industry, I’m writing this book for you.  So if you’re overwhelmed by information on the internet, don’t know what to focus on, read too many threads on Reddit and Twitter, can’t focus, are stuck in a catch-22 where you need experience to get hired but can’t get it without being hired, or super depressed and never think you’ll get a shot… This one’s for you.  I’m bringing my industry pals in to voice their opinions (that may not agree with me) too.  Again – preorder here.

Hope you enjoy the content.

Continue reading Don’t Do This


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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What is Source Control

What follows is a raw, completely unedited (sorry) excerpt from the next book I’m in the process of writing (you can preorder it here).  In it, I cover some of the basic ideas behind source control for the layman.

If you’re looking to break into audio for games, knowing how to use and utilize source control can put you at an advantage against peers who don’t.  It’s one less thing a studio will have to teach you the concepts of (even though you’ll have to learn their version) on the job.

If you’re looking to break into the audio-side of the games industry, I’m writing this book for you.  So if you’re overwhelmed by information on the internet, don’t know what to focus on, read too many threads on Reddit and Twitter, can’t focus, are stuck in a catch-22 where you need experience to get hired but can’t get it without being hired, or super depressed and never think you’ll get a shot… This one’s for you.  I’m bringing my industry pals in to voice their opinions (that may not agree with me) too.  Again – preorder here.

Hope you enjoy the content.

Continue reading What is Source Control


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Business Cards Suck

What follows is a raw, completely unedited (sorry) excerpt from the next book I’m in the process of writing (you can preorder it here).  In it, I expound on my… unorthodox, to say the least… view of business cards.

A good chunk of you are likely to think I’m crazy, an idiot, and perhaps an asshole.  I won’t say you’re wrong.

If you’re looking to break into the audio-side of the games industry, I’m writing this book for you.  So if you’re overwhelmed by information on the internet, don’t know what to focus on, read too many threads on Reddit and Twitter, can’t focus, are stuck in a catch-22 where you need experience to get hired but can’t get it without being hired, or super depressed and never think you’ll get a shot… This one’s for you.  I’m bringing my industry pals in to voice their opinions (that may not agree with me) too.  Again – preorder here.

Otherwise, enjoy part of my rant on why business cards suck.

Continue reading Business Cards Suck


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Get through overwhelm in 3 steps

One of the biggest themes I’m hoping to get across to you in my upcoming book is that you are not alone, nor are your problems unique.

I say this because, at our worst and most mentally helpless – you and I both feel utterly alone, stuck, and like we won’t ever succeed in the world.  This, despite working like crazy and having all of the world’s information at our fingertips.  Logically, if everything is right in front of you, you feel like you should be getting somewhere.

But sometimes you just don’t.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by that and the mountain of information and goals that you have.

For all of my success (and though I’m nowhere near special and “famous” – I’m doing better than I dreamed of even a few years ago), I still feel like this sometimes with my goals too.

So what do you do when you’ve got all the ideas and work ethic in the world, but you just can’t manage to get past your paralysis?

This is my process.  I even did it today, I kid you not.

  1. Make a list of your goals, the things you’re hoping to complete but are stuck on.
  2. Break them (or it) down into the smallest steps possible.  Down to “Turn on my computer” – don’t worry if it sounds stupid.
  3. Act on the very first small step.

There’s two optional steps to this:

  1. After making your list, you can pick one goal and temporarily throw away the others.  Then move to step 2 of the original list.
  2. After acting on the very first small step, stop.  Don’t do any more until tomorrow.

The key to all of this is what happens after step 3 of the initial list.

Once you act, you need to be very careful about what you do immediately thereafter.

My natural inclination is to keep knocking off steps in succession, over and over, with no breaks.  I get a ton of things done, to the point where I feel great despite being exhausted.

Except there’s one problem – I won’t get back to it the next day.  Or the next.  Or the days and weeks after that.

With every day missed, it’s harder to get back to the initial project.  Invariably, I quit and fail.  Because it’s familiar, easy, and literally requires no work.

Then I’ll start the whole process over again with something else new and shiny.  Sound familiar?

My antidote to this is the optional step 2.  I only do one thing, and I put it down.  This actually makes me quite antsy, but it works to my advantage.  I usually won’t be able to stop thinking about all of the work I want to put into the project, which will cause me to complete more steps the next day.  Because I restrained myself the first day, I will do similarly the second (but completing more steps).  Eventually I won’t even think about how much to do, but I’ll keep working consistently and manage my energy wisely most days.

Most importantly, I’ll get the project done.

That’s exactly how I ended up finishing Begin Audio Scripting and The Instant Take Suite.  It’s exactly how I’ll finish Quit Aspiring too.

Give it a shot – I bet it can work for you, with your own twist on it.


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Announcing QUIT ASPIRING, a new book

What would it feel like to be called back by a game studio that you admire?  What would it take to walk into an interview nervous with excitement, but confident that you would be an asset to their team?

What if you could stop being overwhelmed by reading every article, tweet, and Reddit post online?  What would it take to transfer that energy into wisdom and confidence such that you didn’t even feel the need to “sell yourself” in an interview?

It might take some work, but it’s nothing you can’t do.

Presenting
QUIT ASPIRING, a book to go from wanting, to being prepared for a job in game audio

What you will learn:

  • If game audio is actually a good career for you
  • Why you should never be “aspiring”, but you’re free to be a student
  • Finding where to start when you have no idea where to start
  • How to win the war of attrition and overcome your own mind through hustle
  • What I’ve learned about the differences between AAA and and Indie work
  • Some of the different roles and needs in game audio
  • Why linear editing and design (film and non-interactive music) doesn’t necessarily translate to working in games
  • Important software you need to learn before even applying for a job
  • A primer on source control and why it’s important to at least have an idea of how it works
  • How to build your network in ways that actually benefit you and others
  • How an online presence might actually be keeping you from a job
  • What things are truly helpful to clients and hiring managers
  • How to write a useful resume
  • How to get noticed when nobody’s looking for you
  • When working for free can be beneficial for you, when you should stop, and how people will take advantage of your kindness
  • A great starting project to learn foundational principles and make a demo reel

All of this information will come from me and multiple game industry veterans, all of whom have gone through their own variations of the same journey.

While there is no “one right way” to get prepared or get a job, this book will lead you to learn things that are actually helpful and avoid time wasters, with the goal of putting you a step above your peers.

Click here to reserve your copy!


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Hard Questions

I’ve spoken with quite a few people recently that I would consider “stuck in a rut”.  They’re students overwhelmed by their options, or unemployed, trying to change their career path, or just broaden their options and make more money.

Most of these people come at me with long, rambling, bad questions.

Stuff like:

“What language would you recommend a person with an audio background learn if they’ve done a little bit of coding, but realize they probably need to get more in-depth if they want to further their career because they need to broaden their skills set?”

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this is a great question – right?  It’s essentially “can you give me a starting point to better myself?”

But 99% of the time, that’s not actually what’s being asked.

Usually the person asking this question feels stuck and wants a quick fix to their problems.  Problems which usually include getting more money and/or finding a job (or better job).  The thought process is if one learns a new skill quickly, they can put it on their resume and beat out competitors by looking better to a hiring manager.

The problem is, that never actually works.  To compound this, the skill is usually not something this person is actually dying to learn.  If they were really interested in it – they would just jump at learning something new and fascinating.  They wouldn’t be asking me what is most potent in the marketplace.

Most people I’ve had this conversation with – and if you find yourself in this spot, follow along – need to answer 3 questions.

1) What, specifically, do you want to do?
2) Realistically, will that pay you?
3) What steps do you need to take to succeed?

There are 3 failure scenarios here after you come up with the answer to the first question.

  1. You answered “no” to the 2nd question
  2. You should’ve answered “no” to the 2nd question, but you’re lying to yourself
  3. Success is somehow out of your control. For example – you want to be an internationally lauded indie guitarist composer – which requires musical trends that you don’t control to ride in your favor.

These questions, and being honest with them, are brutally difficult. When I say “what, specifically, do you want to do?” I mean that to be a question you answer very specifically. The more specific that you are, the easier to becomes to figure out if it’s something you can make money doing and what steps you need to take to get there.

The part that makes these tasks difficult isn’t the tasks themselves – but you.

There’s almost nothing that you cannot achieve through working hard, smart, and being willing to fail. But you’ll sabotage yourself when you’re tired or overwhelmed by trying to find an easier path.  Just like when you ask for the “best path” to expand yourself.  There isn’t one – become a master at something a company is willing to pay for that you also enjoy.

For explorers, there is no easy path. If you’re cutting new ground, the cutting takes hard work. Even if it’s road that others have tread before you, at some point you still need to make your own way.

So quit beating around the bush. Answer the hard questions for yourself – not anyone else – and get to work. There is no guarantee of success, but I can promise you that you’ll find more doors opening than if you sat and did nothing.


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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ADC ’17 Talks

The 2017 edition of the Audio Developers Conference recently wrapped up over in England.

ADC is a multi-day event of speakers, brought together by ROLI (known for Blocks, Seaboard, and JUCE), all focused on audio-related programming. This year’s event was broadcast live over YouTube, and thus for all of us is now able to be watched on-demand!

Here are some direct links to each day’s playlist:
ADC ’17 Keynotes
ADC ’17 Talks Day 1
ADC ’17 Talks Day 2

If you’ve got no idea where to start, here’s a few specific videos I’m jumping into:
Friedemann Schautz – “The Development of Ableton Live”
Martin Shuppius – “Physical Modeling of Guitar Strings”
Varun Nair, Hans Fugal – “Spatial Audio at Facebook”
Yvan Grabit – “VST3 History, Advantages and Best Practices”
Julian Storer – “Does your code actually matter?”
Jan Konig – “Introduction to Cross Platform Voice Applications for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant”
Don Turner “Build a Synth for Android”

There’s plenty more for you to dive into and get inspired by beyond those – go check it out!


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Vim: The Reaper of Text Editors

I fully believe that if you don’t give yourself challenges, you tend not to grow.

If you’re not growing, eventually I think you’d find it difficult to be living well too.

So, in addition to starting a new job last month, I decided to give myself another personal challenge – learn how to use the text editor Vim.

I’m generally slightly obsessed with smoothness and efficiency. If I can do something easier, faster, or in less steps, then I’ll pursue that new way of doing things. Most of the time, this requires that I confront a large learning curve up from to get an even larger ROI on the back end.

Most of the time, all of this work is totally worth it. In the case of Vim, it very much is.

What is Vim?

If you’ve never heard of Vim before, you can check it out here.

In short, it is a considerably old “modal” text editor that rewards heavy reliance on the keyboard and efficient commands.

When using Vim you can’t just start typing as you do in any other text editor – you have to jump into “insert mode” (much like Pro Tools’ mode system).

Instead of using the mouse to scroll up and down a file, you can do so with the “j” and “k” keys on your keyboard. You can also use shortcuts to jump to a specific line, the top, middle, or bottom of a file, and anywhere you’ve bookmarked.

You can also edit, add, or remove multiple lines of text with a few simple key commands.

It’s also extremely extendable via custom scripting.

All of these neat tools, combined with the encouragement Vim gives you to never take your hands off of the keyboard, means that you can get really fast and accurate if you take the time to learn its system.

For extra eye candy, here’s a few shots of crazy advanced things you can do:

Adding a space after each character.  Image from vimgifs.com
Adding a space after each character. Image from vimgifs.com
Go to a specific line number.  Image from vimgifs.com
Go to a specific line number. Image from vimgifs.com
Find and replace in all open windows.  Image from vimgifs.com
Find and replace in all open windows. Image from vimgifs.com
Delete the current line and the line below/above.  Image from vimgifs.com
Delete the current line and the line below/above. Image from vimgifs.com

Learning Vim

Before even looking at Vim I only knew one thing about it – most of the internet describes it as extremely intimidating.

But if all of these features – and especially never taking your hands off of the keyboard – are intriguing to you, what’s the best way to go about learning how to use it?

Short of fumbling around and reading a few blogs, here’s the best resources I can share with you:

Derek Wyatt’s Vim video series – Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced tutorials

The Vim Tips wiki

Derek Wyatt’s videos are, in two words – informative and interesting. Each video is slammed full of very easy to follow instructions, which drops the barrier of entry to basic Vim usage extremely low. The only catch is, you have to get past Derek’s goofiness to get there. On one hand, you may find it completely entertaining, but if you’re looking just for straight information you may tire of Derek’s approach pretty quickly.

If you’re looking for text-only and searchable information, the Vim wiki is packed full of every bit of information you’d ever want to know about Vim. Though, for me, it didn’t lower the learning curve, it’s definitely a great place to find small bits of information extremely quickly.

Thus far, I’m loving getting around and learning a new-to-me piece of software. Vim’s efficiency is even already showing in how much quicker and accurately I’m getting through code. If you find that you wish you used the mouse less, wrote more accurately, and got through code quicker – I’d highly encourage you check it out.


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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How Not to Lose an Important Connection

Everyone wants to be connected to someone important.

Everyone wants to get some sort of edge that will help their lives or career.

But do you know what to do when you actually get what you want?  Or do you freak out like a dog who finally caught an ever elusive squirrel?

This is for you – if you’ve ever been introduced to a connection that’s above you in professional stature, or has the ability to vastly help you and your career.  Especially if you’ve gotten that opportunity and blown it.

Make no mistake, you can blow it, and most people do.

Most people do others the favor of disqualifying themselves.  But after you read this – not you.

Continue reading How Not to Lose an Important Connection


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.