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The Personal Golden Age
The Personal Golden Age
The other day a family member told me about the time he experienced a week of what he could only describe as a perfect existence.
Every day he would wake up early, without an alarm, just happy to be alive. He effortlessly spent hours working on projects he enjoyed, and found himself feeling great about every relationship in his life.
After a week, it was back to normal.
Civ = Life
In the strategy game Civilization, you play the head of a newly founded empire.
You progress through the game making choices about how to expand your empire and how to allocate resources within it. If you are a wise and thoughtful leader, eventually your society enters a Golden Age:
In the Golden Age the empire becomes dramatically more productive. It produces substantially more gold, scientific research, and culture per citizen.
Management of Your Empire’s Resources
As I thought about it, this is actually a great metaphor for our lives.
In Civ, you can neglect investment in a military, but it leaves you vulnerable to invasion from other countries.
Sometimes it makes sense to allocate heavily to the military and temporarily create an imbalance in that area. If you’re at war, for example.
Sometimes it makes sense to reduce the size of your military and shift most resources to scientific research, commerce, or the development of culture.
A reasonable goal as an individual is management and investment of the resources you have (time, capital, attention) into the activities most likely to result in a Personal Golden Age.
Some of these investments might seem obvious: creative work that you enjoy and that challenges you to improve, time spent exercising, time spent with friends and family you love.
But sometimes there might be investments that we don’t even know we can make. For many people, a small change in the way they eat might produce a huge increase in production. For some, it might simply be a commitment to break their usual routine once per week to do or learn something new. Others may need to make a move to a new city to have a shot at a Personal Golden Age. These are things that can only be arrived at through regular experimentation.
Inversely, if you feel like shit all the time, there’s a good chance you’re allocating incorrectly. Maybe all of your citizens are producing gold but you haven’t made a new scientific discovery in 50 turns. Maybe your army is formidable but you have no gold with which to trade. If your civilization struggles each turn, there’s a misallocation somewhere.
What does a Personal Golden Age feel like? Just like described above, it’s when life starts to feel frictionless. There isn’t really a mismatch between what you want and what happens. Not because you always get what you want, but because you start to want what you get.
Maybe it’s because I grew up with the game, but this metaphor makes it easier to keep this top of mind rather than some generic advice to “live a balanced life.”
It’s not easy to usher in a Personal Golden Age, and staying in one is even harder. It almost seems like when you get there forces begin conspiring to knock you back out of it. But because it’s so valuable, it seems like a worthy goal to pursue.
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