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The Quest Minutes: Amitt Mahajan

Life After Farmville

This piece is written by Benjamin Laufer, a Quest Minutes contributor. We are always looking for great storytellers. You can apply to have your writings featured here or sign up for our Quest Minutes Newsletter here.

Introducing: Amitt Mahajan

Ammit Mahajan is a serial entrepreneur and the creator of Farmville, a grow-you-own-farm game that took the world by storm. He:

  • Graduated early from UIUC to work at Epic Games
  • Co-founded MyMiniLife (virtual world game acquired by Zynga)
  • Co-created Farmville (most popular FaceBook game)
  • Co-founded RareBits (blockchain company)

Upbringing

Amitt grew up in suburban Chicago in a middle-class immigrant household. He got into computers at a young age. By 9 he was doing his mother’s CS homework, modding Quake and Doom (the hottest games at the time).

“I think I was lucky — I found my passion very early in life, many people don’t find that.”

Hellish hordes from Doom.

At UIUC, he was able to graduate earlier than his peers, but not before he became enamored with computer graphics.

The First Job: Epic Games

At the time, Amitt was fresh out of college and Epic Games had less than 100 employees. It was here that he had some of his best years:

“These guys were are my wedding, I was at their wedding… And we knew we were building something awesome.” (Gears of War)”

A lasting classic.

The Beginning of Farmville

After Epic, Amitt moved to East Palo Alto to start a social app company with his friends from college — MyMiniLife.

4 weeks after making a Facebook game, Zynga acquired MyMiniLife.

5 weeks after writing the first line of code — Farmville was launched.

No one, not even the team who built it, could expect what would come next.

Early FarmVille team standup with Mark Pincus.

A Busy Few Days

24 hours in and Farmville had hit 30k Daily Active Users (DAU). 48 hours in, and it was at 100k DAU.

Game of the Decade?
A young Amitt behind the scene.

…and finally, 4 days after launch, Farmville hit 1 Million DAU.

At its peak, not too long thereafter, Farmville had 32 Million DAU.

Farmville: What’s Next?

The crazy run at Zynga eventually came to an end. Amitt started a growth strategies company, selling to Google after 4 years. He then started a venture firm, Presence Capital, which invests in AR/VR companies.

He hit a hard stop at his third startup (an Ethereum NFT marketplace).

“We talk about pushing ourselves, setting bars, and you end up realizing that those things set your narrative in a way that really kind of boxes you and becomes the source of your own judgement.”

Amitt started asking himself: “Am I a one-hit-wonder?

“My entire sense of self worth was whether I could build another big product and get status.”

A Colored Reality

As suggested by his co-founders, who noticed Amitt’s fading health and poor sleep, Amitt began therapy. He was forced to confront his narrative from childhood: a need to provide security to those around him.

His co-founders were kind enough to offer to pay for Amitt’s therapy.

Amitt had to change this narrative and the way he viewed reality.

“As an entrepreneur or programmer, you are constantly looking for bugs, so you are tuning your mind to always see the broken cases. And you tend to push out everything that works well, because there is no need to focus on it.”

A Lesson in Gratitude

After a year in therapy, Amitt started keeping a gratitude journal — which he still does to this day. Here is his template:

What am I grateful for?

What am I going to do to make today a great day?

An affirmation.

You can download the app Amitt uses at https://www.intelligentchange.com/pages/five-minute-journal-app

A daily practice in gratitude lets Amitt refocus his mind on all the great things happening to him and the loving people around him.

A New Focus on the Inner

Amitt placed his mental and physical health first. Soon, he adopted nutritious eating, better sleep habits, and transcendental meditation — what he described as his “OKRs for life”.

“Your mind is almost like a puppy, it’s just like running around, trying to serve you, pissing on the carpet or chewing on your furniture. But ultimately it’s just a puppy, it’s off on its own, and sometimes you need to just let it tire itself out. Meditation is giving room for that puppy to run.”

Meditation enabled Amitt to see reality, and accept it as it is. It empowered him to create “breakpoints” and catch himself when he is angry or sad.

“Normally, we are giving away our agency to other people. By accepting things as they are, we maintain agency.”

Parting Thoughts

Farmville set unrealistically high expectations for Amitt at a young age.

His accomplishments after (including an exit to Google and starting a VC firm), admiring to many, provided little satisfaction for the successful game developer.

It took years of self-disciplined practice to detach himself from these harmful monologues, but Amitt’s wisdom, introspection, and gratitude during this episode show his intentional living today.

Thank you Amitt for sharing your story with the world.

Book Recommendations

“The more you see yourself as the next moment, rather than as collections of moments you had before, it allows you to free yourself from labels.”

This piece is written by Benjamin Laufer, a Quest Minutes contributor. We are always looking for great storytellers. You can apply to have your writings featured here, or sign up for our Quest Minutes Newsletter here.

Benjamin is the founder of Gensight, a platform that empowers creators with data on their top fans. He previously was a freshman at Minerva and has worked at World Bank and Michelin-starred restaurants.

In his free time, he likes to make plants taste like meat, experiment with wellness practices, and throw pottery.

You can find Benjamin on Twitter or his website: benjaminlaufer.com

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A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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