After graduating, Pavlina started his own game company, Dexterity Software. He spent six months programming a shareware puzzle game, Dweep, about a cute little purple guy who rescues his children from mazes of deadly obstacles. Made for basically no cost, Dweep won several awards. Over the next few years, Pavlina constantly revised and expanded the game, turning it into a major casual hit. The final version, Dweep Gold, has 152 levels.
In September 2002, Pavlina started a forum on his site as a gathering place for independent game developers worldwide. He began posting articles about making successful shareware. In "Shareware Amateurs Versus Shareware Professionals" and a dozen companion articles, Pavlina discussed professionalism as a goal, a state of mind and a set of best practices:
- Plan for the long term.
- Do basic market research.
- Stick with one product and refine it incrementally.
- Give unique value.
- Constantly reassess and experiment with your marketing.
- Measure the results of everything you try.
His tone was pragmatic yet upbeat, his approach methodical and success-oriented - precisely the right way to reach would-be designers and programmers. Jaded by frustrating no-win deals with rapacious publishers, many professionals hearkened with glad heart to a prospect of game development where every single element of success was potentially under their control.
Dexterity's success made Pavlina financially independent. His articles and posts, both on the Dexterity forum and on Gamedev.net, began to reflect larger developmental topics. He started talking not just about games, but about avoiding procrastination, developing focus and enlarging scope - about using game development and entrepreneurship as a path to personal growth.
In summer 2004, Pavlina retired from game design and started a blog about personal development. When he closed the Dexterity Games forums, indie designers Steve Verrault, Mike Boeh and Dan MacDonald started the IndieGamer forum. IndieGamer hosted the Dexterity articles for several years; the site still archives old Dexterity forum threads, though they are only accessible through external search engines.
Pavlina still ran his game business in desultory fashion until October 2006, when he finally shuttered the Dexterity site. (Dweep is still available at shareware download sites.) Having completely left the field at last, he has not looked back.
StevePavlina.com is subtitled "Personal Development for Smart People." His approach matches Tony Robbins, Jay Abraham and a long line of ultra-motivated business coaches reaching back to Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill.
Pavlina's advice is mostly sensible and unobjectionable. His message of conscious living echoes every self-help guru since Gautama Buddha. He has written many articles about success and purpose:
" And (almost forgot!) "The Meaning of Life"
But the main traffic drivers to Pavlina's blogs are his more mundane self-help articles, such as "How to Become an Early Riser" and "How to Give Up Coffee." (Hey, a purpose-driven life has to start somewhere.) A committed vegan, he has written of his attempts at an all-raw diet, a regimen so austere that, hearing of its rigors, even the most condescending vegetarian may feel, briefly, less smug. Pavlina also drew much attention for his experiment with polyphasic sleep, a regimen of reduced sleep-time based on frequent naps. He sustained his polyphasic schedule (four hours awake, then a 15-minute nap) for over five months. In "The Return to Monophasic," he says he could have maintained it indefinitely, but it was too inconvenient to coordinate with the monophasic world.
Notwithstanding these superhuman feats, it's clear Pavlina is no saint. His least likable articles divide people into "bears" and "eagles." Bears are ordinary people who sleepwalk through life; eagles, no surprise, are those who think like Pavlina. "Bear Bombing" advocates jostling ursine peers out of their hibernation by, well, being a jerk.
Today, Pavlina practices what he calls "a religion of personal growth": "My religion is based on working actively on my personal growth and helping others to do the same." Though he never describes them as such, his beliefs represent a form of Hermetic magick, the practice of self-transformation, empowerment and imposition of the will to reshape external reality. If you don't believe it, check his podcast "The True Nature of Reality" and the article "Cause-Effect Versus Intention-Manifestation." The blog's most overtly magickal exercise to date is the Million-Dollar Experiment, "an attempt to use the power of intention to manifest $1 million for each person who chooses to participate."