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The 1Up Effect: Leveling Up Your Business and Life

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
4 min read

About This Talk

This talk is by Thomas Edwards Jr. and was recorded on October 30, 2020. You can learn more about Thomas by:


0:00 Intro
02:30 Why Use the 1Up Effect to Level Up?
17:20 What Mario Bros. Teaches Us About Life
20:50 How Would You Approach Life If You Had an Extra One?
21:30 4 Principles of The 1Up Effect

Why Use the 1Up Effect to Level Up?

Too many of us feel unhappy and incomplete because something’s lacking in our lives and in our businesses. I can relate – I’ve written about how I occasionally get depressed and what I do to manage it.

But the truth is it happens to all of us, it’s just not something we commonly talk about much in business. Just know this: if you ever feel that way, you’re not alone. I want you to know that, and Thomas does too.

When Thomas started out, his goal was to become the best in the world at helping people create relationships and communicate better. He helped singles find love, sometimes culminating in marriage. He reached that goal after getting huge publicity in places like the Wall Street Journal, The Steve Harvey Show, and more.

Even with all of that success, he didn’t feel fulfilled. He slipped into depression and alcoholism, and his relationships were at risk – including his marriage. He figured out that he was going after success and achieved it, but something was missing: he wasn’t having fun.

So many of us are told to get a career, get married, buy a house, have kids, and then one day maybe there’ll be retirement and you can have fun. Thomas has a different message for yo: don’t wait to have fun!

What Mario Bros. Teaches Us About Basics

Go back to a time when you never knew what Mario Brothers was, and you’d never played it. You step up to the old shool gaming cabinet and you have no idea how to play.

When you start, you’re a small version of Mario and you can only run and jump. That’s it. You run and avoid the bad guys, or jump to avoid falling or kill the bad guys. Eventually, you start jumping over the bad guys and the gaps. You jump up and hit a brick to reveal a mushroom and Mario grows bigger, or you get a flower that gives Mario the power to shoot fireballs.

You start out not knowing anything about Mario, but little by little you learn more about Mario’s capabilities, how his world works, and you can exert control over the outcomes.

How Would You Approach Life If You Had an Extra One?

The difference in a video game versus real life? The stakes are lower. If you die in Mario Brothers, you might have another life. Of course this isn’t true in real life, but it’s worth examining the differences in our behavior when the stakes aren’t so high.

So how would you approach life if you had an extra one?

You’d probably be more interested in learning, even if there was a cost associated with it. You might slow down and value exploration more. Maybe you’d even focus on having more fun than you would otherwise. You’d certainly be prepared to take more risk.

Thomas Edwards Jr. calls this line of thought The 1Up Effect.

4 Principles of The 1Up Effect

So what, exactly, is The 1Up Effect? Thomas breaks it down into four core principles.

Principle 1: Choose Your Character

You’re the main character in the game called life. What are your defaults?

In a video game, you choose characters based on their strengths and weaknesses. Given that, the strategies you use to approach the game are dependent on the character you choose.

What kind of character do you want to be? Here are some helpful questions that Thomas poses to help you choose your character:

  • What’s natural for you?
  • What are you reactions or experiences with stress?
  • What are your behaviors?
  • What are your ratings?
  • What’s your vision for the evolution of your character?
  • What is your character XP (happiness)?

Understanding your character will help you answer the most critical question of all: how fulfilled do you feel in all areas of your life?

Principle 2: Learn How to Play

You start every day with a certain number of HP (health points). You wake up, you eat breakfast, you hang out with your kids or partner, you exercise – all of those things increase your HP. But you also take actions that decrease your HP: you drink too much coffee (guilty!), you get stressed out, you put off something important.

This happens every single day, and we need to find a routine that keeps our HP at a sustainable level. There’s also MP (magic points) that are the power-ups that accelerate growth, capacity, power, and health.

The magic is found in the dark, when we allow ourselves to process negative feelings (guilt, shame, anger) and eventually find strategies that become our MP and boost our HP every day.

Principle 3: Develop Your Skills

Developing your skills lets you play the game on four different dimensions:

  1. Purpose: physical, mental, and spiritual wellness; this creates multiple streams of health and diversifies your risk of any single dimension creating too much negative impact on you and your HP
  2. Play: people, places, and experiences that make you feel fulfilled and boost your HP
  3. Passion: self-love, romance, and empathy
  4. Performance: increasing value, sharing value, asking for value

Principle 4: Play to Win and Have Fun

According to Thomas, the only goal of playing a game isn’t just to win, it’s to have fun. Even if you don’t win a game, it can be fun while you plan.

When you start a new game, you don’t know you can win – you don’t even know how to play. You’re just excited to play the game.

Most games you play require you to meet the objective within a certain time limit, and that amplifies your commitment. It can get stressful.

Thomas suggests that’s because you’re playing only to win, but you should be playing to have fun, too.