Diversify your Dopamine Portfolio

After a 24-hour hackathon last weekend, my body feels out of whack. I’m staying up late, have a hard time focusing, and waste hours playing an addictive game on my phone.

I’ve run hackathons before. This year was great because I got to take on a supportive role to a friend from Microsoft who led it.

So why do I feel burnt out?

Simultaneous to running the hackathon, my company launched a campaign called Project Pentecost. One of our promises is a powerful video in many languages that churches can play on Pentecost to cast vision for diversity in the church that reflects the Kingdom of God.

(sign up to get it when it launches :-))

We were filming across the hall from the hackathon.

Turns out that pulling together fluent speakers of 10 languages in one place to shoot a high quality video is very stressful! Aside from calling in tons of favors, there’s the pressure of promoting what we’re doing so it gets widely used.

So what does this have to do with “Diversifying your dopamine portfolio”?

Sleeping in and vegging hasn’t help me recover. Here’s what I’m trying instead.

Recovering from Burn Out

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that gives us pleasure. All the networking, pitches, filming, outreach and connections this weekend probably overloaded my neuroreceptors.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor–these ideas are inspired by a conversation with my brother-in-law who is one, but errors & oversimplifications are my own).

Some of us have a lower baseline that makes us more susceptible to addictive or obsessive behavior because a single pleasurable experience can cause a spike that we crave again and again.

A person with a higher baseline of dopamine receives a pleasurable experience as a good thing to be enjoyed, but continues to feel positive even when the stimulus is gone.

This got me thinking: I need to diversify my dopamine portfolio.

If I’m couped up in front of a computer (or my phone, which is a highly optimized “dopamine delivery mechanism”!) doing mentally/emotionally exhausting work, I only get four sources of “reward”:

  • Achieving something at work
  • Phone notifications (could be stressful too)
  • Eating something tasty
  • Watching TV or a movie at the end of the day

The latter two feel more like coping mechanisms than actual refreshment. Thus, I’m more at risk for addictive behavior like endlessly scrolling through Facebook, mindlessly watching YouTube videos, or constantly checking my inbox.

The Alternative

If on the other hand, I do a 15 minute workout, eat good food, put in a few hours of focused work that delivers a result, connect with a friend, go for a run, practice violin, read a book and play a game with friends, I have so many varied sources of dopamine that my risk of addictive or obsessive behavior is drastically reduced.

Even if I have a bad day in a few areas, there are other sources of enjoyment to counteract them. And a single spike of euphoria is less destabilizing.

Diversifying your dopamine portfolio results in greater emotional resilience.

Learning to Rest

In school, I was focused on optimizing one metric: Grade Point Average. It sort of worked, but resulted in a very stressful and narrow life. It also produced addictive behaviors.

Now, I’m increasingly appreciating the significance of rest or “sabbath” as well as the value of the liberal arts.

Liberal Arts

First, the liberal arts promote the love of learning and a breadth of experiences as an essential part of what it means to be human.

This includes creating and consuming great literature, art, dance, sports, music and the great diversity of creativity that falls under the heading of “the humanities”.

It asks the timeless philosophical questions of “What really matters in life?” and “Why?”

And it promotes intellectual humility and curiosity about how life works in everything from quantum physics and astronomy to sociology and religion.

The liberal arts help us diversify our dopamine portfolios as we seek to experience the fullness of what it means to be human.

Pro-tip: it’s not just maximizing a metric like money or GPA ;-).


Second, the biblical command to rest on the Sabbath can be interpreted as wisdom from the Creator who uniquely wired human bodies with neurotransmitters to give pleasure not from one main activity, but from a vast array of experiences that let us fully live into what God made us to be.

These feedback loops can be hijacked, corrupted and compromised, but in their original design it’s so brilliant that we have a carefully designed mechanism for reinforcement learning (to use the term from AI research), which helps us learn what it means to be made in God’s image, what it means to be human.

God gives six days for people to work and enjoy the pleasures of achievement, provision, growth, mastery and the like. And on the seventh day, God set aside time for people to enjoy the fruits of their labor, to enjoy Creation and to enjoy God.

It’s a day to rewire our dopamine feedback loops so we can experience ALL of what it means to be human, not just the work part.

It’s a day for our souls to unfold after being worn down by the toils and hardships of the week.

We get to remember that our worth goes beyond our productivity, success and contribution to society–we get to rest and enjoy life because we’re made in the image of a God who rests and enjoys.


Faith and the Tech Sector

How can we support, activate and unleash technologists to use their gifts to advance God’s Kingdom?

In this talk I share the massive opportunity for the Church (especially in the Pacific Northwest)–so massive it would be irresponsible not to pursue–as well as 4 methods and 6 models for doing so.

This talk was delivered at the Christ and Cascadia 2016 conference. A recording, manuscript and slides are below.


Why Code for the Kingdom?

For the recent Global Code for the Kingdom Hackathon, I had the privilege of sharing “Why Code for the Kingdom?” This is a video and manuscript of the talk.

Brothers and sisters, welcome to Code for the Kingdom! My name is Chris Lim, I’m co-organizer of the Seattle hackathon and creator of Ceaseless, an app that helps you pray for three friends each day so that together we can personally pray for everyone on earth.

Having been an organizer and participant, the founder of Code for the Kingdom, Chris Armas, asked me to share my thoughts on “Why Code for the Kingdom?” What does it mean to Code for the Kingdom?

If you’re like me, you love to build, to explore, to invent. You love making awesome products and sharing them with the world. You love seeing the future and making it real for others to experience. You love tackling seemingly intractable problems with ingenious solutions. You love crafting delightful experiences that bring a smile to people’s eyes. You love seeing your ideas come to life and benefit lots and lots of people.

But for all these loves, most of all you love Jesus. You want to combine your passion for technology with your love for Christ. But there aren’t many opportunities to do that in a meaningful way with like-minded people.

That’s what Code for the Kingdom is about.

It’s an event and a movement convening bright technologists and entrepreneurs to use their gifts to advance the Gospel together. It’s a place where we take seriously the idea that God is our ultimate customer. He is the one we’re seeking to please and delight with our work. We deeply empathize with what he values, pay attention to his specifications, and apply all of our creativity, thoughtfulness and skill to deliver products, services and experiences that will make him happy and bless the world. And we do this, not alone, but in a community of people who share the same God-obsessed passion.

So as an event, Code for the Kingdom, is designed to be an inspiring foretaste of God’s Kingdom where people work together to use their gifts in technology, design, entrepreneurship, and every other discipline to deliver amazing and creative solutions that demonstrate the love of Christ for the world.

Now this happens in both large and small ways.

When you see a stranger struggling to debug his code at 3am in the morning before his pitch and step in to help him out, you’re creating a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.

When you forgo your idea in order to serve someone who needs a team and help them succeed you’re creating a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.

When you boldly stand up and share your idea for advancing the Gospel even though you feel scared or unqualified, you’re creating a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.

And of course, when you sacrifice your weekend and beyond in order to create solutions that will help release the oppressed, teach God’s Word, heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, support the church, build up the body of Christ, and bless the world, you’re creating foretaste of God’s kingdom.

So as a movement, Code for the Kingdom is about activating and unleashing people to do good with the grace God has given them; to use their gifts to advance the gospel. We are a community of people from around the world on mission together, serving one another, doing what we love and contributing our creativity, our skill, our inventiveness, our focus, our drive, our curiosity and all the best we have to offer for a common cause that matters: the Kingdom of God.

You see, there are many good causes in the world and we will be addressing several of them during our hackathons. But as Christians, what gives these causes significance is that they are delivering foretastes of God’s promise. We build things to help us enjoy and share with others our dream of a new creation, our hope of the day when God will make all things right in His kingdom forever. Through the things we build we invite the world experience the joy of having Jesus Christ as Lord, and to believe in Him so that they will also receive the marvelous new world he longs to give us.

Code for the Kingdom is an opportunity for you to carry on Jesus’ mission with the specific gifts, skills and passions he has given you. There are still people around the world who need to hear and experience the gospel of the Kingdom. You still have brothers and sisters who need to hear and believe the promises Jesus has made so that we can finally receive them together.

Could this be in part what your technical, entrepreneurial, artistic and other gifts are for?

When Jesus began his ministry, he quoted Isaiah saying:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” ‭‭(Luke 4:18-19, 21 ESV)

And Jesus has gifted us and given us His Spirit to carry out these and many other good works in his Name.

Do you love the poor as Jesus loves the poor? They are all around us–across the street and around the world. Why not use your technological privilege to serve them, to show and tell them about the kingdom Jesus wants to give them? Perhaps beginning with something as simple as feeding them and giving them access to clean water.

Do you hurt when you see people taken captive by physical or spiritual powers? Do you ache for those who are physically or spiritually blind or deaf? Why not use your gifts to help them hear and see and set them free? What can you invent to encourage people when they are down and overcome the strongholds that bind them?

Are you broken and angered when you see oppression, corruption and injustice? Why not use your gifts to help bear witness to the truth, to mitigate the abuse of power, to give a voice to the voiceless, to protect the vulnerable and strengthen the weak?

Then as we proclaim the message of God’s kingdom and invite people to trust in Jesus, they will know what we mean because they will have experienced a foretaste of it for themselves.

So why Code for the Kingdom?

First, because we love the King…
Second, because we love His people…
Third, because we love His world.
And fourth, yes, because we love to code…

Thank you for being here, to God be the glory and have fun at Code for the Kingdom!


When God provides…

sunset_beachSpeechless surprise,
Making me wise,
Seeing its true,
God always comes through.

He wants what He wants,
But in my despair
I doubted, I feared
That He wouldn’t be there.

Pouring out effort
To so little comfort.
Was I doing things wrong?
How long, Lord, how long?

I’ve worked and I’ve waited,
I’ve asked and been still.
I’ve sinned and repented,
Is this not your will?

Then out of the blue,
His promise came true,
An abundance of grace,
To finish the race.

Now for thanksgiving,
For glory and praise,
To a God who is faithful
And just in His ways!

So if you are waiting,
and praying,
and working,
Or if you are hoping,
or longing,
or moping,


When God provides
He fills up your cup,
And all of your sorrows,
Will not measure up.


Written when God provided on the same morning two much needed and unexpected sponsorships for Code for the Kingdom Seattle.


Code for the Kingdom @ Microsoft Social Media Recap

About a hundred people gathered for the first ever Code for the Kingdom @ Microsoft this past weekend. We prayed, worshiped, hacked (kids did too!), pitched and celebrated–it was an amazing time.

Here are some pictures, videos and tweets from the event. You can read my thoughts on the winning projects here.

If you’d like to get involved, we’re preparing for the Code for the Kingdom Seattle Hackathon from October 2-4th, 2015. Visit the page to get in touch.

Worshiping Jesus together at Code for the Kingdom at Microsoft #c4tk

A video posted by @kirisu on

Morning worship at Code for the Kingdom at Microsoft #c4tk

A video posted by @kirisu on

Kids collaboratively coding games at Code for the Kingdom Microsoft #c4tk

A video posted by @kirisu on


Discover Bible


A team of 4 interns built the winning project DiscoverBible

More Photos My thoughts on the winning projects.