Archive for the 'Life' Category

Slow Networking

April 18, 2016

You may have heard of movements like slow money and slow food. I’ve started to apply a similar philosophy to networking and communications.

In the past month, I’ve deleted my LinkedIn and AngelList accounts due to their use of dark patterns. I’ve also downgraded from an iPhone to a simpler flip phone. With these changes, I feel less distracted and more able/engaged reading physical books and long-form blogs. At events, there’s no more excuses to be staring down at a smartphone; instead, I’m readjusting to rely on good old-fashioned face time.

At a recent meeting, everyone else brought their laptops and were busily using them during the meeting. I only had a pad of paper and a pen. It didn’t feel like people were present staring at their screens. There was no eye contact at all. What’s the point of having an in person meeting if people are that distracted?

So far, the benefits of disconnecting and slowing down seem to be outweighing the cons. Over the next year, I’m considering deleting my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I’m also experimenting with using my own email server and slowly moving off Gmail for privacy reasons.



April 4, 2015

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh is one of my all time favorite books. It really resonated with me. Undoubtedly, when Tony sent out an internal memo to all Zappos employees about going all-in on holacracy, I was intrigued. He talks about transforming the company from hierarchical structures to a self-management paradigm. One of the resources he mentioned was Reinventing Organizations. I’ve started reading it, and it’s fasinating. The theme of the book is there are emergent ways of working together that create more productive, purposeful, and soulful organizations. The three breakthrough insights are 1) self-management 2) wholeness 3) evolutionary purpose. Again, this way of thinking really resonates with me. In the past, I’ve worked in corporations where many decisions are based on an ego/profit-driven hierarchy paradigm. Complexity gets pushed up, while decisions get pushed down without context or the buy-in of front line stakeholders who deal with the consequences of the decisions day-to-day. This requires each level you go up in the pyramid to have people with higher levels of skill, training, and consciousness to deal with the increased complexity. However, this gets increasingly difficult as the pyramid grows. Too many levels or incompetent middle management and the system starts to break down. Is it a wonder why employee engagement is so low? People don’t scale, but some structures and processes can. I encourage you to check out Reinventing Organizations and let me know what you think.

Here’s a video of a talk by author of Reinventing Organizations:

New Year, New Job

December 31, 2011

I am excited to announce that I have accepted a developer position at Smarterer, an early stage Boston startup looking to become the global standard for skill measurement displayed everywhere professionals represent themselves or are evaluated. I am honored to be working with an awesome group of people, including Jennifer Fremont-Smith, Michael Kowalchik, Shimon Rura, David Sturgis, Alison Morris, Hallie Cho, and Dave Balter. I want to thank everyone who helped make this happen with their advice and support — my family, Eric Gregory, Emmy Jonassen, Eric Kachel, Don Swavely, Juan Del Rio, Abe Sahi, Todd Watts, Matt Baron, Aaron White, Dave Abrams, Jay Neely, and the team at Cangrade. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful support network. Thank you all, and happy new year! Keep an eye out for Smarterer to shake things up in 2012. :)

PS. Here’s my Smarterer profile.

Put People First

November 16, 2011

Put People First or PPF for short is the most important principle I follow.  I wrote a bunch of reasons trying to explain why it’s #1 on my list of core values, but I don’t think I can do it justice, so I deleted them.  Instead, here are some quotes from people and companies that I really admire.

“You want to know the best marketing strategy ever? Care.”

— Gary Vaynerchuk, author, wine and social media expert

“The customer comes second.”

— Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks

Employees come first. Companies need to make sure employees have the best possible skills, power, technologies, compensation, and morale, so that they can best serve the customer.

“At Zappos, Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing With WOW.

WOW is such a short, simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.”

— Zappos Family Core Value #1: Deliver WOW Through Service

How have I made sure I Put People First at work last week?

1. PPC (Party Planning Committee)

By organizing unofficial, team-building work events as simple as a lunch or as creative as an interoffice paper airplane contest, I make sure co-workers have a chance to hang out with each other and have some fun doing it.

2. Give Recognition

Someone do a great job at work? I send them a quick great job or thank you email with a couple of specific things I liked about it.  I’ve also been thanking people on Rypple, a web-based social performance management platform that helps managers and employees improve performance through continuous coaching, real-time feedback and meaningful recognition.

3. Be Available

I make sure I am available to everyone at work who would like to bounce around some ideas for a 20% project or who has a project plan and needs help with the development of it.  Even if someone just has something on their mind they’d like to talk about, I’m there for them.  I have a “no door” policy…literally.

4. Be (Truly) Helpful

A co-worker was sick for most of last week.  When they came back to the office, they still weren’t feeling great and asked around the office for some DayQuil, but everyone apologized and said they didn’t have any.  I got up, drove to the nearest gas station, bought a pack of DayQuil, returned to the office, and put it on the co-workers desk with “PPF” written on a post-it note affixed to it.

5. Treat Your Customers with Respect

Even if they’re non-paying customers. A co-worker forwarded me a question posted on the forum by an active member of the community.  Check out how I worded my response to him.

Is PPF also your #1 core value? If not, what’s yours?

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

November 15, 2011

I’ve realized that changes I’ve made lately have two types of reasoning behind them. The good reasons and the real reason. People would ask me why I did what I did, and I would always conjure up some recent study or higher purpose to back up my cause, but those were all just good reasons. The real reason is that I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Get out of my comfort zone, endure short term stress or loss, and reap long term benefits. Here’s my list so far:

1. Go vegetarian

Growing up, I was a huge meat eater. Naturally, at first, it was difficult for my body to adjust to the new diet. I had low energy, a pale face, got sick all the time, and most of all, I missed eating my favorite food group. Fast forward two years, and I feel stronger and healthier than ever. When someone at home gets sick, usually everyone else gets sick, except me. Even if I do get sick, my symptoms are much more mild and go away more quickly. I have to admit though, after some self debate and perspective from other vegetarians, I switched from a strict 100% vegetarian diet to about 90%. I call myself a weekday vegetarian for fun, but please don’t think labels are important. I have white meat a few times a month. When my wife and I had our honeymoon in St Lucia, I went all out and tried every kind of meat and fish there was. It was delicious. The most important thing is that I am happy with my new diet choice and with the flexibility I gave myself.

2. Stand up at my work desk

About a year ago, I decide to stand while I do my web development desk job. I hacked together some desk parts and boxes to raise my monitors, keyboard, and mouse, so I could stand while working. The first few days kicked my feet’s butt butt’s feet. After standing all day, I would put my feet up to give them a rest as soon as I got home. Day by day, my feet got stronger. Soon, I would barely notice that I’ve been busy working and standing up for hours. Today, just like with the flexibility of my weekday vegetarian diet, I stand about 75% and sit 25% of the time that I’m at my desk. I bought the Ergotron Workfit-S sit/stand desk stand, so I can easily and quickly switch positions.

3. Ban violence

A month ago, I made a conscience decision to ban violence from my life, including violent TV, movies, and games. I quit playing Fallout 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and stopped watching The Walking Dead, Terranova, Breaking Bad, and many other shows. It was surprisingly easy to do all of this. As a bonus, I now have a lot more time on my hands to spend on my family, business, and hobbies. I had an incident last Friday when I forgot about the ban and played some CoD: MW2 with some co-workers. Does team building exercise count as a good excuse? Anyway, just like with the other changes I’ve made, I like to have the flexibility of being accepting if I make exceptions once in a while (like for Avengers when it comes out).

Getting out of my comfort zone has helped my mind and body grow and adapt everyday. This philosophy of stretching boundaries and being malleable is preparing me to better deal with future challenges and situations that may be uncomfortable.

What do you think? Do you agree that it’s important to do stuff to get out of your comfort zone everyday? If so, do you have any suggestions on how to do so?

Sow Seeds of Opportunity Everyday

November 13, 2011

Have you heard “luck is when preparation meets opportunity?” Preparation is the easy one — work hard, work smart, love what you do, be very, very persistent, expect failure, and learn from your experiences. You can never be too over-prepared. In The LAST LECTURE by Randy Pausch, the author had a classmate named Norman Meyrowitz. In the middle of Norm’s presentation, the projector light bulb blew out. Everybody groaned. Norm said it was okay, walked over to his bag, and pulled out a spare bulb. Who does that? Andy Van Dam, the professor sitting next to Randy whispered that this guy was going places. Andy was right. Norm became the president of Macromedia, Inc.

What about the opportunity part? When will it knock? Opportunities may never come if you are at home watching TV every night, waiting for it to magically ring the doorbell. You have to be actively seeking it out. Sow a seed of opportunity everyday. Simple, right? Honestly, I have just begun to follow this advice myself. This is my list of what I’ve done to sow a seed of opportunity everyday last week:

1. Asked a trusted colleague who I look up to to become my mentor/coach.

After nervously waiting days for a reply, I finally got one. He happily obliged. I am excited to be getting guidance and perspective from someone with a lifetime of experience from which I can really learn.

2. Set up weekly/bi-weekly 1:1 sessions with many talented peers at work who I admire and respect, so I can build stronger relationships with them.

I know my passions will one day take me away from corporate life and the employee mindset, so I want to take the time I have now to foster the connections I’ve made, to let people know that I appreciate them, that they’ve touched my life, and to return the favor by doing everything I can for them while we’re still together.

3. Reached out and set up a meeting with a local start-up company whose vision and nobler purpose I truly believe in.

If I could, I would became their janitor and work for them for free. That’s how much I believe they can change the world. I want to keep all doors and windows with them open for future opportunities and to help them out in any way that I can now.

4. Made a goal for myself to start writing to this blog again after a long hiatus.

Personal brand is important me. One way I will build my personal brand is to write more about my passions on my blog.

5. Reached out to one well-connected 2nd degree contact to network with him.

I gave him my list of “things I value the most at work.” Doing what you love and with the people you love is important to me, so I wanted to see if there is anything/anyone out there that is more aligned with what I am seeking professionally.

So, now I ask you — what will you do to sow a seed of opportunity today?

PS. I want to thank my wife for putting up with me these last few weeks. She’s definitely noticed a change in my thoughts, behavior, and actions. We joke around calling it a pre-midlife crisis. Thank you, dear, for supporting me through this time of change, while I find myself personally and professionally.

PPS. Stypi is a neat visualization into how one thinks. See how I wrote this. (Click “Playback” then the play button)