What Are You Grateful For?

Photo Credit: SuperDewa

People who spend time counting their blessings are happier than people who thinking about their troubles. That makes intuitive sense, but it’s also been demonstrated by real academic research.

Researchers at UC Davis and University of Miami split a group of roughly 200 people into 3 groups – each was asked to fill out a weekly report about events that had happened that they were grateful for or found to be a hassle. A third group, the control, was simply asked to note “life events”. The report also asked participants to describe their mood, attitude toward life and other measures of well-being.

The results: gratefulness leads to happiness, health and more exercise!

There was a significant main effect for the ratings of one’s life as a whole and expectations concerning the upcoming week: Participants in the gratitude group rated their life more favorablyon these two items than did participants in the hassles group or events group. The gratitude-group participants experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness than those in either of the other two groups. … People in the gratitude condition spent significantly more time exercising (nearly 1.5 hr more per week) than those in the hassles condition.

Emmons, McCollough 2003 (full-text link)

Living the Research

The thing is, most people have things they are grateful for, but they don’t take the time to express them (unlike their hassles, which they are happy to express as complaints =D) You almost need to build a habit of expressing gratitude to really have this gratitude effect work for your happiness.

I keep a four-line, ten-year journal and every night, I use one of the four lines to write down something I’m grateful for every day. Usually it’s something mundane like “Had a nice conversation with mom today.” or “Completed my mail-in ballot early – proud to be an voter.” It’s a great way to count my blessings on a regular basis.

One thing I know I can do better is communicating my gratitude to the people I care about. I think we worry it might seem cheesy or fake, but those small appreciations can mean a lot.

So I ask you:

What are you grateful for? And how do you express it?

The Most Memorable Quotes (I Could Capture) From Startup School 2012

Startup School is a fantastic event put on by Y Combinator. They bring together some of the most important and interesting people in tech startups and have them give candid, non-pitchy talks about what they’ve learned as a founder or investor.

This year, Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium was packed pretty much wall to wall on both levels. I’ve really enjoyed the talks in the past but it’s unfortunate that lots of people are unable to attend. So this year I tried to jot down some of my favorite quotes by the 2012 speakers both to save for myself and to share with others.

Note: I did my best to capture their statements as they said them but also had to patch from memory so this shouldn’t be considered a perfect transcription of the talks! Also I had to leave at 5pm so I missed the last 3 speakers: Joel Spolsky (StackExchange), David Rusenko (Weebly) and Hiroshi Mikitani (Rakuten). Darn!

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook (interviewed by Paul Graham)

Paul (pg) interviewed Mark (mz) in an entertaining and enlightening recollection of working on Facebook in the early days.

Growing

  • mz: [Looks around at the Startup School audience]
  • mz: “Getting bigger!”
  • pg: “Yeah, well I heard you are too.”
  • Audience laughs

You can’t 80/20 everything

  • mz: “We had to do a bunch of manual work to sign up every school – looking up all the course catalogs. Dustin thought we could grow faster if we didn’t have to do that. We had this big debate on this issue and what quality meant for us. It definitely set this tone early on that we had clean data and it was a college specific thing.
  • mz: “You hear a lot about the 80/20 but you can’t 80/20 everything. There are somethings that you have to go beyond that and be the best in the world at.”

Flexibility is important

mz – “I have this big fear of getting locked into doing things that are not the most impactful thing. This is the thing about entrepreneurs, is that they have this laser like focus on doing the most important thing. One of the amazing things about college is the flexibility to try a lot of projects and explore things. I think people undervalue the power of having options.”

Special kind of pivot

  • mz: “I mean Facebook went through a lot of pivots. We went from just being for college to being “not college”, then from being just a website to being a platform.”
  • pg: “There’s another word for the kinds of pivots you were doing. EXPANSIONS”

Monopoly? Us?

  • pg: “In retrospect, do you think MySpace had a chance after you got all the college students? Were they destined to get dominated by you?”
  • mz: “I don’t see it that way. there is more than one-“
  • pg: “More than one social network? Not really.”
  • Audience laughs

Everyone knew it but me

  • mz: “We raised money from Peter Thiel and told him the plan”
  • pg: [stunned] “You told him you might go back to school?”
  • mz: “Yeah, but I don’t think he really believed us.”
  • Audience laughs
  • mz: “There is a long history of people predicting I’d drop out of school before I did.” [Mark’s mom was unsurprised when he told her he was dropping out of Harvard]

Travis Kalanick, Uber

In a brash, chatty pitch, Travis talked about how Uber got started, the progress they’ve made and their battle with regulatory bodies. Continue reading…

Why I Started Using Tumblr Again

Between 2007 and 2010, I was an avid user of Tumblr. I saved snippets of articles, links, videos and images I liked. When I started this blog, I imported all my old posts so if you dig into the archives in, say, May 2008, you’ll see the kinds of stuff I was saving.

When I started this blog in fall of 2010, all my creative writing and posting focus went to content for the main blog. I stopped doing anything with the Tumblr. Over time, I’ve been thinking more about why I used Tumblr in the first place – to save inspiration and collect cool things across the web.

Recent things I’ve saved in my Tumblr:

This is stuff I want to hold onto. I already tweet stuff like this, but Twitter is so ephemeral and hard to review (infinite scroll is a poor way to look at old tweeets). I’m not alone in this need to categorize and archive.

Human culture reveals a deep seated interest in collecting, saving and sharing things they care about. This is why Pinterest is so freaking popular – it’s collections of stuff people love. I think Pinterest is great, but I don’t always want to save images and I prefer having a semi-private page all to myself rather than living in an ocean of pins.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging here – not at all. I just needed another outlet to save and share all the interesting things I find across the web – and it’d be far too much to dump in this site. My tumbling actually means I’ll be even more focused on making every single post on The Art of Ass-Kicking count.

Curation and production are two nearby trees in the forest of creativity. I know that by water one, I’ll be fostering the other as well. If you don’t use Tumblr or Pinterest, considering checking them out as a way to save and share awesome stuff.

Saving Inspiration – Jason’s Tumblr

 

Great Career Paths are Messy Creatures

Most people seem to dislike their jobs or at best, find it tolerable. So when we encounter someone who seems to have a great job – work that is interesting, enjoyable, fulfilling and  impactful – it’s natural to get curious. How did they get there? What steps did they take to arrive at their current position. And of course:

How can I do the same?

I’d like to suggest two resources for everyone in their quest to reach their own great career:

Resource 1: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

The first is a book by Cal Newport of Study Hacks called So Good They Can’t Ignore You. This book, (based of a quote by Steve Martin), offers a framework for finding great work.

Great work, according to Newport, is work that offers things like autonomy/control over your work, the feeling that you’re good at what you do and a sense that you are having an impact on the world. He argues that getting a fulfilling career has far less to do with the type of work you do (the first chapter is devoted to bunking the myth that the way to a fulfilling career is “following your passions”) but more has to do with building career capital and leveraging it to gain a position that offers these things.

Career capital depends on the type of role you seek (for TV writers, it’s simply the ability to write really good scripts, while for entrepreneurs it might be a mix of technical skill, unique insight into a market, and a network that can reach great investors). The book is relatively short, quite insightful and full of profiles of people who have found great work. Go check it out.

Resource 2: CareerHoot Interviews

The second resource is a website called CareerHoot by my friend Andrew Chen which an online resource of interviews of people who have made career transitions – so people looking to switch jobs can see how others have done it. Continue reading…

Crafting a Mobile App: a UX Design Case Study for Startups

GUEST POST: Suelyn Yu is an interaction designer at frog (see her portfolio) and worked closely with the team at Ridejoy to help craft our iPhone application. I feel very lucky to have worked with such a kick ass designer and I think this case study should prove useful for any startup that’s looking to build a mobile app. Now, on to Suelyn!)
– Jason  
[portfolio_slideshow]

BACKGROUND

Do you remember the last time you were traveling on the highway? I do. There are usually countless cars all around me, and yet most of them are full of empty seats. I often wonder to myself, “Why isn’t there a way for people headed in the same direction to travel together?” One company, Ridejoy, aims to solve this problem by helping people share rides anywhere, anytime.

As an interaction designer at Frog, I’ve designed to encourage people toward pro-social, offline actions. When Ridejoy was preparing to build an iPhone app, Kalvin, one of the co-founders, reached out to me for help. I worked with the Ridejoy co-founders; Christine Yen, who built the app; and Seth Warrick, who created the brand and visual design.

It just launched in the US App Store.

IPHONE DESIGN PROBLEMS

After running Ridejoy.com for several months, the team learned a great deal about their current user base. In developing an iPhone app, we wanted to do far more than just “port” the site over to mobile – but instead, craft a new experience.

We identified 3 key challenges:

  • How we get drivers and passengers to post more rides?
  • How do we speed up the process of making driver and passenger matches?
  • How should Ridejoy facilitate “arrangements” between drivers and passengers?

CHALLENGE 1: ENCOURAGING POSTING

For a rideshare service to be successful, it needs to be able to draw from a large pool of rides when matching up passengers and drivers. We know that many people are driving by themselves or are looking for an affordable ride, but if they don’t post their travel plans on Ridejoy, there is no way for these people to get matched up. Continue reading…