JasonJason Shen

Make stuff for the web. Write about tech, business, and behavior change. Always moving.

All articles by Jason

 

Nothing Changes Unless You Change Yourself

I recently had a conversation with therapist who was interested in findings from The Asian American Man Study because many of the people she works with come from that demographic. She observed that her clients often feel like they aren’t fairly recognized in the workplace or have a difficult time with dating but they also aren’t willing to admit that
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Five Themes to Watch in 2017

While I don’t plan to get into the business of predictions, I thought it would be a good exercise to put down on a paper a couple major themes I’ll be watching for in 2017. These range from the political climate in the US to technological trends. I’ll try to revisit these themes at the
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Ridejoy: Lessons Learned

On April 24th, 2011, I sat down with my friends Kalvin and Randy for an intense 10 minute interview with Paul Graham, Sam Altman, Jessica Livingston and several other partners at Y Combinator (YC). We were hoping to convince the world’s most powerful startup accelerator to accept our Reloveit, our idea for “a Mint.com for
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My Annual Review (2017)

Why it’s important to reflect and how to conduct an annual review for your own life in 2017.

 

Where We Go From Here

The past week have been quite a rollercoaster for this country and the world. Many of us are still processing what this all means. While I’d like to get back to our regularly scheduled programming of technology, business, startup, fitness, and personal growth content here, I’m compelled to share my perspective on where we go
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Business Talk: An Audio Experiment

Today we have a departure from the normal blog post. It’s 15 min audio riff of me discussing a case study featured in the October issue of Harvard Business Review about a deciding on a positioning / branding angle for a Peruvian business that sells handmade ponchos. You can listen to it on blog or
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Introducing the 2016 Asian American Man Study

Note: the 2016 edition of the Asian American Man study launched October 19th. Click here to take it. This summer, the meme #StarringJohnCho made waves through the media landscape. Dozens of movie posters were modified to portray Korean-American actor John Cho as the leading character and these images were shared widely across Facebook and Twitter.
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How to Hit Harder

I’ve been taking boxing classes on and off for a few years, but got more serious this past summer, when I signed up for a membership at a nearby gym. They offer both group classes and semi-private training sessions, and my technique and skill have improved dramatically as I’ve worked more closely with the trainers.
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The Science of Practice — My Illustrated Story in Hardbound

As long-time readers of this blog know, training and practice are things I’m very interested in. I’ve gone in depth on the topic in my guest post on Buffer: Why Practice Makes Perfect and my interview with Professor Anders Ericsson, who conducted the pioneering study that lead to the so-called “10,000 hour rule” popularized by
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Three Antipatterns That Sink Side Projects

I like to cook steak on my cast iron pan. It’s simple — you let the meat get to room temperature, coat it with salt and pepper, heat oil on the pan on medium, and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes. I routinely still overcook my steaks. It’s very easy to do. I’m worried
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Training for the Clapping Push-up World Record

For the past few months I’ve been training for the clapping push-up world record. I first applied to challenge the record in March and complained to Guinness because it was taking a while to get cleared. @GWR have been waiting for a month to get the clearance to challenge the clapping pushup record. Can you
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How Camaraderie is Forged Through Hardship

I recently finished reading Sebastian Junger’s excellent new book Tribe: on Homecoming and Belonging. It’s a slim volume that addresses something really important: how hardship builds group cohesion and solidarity.

 

An Open Letter to Managers of Women

This article first appeared on Medium, where it has received over 205,000 views. It has been republished to Quartz, Upworthy, Huffington Post and featured as a LinkedIn Editor’s Pick. Dear manager, We need to talk about her. You probably know who. That analyst, designer, writer, engineer who has been at the organization for just a
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What I Learned from the First Round of Ship Your Side Project

As you may remember, earlier this year, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya and I ran a six-week bootcamp for midcareer tech professionals called Ship Your Side Project. Our thesis was that there are tons of people out there tinkering on passion projects who have maybe gotten a little side tracked and lost steam, but with just some structure and
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Unpacking Product Insights from Pokémon GO

As you probably have heard, Nintendo has partnered with game developer Niantic to launch a wildly popular game for iOS and Android called Pokémon GO. The game has already reached over 21M daily active users, dominated the in-game purchasing market, and players are spending more time in the game than on Facebook. It even stopped traffic in
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What the Black Lives Matter Movement Means to Me

Note: While I don’t expect to be writing about these topics frequently, I felt compelled to share some thoughts in light of not just recent events but the many related things that have been happening over the last few years. These are my opinions and do not represent my employer or anyone else — Jason
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Tennesse Williams on Success and Struggle

I recently read a short essay called “A Streetcar Named Success” by Tennessee Williams, the renowned mid-twentieth century American playwright who wrote A Street Car Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. The essay talks about how life became a bit disjointed after he became “successful” and started living a life of luxury — living in a hotel and getting
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Beyond the 10,000 Hour Rule

We’re all familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, which was made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2010 bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, Gladwell makes the argument that 10,000 hours of practice is a critical number that separates the great from the truly extraordinary. One of the bodies of work Gladwell relied on
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The New Napster: How Sci-Hub is Blowing Up the Academic Publishing Industry

here has been an explosive new development in how scientific research is read and distributed. It’s name is Sci-Hub. Founded in 2011 by Alexandra Elbakyan (who was, at the time, a 22 year-old graduate student based in Kazakhstan), the site has seen a major uptick in the last year. In February 2016, 6M+ scientific papers were downloaded from Sci-Hub,
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The Science of Growth with Sean Ammirati (2-time Founder Turned VC)

I recently finished reading a new book about startups. It’s called The Science of Growth: How Facebook Beat Friendster and How Nine Other Startups Left the Rest in the Dust. It’s written by Sean Ammirati, who is a partner at Birchmere Ventures and an Adjunct Professor at Carnegie Mellon, where he teaches a courses on entrepreneurship.
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Delivering My First Keynote Speech

In September of 2015, I received a short email with an invitation: The email was from Robyn Bridges, the Vice President of the Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau, and a member of the East Alabama chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA). So began a fascinating journey which culminated with my giving a 90 min keynote presentation
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11 Nifty Javascript and CSS Libraries for Newb Programmers (Like Me)

One of the things that can be surprising to people who don’t spend much time creating software is just how much code is really a giant mashup of pre-existing pieces of code that have been modified to interact with each other. The beauty of software is that it can be used without being consumed, like
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Early Observations from My New Podcast on Breaking Records

A few weeks ago I launched a new project called The Record Breaking Podcast (link to the podcast on iTunes). In each episode, I interview someone who has set or broken a significant record. Often these are world, first-ever, all-time records, though I do sometimes veer into records that may not be of that caliber
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Interviewed for the NYTimes’s The Upshot on Silicon Valley

The New York Times’s sub-brand The Upshot [1] recently did a piece called What It’s Really Like to Risk it All in Silicon Valley. The article follows Nathalie Miller, who left Instacart to start Doxa, a company in the recruiting space focused on getting women into technology firms. The piece includes commentary from a number
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The Problem with “Where Are You From?”

Note:  I wrote up the results of the 2015 Asian American Man study on Medium.com, where it’s been read by over 70k people. National Journal, an Atlantic Media’s publication, covered the study in Asian Americans Feel Held Back at Work by Stereotypes. Today we’re going to talk about a phrase. It’s a phrase you might use innocuously
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My Reading Notes on The Advantage

I recently finished reading The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in business by Patrick Lencioni. You’ve definitely heard Lencioni’s other books: Death by Meeting and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team were two which popularized the trend in the late aughts of the business book as a fable. This book is more of a typical nonfiction business
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The 2015 Roundup

2015 was a big year. I started it out living in Manhattan, working at Percolate, and just starting a new role as a PM for the Demo. I ended the year living in Brooklyn, working at Etsy, and settling into being a PM for the Seller Experience team. A whole crap ton of things happened
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What Makes Effective Teams — According to MIT and Google

We all want to work in teams that exhibit high performance and solve problems effectively. But while it’s often easier to understand what drives individual performance, team performance is a more complex activity. There is some great research done by folks at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Google that shows how we can make smarter teams, and
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Readership Survey (2016)

Since it’s been a few years since my last readership survey, I decided to poll members of the Art of Ass-Kicking insider’s list to see who they are and why they read the blog. Here are some of our findings: Demographics While the readership skews male, we actually have a pretty strong spectrum across different
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Play to Your Strengths

One of the things I’m trying to remind myself of this year is “play to my strengths”. Truly understanding ourselves — our tendencies, preferences, abilities, and the impression we give to others — is enormously important to leading a successful and satisfying life. We often overlook our strengths because they come easy to us. We rely
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What Engineers, Product Managers, and Executives Can Learn from the Volkswagen Scandal

Volkswagen has been eviscerated after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in September that VW had installed “defeat devices” to cheat on their emissions testing. It turns out least 500,000 diesel cars made by VW were rigged with software that would reduce engine emissions to meet standards, but then turn off to achieve higher fuel mileage. When not in testing
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The Biggest Challenge With Building Products is Uncertainty

I was recently asked to share my views on three questions around product management for the UsabilityTools blog. My answers are now published along with thoughts from 46 other product managers and I thought I’d share my response here as well. The questions were good ones and were worth thinking about. In general, I’ve found that building new things is
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Is 2016 the year you finally ship your side project?

The year is coming to a close and that means a couple things: You’re getting invites for holiday and year end parties Friends and coworkers are coming down with terrible colds, flus and other debilitating illnesses Your brain starts pondering how the year has gone and what next year will hold I don’t have much
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What is life like for the Asian American man in 2015?

I didn’t really think much about how my own race/ethnicity affected my life until 2011, when I read the ludicriously long piece in New York Magazine. It was called Paper Tigers, with the subtitle: “What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?” and it covered issues I had discussed occasionally with friends but rarely saw
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The 10x Job Application: What You Do When You Really Want the Gig

We talk a lot about the war for talent: the idea that organizations need to fight to recruit, retain, and grow great people. Harvard Business Review recently put it this way: But one of the biggest challenges in the war for talent is identifying who those top performers are.

 

The Rise and Fall of Product Lines

I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to the growth of certain popular products — both physical and media [1]. The pattern looks like this: Company develops a breakthrough product A unique product hits the market. It looks or operates in a way that feels distinct in an important way. It’s aggressively different from other things on
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First Impressions at Etsy

It’s been about two months since I started at Etsy as a product manager on the Seller Experience team. I strongly believe that first impressions fade quickly so it’s important to try to capture them in the moment. I won’t be talking about product management at Etsy but more broadly how the company culture has felt for
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MIT Grads Make More than Harvard Grads & Other Things I Learned From the College Scorecard

College is on my mind these days. It’s been over a decade since I was a college freshman but I mentor a young woman through Minds Matter who is a high school senior in Brooklyn, and preparing her college lists. My little sister is a junior and college is on her mind too. There are a lot
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Six Blistering Bodyweight Workouts You Can Do in Under 30 Mins

One of the biggest reasons why people say they don’t exercise is because they don’t have time. Of course, we all have the same amount of time, and there are plenty of really busy people who work out despite having many other things to do. I trained for and ran the SF Marathon while doing
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Don’t Let Them Put You in a Bucket

People naturally want to put other people into a bucket. There are of course the obvious examples of race and gender. These stereotypes are so powerful that they can cause you to under or “over” perform on a math test, depending on what stereotype is invoked. [1]. But then there are the more subtle ones:
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Goodbye Percolate, Hello Etsy

I joined Percolate in March of 2014 as the 100th employee at the company (today: 250+). Back then, we were all piled into a single floor of our NY office in SoHo. We’ve grown tremendously, raising two rounds of funding, opening offices around the world, and delivering The System of Record for global Fortune 500 brands
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“When did you do your tour of duty?”

Edit Aug 14th: Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator just wrote a post on the United States Digital Service I just got back from Washington DC, where I got to spend the weekend at the first ever Presidential Innovation Fellow reunion. You can see some of what happened with the hashtag #PIFHomecoming2015 and the official PIF handle.

 

Curator vs Committee Selection

We’re all members of certain affiliations or groups and one way to think about what that membership means is through how you were selected for that group.  For institutions like college, grad school, a Fortune 500 company, a startup accelerator, even a fraternity/sorority, you were probably selected by a committee. There were a group of
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Try Something Different

I love thinking about behavior change. Specifically, how people get themselves to adopt new attitudes, habits, ways of living. Hell I even taught a Skillshare course to 150 people on the science of willpower and behavior change. One thing I’ve realized is that it’s actually a lot easier to be shaped by external forces than
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Until You Ship, Communication is the Deliverable

I’m a big fan of the Heath Brothers (Chip and Dan) who co-authored Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive, each one a fun and highly useable book on an interesting topic: Marketing, Behavior Change, and Decision Making, respectively. They have an email list where they very occasionally share updates on their work, ask questions, and offer
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The Difference Between Having Connections and Having Conversations

When I was in DC working as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, one of our objectives was to drive adoption for President Obama’s Executive Order to make all government information open, freely accessible, and machine-readable as the new default. That EO was backed up by a memo from the Office of Management and Budget known as
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The Extraordinary Power of Self-Reflection

I recently stumbled across an old document on my laptop. It was a PDF with journal entries from several years ago. While many of the entries were typical day-to-day activities, I also found about 100 short lessons that I had captured during this journaling period and I shared a few on Twitter.

 

“This Book Could Have Been a Long Magazine Article”

A claim leveled against business books sometimes is that the book repeats the same concept over and over again and could have been better served as a long magazine article. And indeed many books start out as long magazine articles. Hoffman, Yeh, & Casnocha published a 4.5k word article: “Tours of Duty: The New Employer-Employee
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Why Being Real Matters

There’s a great article on TechCrunch by Danny Crichton called Startups and The Big Lie. Crichton, who is a former colleague back in my days at The Stanford Daily, has a great line about how startups “run on an alchemy of ignorance and amnesia that is incredibly important to experimentation” and that entrepreneurs essentially have to
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My Blogging Stack

When you run a blog, it’s inevitable that eventually you’ll write about the act of blogging itself. I try not to do this meta-blogging too often but I have slipped into it a few times, when I wrote about lessons learned from a year of blogging, and the year in review posts I used to
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