Acting with Power: a Stanford Business School Webinar [notes]

Many entrepreneurs will say they started their own companies because they couldn’t stand to work for anyone else. They’ll often say that they “have a problem with authority” or “are terrible employees”. I think this is in part because entrepreneurs often struggle to fit into existing hierarchies or power structures. I sometimes struggle with this myself. I think in part it’s because we prefer an egalitarian relationship over one where they have lower (and often, when they have higher status) with their coworkers.

And yet Deborah Gruenfeld, a professor at the Stanford graduate school of business, argues that all groups require some kind of hierarchy to be effective. Gruenfeld believes that all individuals (this includes entrepreneurs!) must learn how to operate well within a hierarchy if they want to be successful and have impact.

Stanford Business School Executive Education puts on a variety of training webinars and I tuned into one recently taught by Gruenfeld called “Acting With Power” and it provided some great insights into how our behavior and non verbal cues affect pur ability to influence, persuade and lead others.

Reading Intent and Emotion from Moving Dots

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We intuitively recognize that people reveal much more about their state of mind through their behavior and non-verbal signals than the actual content of their words. To really make this point, Gruenfeld showed us an interactive visualization created by a group called Bio Motion Labs in Queen’s University.

In playing with it, what you quickly find is that even with just a few dots moving on the screen, we can get a sense of emotion, sense of aggression, sense of what this person might be thinking or feeling. Continue reading…

Becoming a Free Agent

On December 16, 2013 I will complete my Presidential Innovation Fellowship at the Smithsonian. And as I don’t have another gig lined up, it means I’ll be a free agent starting on 12/17.

I’ll be a bit of a moving target for a month: packing up my Washington D.C. studio, spending the holidays with my family in Boston, traveling to Lima (Peru) in early January, seeing friends in San Francisco, and relocating to NYC in late January. After nine amazing years in the Bay, it’s time to give the Big Apple a chance.

Seeking Serendipity

Earlier in my career, having no job lined up would be a scary prospect. But at this point in my career, I’ve done enough interesting things and created a lot great relationships to the point where I know a new adventure will soon open up.

I’m a big believer in serendipitous opportunities. I’ve argued that a blog is one of the best ways to create your own luck. So here I am, taking my own advice. Of course I’m talking with a few folks directly as well, but I’m not limiting myself to that.

If you’ve ever wanted to work with me, or know of a person/team/company that might, this blog post is my way of saying “I’m all ears.”

What I’m Looking For

Of course, this all works better if you have a better idea of what kind of work would be the best fit.

Short-term: Consulting Work: In the past few 6 months, I’ve engaged a handful of companies in various consulting roles, mostly around content marketing. Its been everything from training a 50 person communications team at an international bank on content strategy, to running interviews, writing and visual design for a series of case studies for a B2B startup. I anticipate having bandwidth for a few projects as I figure out my medium-term plans. More on my consulting work here.

Medium-term: Full-Time Work: For the next few years, I’d like to be in a growth and/or product role a post-seed stage tech company that’s either based in NYC, or truly embraces remote workers. Areas I’m interested include website builder / blogging platforms, consumer education, SaaS products that serve small-to-medium sized businesses, and in general, products that enable people and organizations to be more capable and empowered to do great work.

Statistically Improbable Experiences

To help sell books that you couldn’t flip through (like you could in a store), Amazon once had something known as “statistically improbably phrases“. Comparing a particular book to other books in the same category, you could get a sense of what was unique about this particular book. Certainly you can learn a lot about me through this blog and through my LinkedIn profile, but here are a few elements you’re unlikely to find in other product/growth people.

Get in Touch

I’m pretty easy to get a hold of. My Gmail address would be: jasonyshen and I tweet at @jasonshen. Look forward to hearing from you!

My Biggest Takeaway on 37Signals’s New Book on Remote Work (Hint: It’s Not Technology)

REMOTE: The new book from 37signals 2013-11-08 07-41-46I just finished reading Remote: Office Not Required, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, partners at 37Signals.

It’s a great read and here’s the  basic premise:

  • In today’s economy, the quest for talent is so great that organizations can no longer afford to merely look at individuals co-located in their physical presence (their metro area)
  • It is easier than ever to coordinate the work of individuals from around the world with just a good internet connection and a few pieces of web-based software (including 37Signal’s own products)
  • There are many drawbacks to forcing people to work in an office and many perks to allowing them to work (even a few days a week) at home / at a cafe or coworking space that benefit both the remote worker and the organizations that employ them
  • There are simple ways to address many of the concerns people have with remote working (review the work, not time in seat; put relevant information where it can be seen by all, overlap working hours, etc)
  • There is a tipping point coming with remote work. Many organizations large and small, from across many industries, are using remote workers and it’s time you (the reader) became an early adopter.

They actually went out and interviewed a bunch of companies that do remote work as well so REMOTE is not just “the edgy opinions of Fried and DHH”. The book has useful tips for making the case for remote work to your boss (or to your team, if you are the boss). There’s a lot of value in learning how to structure a good remote work environment.

But personally, I got a bigger shift in perspective from something else.

My biggest takeaway from REMOTE:

Continue reading…

This Beautiful Quote Sums Up How Creators Think About Time

Creators do not ask how much time something takes but how much creation it costs. This interview, this letter, this trip to the movies, this dinner with friends, this party, this last day of summer. How much less will I create unless I say “no?” A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? An experiment? Twenty lines of code? The answer is always the same: “yes” makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, gas tanks to fill, families to love and day jobs to do.

Creative People Say No – by Kevin Ashton

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(Image via Unsplash & Charlie Foster)

There’s been an explosion of great television in recent years. Breaking Bad. Arrested Development. House of Cards. And yet I can barely keep my butt in a chair for one episode.

It’s not that they don’t grip me. They do. But that’s why I can’t keep watching. Because I know the cost.

Sure, 45 minutes here and there won’t kill me. And sure I spend a lot of time dicking around on the internet. But if I commit to watching a whole season, 12 episodes, that’s 9 hours.

What can I do in 9 hours?

This isn’t to dump on television. This is just a reminder that our time is finite and that as creators (which you are!), we must be mindful of how we spend our time and remember that every moment we waste costs us not just in hours but in creations.

How I Published an Amazon Bestseller By Picking the Right Category

Winning Isn’t Normal has been out for a little over a week. And guess what?

It’s already become an Amazon bestseller.

If you’ve purchased the book, thank you so much for your support. If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for? =)

Pics or it didn’t happen right? Here’s the screen shot:

Amazon Gymnastics Bestseller Book View

But here’s the thing. It’s a lot less impressive than it sounds.

When you publish a book via Kindle Direct Publishing (the way I did) you have to pick two categories for your book to fall under. Because my book is about so many things, I had trouble picking which categories.

Because many people consider The Art of Ass-Kicking a “startup blog” and because at least six of my essays in the book are directly about gymnastics or lessons that stem immediately from the sport, I ultimately settled on:

  • Sports and Outdoors -> Individual Sports -> Gymnastics
  • Business & Investing -> Small Business & Entrepreneurship -> Entrepreneurship

One category is obviously more competitive than another. Can you guess which?

A big fish in a small pond

Most of the time, I’d argue it is better to be a small fish in a big pond. Because when you are competing against the best, you learn more, you get tougher and you are forced to keep improving and never rest on your laurels.

But sometimes it is worth pursuing an area that’s more open, with fewer folks clamoring on it, so you can stand out. In this case, having this book reach number one in Gymnastics is worth the trade off of being in a more competitive category. Consider whether there are any activities in life where if you chose a less crowded approach, you could dominate the field. Might be worth trying that out.

Win Awesome Stuff from Me!

If you’ve already bough the book, consider entering my Book Review Giveaway. You could win three amazing books by Seth Godin, the Heath Brothers and Tim Ferriss, beautiful quote typography posters AND a one-on-one Skype session with me. Right now you have a really good shot of winning, so I’d get on it if I were you.

Just write a review for the book on Amazon and forward it + your receipt to and you’re entered to win. I’m giving away TWO whole sets of prizes so don’t miss out.