The Art of Ass-Kicking’s Best Posts of 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Art of Ass-Kicking Year in Review. I wanted to do a little roundup of my best blog posts of the past year, review some stats and offer a few thoughts for the new year.

Most popular posts by traffic:

  1. Eleven Compelling Startup Pitch Archetypes
    After helping a number of startups apply to YC, I was buzzing with ideas and this post was the result. It was shared all across the web (700+ tweets, 28k views) and I was floored by the response from entrepreneurs all over the world.
  2. How to Be Relentlessly Resourceful [a practical guide]
    Frustrated by a pathetic comment someone made on Hacker News, I wrote this guide to make sure no one can ever say they don’t understand what PG calls the definite characteristic of a good founder.
  3. The Most Memorable Quotes from Startup School 2012
    Y Combinator’s Startup School brings some of the smartest & most successful entrepreneurs and investors in the world and I definitely wanted to capture and remember those insights
  4. How to Give Negative Feedback Effectively
    Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective? If people don’t take your advice, then you’ve failed, no matter how good the advice was.
  5. How Coffee Meetings Power Silicon Valley
    I dashed this one off after a good meeting with someone. Surprised to see it so high on the list, but it goes to show that I don’t always know what people want.
  6. Great By Choice — Surprisng Lessons of How Tech Startups Suceed over the Long Term
    In which I mine for insights a great new book by one of the smartest business teachers in the world – Jim Collins. Big post clocking in at 4000 words.
  7. The Story of How a Business Guy Earned the Opportunity to Co-Found a Tech Startup
    This is one of those stories that doesn’t appear on Techcrunch, but really shows what great founders are about. Business co-founders, take note.
  8. The Well-Crafted Mobile App – A UX Design Case Study for Startups
    A guest post by Suelyn Yu, an interaction designer and friend of mine who guided many of the decisions we made in building the Ridejoy mobile app.
  9. Book Notes: Smart Choices – a Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions
    When you’re faced with making an important life decision, it’s worth taking the time and effort to really figure out the right answer. This book offers a great approach.
  10. Out of My Element: Notes by a Former Gymnast Turned Runner in His First Triathlon
    I was trying a different style with this post, interweaving the triathlon itself with my previous athletic background and the training I did in preparation for the race.
  11. Old School Posts
    There were also a couple posts that were in the top 10 traffic-wise in 2012 that were actually published in previous years. They were: Taking Cold Showers (2011), The Anatomy of a Great Email Introduction (2011) and The Rejection Therapy Challenge Week 1 (2010)

My Personal Favorites

Beyond the chart toppers, I wrote a number of other posts that I’m proud to share and think you might like. Check ‘em out.

  1. Guide to YC
    Not technically a post, but 96 page book I wrote that was published by Hyperink. Over 2000 people snagged a copy and you can get yours for free by signing up for the Insider’s List.
  2. Getting Buy-In For Your Ideas (3 Part Series)
    One of the most frustrating things in the world is to have your good ideas shot down. This series shows how to persuade a group and prevent naysays from ruining everything.
  3. What I Learned from My First Blunder-Filled Marathon
    I ran the San Francisco Marathon in July 2012 and it was dream come true, and a very rough time. Here’s the story.
  4. What the Research of Habits Reveal about Willpower and Overall Well-Being
    A guest post for the Buffer blog, this post looks at some fascinating research on what happens when you get people started on new habits.
  5. UX Design For Non-Designers
    Notes on from the first Skillshare class I ever took. I’ve learned a lot about interaction design this year and it started with this class.
  6. Ignite Talk on Rejection Therapy
    Ignite gives you 5 minutes and 20 slides to tell your story. I told mine about 3 rejections I had and what I learned from the challenge. This is the video.
  7. What Helps You Grow Stronger?
    Originally an answer on Quora, I am proud of the research I did on understanding the biology of strength and applying those ideas to other areas
  8. Twelve Life Lessons Learned from Burning Man
    In my second year at the festival, I reflect on what being a Burner has taught me about life.
  9. Answering the Big Gymnastics Questions of the 2012 Olympics on Quora
    Where I give you the real deal on why American female gymnasts are so dominant, and what Mary Lou Retton’s 10.0 vault would have scored by 2012 judging standards.
  10. What’s the One Thing you Wish You Knew When You Were 26?
    This was a fun post I did on my birthday asking people to share their lessons (or hopes) on the year 26. Some great discussion ensued.

Honors

Just wanted to record, if only for myself, a few things that were nice-to-haves from this year.

Stats & Data

I still see big spikes in my traffic due to highly upvoted posts on Hacker News. I had a total of 196k visits off 153k vistors, indicating 56% and 53% growth respectively. I had exactly the same time on site (2mins 3sec) and slightly fewer pages per visit (1.41 vs 1.46)

This means I averaged ~13k visitors a month and 23k pageviews. On a regular, none chart topping day, I’m running around 275 visitors and 470 pageviews.

Referrals accounted for 46% of total traffic (91k visits) and while HN again was my top referrer, I had less traffic from HN this year, vs last year (44k vs 46k) despite growing 50% traffic overall. That means it came from other sources, like social media. Twitter + FB + StumbleUpon accounted for 19k visits, over 40% of HN.

Search traffic grew in 2012, accounting for 29% of my total traffic (56k visits), double what it was in 2011 (15%). This means that while direct traffic grew from 33k to 42k visits, it’s relative percentage went down from 26% to 21%. A little frustrated by the lack of insight on the “not provided” search terms, but apparently I’m not the only one.

Reflections & Resolutions

I’m pretty happy with the writing I’ve done on the blog this year. It’s covered a wide range of topics, from pure tech startup stuff, to my athletic training and competition, to behavioral psychology and more inspirational material.

I’ve noticed that I’m writing fewer posts – 61 in 2012, down from 121 in 2011 – and the fact that my traffic grew says to me that what matters is quality, not quantity. I will probably post even few posts in 2013, but my guess and my hope is, that each post will be even better.

In 2013, I’m hoping to expand my reperetoire of communication styles and do some new things with the blog, like YouTube videos, charts/diagrams, slide decks, long-form pieces and even audio. Other than that, I’m leaving it open ended – who knows what will happen!

As always, I’ll try to keep it fun, actionable and focused on helping you. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

—  Jason

Past Year in Reviews

 

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

 

5 Reasons Why You Need to Teach a Skillshare Class

reasons why you need to teach a class on skillshare

After taking a class on UX Design for Non Designers via Skillshare, I got the teaching bug and taught my first skillshare class a few weeks ago on creating compelling web content that gets read as part of Skillshare’s  SF Tech Semester.

So how did it go?

It was a great experience. Skillshare has really built a wonderful platform and fostered a positive community where people are excited to teach and learn from one another. I had 7 brave souls show up for this newbie’s class and gave them everything I’ve learned about blogging and building an audience.

I think everyone should try teaching a class via Skillshare. They’re in tons of major cities like San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Austin, Portland, and more and there are a lot of good reasons why you should take the plunge. Here are five:

1) Empower people with new knowledge and skills, and the motivation to use them

Maybe you’re thinking – “But there’s nothing I can teach!” Baloney. If you’re reading this blog post, there are probably a few topics/subject matters that you know significantly more than the average person and that people would pay money to have you teach.

Whether it’s getting started with Python, navigating your way through a big music festival, tricking out your Gmail inbox or knitting 101, there’s probably something you would enjoy teaching and could teach well. You don’t have to be the world’s expert – most classes on Skillshare are introductory level ones that people will little background in the subject can still take and enjoy.

And you’re not just imparting information, as a teacher, you are imparting passion. One student left me this kind review: “I learned a lot, enjoyed listening to him as a speaker, and totally walked away inspired and empowered to start my blog, and start it well.”

The truth is, most people can learn the basics of blogging by searching on Google and Quora, following a few WordPress tutorials and reading Copyblogger articles. As a teacher, one of the greatest things you can provide is your sense of passion and excitement to this subject and show them where they can take these skills/knowledge to. And that can be a great feeling.

2) Consolidate (and expand) your area of expertise

You’re going to learn a lot from teaching the class. If you’ve never taught something before, you’ll quickly realize that there’s no better way to understand a subject area than to try to teach it. As I built the Keynote deck that formed the foundation of my class, I was looking things up, grabbing links, re-reading blog posts, watching videos and basically immersing in the topic of blogging.

Before you can really teach something well, you need to deeply and full understand it. If you are interested in knowing more about your field or honing your craft, I assure you that teaching a class on it will only bolster that cause.

3) Improve your communication skills

The best teachers aren’t simply domain experts. They are great communicators. It’s obvious that the people who have had the greatest influence in our society aren’t just smart or skilled or knowledgeable. They were incredible at delivering a clear and compelling message: Jobs. Gandhi. King. Churchill.

Teaching a class forces you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, think about how they see the world and build upon what they already know. For my class, I kind of struggled on how to present everything I knew until I ironed out the four-part framework:

Identifying your audience -> Content Generation -> Writing nuts & bolts -> Distribution / readership.

This made everything else much easier. Each section had important big ideas, resources and knowledge. I also created an short exercise and opened up Q&A between each section to break the class up and make it interactive.

Teaching a class on Skillshare forces you to become a better communicator and that’s a really valuable skill to have.

4) Connect with people in your field/extended network/city

Teaching a class on Skillshare is a great way to connect with people in your area - in real life! I think online education is incredible – things like Udacity, Udemy and Khan Academy are fantastic initiatives and are making our society better. But there’s something special about an in person class that forms a special connection.

My friend Derek Flanzraich has taught his class on growing to 750k uniques in under a year several times on Skillshare and he tells me that everytime, he’s developed a relationship with at least one interesting person who ends up being able to help his company Greatist in some way. I’m not saying that all connections need to be professional or work related, but the fact is, by sharing your passions via this class, you are likely to bump into people interested in similar things and it’s totally like you’ll hit it off well with your students.

5) Make some dough

Let’s face it – getting paid to do something fun is like the best of both worlds. With the money you earn from your Skillshare class, you can go treat your friends to a round of drinks, splurge on that icon set you’ve been savoring over or take that weekend getaway.

I charged $30 for my first class and with eight students, ended up making $204 after Skillshare’s fees. I raised the price by $5 because now this class is more of a sure thing and I expect to sell out. I’m not doing this class for the money, but the money isn’t bad.

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So think about it. Brainstorm a list of potential classes you could teach, take a look at what’s being offered in your city and jump in. Even if you just teach a 45 min class in a coffee shop for 3 people – I promise you’re going to get something out of it.

Oh and by the way – I liked teaching my class so much I’m doing it again.

“I’ve Read Your Blog” : Creating Compelling Web Content

Wednesday May 16th from 7:30pm – 9pm at NextSpace in SF. First 5 people to sign up using this code: BLOGFTW will get 50% off the price of admission. Check it out!

Blogging not your thing? Check out my buddy Al Abut’s class: Intro to HTML & CSS! I’m signed up for his May 24th class.

I’m Teaching a Class on Skillshare

As the cofounder of a collaborative consumption startup, I do my best to try all kinds of “sharing economy” services like Couchsurfing, TaskRabbit, Airbnb, Vayable, Grubwithus and Skillshare. I even blogged about my experience taking a UX Design for Non-Designers Skillshare class.

But there’s of course generally two sides to these products – the consumer and the producer. In Couchsurfing, theres the host and the surfer. In Vayable there’s the guide and the explorer. And in Skillshare there is the student and the teacher. It’s important to get both perspectives when you can.

I’ve worked hard to avoid blogging about blogging here at The Art of Ass-Kicking. The vast majority of my posts are on overcoming your fears, doing great work and making epic sh*t happen.

At the same time, in building this blog up, I have learned some great lessons about creating compelling content, discovering my audience and attracting 100,000+ visits over 2011.

And I’m sharing what I’ve learned in a class.

Continue reading…

2011: Art of Ass-Kicking Year in Review

See my 2010 Year in Review blog post here.

2011 blog year in review

2012 has begun and I thought it’d be a good time to reflect on how the site has done. I’ll start with top posts, dive into some analytics and finish with reflections and thoughts for next year.

Top Posts of 2011

(* denotes it was one of the top 10 most read posts of 2011)

Entrepreneurship/Startups/Ridejoy

The biggest thing for me in 2011 was founding a company called Ridejoy and going through Y Combinator. Based on the survey I took a few months ago, this is one of the topics my readers are most interested in reading more about.

General Ass-Kicking

Some of my posts defy any particular topic or categorization and really can only be placed under the “general ass-kicking” header. People really seem to love these posts: Cold Showers was my post popular post of 2011, and Winning Isn’t Normal, another general ass-kicking post, was my top in 2010.

Running

I started getting into running in May of this year and little did I realize how much it would change my life. I predict many more running posts in 2012 – just getting started on this and am loving it!

Practical Wisdom

I try to include actionable ideas in every blog posts, but these ones in particular were focused on how to do stuff. Survey results said readers wanted more lessons/tips type posts and these are my best ones.

Gymnastics + General Fitness

Outside of running, I did a series of posts on gymnastics and general fitness that people seemed to like. I think it’s really important to stay fit if you care at all about performing at a high level, whether that’s for your job or something else.

Sales and Marketing

I announced that I would be working on a series on sales and marketing to put down on paper everything I’ve learned so far on these topics. The first two (nondouchey self promotion and everyone being in sales) have been quite popular.

Meta (Blogging on Blogging)

I try not to be a blogger that blogs about blogging, but once in a while it creeps in. In these posts I pull back the curtain on how I run this blog or what I’ve learned from doing this site.

Random/Other

Finally, a grab bag of miscellaneous posts that I thought were good but didn’t make it neatly into any other category.

Analytics for 2011

Traffic Graph

My traffic is still very spiky, based on getting hits on various blog posts.

Visitor Data

I had about 3x as many visits as last year (44k visits in 2010) and about 40% more pageviews (127k pg views in 2010). People spent a bit more time on the site but less pages per visit, which doesn’t really make sense to me – let me know if you can explain that one!

Sources & Keywords

As I’ve grown, I’m getting more search engine traffic and less referral traffic as a total proportion of my traffic. Direct visits has stayed constant. In terms of the keywords that come to the site, it’s dominated by my name, cold showers and rejection therapy. Referral sources still have HN topping out, with direct traffic coming in second and search results coming in third.

Lessons / Reflections / Looking Forward

I started blogging seriously again in July of 2010 and so 2011 was my first full year of operation, so to speak. I learned tons about writing interesting and (hopefully) insightful blog posts. I renamed this blog from jasonshen.com to “The Art of Ass-Kicking”. I started a small email list with special updates. I got to connect with tons of smart/interesting people. I posted 5 days a week for a month and I held my first readership survey.

So what have I learned?

That it’s good to experiment. Some of my best posts were written in the heat of the moment (rebellious. asian.), on a random topic I didn’t think anyone would care about (cold showers), written in a different style than my normal articles (getting your groove back) or about stuff that was deeply personal (blew out my knee).

That people care about the personal touch. I reply to every single person who signs up for my email newsletter and people seem to really appreciate that. It gives me good ideas for blog posts and also helps me stay connected to what my audience is interested in.

That bloggers are regular people. Sometimes people will tell me they’ve read my blog posts when we first meet (at a mixer or meetup). I’m usually a little surprised but it’s a nice feeling. It gets awkward though when the other person gets gushy about it. My blog isn’t even that big/good! I got to meet Patrick Mckenzie briefly at a YC event and was barely able to rein myself in and act cool. It was only because I remembered how I feel in these situations and tried to “do as I would have done to me”.

What are my plans for 2012?

Well, my primary focus for this year is Ridejoy, so that means the blog will only get secondary (or perhaps even tertiary treatment as my running training ramps up). But don’t worry too much, as I’ve grown as a blogger, I hope the quality of the posts I put out will increase, even if the frequency / sheer quantity decreases some.

I did upgrade my blog theme (I’m now running the Premium Pixels theme by Orman Clark). I’d love to get your feedback on it. I’ve also created a logo for myself – which you can see on the left. I’m excited by the upgraded look, I believe it builds a stronge professional brand for this blog, without looking too corporate or stuffy.

I’m hoping to do more interactive stuff with the blog – more giveaways, contests, perhaps even a meetup! I want to expand the range of the blog.

I also hope to vary my post style. I’ve read some good books over break (including the wonderfully elegant Different) and will be trying a couple different styles of writing. Would love to hear what you all think.

Most importantly, I want to continue serving you – my readers. I am very fortunate to do this and I hope to continue producing valuable content and sharing my learnings with you.