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 a long the way: I took a GA course on front-end web development which really raised my game as a technology worker, I finally got my Guinness World Record certificate, I settled a long and protracted dispute that we can discuss another time, and I launched a side project that’s generated more money than all my previous side projects combined.

All the while, I’ve been blogging here. Let’s take a look back at the biggest hits on The Art of Ass-Kicking in 2015 (and yes I realize I’m a little late, oh well). Continue reading

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.


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


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


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.


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.