Results of the 2011 Readership Survey

The results are in! Thanks to the ~50 readers who took the survey! You guys rock! Here’s a break down of the things I’ve learned. I know this is not totally accurate because many people didn’t take the survey so it’s biased. But you know what, I’m going write more for the people who take the time to leave feedback vs “the silent majority”. So thanks again guys.

In addition to the two randomly selected winners, I’ve included some special gifts to everyone who took the survey and left me an email. If you didn’t leave an email but filled out the survey just contact me and I’ll shoot you the bonus stuff. Honor system.

Demographics

  • 80% Male
  • 59% 20-30 years old
  • I assumed that most of the audience here were twenty something males so I’m not too surprised here. 20% females nothing to sneeze at though – it’s 2.5x the number of females in the Stanford CS Department so I’m make sure to keep the ladies in mind. And more surprisingly, since only about 7% of survey respondents were under 20, this means that a whopping 34% of my readers are, gasp, over 30! Man, I figured older folks would just be sick of my juvenile perspective but apparently not.

  • 73% Most readers are aspiring entrepreneurs
  • 60% Most of the aspiring entrepreneurs are TECHNICAL
  • You Art of Ass-Kicking readers are an entrepreneurial bunch. Most of you are looking to start your own companies. That’s awesome! And more surprisingly for me, many of you are technical. Since I’m not technical, I figured that I’d attract a strongly less technical crowd. But apparently not. That’s awesome.

    Content

  • 80% Inspiration / Motivation / Getting Pumped up
  • 60% Following Jason’s crazy ideas / challenges
  • 56% Covers Topics I’m Interested in
  • Seems like most of you really jive with my point in Why Inspiration Matters. You come here to get pumped up so you can go back and kick some ass with your job or business or side project or fitness goals or social life. I love that. And apparently more than the “topics” I write about, it’s the crazy sh*t I do that keeps you interested. Message heard loud and clear guys. In fact, I’ve got a couple interesting things in the works that I’m looking forward to blogging about. =)

  • 86% Lessons/tips
  • 54% Detailed case studies
  • 50% Personal reflections
  • I like to mix it up with my content both topic-wise and post type. Most of you are satisfied with the number of quotes / videos and interviews I’m doing, but want to see more meaty stuff. Sounds good. Certainly these types of posts are more work for me to do but knowing that it’s what readers want helps motivate me to get them done. Look for a case study on the movie 300 in the near future.

    General Feedback

    I gave people some room to just write free-form about the things they want to see or feedback they have for me. It broke down into a couple categories which I’ve listed below along with some of specific things people were saying. I’ve linked to some of my blog posts that relate to their requests and added comments here and there.

    Fear / Challenges / Hardcore stuff

    • Continuing to do/talk about things that conquer fear.
    • Experiments, like taking cold showers, rejection therapy, etc.
    • I love your posts on getting stronger and discipline, such as taking cold showers and wouldn’t mind seeing more
    • Topics – Fear of failure and fear of success.
    • Taking risks and living to tell about it.

    Fitness / Running / Gymnastics

    • Anything fitness related along with your own fitness goals and when you meet them
    • If you do train for another race that’d be interesting (run tracker) and inspiring. (Jason: doing a race today so will have a report soon!)
    • Gymnastics have been my favorite.
    • Taking up a new sport (Jason: hmm, interesting thought)
    • Running (how you run, what you listen to :) )

    Randomness / Variety

    • Keep being interesting (Jason: haha, will try!)
    • Keep us guessing and do what you do, Jason. I like the variety…keep it fresh.
    • The unorthodox varieties – not the cookie-cutter ones that others share.
    • Mainly just whatever’s on your mind.

    Posting Frequently / Consistently

    • More frequent posting
    • Keep posting at the current rate. Be regular and reliable on the posts.
    • Yes. By making more of it. :D
    • Of course I’d love if you’d post more but as a failed “blogger” myself, I understand a set schedule =] (Jason: appreciate your understanding!)
    • Just keep writing! :)

    Startups

    • How you got involved in a startup (Jason: coming soon!)
    • How to succeed in the non-technical roles within a startup
    • Start-up life and the challenges you are facing with it. Also want to hear more about the start-up culture, specifically in your area in SF
    • Some start-up strategy would be interesting. I know it could be harmful to your own efforts, but little hints as to how you arrive at your roadmap would be great.
    • Startups. Bootstrapping. Specifically how to overcome initial inertia and launch.

    Motivation

    • I’d like to see more (yes, more) on motivation. I personally can achieve much more if I can remain motivated. The difficult part is finding that and keeping it in my daily routine
    • Finding the motivation to do things when you just don’t feel like doing them.
    • Anything to get me off my butt (Jason: sometimes that’s the hardest part right!)
    • I’d like to see ways to keep consistent effort under the weight of discouragement, be it from your own doubts or the doubts of others.

    Other / Uncategorizable

    • How to market yourself without being annoying about it (Jason: Can give this a shot, though some might disagree with the ‘not being annoying about it’ part)
    • I’m interested in moving to the SF bay area after college and would like to hear more about it (ie businesses, activities, etc…)
    • You need a kick ass logo (Jason: any designers out there who could offer help?)
    • I’d also like to see stuff on how real life is NOT like high school, or university; lessons or wisdom that was promulgated in the educational years but then proved to be wrong when reality hit the fan. I’m sure that there are plenty of these waiting to happen.
    • Mentoring (being mentored, finding mentors),
    • Strategies for not losing out on opportunities when you don’t have the academic creds on your resume, but you’re a rockstar anyway
    • Career-related. What works, what doesn’t.

    If that wasn’t enough data for you, you’re welcome to check out the survey in it’s entirety here. (no personal data revealed)

    Break Down In Order to Build Back Up

    Andy, a long-time reader, writes in with a question:

    I would like to see if you can write something about why you’re so fond of “kick-ass”.  In other words, would you present your rational to readers why kicking ass is such a big deal.  I have been often told that that kicking ass needs courage and skills, but “fixing ass”, if I may say, needs more skills and courage.  Or can we say, construction is more difficult and productive than destruction.

    I love that concept – “fixing-ass”. Andy brings up a good point. Why am I so obsessed with “kicking ass”? And is that necessarily tied to a love of destruction. One of the most universally negative actions is terrorism – wanton destruction/violence and the fear associated with it.

    So here’s the short answer:

    Creation and destruction are two sides of the same coin.

    Think about building a building. To build a building you have to cut down trees to make 2 x 4’s and smelte ore to make pipes and grind up limestone to make cement. In order to create, we must destroy.

    On the flip side, when you erase a whiteboard, thus destroying whatever’s on it, you pave the way for new markings to be made. When you destroy (aka disprove) a scientific theory with conclusive evidence to the contrary, you open up opportunities for newer and better theories to emerge [1].

    The Art of Ass-Kicking is about transforming yourself so that you can achieve more in your career, your business, your sport, and your social life. But we all have bad habits and limiting attitudes that hold us back. In order to make the break through, you have you eliminate the junk that oppresses us.

    As the koan of the Zen Master and the scholar goes – “before we can truly understand, we must empty the cup“. [2]

    It takes skill and courage to destroy, even if it’s toward a greater good. And after we make the difficult decision to destroy, we must then begin again the process of creating. Of building and fixing.

    So go forth and kick some ass today. But if you break anything, remember that it’s your job to help build it back up better than it was before.


    FOOTNOTES [1] A more straightforward reason for destruction in the scientific community might just be that old scientists need to die for new theories to emerge. As Max Planck, Noble Prize winner and creator of quantum theory once said:

    A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grow up that is familiar with it.

    [2] The full story varies depending on where you source it. Here’s one variant from the Nebraska Zen Center:

    One of my favorite stories concerns a Buddhist scholar and a Zen Master. The scholar had an extensive background in Buddhist Studies and was an expert on the Nirvana Sutra. He came to study with the master and after making the customary bows, asked her to teach him Zen. Then, he began to talk about his extensive doctrinal background and rambled on and on about the many sutras he had studied.

    The master listened patiently and then began to make tea. When it was ready, she poured the tea into the scholar’s cup until it began to overflow and run all over the floor. The scholar saw what was happening and shouted, “Stop, stop! The cup is full; you can’t get anymore in.”

    The master stopped pouring and said: “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas about Buddha’s Way. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.”

    Take My Readership Survey and Win a Kick-Ass Book!

    It’s really satisfying to run this blog because I feel that it helps people and adds value to their lives. After posting about how I’ve been blogging for over a year, I’ve decided its a good time to do a reader survey. I talked about discovering my audience but then thought to myself – “Is that just my impression or is that real? Maybe I should get some data!”

    I sent this out first to my email subscribers – and the results have been interesting. I don’t want to give it way yet – because I’m curious to see if the trends are mapped by the broader causal readers.

    By doing this survey, you can help me better understand how to improve it and make it even more useful, actionable and worth reading. To thank you for your support, I’ll be selecting two survey takers to win one of the kick-ass books below [1].

    Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard - great book on understanding how people / organizations enact sustainable change.
    The 4-Hour Body - Tim Ferriss’s second best-seller. There is something here for everyone – if you want to upgrade your physical state, this is how you do it.
    Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – the best Seth Godin book I’ve ever read. Covers a wide range of topics from work to leadership to innovation and highly recommended.

    I’ll publish the survey results on my blog and strive to adjust my writing to fit the request. Note – I haven’t made all the fields required but the giveaway only applies to people who write at least a sentence or two in each of the 2 textboxes.

    Thanks so much for your help and regularly scheduled posts will continue in a few days!
    Jason

    Continue reading…

    9 Lessons From a Full Year of “Real” Blogging

    It’s good to celebrate milestones so here’s one: I passed one full year of “real” blogging in August. (I realize it’s now September but better late than not at all!)

    My first post was called “Things I’ve Learned in 3 Weeks at a Startup“. I had just started at isocket and I can still remember how excited I was to soak up all this new knowledge about marketing, board meetings, customer support and user testing.

    Blogging was a great way for me to share what I was learning, retain the knowledge and build up a brand/network in the startup community. One year later it’s amazing to see where the blog has taken me. It’s made me smarter, happier and more lucky.

    I promise that this blog is NOT going to become a blog about blogging – that would be both annoyingly meta and really uninteresting. But still – a man must discuss his craft from time to time and this is the place to do it. I’ve tried to take my own advice (particularly #4, #6 and #9) here as well. So anyway – here are 9 lessons I’ve learned from the past year of blogging:

    1] Consistency matters

    From August 2010 through July 2011 I put down over 140 posts, which is one every 2.6 days. My worst month was October 2010 (6 posts) and I was most prolific in April 2011 (17 posts). I believe a big part of my blog’s success has just been posting on a regular basis – it’s not easy but it’s worth it.

    2] Be flexible about what counts as a post

    If someone told me a year ago that I’d need to publish a blog post every few days for a year, I’d be pretty intimidated. “Where the hell am I going to find the time / material to put out so much content?” is what I’d be thinking. But not every blog post has to be a huge 21-item list or an epic, 3-part personal journey. I’ve posted dozens of quotes and videos – and a handful of podcasts, link roundups and interviews as well. Being flexible about your posts will help you keep your rhythm going.

    3] Keep multiple posts brewing

    There are at least 4 blog post drafts in my WordPress admin. Sometimes you’re in inspiration mode and sometimes you’re in editing/publishing mode. If you have a great idea for a blog, pull up Evernote or Notepad/Textedit and get the core concepts down. If your momentum holds, finish the post. If not, you can save it for later, when you aren’t feeling so inspired, but you can take a nugget of an idea and polish it off.

    4] Don’t judge your posts too harshly before posting

    Everyone’s got an inner editor/critic. I like to beat mine senseless whenever it tries to make me uncertain about posting. My number 1, number 3 and number 7 posts of all-time (based on pageviews) were posts that I wrote off-the cuff and wasn’t sure if they’d resonate with readers. Apparently they did – and it would have been a shame if I canned them because I judged them too harshly. Like Sebastian Marshall says: you get judged by your best work, not your bad work. So post freely – there’s little downside (as long as you’re writing something obscene or offensive) and big upside.

    5] Be easy to get in touch with and responsive

    This blog is my home base online. Jason Shen HQ. All of my online accounts point to this site and I’ve made it easy to get a hold of me. I post my personal gmail account on my sidebar and on my about page – none of that contact form nonsense. I think I’ve gotten unwanted email less than a dozen times in the past year. I have, however, gotten lots of very interesting email from readers that has turned into friendships, coaching clients, new roommates, advice/mentorship, job offers and more. I respond to every reader email I get (so far) and I’ve found this approach to be quite valuable.

    6] It’s all about your readers

    At the end of the day, you get value by providing it. I always try to make my posts actionable and filled with useful information/advice. There are other ways to provide value (humor, shock value, etc) but however you do it, make sure your blog serves your readers.

    7] Finding your voice takes time

    I’d like to think that blog has developed a strong, original and authentic writing style over time. You can really hear it in certain posts, like Winning Isn’t Normal or Loud. Arrogant. Rebellious. Asian and my post on gymnastics lessons learned on fear. My voice isn’t something I “worked on” but it is something that just happened as I wrote more.

    8] Ditto for your audience

    “Know your audience” is the advice given to every blogger out there. For a long time I struggled with this – who was I writing for? This requires both work and time on your part. Because I talk to my readers and respond to all my comments I’ve gotten a feel for the kinds of people who check this site out. They’re 18-35 year olds, skewed male, who are interested in pushing themselves personally and professionally. And over time, I’ve been able to tailor my writing to them. Which reminds me – I should probably take this time to do a survey or something just to refine my understanding even further.

    9] It’s ok to get personal

    This blog isn’t just about startups, personal challenges, psychology and winning. It’s a reflection of who I am. It’s not a complete picture of me: I don’t discuss my relationship with my family, or my weirdly vivid dreams or my favorite iPad games. (Though on second thought, those topics could all potentially make good blog posts if done right). The point here is that it’s ok for you to get a little personal on your blog. Trust your instincts. I ask email subscribers what they want me to write about, and I’ve been surprised by the number of responses that are just “I don’t want to give you suggestions – just write about stuff you’re doing, and stuff you’re interested in.”

    Love the Hate

    Or: How I Transformed into a Douchebag of Epic Proportions

    I recently read a great post by Jared Tame, author of Startups Opensourced on the process he uses to land meetings with almost anyone. It was great advice but he definitely got some heat for it – check out some of the comments on Hacker News:

    • This has to be one of the lamest things I have ever read on hacker news.
    • coincidentally, this is the same hack that celebrity stalkers use to get free restraining orders.
    • Good GOD this is a terrible system.

    Here we have a guy who wrote a really valuable book where successful startup founders shared their hard-earned wisdom – and shares the actual technique he used (not just an idea he had) about how he was able to connect with these famous and busy people. This is really valuable stuff.

    And while lots of people appreciated that, he got tons of hate for it – so much that he had to write a followup post. How is that fair?

    It’s not. But guess what – it also won’t stop him from becoming successful. Consider this:

    • Every successful individual you can think of has a pack of people who just hate their guts.
    • Every successful company has people who think their products are worthless.
    • Every successful book / article has people who think the ideas are stupid and wrong.

    Want to know my new motto?

    Love the hate.

    Embrace it. Realize that if you do something or say something and no cares – you’ve got a problem on your hands. The articles that were my most popular were also the ones that got the most hate:

    What’s that line from Gandhi? “First they ignore you. Then they mock you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

    Mocking (aka hating) is a step up from ignoring. Having haters, more than having fans, lets you know you’re on the right track. Lots of things can generate positive feelings – few things inspire intense dislike. I would say the former are more likely to be mediocre and the latter are more likely to be great.

    Of course the caveate here is that there’s a difference between critical feedback and hate. Critical feedback is something you can use to improve what you’re doing – make it better, more useful, more impactful, more sustainable. It’s important to always get feedback from the people who use/consume what you produce and from people who have a good/wise perspective on what you’re doing. Allow that feedback to inform your efforts. Ignore it at your own peril.

    Hate is produced by people who aren’t trying to be helpful. Hate is done with a desire to tear down, to ridicule and mock for the purpose of destruction and marginalization.

    Hate is when people post this on your “What Should I Write About” widget

    (That’s my widget at some point last year, by the way)

    Hmm – good question dude. The exact moment? I think it was sometime after dinner on March 12, 2009. I was over at your house and about to do your mom when I thought …

    But in all seriousness, I don’t care that this guy was trolling me. I would laugh every time I saw this as the top suggestion. It meant I was saying something that struck a nerve. Now if all my feedback was stuff like this, I would reconsider what I was doing. You probably want to make sure your balance of positive to negative feedback is better than 50/50.

    The fact is, I get tons of emails and comments from people who tell me they love what I’m writing about and really get motivated and learn stuff from reading my blog. It’s at least 70/30 if not better.

    It’s the people who get value out of what you do. Those are the people you should care about if you do any creative work.

    So remember – love the hate, because without enemies you are nothing, and continue to speak, write, build and work fearlessly towards the things you believe in.

    I’ll close out with some wise words from Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson from his fantastic essay Self Reliance.

    Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.