Looking Down at Machu Picchu

Owning Your Decisions

I recently spent 12 days in Peru traveling solo.

It seems like multi-month international trips has become something of a rite of passage for our generation, but I’ve never found a good time to fit it into my schedule. 12 days was the longest I’ve traveled outside of family trips to China with my parents, and my first time traveling alone.

I wasn’t that familiar with the country, had only a basic grasp of Spanish, and a fairly light list of things to do and see. Rather than traveling because I had always wanted to go to Peru, I went because I thought it’d be a good opportunity for personal growth. Continue reading…

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The Difference Between Successful vs Failed Attempts at Personal Change

Editor’s Note: I’m on a two-week trip to Peru! Follow on me on Twitter for updates. I had a little down time after an exhausting surf lesson and wanted to share one of my favorite pieces on change research. – Jason

We can learn a lot from the lessons of other people. This is why we always ask older people what they regret most in life: by hearing their perspective, we can hope to avoid their mistakes.

It’s a new year and many folks are thinking about goals, resolutions, and habits for 2014. I’d like to offer a resource from a great study done by researchers at Dartmouth and Harvard that analyzes 119 stories of either successful or failed attempts at “major and sudden change”.

“Personal Accounts of Successful Versus Failed Attempts at Life Change”

Todd Heatherton (Darthmouth) & Patricia Nichols (Harvard) Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 1994 Continue reading…

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A Year in the Life of a Founder After Shutting Down His Startup

I don’t know if this has always been happening but I noticed this year that a lot of people were sharing a summary of 2013 on Facebook around New Years. They’re usually a little “braggy” but honestly, I don’t mind that at all. I’m happy to celebrate all the wonderful things my friends have done or experienced this year and don’t feel particularly envious or annoyed. We are all on different paths.

I very much enjoyed reading a recap of 2013 through my friends’ eyes  and decided it would be a good exercise to reflect back on the last 365 days myself.

As you might know, Ridejoy announced that it was no longer being supported – a decision that my cofounders and I made this spring, after months testing new ideas and soul-searching. It was a hard decision and marked the psychic end of my first startup.

But life goes on and I went on to have a wonderful year in 2013, which I shared on Facebook. Continue reading…

17 Essential Best Practices for Making Things Happen

Note: If you enjoyed this post, I share more strategies for achieving significant growth in mindset, health+fitness, and quality of work in my free newsletter.

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After reading through Sarah’s little rules of working life, which I thought was pretty useful stuff, I decided to think through some of my own rules, or as I’m calling them, “Best Practices for Making Things Happen”.

The idea is that these are all maxims that I live and work by, that I’ve learned over time and that I believe have made me more effective in accomplishing meaningful things.

The list is neither complete nor fully elucidated, but that’s totally in line with BP #2 and #7. =)

Would love to hear what you think: questions, feedback, etc.

Jason’s 17 Essential Best Practices for Making Things Happen

  1. Keep the promises you make to yourself. I learned this one from Stephen Covey – we make little promises to ourselves all the time (“I’m going to stop working on weekends.” or “I’ll definitely get a workout in tonight.”) These promises are in fact more important to keep than the ones you make to your customers, your boss or your family. Because private victories come before public ones.
  2. If you’ve got a good idea, try to take some kind of action on it right away. Too often good ideas slip away, either due to momentum (it was exciting at the moment, but less so now) or just through forgetfulness. So when you have a good idea, send an email to a potential collaborator, sketch out some designs, or at the very least, make an Evernote note for the idea. Continue reading…

Don’t Start Sentences with “Soooo” and Other Things I Learned at Toastmasters

Jason Shen Smithsonian Toastmasters 2013

I always thought Toastmasters was like one of those quaint support-group esque membership organizations, in the same category as  Boy Scouts, Rotary clubs, and Alcoholics Anonymous. And indeed, some quick Googling reveals they were all founded in the early 1900′s.

I like public speaking, having done an Ignite talk and spoken at my high school graduation, but I think I could get a lot better. I’m particularly bad at off-the-cuff speaking – I tend to freeze up and sound neither natural nor professional. I remember once looking around for Toastmasters clubs when I lived in the Bay Area, but they were never very convenient to get to and it seemed like a big commitment.

In our Smithsonian new employee orientation they had a packet with all kinds of things, including an invitation to join the Smithsonian’s Toastmasters club. It happened to meet 2x a week right in my building on another floor during lunch so it would be super easy to get to. Given I’m only going to be around for six months, I figure I gotta make the most of all these “corporate perks” so I decided to join up.

Structure

I’ve been to four meetings and it’s been a great experience. The structure is pretty straight forward:

  • The meeting starts at 12:05pm.
  • The Sergeant in Arms calls the meeting to order.
  • The Toastmaster of the Day introduces each of the three speakers to the podium.
  • There’s a “table topics” session for impromptu statements (kind of like a Miss America on-the-spot Q&A)
  • The General Evaluator introduces each of the three speech evaluators,
  • There’s the report from the Time Keeper and the Ah/Um Grammarian
  • Any final house keeping announcements are made.
  • The meeting is adjourned at around 12:55. Continue reading…