Sarah Allen’s Little Rules For Working Life

I’ve learned a lot of stuff working with the fellows in my program, particularly Sarah Allen, who’s paired with me on the Smithsonian Transcription Center. I noticed that she’d often mention a policy she had on doing (or not doing) certain things. I remarked that there seemed to be a lot of them and has she ever put them in one place?

Well luckily for us she has. Here are some my favorite policies of Sarah Allen, an incredibly accomplished software developer, manager, and entrepreneur, and my comment on it.

I never take a job where I

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My Experience with Toastmasters

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

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 … Read the rest

27

What’s Your Big Decision?

So I turned 27 about a week ago.

Last year, for my 26th birthday, I had a giveaway where I asked you, readers, to share your biggest lesson you wish you learned when you turned 26 — or who you hope to be by then if you were younger than me.

That was a lot of fun, so let’s do it again!

The giveaway: Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath – a phenomenal book about making better decisions, not through a soulless spreadsheet, but with sound and proven psychological principles. One lucky commenter gets a free copy (closes June … Read the rest

Why Practice Actually Makes Perfect

The neuroscience of deliberate practice

This originally appeared on the Buffer blog and was syndicated to Lifehacker. Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

Growing up, we all heard the expression “practice makes perfect” from our high school coach/music teacher. Then Malcolm Gladwell went on to popularize the research that expertise developed over “10,000 hours” of deliberate practice. But how does that really work?

In this post, I’ll share what science knows about learning and how special type of brain tissue called myelin, plays a key role in helping us acquire and master skills.

Learning Rewires Our Brains

When we learn a new skill, whether it’s … Read the rest

Hartl’s Ruby on Rails Tutorial

Tell anyone you’re learning Ruby on Rails and you’ll soon get a recommendation for Ruby on Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl. After spending 6 weeks working with Treehouse‘s programing content and building a basic web app, I decided to jump into Hartl’s tutorial.

Michael is a former Y Combinator alumni and his tutorial (from now on RoRT) takes you through building a Twitter clone in Rails. It took me around two months to finish 10 of the 11 chapters, and I thought I’d share some thoughts and lessons learned.

Even simple programs require a ton of work
Hartl … Read the rest

There’s Nothing to Complain About

Reflecting on my father’s life

Photo: My father reunited with some of his old friends

My father was born in China as the middle of three brothers. His father rose through the ranks in the local college to become the Dean of Foreign Languages – the only one without a PhD. When he was 16, the Cultural Revolution occurred and young people everywhere were sent to be “re-educated” in rural China.

My father spent his later youth and early adulthood living and working on essentially a rice farm with his brothers. They woke up at dawn, worked in the fields, ate giant bowls of white … Read the rest

Learning to Code with Treehouse

8 Lessons from Building My First Ruby-on-Rails App

1) Have a learning plan

I signed up for Treehouse (referral link) in late December and have been going through their modules for the past 6 weeks . You can see my progress here. Treehouse was recommended to me by a non-technical friend (thanks Tony!) who found it very accessible and I completely agree.

Having a program or system, especially an interactive one that’s designed for newbies, is incredibly comforting. I know I can work my way through the modules and learn the basics without missing something important or getting too stuck. Obviously there are many options beyond Treehouse. … Read the rest

Why Learning to Code Matters to Me

When software is eating the world, you better start making meals

One of my goals for 2013 is to learn enough about programming to build and release publicly a simple web application that does something interesting.

I’ve been working toward this goal for about a month and wanted to share some thoughts on it so far. In this post, I’ll share my history with programming and why I’ve dedicated myself toward this goal. In a later post, I’ll talk more about how it’s progressing.

My history with programming

In high school and college, I took a few basic computer science courses. I learned Java and Python, played with if/then statements and while loops, … Read the rest

I’d Rather Be Prolific than Perfect

In Silicon Valley, there is a great deal of worship around Steve Jobs and the altar of perfection, so allow me to explain my preference.

Being Perfect

As a former gymnast, I know what it’s like to pursue perfection.

Being perfect means practicing the same skills and routines over and over and over again, until you have it just right. Perfect means trying fighting to fix every tiny mistake, every last detail so that when you salute the judge in a competition, they can’t find a single flaw.

In recent years, the gymnastics code of points has changed to favor … Read the rest

Book Notes: Smart Choices

A Practical Guide to Making Better Life Decisions
Smart Choices a practical guide to making better life decisions cover

Note: this is an extensive set of book notes, clocking in at 1800 words. It’s a more weighty and dense post but (I think) worth the ~9 minutes to read it.

I recently read and finished taking notes on a book called: Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Life Decisions (4.5 stars, 63 reviews on Amazon, affiliate link)

Making good decisions and executing well on those decisions are basically the only things that matter in life. I recently shared my book notes on Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, which explains how organizations can develop better strategies. This … Read the rest