How to achieve your new year’s resolution

Happy 2016!  For many of us, it means a chance to wipe the slate clean, set some resolutions and work hard to achieve them.

I’ve done this for years and up until 3 years ago, my success rate hovered right around 0%.  Then I changed a few things during the resolution setting process, and it has made all the difference in the world for me.

Last year, I’m proud to say I was able to achieve the following:

  1. Start eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day
  2. Start drinking 8 glasses of water everyday
  3. Sleep 7 hours a day
  4. Talk to my mom more frequently
  5. Exercise 5-6x times

These were all things I didn’t do at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, I was doing all of them. One goal I failed at was to write a blog post each month.

Hitting 5/6 is a pretty good rate.  83% is a solid B (one that I wouldn’t tell my tiger mom about), but as far as New Year’s resolutions go that might as well be an A+.

If you are serious about hitting your resolutions this year, honestly evaluate your goals with these 6 questions, and I think you’ll be really happy with the results.

What is a habit that you can form to achieve your resolution? 

  • Set goals that are about the process rather than the result.  Losing 10 lbs doesn’t specify how you are going to get there.  Working out 5-6x a week and eating 2000 calories a day does.  Trust the process and the results will come.  In other words, set habits rather than goals.  Habits don’t have an end, you do them again and again.  Habits make sure you keep running, and eventually you’ll reach you’re destination that you’ve refined.

Is it the end goal, or where you are starting?

  • Write down your end goal, but also write down where you can start now.  Something that you know you can do.  Don’t worry about writing down a fool proof plan from beginning to end.  You’ll naturally move up to the goals you want to hit over time.  It’s hardest to push something heavy at the beginning, once it gets going you’ll have momentum.  Pick a habit you know you can keep to, and then you can add on the harder stuff over time, once the habit is in place. 

Is it low effort to perform?  

  • The next few are all to help with formulating actionable, repeatable habits.  Low effort is really about low mental effort, rather than physical. Often times, it really is mind over matter.  So how can you formulate your habit to be as simple as possible that can still yield you results? How can you make it so automatic that you don’t have to think and plan.  For example, if you want to keep in better touch with friends.  Texting is easier than calling.  Creating a list of friends to call ahead of team makes it even easier.  On days, you are really busy, having a default opener would mean you don’t have to think about the perfect personalized message.  The important thing is the outcome is still going to be a conversation, you kept going, and you continued strengthen the habit you set out to build.

How can it fit in your life?

  • By making your habit low effort to start, it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to take up time.  Everything takes time.  It’s an oversight for setting goals.  People rarely think about what they are giving up to make time for their new habit.  So take a look at your schedule.  Figure out what you are taking a way or rearranging to make your new habit happen.  Do you want to sleep 7 hours when before you’ve been sleeping 6?  Then where is that hour coming from? Time with friends at the bar on Saturday night?  Late night TV watching?  While making time is important, scheduling regular time is not.  See what I mean next.

Is it frequent enough?

  • Habits can only form if they are performed frequently.  That’s why frequency is the most important aspect when thinking about time, and not when you’ll do it.  Put another way, it’s important that you work out 3x a week.  It doesn’t matter if you do it in the morning, evening, during lunch, or a mix of all three.  Keep that fluid.  If you have a free 30 minutes one day, don’t let that fact that it’s not the morning stop you from doing yourself good.  Whatever, habit you have make sure you set a high enough frequency.  There’s a good reason why the goal failed at is the goal that is least frequent.

How are you keeping track of progress?

  • And this is the most important question of all to answer.  If you answered yes to questions 1-5, but don’t have a good answer for this question, you’ll probably fail.  This is the keystone habit that will make everything else work.  Use an app, use a website, use good ole fashion pen and notebook.  Whatever it is, commit to tracking your progress daily for the whole year.  Each time you make progress on that habit or habits, mark it down.  Tell yourself: “good job.” You’ll get a little endorphin just like you did after a workout.  You just made your mind a little stronger, and is one step closer to forming a new, healthy habit.  

That’s it.  These are the 6 questions that if answered, can give you results on your new year resolution.  You can do all of these things yourself.

Remember, focus on the process, and the results will naturally come.  Have a great 2016!

 

For some of the science behind the above, I think this blog post sums it up the best.

What I’m Grateful for in 2015

As 2015 comes to an end, I’m incredibly grateful for the many moments of learning and growth I’ve had throughout the year.

Those moments came from friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers.

Because of you, I’ve learned to open up more, be more present, and appreciate the world in ways that I’d never before.

More than ever, I believe life is about the journey and not the destination. The best way I can think of to revisit 2015 is to capture all that I’m grateful for from the past year in this post. I want to share this post openly because the world has shared so much openly with me.

So here goes…

 

People I’m thankful for

  • Mom and Dad.  You gave me the start of this amazing life and you will always be at the top of my life list. To quote KD: “You da real MVP”.
  • Lu & Scott.  I’m glad we took that road trip together in October.
  • FF.  The best group of friends and brothers a guy can have.
  • Suzanne.  You are the most positive person I know.  Getting Lasik together would have sucked otherwise.
  • Johnny.  Looking forward to restarting LiHe Christmas Family Vacation, even after all the false starts and the fact it came together accidentally 😃
  • The Bump Team.  The best team I’ve worked with.  We are so diverse and each of you have taught me something. I’m proud of what we were able to achieve as a group. I wake up excited on workdays because of you.
  • Inder Singh.  I’ve never met anyone with so much passion for his work.  It’s inspirational and aspirational.

 

Rituals that shape me

Most enjoyable part of my day:

  • Morning work outs – yoga, gym, running, basketball.  Waking up early sucks, but for how great it makes me feel for the rest of the day, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Most important part of my week:

  • A review of my week and goal setting

Favorite new activity:

  • Listening to podcasts

Proudest new habit:  

  • Eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables at least 5 times a week

 

Media that influences me

Favorite professional blogger:

  • Fred Wilson (www.avc.com).  Fred doesn’t just write about technology.  He writes about social responsibility and his views on life.  His posts isn’t just for people in the tech world, it’s for anyone interested in understanding where the world is going.

Favorite life blogger:

  • Seth Godin (www.sethgodin.com).  Seth writes about marketing, but almost every one of his posts can be translated to life lessons.

Favorite book:

  • “Willpower”. It wasn’t just this book that made me rethink habits and discipline in my life, but this book brought all of my previous readings together.  The other books are in this post 

Favorite podcast:

 

Places I’ve gone

  • Shanghai, Guangzhou, Brooklyn (yes I live in NYC, but it might as well be a different country), Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego

 

I’m rooting for you

You have the hardest jobs in the world.  You are working long hours, making sacrifices, putting it all out there to try to change the world on your terms.  Keep going, don’t stop, and eventually you’ll succeed.  Let me know how I can help.  I won’t say yes every time, but I will try as much as I can.

  • Adam and Dan Rivette: BarrelBackers (http://www.barrelbackers.com)
  • Byron Hsu and Matt Wilkerson: Paragon One (http://www.paragonone.com)
  • David Lin: Stealth Startup
  • Eric Tang: Wildcard (http://www.trywildcard.com)
  • Ray Wu: Wynd (https://itunes.apple.com/ke/developer/wynd-technologies-inc./id990113674)
  • Robin Lyu: Stealth Startup
  • Rosa Li: Rosali Tea (http://www.rosalitea.com)
  • Shuo Zhang: ModernLend (http://www.modernlend.com)
  • Suzanne Xie: Hullabalu (http://www.hullabalu.com)
  • Tony Wu: Nomz (http://www.eatnomz.com)
  • Victor Wang: Teleport (http://www.teleportapp.co)

 

Looking into the future

Commitment for next year:

  • Win with positivity
  • Continue to learn and challenge myself each and every week
  • Give back more than I take from the world
  • Meditate more
  • Practice Mudita

Still trying to figure out:

  • How to focus on a few things, when there is so much out there in the world.  If anyone’s got tips, please let me know :)

 

There is so much good in this world.  The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am to be part of it.  To simply be alive and healthy is a gift, it means anything is still yet possible. On to 2016.

 

And if you connected with this post, write your own Gratitude List.  Share it, don’t share it.  Make it long, keep it short.  Do whatever is right for you.

The power of habit

Many of my friends know that I am pretty out there in terms of some of the things I do to be productive.

For most of my life, I’ve always felt a constant tension between work/life balance.  I’ve written about some of that tension before.  It comes with the territory of being naturally competitive, being surrounded by accomplished friends who seem to do it all, and living in a city that is all about the hustle.

Eventually I realized, no matter how successful I am in my career, I will never be fully happy without tending to other parts of my life.  If I value my family and friends, but I spend all of my time at the office, how can I be fully happy?

For the past two years, I’ve done a lot of experimentation to develop a consistent way to live a balanced life.  I’ve tried different formulations, gone back to the drawing board several times, until I found a ‘system’ that works well for me.

The system that worked for me is focused on forming good habits by setting goals in a thoughtful manner, measuring progress, and repeating the process.

It’s been a really rewarding journey full of highs, lows, and growth.  I’ve personally come a long way from where I started and I’m curious if it could actually help others too.

I think the system helps with the tactical components of how to achieve your goals.  It won’t require you to tell me your deepest, darkest secrets, or change your normal life in any significant way.  And it won’t require a lot of conversations back and forth.

If you have a goal that you’ve struggled to reach, or just want to generally live a more balanced life, and are interested in trying something different, please feel free to reach out me.

And even if you are perfectly content or don’t really need any help right now, some of the books below might still be fun to read

 

When your friend passes away a day before his wedding

Over the weekend, a friend passed away in a fatal car accident one day before his wedding.

When you first hear news like that a million questions come to mind.

How does his family and closest friends go from celebrating the happiest day in his life to mourning the end of it within 24 hours? How do his parents feel? What about his fiancée? How does everyone cope?

After the initial onslaught, you orient yourself, take it all in, and think.

Inevitably, this thought comes to mind: ‘What if my life ends just as unexpectedly? Tomorrow.’

When that question hit me, it brought back a lot of emotions.

For much of my early twenties, I was obsessed with the idea of success.  Work/life balance was heavily weighted towards work.  Work was the way to leave my lasting impression on the world, it was the way to make my parents proud, and my chance to separate from the crowd.  I dreamed big and wanted to change the world.

Much of my late twenties was consumed in trying to fulfill that quest.  The startup I cofounded was going to succeed.  Nothing was going to get in my way.

I had hobbies that I enjoyed, but that would take away from company time.  Well there’s time for play later.

I had amazing friends, but I was always too busy to hang out with them.  They can have fun without me.

I had parents who cared deeply about my well-being, but I was too stressed to give them the reassurance that they needed.  Unconditional love.

I met a girl I loved, but anything related to the company is bigger than the two of us.  She’ll understand.

Then after many months of making sacrifices and living in a haze, I looked around.  I wondered why I was feeling down all the time, why I was so apathetic to everything, why my toes were crossed so tight against each other each time I tried to unwind.  I was closer than ever to achieving success, but I couldn’t be further away from happiness.

I realized that I’d had the wrong definition of success all along.  That real success is when I can be content and at peace with all of my choices, everyday.  To achieve that, I needed to live a balanced life that represented every facet of what I believed in.  I needed to take care of myself, build relationships and memories with the important people in my life, AND I needed to still progress in my career and make a difference.

For the past two years, I’ve worked towards this better version of my life and myself by trying as much as possible to live in the present.  I am glad to say I am happier than ever.

For Yan, the last moments of his life were filled with joy and optimism. He was loved by many, successful by any measure, healthy, and happy.

Yan passed away at one of the pinnacles of his life. And because of that, I feel a certain level of happiness for him. He maximized his life and lived it to it’s full potential. He is a role model for how we all should strive to live.

To Yan’s family, fiancée, and friends, please accept my deepest condolences. Remember the good times, smile, stay strong and keep Yan’s spirit alive. Let’s honor Yan by living the best life we can.

- The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift—that’s why they call it ‘the present’

Want to speed up your execution? Think about these things

Recently, David Girouard’s article Speed as a Habit has been making the rounds at XO Group.  I couldn’t agree more because I too believe speed is THE most valuable competitive advantage a product driven organization can have.

The fastest team goes to market many more times, learns many more lessons from live feedback, and in the end comes out with better results.

The article does a great job of making a case for why Speed matters and giving some examples of the idea in action.
I want to elaborate a little more on what it means to execute on it holistically, because I think a team can achieve speed in a lot of different ways:

  1. Speed through decision making (making tradeoffs on projects/features to accelerate the progress of the highest priority projects)
  2. Speed through infrastructure (better tools and work environment makes everyone more productive)
  3. Speed through individuals leveling-up (honing production skills and continuous learning means each person can be more productive)
  4. Speed through hours (putting in more time to get it done)
  5. Speed through people (adding more people)
  6. Speed through team process (better process helps us to scale and repeat what works)
  7. Speed through communication (better communication helps us to refine 1-6)

The time, effort, cost involved to gain speed using each of the above varies.

Some of these like infrastructure, leveling-up, team process, communication require consistent long-term investments.  The payoffs are hard to measure, but their impact can be substantial and sustained from project to project.  Others like changes in decision making, hours, and people can be executed on a switch with immediate impact on speed, but it can be harder to sustain some of these over time.

There is no silver bullet.  The most effective teams know which levers to pull depending on the situation, and aren’t afraid of making the investments to ensure sustainable long-term speed.

When building a product…

Process

  • Prefer fast iteration over slow deliberation

Philosophy

  • Prefer good enough over 100% right

Product

  • Prefer a single killer feature over many small upgrades
  • Prefer better interaction over better interface (better interface can be a subset of better interaction, but rarely is it the full set)
  • Prefer intuitive interface over instruction

User experience

  • Prefer simple over complex (the least number of steps to consistently achieve a goal successfully)
  • Prefer frequent use over once-in-a-while (except for high value products)

Market

  • Prefer overlooked over overcrowded (medium + industry.  mobile is a crowded space, and so is mobile + food, but mobile + helicopter rides is not a crowded space)
  • Prefer a large addressable market over a small market (this is frequently directly in conflict with the last bullet)

Business

  • Prefer a short funnel over a long funnel to monetization

 

Want a job but don’t necessarily have the skills or the connections?

Recently, I’ve been helping someone crack into the startup space. I love advising and mentoring because I often gain just as much from the process through vocalizing my experiences and reflections.

This particular person wasn’t sure how to get into the startup world. It seemed really foreign to her. She has a great resume, but she felt like she wasn’t sure how that translated to success in job hunting in the start up world.

If I had to sum up how to succeed in startup related anything into one word, it’d be hustle. Hustle implies being proactive, looking to win at all costs, never giving up on trying new ways of tackling problems and iterating on solutions.

What it translates to in the startup job world is never giving up. Job hunting in the corporate world means sending a resume and waiting. But that’s not hustling.

One of the best ways to get interviews is to actually target companies. Think of a list of startups that you want work for and go after it.

What if I don’t know what startups I want work for? Some people will get stumped and let that stop them. Hustlers will see that question and take it as a cue to do research.

But how do I do research? Some more people will get stumped and let that stop them. Hustlers will say well where can I get lists? There’s Google, there’s quora, there’s friends in the know.

They’ll do a google search for ‘consumer startups New York’ or ‘top startups NY’ or ‘data startups NY’, and they’ll search use whatever resource they can to generate leads.

I have the list, but most startups don’t have job openings. More people will drop out of the running. Hustlers won’t let that stop them. They know the worst that can happen is that they wasted their time, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, ever.

So they go on LinkedIn to see if people in their network work at those places or know people who work at those places.

It turns out they have some form of connection to many of the company. So they reach out to their directs contacts and personalize their messages for each contact. For 1st degree, they email them asking if there are opportunities. When the answer comes back no, they ask to speak for 10-15 minutes anyways just to keep the option open for the future. When they don’t get an answer, they follow up a second time, and a third time. They follow up enough time to get an answer.

For 2nd degree connections, the best hustlers ask for an intro and offer to write the blurb to make the referrer’s life easy and maximize the chance the referrer says yes.

For the companies where they don’t have any connections, the complacent normal job hunter shrug and give up. The true hustlers will think again and look for a way to cold call or cold email those companies.

Hustlers are goal oriented, as long as they believe in their goals, they’ll let nothing stop them from reaching it.

People working at large companies don’t have to hustle because many aspects of their life is taken care of. But people at startups have to hustle everyday because they are in a resource constrained environment.

Startups are full of hustlers. So if you want to get a job at a startup, you have to be a hustler too. The biggest challenge from someone transitioning from corporate to startups is that mindset change. Startups isn’t just about visions and changing the world. That’s the end goal, but the path to get there is full of hurdles, roadblocks, and challenges. If you want to join a startup, then you have to get over the first challenge, the hurdle inside of your head.

tldr;

Be proactive. Do the research yourself, identify places you’d like to work, ask people for intro, even offer to write out the intro, so that people don’t have to think. Follow up (again and again) if there’s no response. Don’t take no for an answer. Hustle.

The case against pivots – why it doesn’t make sense to switch tables in startup poker

I believe success in startups boils down to three factors — expertise, persistence, and luck, a lot of luck.

If luck is important, then it’s tempting to think that being a technologist gives you infinite poker chips. Each product you build gives you some poker chips and a chance to buy into a round of play.

Pivoting is like getting up from a seat at the table because you realized that everyone’s got you beat. Trying a new table has its own associated risks though. A table will have completely new players and it’ll take plenty of time to figure out everyone’s playing style, all the while you’re losing blinds. There’s no guarantee the new table is easier or harder, and your poker skill certainly hasn’t changed at all. Probability says you’ll perform similar to before.

The critical difference between startup poker and normal poker is that startup poker has many more players at the table. As a result, variance of player skills between tables are much smaller. The rules in startup poker is also more complex. The combination of more players and more rules means that switching cost is significantly higher. While it may make sense to switch tables in normal poker in some cases, there are relatively few situations in which it makes sense when doing a startup.

Instead, when things aren’t going well, choose to dig down deeper. Collect more information about your fellow players and improve your skills. Startup poker is a marathon and you have the time to improve. You’ll have to be judicious about the hands you get involved in, but when luck delivers a good hand, leverage your familiarity of the other players at your table to extract as much value out of the hand as possible.

I like this approach much better. Successful products take time and expertise to build. While it may take less and less time to build products than 10 years ago, I doubt the number of iterations it takes to get to product/market fit has changed much at all.

Successful ‘pivots’ like Pinterest, Twitter, Groupon were successful because they weren’t full pivots. They leveraged significantly on the experiences of their previous iterations.

Complete pivots give the illusion of improving founders’ chances of winning, but often times it is a wild goose chase. The feeling of improved chance is just a byproduct of ignorance of the challenges ahead. I’d rather know the challenges, try to solve them, and continue working on a product that I am passionate about.

I believe expertise combined with passion and persistence is the secret formula for optimizing chances for a win. Luck is another word for timing, and when the time comes, have the experience to capitalize on it.

Confident and vocal, the new Asian American identity.

I had a very strong reaction to seeing this tweet by @BaxterHolmes: Jeremy Lin on Kobe’s final shot: “I like game-winners too. I would like to shoot some. But I get it.”

And my reaction was:  ”It’s About Fucking Time.”

Being Asian, I was raised to be quiet, respectful, and considerate. Basically, I was raised to be the ultimate teammate and contributor.

Over the last few years, I realized that sometimes things don’t happen unless I make them happen.  That unless the volume of my voice and the aggression of my actions match the strength of my own inner conviction, I won’t get what I want.

There are so many smart, capable Asian Americans out there, but so many of us go unnoticed and unappreciated. So much of our potential gets underutilized and overlooked. It’s easy to blame it on the authoritative figures who can deem us ‘worthy’, but where does that get us?  Are there actions that we can take to help ourselves, even if nobody else does?

We have to challenge every single negative Asian American stereotype head on. We are NOT soft, NOT afraid of conflict, and NOT afraid of speaking our minds.

If we want more respect, we have to walk the walk, talk the talk, and be outwardly confident.  We have to embrace conflict and be more open about how we truly feel.  By doing nothing and staying quiet, we are conscientiously choosing to accept the status quo and reenforcing society’s negative stereotypes.

Let’s create new positive standards of what it means to be Asian American.

We are NOT suppose to just be the best at numbers or the most analytical or the hardest working. We are those things AND we are the LEADERS and we are to be RESPECTED.

Nobody is going to give us respect until we demand it and seize it.

And it all starts with one thing, speaking our mind and speaking it loudly.

Thank you Jeremy Lin.

 

 

Setting up latest Homebrew, Git, Postgres, RVM, and Rails in 15 minutes

One of the most crucial steps for software development is setting up your dev environment.

I’ve had to do this 5 times in the past month due to getting a new laptop, starting at XO Group and teaching 3 different friends how to code.  The setup is generally quick (~15 minutes), but each time I spend just as long searching around for the different links and instructions.  So finally I’ve decided to just compile the steps here.

The setup is for: Homebrew, Git, Postgres, RVM, Ruby, and Rails.  They’re version independent, so this blog post should be future proof (which in engineering means about 6 months).

Step 1:  Fire up terminal.  I like to do that by holding down ‘cmd+space bar’ to fire up spotlight, then typing “terminal” and hitting enter.  Another option is to just click on the magnifying glass at the upper right corner of your screen.

Step 2:  Paste the following commands into terminal and follow the instructions that pop up to open the gateway to Rails developer heaven

Homebrew

ruby -e “$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)”

Git

brew update
brew install git

Setup SSH for Github

https://help.github.com/articles/generating-ssh-keys

Postgres

http://postgresapp.com/

RVM / Ruby / Rails

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\curl -sSL https://get.rvm.io | bash -s stable –rails