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Overcoming idea envy (and how to have ideas)

fet-ish noun an inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.

I used to have a fetish for ideas.

I worshipped them and the people who had them. I’d sit at work alt-tabbing between my excel spreadsheet and hacker news to see if any great ideas emerged today as I crafted pivot tables. Wow, I’d think anytime I saw one, what an amazing idea. I’d frantically scan the writeup and comments for any clues about how they came up with the idea.

While I probably didn’t...

How to create conditional call-to-actions with Jekyll

I migrated my blog from Posthaven to Jekyll not to long ago because I wanted to write in markdown and have more control over my site. After setting up with @mdo’s terrific poole template, I customized my css and read the Jekyll docs to see whether I could create conditional call-to-actions at the end of my posts using YAML front matter and Liquid templates.

The dream: create a library of call-to-actions that I could append to any post with a single line of front matter code.

For example, posts about technical stuff like this might...

Two lessons from two months of self employment

photo cred The Awkward Yeti

On December 12, 2014, I quit my job to start a year of side projects. The next day, I woke up at 4AM in a cold sweaty panic and started writing. I wanted to publish a book called Working Jobs (inspired by Jonathan Saffron Foer’s Eating Animals) that would explain why America’s tradition of work and the modern workplace were incompatible and that anybody embracing the “work hard, pay your dues, do what you’re told” attitude were going to get replaced by machines and outsourcing.

I was convinced I’d seen the future,...

How to force yourself to come up with startup ideas

For the first week of 2015, I came up with fifteen startup ideas every morning. Each one had to meet one simple criteria: related to two YC Request for Startups industries.

In October, I’d applied to YC with an app to help deliver mindfulness to people suffering from anxiety. It took everything I had to come up with and cultivate this idea, and my partner and I grew very attached to it. We were rejected. I didn’t have any ideas left.

I was planning to quit my job to do something more mission driven and aligned with...

How to migrate your podcast to Soundcloud from Libsyn

After publishing the first few episodes of my podcast with Libsyn, I decided I’d rather host my show on Soundcloud (and, incidentally, make a mess rebranding from Working Jobs Radio to Why We Work). The current podcast publishing process (finding a host, creating an rss feed, submitting to iTunes + stitcher, crossing your fingers and waiting for it to show up) is confusing enough, so switching hosts felt daunting. When I googled for help, I didn’t find any great resources to help me migrate my feed. It worked out eventually, but hopefully this post will help podcasters from the...

Why to contemplate death

Western cultures don’t like to think much about death.

We tend to either (a) believe it doesn’t happen (e.g. afterlife) or (b) behave like it won’t happen.

photocred xkcd

When you spend your life in anticipation for an afterlife, life gets simpler. What could be more important than gaining admission? People of lesser faith like to sneer at those that live like this, but if after all of this there is an afterlife, I’ll have wished that I’d spent more of my time getting into “heaven.”

For the growing majority of people who do not believe...

Losing my mindfulness

“Every time we become aware of a thought, as opposed to being lost in a thought, we experience that opening of the mind.” - Joseph Goldstein

photocred little visuals

Joseph Goldstein, perhaps the most well-respected vipassana meditation teacher in the world, employs the term “opening of the mind” to describe the brief moments of bliss one can access while practicing meditation. I’d started a modest practice several months ago. At first, I felt a bit hopeless sitting with the chaos of my thoughts. I couldn’t sit for longer than a few minutes without feeling too uncomfortable to continue....

Fake stakes of unfinished creative work


Tony and his girlfriend Anna sit across from each other with their laptops open. Anna is typing on her computer. Tony stares at Anna. 

        (without looking up)
        Your family

        What about my family?

        Add your family to your email list. Will you have 100 then?

Anna looks up, bored. Tony stares back, vacantly. 

        No. I mean, yes. But I won’t add them.

Anna rolls her eyes and looks back down at her computer. Tony continues to stare for a minute, looks down, and adds his family to...

Learning on the job, rejecting work life balance, and buying one-way plane tickets to Brazil with Michael Kapps (Working Jobs Radio Episode 2)

Subscribe to Working Jobs Radio on iTunes: click here

Michael Kapps is our generation’s international man of mystery. An adventurer above all else, our friend followed his gut across all different types of continents starting companies, making art, and sometimes working as a ranch hand. I met Kapps while we were working together at McKinsey & Co and knew right away that he was up to something big so it didn’t come as any surprise when I heard he’d moved to Brazil to start a company. Less than two years later, his company, Tá na Hora has served thousands...

Our immigrant parents want us to write poetry (they just might not know it yet)

Adapted from Working Jobs. I'll be sending out advance review copies within the next month, so if you'd like to read the book before it's out, sign up for my weekly newsletter

When I was young, I’d spend every third or fourth summer in Shenyang, China, visiting my family. Upon arrival, my mother, father, and brother would gather with two sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins for a feast. And for the duration of the trip, those same loving faces were always available to travel, eat, and play with us. Several weeks later, our bags packed for our return...