This Blog Has Been Moved!

Now at chrisyin.com.

Although I love wordpress, I was getting a bit tired of the lack of flexibility. I wanted to add custom pages, change the format, and I found it to be a somewhat difficult to do within WordPress’s world. And I wanted to get rid of the .wordpress.com in the URL (without paying wordpress for it!).

So I looked around and found Jekyll. Simple, fast, and fully customizable (and it’s what all of the cool kids were doing!).

So I built a new blog at chrisyin.com. I’ve taken most of my content from here and re-posted over there, so there won’t be anything lost. I won’t be posting anything new here so please navigate over to my new site.

Hope you enjoy.

Made to Stick

Just finished Made to Stick. Here are some quick notes.

The book is about how to turn your ideas into reality. Ideas are incredibly powerful– they are the root of everything we do. They can do something as simple as convince your friends to a restaurant you've wanted to try, all the way to getting somebody to quit their cushy job and help you start that company you've wanted to build.

But frequently our ideas get ignored. Months later after an opportunity has been missed or taken advantage of by someone else, you mutter under your breath, 'I had that idea months ago.' A useless comment — you failed to get the buy in because you couldn't convey the value of the idea.

Miscommunication is defined as when an expert (someone who thinks abstractly) can't communicate with a novice (thinks concretely). The book provides a framework to bridge that gap.

It's called the SUCCESs framework (a bit cheesy, I know, but bear with me).

Simple

Unexpected

Concrete

Credible

Emotional

Story

Simple

Keep it simple. Every idea can be conveyed in 1 simple sentence.

An example — Southwest Airlines. Their mantra is, 'We are the low cost airline provider'. Nothing gets in the way of that. When people are coming up with new ideas, adding new things, changing things — they always go back to that single idea. Does this help us become the low cost air provider? If not, then the answer is no.

It's simple, powerful, and succinct. Everyone can remember it and start to make better decisions based on it.

Unexpected

If you can't grab people's attention, they won't listen. If people don't listen, you can't get your idea out. You need to do/say something unexpected or contrarian to get people listening and thinking.

Create knowledge gaps. Lead people down a road and pause — as they fill in the next part on their own — reveal something unexpected. It'll catch them off guard and keep them hooked, with the added benefit of creating a platform for them to start coming up with their own ideas/thoughts.

Concrete

Concrete details are how to appeal to the masses. But concrete details are a double edged sword — say too little and nobody knows what you're talking about. Say too much, and the audience loses interest.

Limit concrete details to 3 things — associations, self interest, and identities.

Associations are things people are familiar with. You can describe a grapefruit to someone who's never seen a grapefruit in 2 ways — as either a fruit with a soft & porous skin with an edible pulp, or you can just say it's a larger, bitter orange. Simple and concrete.

2nd is self interest — what is in it for me. The audience wants to know why they should care. Use concrete details to describe and sell the benefit of the benefit. You're not selling power drills, you're selling the ability for the audience to hang up pictures of their kids on the wall.

Last is identities. Who am I, and what would someone like me do? Play to people's identities — learn what that group wants, and then describe it in detail.

Credible

You have to be credible. Reference experts (Dr. Yin says don't smoke), aspirational people/celebrities
(Lebron doesn't smoke), the antihero (this ex-smoker with cancer says don't smoke), or yourself (I quit smoking after I found out I was getting sick).

Emotional

Maslow

Maslow's hierarchy. The lower end is physical needs. The higher end is emotional needs. Take your idea from something serving the lower end of Maslow's hierarchy and aim higher. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the purpose.

Pegasus hall is an army mess hall in Baghdad. Imagein a mess hall — thousands of sweaty soldiers pouring into a dirty cafeteria. Soldier after soldier in line grabbing food from an assembly line and eating off of a plastic cafeteria tray. Doesn't conjure a grand image.

One cook realized there was something more. Meal times were not simply just eating. For the soldiers, meal time was downtime; they were recharging. If they didn't eat well, they would be sluggish and unmotivated during the next mission. If they were took a nice break and relaxed, morale would be high and the would perform better on the field. Meal time wasn't about food — it was about recharging morale.

The cook spread the word to his team. From then on, Pegasus was known for the amazing meals they prepared. Fresh fruit, perfectly cooked steak, and spotless mess halls. Cooks would go through buckets and buckets of fruit to pick out the good ones. Wade through pounds of bad meat to find good pieces. All for the same pay and with the same ingredients at other inferior mess halls.

Aim high on Maslow's hierarchy. Serve a higher purpose.

Story

All of the above are components of a good story. Good stories are how experts (think abstractly) communicates with novices (think concretely).

There are 3 types of stories. Challenge, connection and creativity.

Challenge – the classic David vs Goliath story.

Connection – the 'Chicken Soup' type of story. An emotional story pulling on your heart strings — ie Help this starving child in Africa, etc.

Creativity – the mental challenge. A story with turns and twists that challenges the audience to follow along and guess what is going to happen next.

Use these types of stories in different situations. If you're about to go into battle, get your troops riled up by telling a challenge story. If you want people to donate money to your charity, an connection story is probably better.

The biggest barrier to doing all this successfully is the curse of knowledge. The curse of knowledge is when you know more than your audience and leave out important details because you assume they are already known.

tl;dr

The way to get your ideas out is to become a great storyteller. The best part is you don't have to create the stories. If you can learn to spot great stories and re-tell them, you'll be golden.

Use the SUCCESs framework to craft your story and get your idea heard.

Tell a Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, and Emotional Story.

Learning to Fail or Failing to Learn?

Failure. It’s a daunting thing. People like to talk about celebrating failure. They champion it like it’s something to do.

I think that’s ridiculous.

Let me start off — I’m a big proponent of failing fast and making mistakes. I think it’s a great learning tool. As it goes,

“Good judgement comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgement.”

But some people talk about failure as if it deserves the merits of success. I don’t agree with that. While I believe failure certainly is a prerequisite to success, I don’t think it is an indicator.

Failing makes me nauseous. It sucks. It’s embarrassing. You fail because you were wrong, because didn’t try hard enough, or because you just aren’t good enough. Failing is a direct reflection of your ability. So when you fail, it means you suck. And that sucks.

I juggle between two thoughts. 1 — I fail because I’m trying new things I’m uncomfortable with, moving forward and learning. 2 — I fail because I suck. I didn’t think it through carefully enough, and it’s a symptom of a bigger problem. To be honest, I’m not sure which is true. (Although I think I know the answer ;))

What I can say is that I learn by doing. Some people like to think through a million scenarios before deciding on anything. I act, and then improve iteratively. To me, thinking and theory are great — but there is no teacher like experience.

As a result, I move faster than others. As another result, I’m usually the first to make mistakes and break things. And get in trouble. But I also typically learn at the highest velocity.

The toughest part for me is not letting the fear of more failures become the driver. It’s easy to crawl into a hole and pity yourself. Hope time will wash it all away. It doesn’t, and by staying in the hole, you make it harder to get out.

The way to overcome the fear and the failure is to move on. Move forward, be bold and make the best of what is remaining. Oftentimes I’m able to rise out of the gutter and succeed just by acting as if my prior mistake was totally insignificant. Inside, the mistake eats at me day by day until I’m able to drown it out with a resouding success.

Let victory wash away the stench of failure, not time or pity.

It’s a struggle, and I’m hoping to get better at it. I often wonder if I should be more concerned about failing less or learning to overcome the inevitable failure better. I have no idea.

The Only Thing You Need to Succeed & Be Happy

Lately, I’ve been driving up to LA more often (I’m in San Diego). I hate the drive, so I usually throw a PandoMonthly talk into my car to help pass time. They’re all spectacular, but one that continues to stick out is the Ben Horowitz chat. The whole thing is awesome — but one quote in particular resonated with me.

“The number one thing we look for in an entrepreneur is courage. Aristotle said that courage is the first virtue. Reason is, if you don’t have that — you don’t have any virtue. All the other things — honesty, integrity — they don’t get activated unless you have courage. It’s easy to be honest — unless it’s going to cost you your job, your marriage, or something else that you care about. Then it’s hard to be honest. So without courage, and you don’t have anything. You’re a zero character person.”

It struck a chord with me. Courage really is the cornerstone of everything. You always start with raw courage, and build up from there. Without it, your character is ephemeral — constantly fluctuating and adapting to the situation. Sometimes low quality, sometimes medium, probably never high. There’s no concept of yourself. You’re merely trying to fit in instead of injecting your own flavor. Zero character.

You need courage. Otherwise you can’t be successful or happy. Real success requires being innovative and original. You can’t do that through imitation. Without courage, you try and fit in through imitation. And by definition, a copycat is always 2nd to originality.

And you won’t be happy. You’re constantly trying to fit in, instead of being yourself. You ignore things that bother you, and you start to build resentment. Ultimately, that becomes destructive — you burn out and stop caring about your work quality, environment, relationships, etc. And since work takes up most of our working hours, you can’t be happy if you’re unhappy at work.

But when you are courageous, everything seems to magically align. When I say courageous, I mean — speak up when you think something is wrong. Ask questions, have an opinion, do what you think is right. Don’t worry about what the norm is or what other people will think. Be yourself.

You might step on some toes. You might piss some people off. They’ll get over it. In the long run, people will respect you for having an opinion and being honest. You’ll develop a unique reputation and maybe even make some friends. But regardless, you’ll be unique and have some character.

And lastly, being courageous is easy — you just have to act like yourself all the time. It’s very natural, easy, and stress free. You maximize learning and minimize regret. If you disagree with everyone and are vocal about it — you’re either wrong and end up learning, or you’re right and look like a genius. There is no losing outcome.

So be courageous, live your life. It’s the surest way to be happy and successful.

51 Ways to Become World Class

Stumbled across this a few days ago. Really good stuff, so wanted to re-post it.

  1. Know what you want. Clarity is power. And vague goals promote vague results.
  2. Remember that every problem has a solution. Maybe you just can’t see it. Yet.
  3. In this Age of Dramatic Distraction, the performer who focuses the best wins the most.
  4. Before someone will help you, you need to help them.
  5. Become the most passionate person you know. It’ll be contagious.
  6. Know more about your craft/the work you do than anyone who has ever done the work you do…in the history of the world.
  7. Join The 5 am Club. Your most valuable hours are 5am-8am. They have the least interruptions.
  8. Devote yourself to learning something new about your field of mastery every day. Success belongs to the relentless learners. Because as you know more, you can achieve more.
  9. Remember that when you transform your fitness, you’ll transform your business.
  10. Don’t check your mobile when you’re meeting with another person. It’s rude. And rude people don’t reach world-class.
  11. Every time you do what scares you, you take back the power that you gave to the thing that scared you. And so you become more powerful.
  12. A problem is only a problem if you make the choice to see it as a problem.
  13. Stop being a victim. Your business and personal life was made by you. No one else is responsible. To make it better, make better choices. And new decisions.
  14. You can lead without a title. Don’t wait to get a position to stand for excellence, peak quality and overdelivery on every expectation.
  15. Find your own style. Be an original. Every superstar differentiated themselves from The Herd. And marched to their own drumbeat.
  16. Understand that when you play small with your success, you betray your potential. And the birthright you were born under.
  17. Eat less food and you’ll get more done.
  18. As you become more successful, stay really really hungry. Nothing fails like success. Because when you’re successful, it’s easy to stop outlearning+outOverDelivering+outthinking and outexecuting everyone around you. (Success is Beautiful. And dangerous).
  19. If you’re not overprepared, you’re underprepared.
  20. The only level of great manners to play at is “Exceedingly Polite”. In our world, this alone will make you a standout. And differentiate you in your marketplace.
  21. Remember that the moment you think you’re a Master, you lose your Mastery. And the minute you think you know everything, you know nothing.
  22. To double your results, double your level of execution.
  23. Invest in your personal and pro development. All superstars do.
  24. Get this year’s best Targets of Opportunity down onto a 1 Page Plan. Then review it every morning while the rest of the world sleeps.
  25. You don’t get lucky. You create lucky.
  26. When you push through a difficult project, you don’t get to the other side. You reach The Next Level.
  27. Smile. And remember to inform your face.
  28. Spend time in solitude every day. Your best ideas live there.
  29. Debrief on how you lived out your day every night in a journal. This will not only record your personal history, it will make you uber-clear on what you’re doing right and what needs to be improved.
  30. If your not being criticized a lot, you’re not doing very much. Ridicule is the price of ambition.
  31. Develop a monomaniacal focus on just a few things. The secret to productivity is simplicity.
  32. To get the results very few people have, be strong enough to do what very few people are willing to do.
  33. Rest. Recover. It’ll make you stronger.
  34. Buy a smaller TV and build a larger library.
  35. Remember that the bigger the goal, the stronger a person you must become to achieve that goal. So goal-achieving is a superb practice for character-building.
  36. Food fuels your body. Learning feeds your mind.
  37. Don’t ask for respect. Earn it.
  38. Finish what you start. And always end strong.
  39. Breathe.
  40. In business, don’t play to survive. Play to win.
  41. Protect your good name. It’s your best asset.
  42. Remember that words have power. Use the language of leadership versus the vocabulary of a victim.
  43. Give more than you take. The marketplace rewards generosity.
  44. Know that if it’s not messy, you’re not making progress.
  45. Be a hero to a kid.
  46. In business, aim for iconic. Go for legendary. Make history by how awesome you are at what you do.
  47. Please don’t confuse activity with productivity. Many many people are simply busy being busy.
  48. Your doubts are liars. Your fears are traitors. Stop buying the goods they are attempting to sell you.
  49. The best anti-aging remedy in the world is working really hard.
  50. World-Class performers have no plan B. Failure just isn’t an option.
  51. You have the power to change the world—one brave act and one person at a time. Please use it.

Originally discovered via a Quora blog, Musings of a Start-up Guy, which was a re-post of Robin Sharma’s blog.

Hello Coupa!

We’ve just been acquired by Coupa. You can read about it here.

I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that we’re all incredibly excited. There’s something really special going on at Coupa, and I’m excited to help Coupa continue to succeed.

Goodbye Xpenser

Goodbye Xpenser

Hello Coupa!

Hello Coupa!

How I Use the Web

Recently people have been asking how I use the web. Not sure why, but thought I’d write it down.

I use the web to get better at things I’m bad at. These are the apps that help me. All are free (some with paid options).

Things that are important to me are health, finances, productivity, reading, writing, thinking, and self reflection.

Health
Meal Tracking – My Fitness Pal. I’ve tried a few and they have the best food database. Easy to log, create custom foods, and repeat common foods. At the end of each day they tell you “If you ate like this every day, you would weight X”, which is a nice reminder (although it never goes down).

Exercise – I use Sworkit in the mornings I’m too busy (or too lazy) for a real workout to give me a quick routine based on what I want to focus on and how much time I have. When I do have time to run, Runkeeper is the best. Also since I live a pretty sedentary lifestyle (hopefully this will change it), I also use Moves. It’s a beautiful pedometer – helps me remember to get out and move a bit more.

Sleep – Sleep Timer is amazing. Developed by the prodigies at Azumio, Sleep Timer gradually sounds an alarm when you’re in a lighter sleep so you wake up more naturally as opposed to being interrupted by an alarm during REM sleep. Also provides metrics on sleep patterns – average sleep time, duration, efficiency, and more. Really cool stuff.

Productivity
Task Management – Asana. It is the best, and I’ve tried them a bunch of them. It’s light, fast, and easy to use. Downside is their mobile app sucks right now. Mobile is for smaller on the go tasks(essentially chores), so in its place I use Todoist. It keeps Asana clean, and when I get a free moment I’ll just run through a few Todoist tasks to feel good about myself.

Calendar – Google Calendar is my default web calendar and is viewed on the phone through Sunrise. Although as of late I’ve been trying out Tempo, and it’s not half bad — Sunrise looks better, but Tempo can auto dial conference call passcodes. Which is pretty nice.

Reading
News – I have a pretty long list of blogs and news sites that I keep in Google Reader. I’ve spent years building this list, and it is my primary source of news consumption. That’s why I was slightly annoyed about Google Reader getting axed.

Curated – Quibb, Svbtle, and Medium, in that order. Save all the good articles in Pocket for reference. Questions/discussions are directed to Quora/Branch.

Books – I have an enormous backlog of things to read on my Amazon Wish List. I pick a book from there every once in a while (a long while) and throw it on the Kindle.

Finance
Personal – I use Mint to keep track of all personal expenses. Really easy to use, integrates well with banks, and nice graphs. The best feature is budgets — easy to set and stay within my limits every month.

Work – I use Xpenser to keep track of work related expense (mainly purchases and time).

Writing
Draft. It’s easy to use and version control is really nice. I can quickly jot down some thoughts – edit, edit, edit – and then go back to see how my thoughts have progressed. Plus it just looks and feels great. Once I’m done, I copy and publish with WordPress.

Thinking
I’m always jotting down ideas and thoughts on my phone. I need Evernote for that. Easy to use and syncs across all devices. I take all of my ideas/observations from the week, cut the crappy ones (so almost all of it), and then save in a Google Doc for long term tracking.

Self Improvement
Vocab – I try to learn new words on a regular basis. I use Evernote Clearly to read on the web and save words I don’t know with highlighter. The ones I actually want to learn go into StudyBlue. It’s just flash cards — easy to use and they have a nice mobile app so I can quiz myself on the go.

Goals & Progress – I write down a single goal in Google Docs every week and then at the end of the week mark it either red (0%), yellow (somewhat done), or green (100% complete). The same for the month and the year. Daily habits that I’m trying to form go in Lift.

Journal – I like to keep a trail of my thoughts for self reflection, and that’s done in Penzu. I don’t love it, but at this point I’m too invested in it to change.

Communication
Calls – Skype is still the predominant method. I hate it, but I have to use it. Google Voice for phone calls, and Viber for international calls.

Join.me for screen sharing. UberConference for conference calls.

Storage – Drive, Dropbox, and Box.

Other: Sublime, S3, Heroku, Chrome, Twitter, Pandora, Cloudtab, Google Dictionary, Honey, Buffer, Bitly.