Get That Glide Out Of Your Game.


I’ve been watching a lot of the NHL playoffs lately, mostly because I’m trying to give myself an early heart attack, but also because my Washington Capitals are in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. As always, I’ve been paying close attention to how our superstar, Alex Ovechkin, is playing.

If you’re not familiar with Ovi’s work, perhaps a highlight like this might jolt your memory:

Or this:

Or this:


Ovi was always great at delivering the highlight reel plays. But early in his career, fans, media, and even his own coach criticized him for taking plays off. Just look at this GIF, and watch no. 8 casually skate towards the net — even with an opponent standing there WIDE FREAKING OPEN.

At the start of the season, the Caps called out Ovi, saying he “has got a little too much glide maybe in his game.” To put it another way: Ovi was taking plays off, and the team wasn’t going to take it anymore. He’s always been talented — but it was time to step up his overall game.

And he took it to heart. Last year, the Caps were outscored by 35 goals when Ovechkin was on the ice — even though Ovechkin himself scored 51 goals on the year! This year, he scored 53 goals — and the Caps were +10 with him on the ice. That’s an incredible turnaround.

What changed? Ovi’s actually pushing himself on defense, and trying to put himself into spots to contribute even when he’s not scoring goals. He’s not just gliding through the game, waiting for his chance to score.

A lot of us have struggled with a problem similar to Ovechkin’s. Some of us coast through our jobs. But to get better, we all have to find ways to push hard to get the work done — even when the glamorous or the exciting parts of work aren’t in front of us. It’s not just about the big moments. The little things — the stuff announcers call “the dirty work” — matters, too. We could all use more of Ovechkin’s new work ethic in our game.


That photo of Ovechkin comes via Flickr’s @dan4th.

Everyone Panic!

Gmail's grid view at a glance

About a year ago, Gmail rolled out something they called “grid view,” and it caused a bit of noise within the email community. Briefly:

-Gmail has a feature called the tabbed inbox. It’s designed to filter certain types of emails — like promotions from companies, or newsletters — into specific folders, making it easier to find the stuff you want.

-Within that inbox, Gmail rolled out an experimental feature — grid view — that made the promotional tab in the inbox more visually appealing. (There’s a screenshot of grid view at the top of this post.)

Naturally, every email marketer started trying to figure out how to hack that feature for best results.

At BuzzFeed, we did nothing.


Since I started building the BuzzFeed newsletter platform back in 2012, I’ve had a singular focus: Make our emails as great as possible every single time. We send dozens of different emails a week. I personally have sent 1,000+ emails for BuzzFeed — actually, I’ve probably sent far more, but I lost count somewhere along the way.

But the focus has always been the same: Make our emails great. That means that when you open one of our emails, the stuff you’re getting should be consistently delightful, useful, and fun.

And it’s with that focus that I’ve seen every facet of the newsletter program grow over the past 2+ years. Our open rates have improved. Our click rates are up. And our subscriber numbers are through the roof.

There’s a lot of stuff that can derail great work, and one is focusing on the wrong things. If we worried about stuff like Gmail’s grid view, we’d be wasting time thinking about the bells and whistles of the email world. I call features like grid view “the shiny stuff.” They catch your eye, and they’re fun to play with, but in the end, they’re not your core product. We had to focus on the things that were going to make our work great — and the results speak for themselves.

When you’re building something new, having that focus is so important. Without it, you’re going to spend a lot of time on things that don’t matter at all.

I mention this because this week, Gmail quietly announced that they were killing off grid view. So I’m pretty happy that I didn’t lose a single minute of work on that — and put all of my time instead into the products that will be here for (hopefully) years to come.

The Worst Piece Of Advice You Can Give.

Here’s a piece of advice you’ve certainly heard before: Not where you want to be? That’s OK.

Just fake it ‘till you make it.

I really hate those words. I think it’s a very dangerous piece of advice — especially for young people who are still trying to find their way.

And here’s what I want to say instead:

Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. When you’re young, there are days when you feel like you know everything — but far more when you’re convinced you know absolutely nothing. And on those days, it’s easy to pretend to be the expert you aren’t just yet. Some people make a short-term (and shortsighted) choice to fake it.

But there’s never a need to fake your expertise. Never.

So don’t fake anything. And anytime you feel like you’re becoming a person you aren’t, here’s all you need to remember:

Be confident in who you are and what you know. You probably know more than you give yourself credit for!

Be honest with people about who you really are.

And when someone asks you for something and you don’t have the answer, it’s OK to say, “I don’t know.”

But there’s a catch: The minute you say it, you have to start working towards actually finding the answer. That means realizing that you’re smart enough to build the support system around you to get the right answers, and understanding that you’re going to have to work hard to keep learning.

That’s the harder way — but it’s also the one that’s going to earn you trust and pay dividends in the long run.