I Am 30 Years Old. This Is What I Believe.

Dan Oshinsky talking to the Digital Brisbane podcast

I am 30 years old, and I have so much more to learn. I’ve gotten the chance to work with amazing people at BuzzFeed and The New Yorker. I’ve led teams, launched products, and given talks at conferences. I’ve even been introduced on stage as an “expert” in my field.

But I am definitely not an expert. I’m only just starting to learn how to do this job, and learning how to build and lead teams that can do amazing work. I left my last job partially because I felt like I was no longer being challenged in my role, and I hated feeling like I wasn’t pushing myself to get better. There is a lot I can’t control in my work, but I can control the way I develop my skills and learn new things.

Complacency is the enemy of the work — and I’m determined to keep learning and keep growing.

Over the past year, there are certain things I’ve come to believe hold true. I know that my beliefs will continue to change. I know that I will change.

But here, at 30, is what I believe:

You don’t need to be able to predict the future — but it helps if you can see what’s coming around the corner.

Direction is more important than speed. It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going if you’re headed the wrong way.

The smartest people I know ask a lot of great questions, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

If you’re in a job where everybody else is smarter than you, you’re challenged every day, and you feel like a complete impostor, congratulations! You’re in the right place.

There’s always a way.

Challenge the ideas you hear about. Don’t take other people’s successes or failures at face value. Test them for yourself and see what works for you.

I need to get better at so many things: Not offering unsolicited advice. Asking questions even when I think I know the answer already. Saying “no” when I don’t have the time.

I am not particularly good at anything by myself. Everything I do well, I do with people I love.

One the hardest parts of getting older is deciding what you really want to spend your money and time on, and actually sticking to it.

The best nights out are the most unexpected.

Everything is better shared.

Four magic words that will change the way you fly: “Can you help me?” People can be so rude when they travel. Just be kind, and ask for help. It’ll take you far.

Overcommunicate. Don’t assume that people around you are on the same page. Make sure they know what’s expected of them, and what they expect of you.

Your plan isn’t much of a plan if you can’t get your team to buy in.

When you’re making a big decision, lay out all the options, get all the information you can, and make the best choice with what you have. It won’t always lead to the right outcome, but you don’t have much control over the outcome. Worry about what you can control: the process, and the work.

And most of all: Every day, I try to be a little more: more enthusiastic, more helpful, more loving. I’m so lucky to have married a woman who is all of those things — and, yes, even more. I love you more than ever, Sally.

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That photo at top was taken by the @DigitalBrisbane team.

Something We Tried (And Loved) In 2017: Wishing More People Happy Birthday!

A few years ago, my friend Leslie’s dad died, and she wrote a wonderful piece about him. This one part of her story really stuck with me: Every year, Leslie’s dad would call family, friends, and co-workers on their birthdays and sing “Happy Birthday”:

“The dude had a goddamn calendar full of people he would call on their birthdays. From what I’ve learned in the past couple of months, it numbered in the hundreds. If he knew your birthday, he would call you on it and sing happy birthday. He had what I would call a church choir voice. Which is to say, not great, but he would belt it out nonetheless. If you picked up, he’d sing your ear off. If you screened, he’d sing it to your voicemail.”

And it wasn’t until after he died that Leslie realized how much of an impact those yearly birthday calls had made on everyone who was on the receiving end:

“In the past three months, I’ve had untold numbers of people approach me and tell me they had messages from my dad on their phones singing them happy birthday. Happy birthday to Mark! Happy birthday to Suzanne! Happy birthday to Margaret! Happy birthday to family and friends and to people I don’t know from Adam!”

I loved the idea that one little gesture could matter so much to so many people. I’m not much for singing loudly, so Sally and I made a resolution to try something new in 2017: Sending birthday cards.

We made a calendar of people we love, we got their addresses, and we started sending cards to them. This year, we’ve sent about 75 cards — next year, I hope, we’ll send more.(1)

This has been a strange, stressful year for all of us, but sitting down and writing a birthday note to friends and family reminded us how lucky we are to have such great people in our lives. No matter what’s happening in the world, we have these relationships, and we’re so grateful for them. And every birthday is a reminder that there are always great reasons to celebrate with the people we love.

Here’s to getting older — and many more years of happy birthdays (and birthday cards) to come.

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That’s a birthday card from hellosmallworld on Etsy. They make great cards.

  1. Etsy, I’ve learned, is a great place to buy birthday cards. I love stores like HenPenPaperCo, YeaOhGreetings, hellosmallworld, and lafamiliagreen for original cards.

Talk To Your Fans.

Here’s something I’m trying to do more of: Talk to the people who use our products.

The easy way to do that is to survey them. We’ll send a survey to our subscribers, and promise them that it only takes 2-3 minutes to finish the survey.(1) Or we’ll ask readers to reply to a newsletter with their thoughts. It’s an effective way to get a lot of feedback all at once from readers.(2)

But there’s something even better than getting these online responses from our fans: Literally going out into the world and talking to them.

I can’t tell you how important these IRL conversations have been in shaping the way I think about the relationship between us and our readers. When I start to hear the same themes over and over again from very different people, it’s a clear indicator that we’re either doing something right — or very wrong.

When you’re in the business of creating new products and tools for your fans, it’s easy to lose sight of who we’re actually doing all this work for. But with each of these face-to-face conversations, I remember: These are our fans. These are the people we’re trying to build a better relationship with. These are readers I need to be listening to.

If you can, go out and talk to your fans. You might just be surprised by what they have to say.

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That photo of a very excited crowd was taken by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash.

  1. And we actually time ourselves taking the survey to make sure it’s a 2-3 minute survey. This really matters! Don’t waste your readers’ time.
  2. One more suggestion: Try surveying using the Net Promoted Score method. I like to use it as a gateway to getting further responses. If readers give us a score less than 10, the next question on the survey that pops up is, “What could we do to get a 10 from you?” The responses are always interesting.