Hurry Up And Wait.

by Dan Oshinsky on December 20, 2013

I heard the voice of my mother today while waiting in line at JFK to get through security. I’d hurried through work, and then hurried my way over to the train, and then hurried through check-in, and then… I waited. I waited for 20 minutes at airport security, because that’s how it works.

My mother has a saying for that: It’s the hurry up and wait.

When we were kids, she’d always point out how strange it was to watch people rush to be first in line for something. We’d be on a ferry, and people would rush to their cars. We’d wait on the top deck, holding onto the view as long as we could. What are those people rushing for? she’d always point out. It’s not like they can drive off until the boat docks anyway.

As I get to work with bigger teams on more ambitious projects, I find that the hurry up and wait rule applies there, too. Sometimes, you push and push on a project, only to find that the rest of your team isn’t ready to take the next step. Or that a key piece of technology or code isn’t ready. In the end, you’ve rushed through your work for nothing.

It’s certainly great when you can get your work done efficiently. But the people around you matter — especially the pace at which they do their work. If you’re not all moving together, you’re just hurrying up to wait.

And what good is that?

That photo of airport security comes via Flickr’s Karl Baron.

How One Little Device Changed A Lot About The Way I Work.

by Dan Oshinsky on December 16, 2013

pocket-phone

I’ll admit that I didn’t always understand the smartphone. I had a flip phone, and it did pretty much everything I wanted a phone to do. I was happy with it.

And in the first few months of owning a smartphone, I didn’t really change my opinion. It helped me keep track of my calendar, and it helped me find a building or two, but it wasn’t essential.

But then I moved to New York, and I started spending a lot of time on the train. Suddenly, I had these 10- and 15-minute chunks of time to kill.

That’s when it clicked.

I had downloaded this app called Pocket, which lets me save stories to read later — or offline. And it really changed things for me.

I needed something to do on those subway rides, so I started saving stories to read on Pocket when I was on the train. And then I had a little epiphany: I should just stop reading things at work entirely, and save them for the train rides — when I’ll have the time to focus on reading.

Now I’m reading as much as ever — it’s just a matter of changing when I read. And as a result, I’m more focused at work. Before, a new profile or an essay would come across Twitter and distract me, and it’d take an hour just to get back on track. Now I save those for later and keep on going with my tasks.

A little change, but it’s been a big help in keeping me productive at work. And I’ve got my smartphone to thank for that.

Data + Story.

by Dan Oshinsky on December 12, 2013

kiyomi and taro shibas, on the couch

Two weeks ago, while I was writing out my annual “What I Believe” post, I had a small epiphany, and jotted this down:

If you can show it in a spreadsheet, you can sell it. And if you can pair that data with a great story, you’ve really got something.

In my job at BuzzFeed, I report to two people: Dao, our director of traffic; and Erica, our managing editor. With Dao, it’s all about numbers. Show her that the numbers are trending upward, and she’ll listen.

With Erica — and any of the other editors at BuzzFeed — it’s all about the story. If you can tell a great story, they’ll listen.

When you pair those together, that’s when the magic really happens. I wrote that when you put them together, “you’ve really got something.” Which is true.

But what I really meant to say is: When you pair them together, you’ve really earned respect. In your work, you’ll have to sell your ideas to others. One of the secrets to sales is being able to pair data and a great story. Get those two elements together, and they’ll not only listen — they’ll follow you where you want to go.

That’s a photo of two shibas, because, you know, BuzzFeed. It comes via Taro the Shiba Inu on Flickr.

You Have No Excuses.

by Dan Oshinsky on December 9, 2013

Sometimes I write long on this blog, and sometimes I write short. And sometimes I read a story like this, and simply want to say: Read this. Read this, and remember: Opportunity is there for those who put in the work, and who let others help.

Time Off.

by Dan Oshinsky on December 6, 2013

A wonderful thing happened on Wednesday:

I had a busy day at work. A ton going on. Lots of new projects and things that I was trying to get done.

And then I left work to head to a dinner party. The whole way there, my mind was still on work — what needed to be finished on Thursday, what I had to focus on first.

And when I got to the door, I took a minute. I promised myself: While I was inside, work was off limits. No thinking about the tasks ahead. No planning out the next work day.

I needed those two hours, to be around friends and to recharge. Work wears on you. I haven’t always been great at making time for life outside of work. But after a few hours with friends, just making time for them, I came back on Thursday really excited and ready to get at my to-do list.

There is a time for work, and a time for play, and after all these years, I feel like I’m finally starting to learn which is which.

That photo at top comes via.

The Opposite.

by Dan Oshinsky on December 2, 2013

One of my favorite stories of the college football season came from the University of Southern California. The Trojans had an awful start to the year. They fired their head coach a month into the season. They replaced him with Ed Orgeron — an assistant coach who had previous served as head coach at Ole Miss.

And had lost — often — at Ole Miss.

When he got the new job at USC, he was asked about his time at Ole Miss:

“I was given a good shot, and I was really discouraged that I didn’t make it,” Orgeron said. “I had to look at myself.”

So what happened this time around? He looked at what he’d done at Ole Miss, and he did the opposite. Literally:

Every decision from team meals to whether music played at practice, Orgeron reversed. Fifteen times a day, he says, Orgeron thinks about how he would have done something at Ole Miss and then stops and goes the opposite direction.

Suddenly, a Southern Cal program that was languishing in tension and self-pity has started winning again, having fun again

Under Orgeron, USC finished the year 6-2. And the lesson here is so great: We don’t always do the work the right way the first time. We make mistake in the way we treat people, and the way we try to get things done.

Sometimes, it requires you to make little fixes. Sometimes, you have to make huge changes.

But you can’t be stubborn. If it’s not working — and if the results aren’t there — you have to be willing to be flexible. Change can be a powerful thing.

I Am 26 Years Old. This Is What I Believe.

by Dan Oshinsky on November 28, 2013

me

I am writing this from a bus on the New Jersey Turnpike, headed south for Thanksgiving. I wrote this post for the first time two years ago. I was 24, and in a major period of transition in my life. I wrote it last year from D.C., in transition to my life in New York.

And now I’m 26, and so much has changed. I’m settled in New York. I’ve got a job I love, and I’m lucky to have a lot of amazing people in my life. I met a girl. Things are really different this year — and really great.

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

I am 26, and this is what I believe:

You can tell a lot about a person by the quality of his/her friends. Great people always surround themselves with the best. Always.

The good stuff is worth sharing.

Know the difference between what you want and what you need. Ask for the latter.

If you can show it in a spreadsheet, you can sell it. And if you can pair that data with a great story, you’ve really got something.

Jealousy just isn’t worth the time. Ever.

Deal with things as they come. Shit happens — but it’s far easier to deal with it now than to let a lot of things pile up and overwhelm you.

Be skeptical. Especially when it comes to things you read on the internet.

There isn’t a skyline that makes me as happy as the one over Washington, D.C. But New York City’s is getting pretty close.

Everyone is asking themselves, What the hell am I doing? It’s not just you.

I don’t always know that I’m on the right track. But people keep coming to me for advice and help, and it makes me think that I must be doing something right.

You get there when you get there. Work hard, but don’t rush.

Have something to show for your work. An end product. A lesson. Something.

And one more thing, and I mean this in the sappiest, Lifetime-movie-of-the-week-iest way: Until you know, you don’t really know what you’ve been missing out on all along.

What Do You Have To Show For It?

by Dan Oshinsky on November 25, 2013

Ask me what my favorite college basketball team of all time was, and I’ll tell you: The 2011-12 Missouri Tigers. I loved that team. They could pass. They could shoot. They were insanely entertaining.

With a few weeks left in the season, I remember a conversation I had with a buddy of mine, a fellow Mizzou fan. Our Tigers had only lost 1 or 2 games all year. They were ranked as one of the four or five best teams in America.

We were watching a truly great team playing in a special season. The only question left was:

When it was all over, what would they have to show for it?

Success in a sport like college basketball is a pretty strange thing. Only one team gets to win the championship, but even winning three or four games in the NCAA Tournament is considered a pretty big accomplishment. Our Tigers didn’t have to win it all — to be considered one of the great teams, just making it to the Elite 8 or Final 4 would do.

Then Mizzou lost its first game, a monumental upset at the hands of Norfolk State. And that’s what fans remember about that team. Not the huge highs. Not the Big 12 Championship.

Two years later, fans remember what Mizzou had to show for it: A big “L” when it mattered.

Because this is how it goes. You have to find the right people. You have to put in the work. You have to put in a lot of it.

But at some point, you need to go out there and show the world what you’ve got. The end product matters — it’s what they remember about you.

So when you’ve put in the work, you have to ask yourself: What do you have to show for it?

Better make it count.

Thankful.

by Dan Oshinsky on November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving 2008

As this Thanksgiving comes around, I’ll say this:

I’m thankful for the chance to do the work. To have the chance to work with these people. To have the chance to build something awesome.

I’m thankful for all that. And for the year ahead. I’m thankful for the chance to make it something great.

That photo at top comes via.

The Importance Of Little Victories.

by Dan Oshinsky on November 18, 2013

trophy 1 | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk

A week ago, I was looking through my calendar when I realized that I hadn’t been to the gym in a month. Hadn’t run. Hadn’t gotten out for 20 minutes on the elliptical.

Nothing.

And this was after a breakthrough year for me in 2012 where I’d gotten out and really gotten excited about getting in shape. What happened to me this year?

So I got out of bed first thing on Monday and went to the gym. It felt good.

I got out of bed on Tuesday and went again. Back-to-back days. Really good.

And then Wednesday night, after work, I went again. And then the next morning.

Back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Suddenly, I felt like I had momentum. I went out of town for the weekend, and I brought my running shoes. Of course I was going to go running — I’d gotten going again, and I didn’t want to quit.

But it was more than just momentum. By Tuesday, just by going to the gym two days in a row, I was pumped. I’d gotten a little victory, and I was really happy about it.

And every subsequent trip felt like a little win. Running on the treadmill for the first time in a few weeks, making some time to actually stretch…. it all felt really good.

It’s not easy to keep going. But when you’re starting the work, a little win here or there gets you excited. It gives you a reason to believe that you’re on the right path.

Ultimately, you’re working toward bigger wins and bigger goals, but at the start, just feeling like you’re taking a positive first step is huge.

Photo at top comes via.