Tag Archives: about me

Where We Come From.

New York, New York

Everybody has bad days. Especially at work, everyone has days where you get weighed down by the little things: Too much stress; Thoughts about better work/money/hours somewhere else; Little details that can overwhelm you.

Lately, when I have one of those days, I try to remind myself of something:

A little more than 100 years ago, my great-grandparents fled Eastern Europe and came to America. If you go see “Fiddler on the Roof,” that’s basically an autobiography of the Oshinsky family.When they came to America, they came to New York. They came here for opportunity for their family, and a better life.

A century later, I live in New York, working a job so thoroughly modern that — if they were alive — I couldn’t even explain to my grand-grandparents, and the job I have pays better than they ever could have believed.

Sometimes, I try to play out that conversation in my head with my great-grandpa, a butcher in Jersey City, trying to figure out how I’d explain to him words like “email marketing” or “viral news” or “BuzzFeed.” I’m not sure how I’d explain it, or if he’d even understand. But I think he’d be proud to see how far his family has come. My ancestors came here for opportunity, and they gave me all that — and more. The opportunities I’ll have in my life are unexpected and pretty remarkable, and it’s thanks to the risks that they took, and the work that every subsequent generation has put in.

So when I get bogged down in the little details, I try to remind myself of the big picture. 100 years ago, we came here for the chance to have these opportunities and the hope of living this life, and now I have it.

Best to be thankful, and work hard for whatever — and whoever — comes next.

———

That photo of New York was taken by Vita Vilcina on Unsplash.

A Note To My High School Self, 10 Years Later.

me at 18

10 years ago this month, I graduated from high school. (It’s only been 10? It feels like more.) But as I look back on 2005 — an age of flip phones, buddy lists, printing out Google Maps before road trips, limited text messaging plans, no Facebook, and a whole host of stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with the internet — I’m thinking about what it would be like to be 18 all over again. If I could go back, I’d have a few words of advice for myself, among them:

-Learn how to work hard and how to build good habits. It’ll make all the difference.

-You’re going to mess up a lot. That’s OK! You’re young! One screw-up doesn’t define you. You’ll have lots of chances to do something great. Don’t let one mistake stop you.

-You have some pretty exceptional friends. Stay in touch — they’re going to do some amazing stuff, and you’re going to want to be a part of it.

-And keep in touch with your classmates, too. They’ll be the ones running cool businesses and projects in the future. (They might even be able to get you a job.)

-It’s OK to ask for the stuff you want. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Don’t fake it ’till you make it. Just be confident in who you are and what you want, and keep working to become the person you want to be.

-Take advantage of your windows of opportunity. Once you get a real job, there are no more summer vacations. You’re never going to get a month or two off again. Enjoy it.

-You could always spend more time reading.

-You could always travel more, too.

-Surround yourself with great people. You’ll never regret making time for people you love.

-Don’t waste too much time wondering, “What should I do with my life?” You might never know, and that’s OK.

-Don’t overthink things. Just try to be happy. Life doesn’t need to be much more complicated than that.

And don’t try to skip ahead. Enjoy the moment, 18-year-old Dan. You’ve got some great stuff ahead of you.

Data + Story.

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.

Being Normal Seems Weird.

“I don’t do normal. I have a reputation to uphold.” ― Joan Bauer

 
I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about the idea of normal. They usually start with a statement like this: “Dan, there’s nothing even remotely normal about you.”

To which I usually say: Why, yes, thank you.

And then: Do I really want to be normal?

If someone describes me, I’d hope they use a better word. Like remarkable. Or ambitious. Or even crazy.

I’d want to hear that I’m doing something with my life that’s making an impression, and that I’m doing it in a way that stands out.

Normal? That just doesn’t sound right to me at all.

Are You All In?

All in

“Only those with the courage to take a penalty kick miss them.” — Roberto Baggio

 
I was sitting on a park bench last week, waiting for a friend down by the Brooklyn Bridge. There was a man and a woman on the bench next to me. The man was hunting for a job. The woman was trying to offer advice.

And her advice was perfect:

I want to help, she told him. But I won’t be all in if you aren’t all in. I won’t be in more then you are.

I love that.

I’m in a funny place in my career: I’m 26, and I’ve had a few victories, and I’ve seen some stuff. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve figured out a few things.

And one of those things is that I really do want to help people. That’s why I’ve got the Tools newsletter. That’s why I try to take time to meet and talk with recent grads looking for advice.

So many people helped me when I was right out of college, and I want to pass that help along to the next wave of reporters.

But I can’t help everyone, and there’s a reason: Not everyone is all in. Some people aren’t willing to bust their asses to do something, and I’m reluctant to spend my time on and throw my weight around for someone who isn’t really going after it.

Prove to me that you’re in, though, and I’m much more likely to go in, too.

That photo of someone going all in at a poker tournament comes via.

The 10-Year Plan For Overnight Success.

dan-win

“Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.” — Morgan Missen

 
10 years ago this summer, I started my first internship in journalism. I was 16. That summer, I got an article published in the A section of The Boston Globe, and I thought: This journalism thing is going to be easy. I thought I was going to be a very big deal.

Five years ago this summer, I went to China to cover the Beijing Olympics for the Rocky Mountain News. I was in China, reporting on the biggest sporting event in the world. I was doing good reporting, and my bosses were happy with me. I was convinced: I was going to be a very big deal.

And now it’s five years later, and… well, the words “big deal” probably don’t apply just yet. I’m really happy with where I am in journalism. Thrilled, actually.

But this isn’t what I thought it would be. I had visions of reporting, of telling big feature stories that won big awards, of traveling to tell stories that could change lives. I had huge ambition, and no reason to doubt that everything I wanted would come soon.

I never thought about the work. There was no concept that it was going to take work and time and screw-ups to get somewhere good. Everything came easy: the reporting, the writing, the opportunities. Stuff just seemed to work out.

But I ended up in a pretty great place anyway. I’ve learned about the work. I’ve had leaps forward, and I’ve taken steps back. I have screwed up a lot, and I’m better for it.

Somewhere down the road, I might even get good at whatever it is that I do. I’m 26 now, and I think I’m getting closer. Not close — but definitely closer.

Every once in a while, someone tells me how far along I am. They say I’m doing well — really well for someone this young. They talk about how quickly success has come for me.

And not too far off — maybe a few years down the road, even — there’ll be more of them. They’ll talk about how fast it’s all happened for me. The words “overnight success” might even be used.

And only I will know: I’ll have been an overnight success more than a decade in the making.

My List of Things for 2013.

Last year, I put together a List of Things for 2012. It wasn’t a bucket list — just a list of things I wanted to make more time for in my day-to-day life.

I had three big things in mind for 2012:

-Travel more — I got out to Austin, New York, New Orleans, Denver and Vancouver. Not bad.
-Speak publicly — I gave a TEDx talk, and I hosted a talk at a big journalism conference.
-Ship things — This one I really took to heart. This year: Tools for Reporters. Very Quotatious. And a whole bunch of Stry.us related stuff.

Now with 2012 almost finished, I’m looking toward 2013. Seven things are on my list:

Build more stuff — with others.
Learn new web tools.
Follow up better (with friends/colleagues).
Spend more time outdoors.
Make more time for art (theater, museums).
Be patient.
Do good.

Most of that stuff is pretty self-explanatory, but to take the final one a step further:

As I look at 2013, I want my work to reflect one thing: A desire to do good for others and our world. I want to make stuff that makes our world more good. And by that, I mean: I want to do work that helps move us forward. I want to do work that makes our world a more pleasant place.

And in everything I do, I want that spirit of “good” to be present.

Doing work is a wonderful thing, but to do work that helps make our world a little better — that’d be amazing.

In 2013, that’s what I’m hoping to do.

A Dan Oshinsky Life Status Update That You May Not Believe Is Real (But Is).

This is the giant LOL button at the entryway to the BuzzFeed HQ

So I’ll keep this semi-brief: In two weeks, I’m going to start a new job. At BuzzFeed.

Yes, the same BuzzFeed that regularly produces stories like this.

I’m going to join them as their first-ever Newsletter Editor. I’ll be working out of their New York office. I am pretty freaking excited about this.

If you’re not all that familiar with the company, here’s what you need to know: BuzzFeed is built around the idea that great stories deserve to be shared, and they’ve made a major push into social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.

But for the most part, they’ve stayed out of the email game.

No more.

I’m a big believer in email. I think it’s an underutilized tool. Consider this:

-There are 900 million Facebook users worldwide.
-There are 175 million Twitter users.
-There are 83 million Tumblr blogs.

But email? There are 3.1 billion email addresses in the world. (1)

Email is — by a huge margin — the most widely-used network for sharing information, ideas and content.

And yet, among news organizations, it’s a tool we’ve largely ignored. When we talk about social networks, we mention Facebook and Twitter and whatever network just launched in beta last week, but we always leave out email.

I think that’s a mistake — so at BuzzFeed, we’re going to prove just how valuable email can be.

We’re going to use that giant email network to make sure that you can see the silliest cat photos the Internet has to offer. (2) We’ll be building out some new products just for email, and we’ll be doing lots of experiments to make sure that we get the best, most shareable content into your inbox.

If you’re interested in following along with what I’ll be doing, you can sign up for the BuzzFeed emails here.

(And if you were wondering: I’ll keep posting here on danoshinsky.com, and my Tools for Reporters email will keep going out each Tuesday per usual.)

  1. Yes, I know. That includes spam accounts. But then again: Those other social network numbers are inflated, too, by fake accounts and non-active users.
  2. Plus: We’ll be sharing lots of serious news, and many awesome non-feline stories.

How I Lost 30 Pounds In A Year (And You Can, Too).

Me on the left, at 225. Me on the right, at 195.

“Staying comfortable is the number one way to stay exactly where you are.” — Kate Matsudaira

 
In 2008, when I got my new driver’s license, I weighed in at 175 pounds. By the end of senior year, as I started to grow into myself, I hit 190. But I was still pretty darn skinny. I’m 6’5”, and at that height, people don’t really notice a belly until you start putting on serious weight.

But in Winter/Spring 2011, I was living at home, and I put on weight quickly. It wasn’t hard to do. I was living with my parents, and my parents were always putting food in front of me. We had Girl Scout cookies everywhere. My dad was trying to convince me to put whipped cream on chocolate milk before bed.

I wasn’t working out, and I didn’t belong to a gym.

The tipping point came in May. I went to my sister’s college graduation, and I realized that I could only fit into my suit if I sucked in — hard. None of my jeans fit anymore.

When I saw the scale — TWO HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE POUNDS! — I was shocked. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t realize it was that bad. It’d never weighed that much before.

But then three wonderful things happened. And by the end of Summer 2012, I was down to 195 lbs. I was in the best shape I’d ever been in, and I was also — not coincidentally — as happy as I’d ever been. In August, I finished a sprint triathlon.

There aren’t any secrets to losing 30 pounds in a year. There’s no mystery. All you need to do — and anyone can do them — are these three things:

1. Starting Cooking For Yourself — When you eat out — or when someone else cooks for you — it’s easy to put crap into your body. When I was at college, I always joked about the “Winter Break 15.” At home, I’d go on a diet of Thin Mints and leftovers, and I’d always come back to school a few pounds heavier. When you’re not cooking for yourself, you’re usually not thinking as much about what you’re eating.

When you start shopping for yourself, you start making better decisions. You start choosing good stuff to put in your shopping cart — fruits, vegetables, protein, grains — and start leaving out the junk.

And actually cooking the food helps, I’ve found. It makes you extra conscious of the stuff you’ve had other people sneaking into your food all these years — butter, fatty oils, etc. When you cook for yourself, you’ll start leaving those things out.

Cooking for yourself is how you can hold yourself fully accountable for what goes into your body.

2. Start Exercising — Again, there’s no magic here. The first thing I did when I moved out to Missouri was join a gym. I started going a couple of days a week for 45-60 minutes each morning. When I noticed my enthusiasm lagging, I hired a personal trainer to work with me twice a week. I find that I work out much better when others are doing it with me.

But I know that personal trainers — even in Columbia, Mo. — are expensive. So here’s an alternative: Find a class you can take. Find a group you can run with. Join a local league for soccer or frisbee. It’ll all help.

3. Create Routine — Any health pro can tell you this: Diets don’t work because diets don’t create routine. Go on South Beach for two months and you might lose 10 lbs., but as soon as you drop the diet, you’ll gain it all back.

Diets are like duct tape: They’re an okay temporary solution, but they’re not always pretty, and they’re certainly not something you should rely on for too long.

What you want is to build something lasting for yourself. Build out a block of time in every week to work out, and find time to go grocery shopping once or twice a week. The more you shop, the more likely you are to buy stuff like fresh vegetables, and the less likely you are to stock up on the frozen stuff.

The longer you keep all of these things going, the better. Work begets work. Healthy habits beget healthy living.

Getting in shape doesn’t need to be a mystery. It requires a lot of work. It requires a certain persistence — you absolutely have to be willing to put one foot in front of the other, and again, and again, and again.

But something wonderful comes at the end of all of it.

A month ago, I went to a wedding with a friend. She had made fun of me a year earlier for having to buy bigger jeans.

So this time, before I hopped on the plane to see her, I stopped at Old Navy. I discovered I’d dropped a full size — from a 38 waist to a 36.

When I finally saw her, I showed off the new belly. The word “astonished” came out of her mouth.

You can earn that kind of reaction, too. Just do these three things — cook, exercise, and create a routine — and keep it going. That’s the roadmap to getting yourself into the shape you want.

It is not magic. In fact, it’s a little bit boring.

But I’m living proof: It gets results.

An Oshinsky Family Lesson: Do Big Things With Crazy Amounts of Love.

“Of all the things to be picky about, people is the most important.” — Nick Seguin

 
Two years ago, I wrote a happy birthday message to my mother on this blog. It read:

“A very happy birthday to you, mom, without whom this blog would not be possible, and without whom I would be rendered hopelessly, painfully normal.”

Normal.

Normal.

Normal.

I shudder just thinking about it.

Normal isn’t something we Oshinskys do, and it gets us some weird looks. I’ve done a lot of things that I keep being told I’m not supposed to have done. For me, lots of stuff has come out of order. I covered my first NFL game before I went on my first real date. My first paid job in newspapers wasn’t a full-time gig, but it did involve covering the Olympics in Beijing.

This thing I hear from others — that there is some sort of order to this life — has never really applied to me, and I don’t mind that at all.

Mine is my path, and I’m rather fond of where it’s been taking me, potholes and steep climbs and all.

I learned the ways of the unmarked path from my family. The Oshinsky family does not do ordinary.

My father, at 55, decided he wanted to get into the best shape of his life, and he spent a year doing just that.

My mother, at 52, decided she wanted to run a marathon, and she finished at a 14:30-per-mile pace.

My sister decided she wanted to spend a semester of high school studying abroad — and then pulled off five months on the beaches of the Bahamas.

My brother decided he wanted to use his bar mitzvah for good, and raised $15,000 to build a playground in post-Katrina New Orleans.

I do not believe that we are an extraordinary family. We are not the smartest people you will ever meet, and we are certainly not the most athletic.

But in the Oshinsky family, we take pride in our work. We do big things with great amounts of love. We hustle.

When we go for something, we go all in.

I cannot imagine life any other way.

That photo at top is of my little sister, Ellen. She does crazy beach workouts.