Jumping on Entrepreneurship http://blog.zaccohn.com Parkour, Startups, and Travel en-us Thu, 21 Sep 2017 21:22:46 +0000 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator The Beginner’s Guide to Securing Yourself in the Modern Digital World. http://blog.zaccohn.com/the-beginner-s-guide-to-securing-yourself-in-the-modern-digital-world Equifax. Ugh.

The news dropped yesterday that Equifax, one of the three credit bureaus, got hacked and leaked 143 million customers information, including the Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birth dates, addresses, and more. This is devastatingly bad. I wrote up this for some friends a few years ago, but never published it. Today, I decided to publish it.

So without any further adieu, here are 6 personal internet security steps you absolutely need to take.

What you will find in this guide:

  1. The Checklist (all the suggestions, none of the explanation)
  2. Introduction
  3. The Philosophy
  4. Software That Will Help
    1. Password Managers
    2. 2 Factor Authentication
    3. VPN
    4. HTTPS Everywhere
  5. Protect Your Credit
  6. Security Questions
  7. Conclusion

1) The Checklist:

If you don’t want to read anything, you just want to know what to install and what to do, here’s your list. If you want more information on any of these, read on…

  1. Download 1Password, go through their tutorial, then change at least your bank, credit card, and email passwords.
  2. Enable 2-Factor Authentication on every site you use on this list.
  3. Install, and use, a VPN. Encrypt.me if you use an Apple/iOS/Android or Windows device.
  4. Install HTTPS Everywhere in your browser (Chrome, Firefox).
  5. Freeze your credit at all three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
  6. Use randomized answers to “Challenge Questions” and store them in 1Password.
  7. Make up a fictional mother’s maiden name and use that from now on.

2) Introduction: Your Social Security Number Is Already On The Internet

Home Depot. Target. OPM. Anthem. Sony Playstation. JP Morgan Chase. Ashley Madison. Equifax.

Hardware. Retail. Government. Healthcare. Entertainment. Banking. Cheating on your spouse. Credit score.

56 million. 70 million. 22 million. 80 million. 77 million. 76 million. 37 million. 143 million.

That’s 561 million reasons to keep reading.

These are just 8 organizations that have had massive data breaches and compromises recently. The rammifications of each of these breaches is mind bogglingly bad. Social security numbers were leaked. Medical data. Credit card information. Usernames and passwords.

“Passwords?” You might think that's not as bad as social security numbers. But consider this scenario:

  1. You signed up for a fantasy football league website, and it gets hacked. The bad guys get your username, email address, and password.
  2. You use the same password for a lot of sites on the internet, including your email account.
  3. The bad guys now have access to your email. But you were smart - you at least have a unique password for your bank account!
  4. The bad guys go to your bank’s website, put in your email address, and click the “forgot password” button.
  5. The bank sends a password reset email to your email account, which they have access to.
  6. They click the link, reset the password to “Ch1naRocks,” then log in and transfer all your money out.

That’s bad. Real bad.

You’ve probably been told a thousand times to “use strong passwords” (but what does that mean!?), “use a different password for every site” (how am I supposed to remember all those passwords!?), and “change your passwords every few months” (how am I supposed to memorize all those new, strong passwords every few months!?).

So we don’t do it.

Maybe we have a different password for Facebook and our bank, but good security seems so hard. And complicated. There are acronyms like HTTPS, VPN, 2FA, weird words like phishing, and the more you try to learn about all this, the more confusing and overwhelming it all gets.

I am not a security expert, although I do work in the technology industry. After being personally affected by the OPM hack, I realized my own security practices weren’t enough. I needed to do more than what I was doing. And if I needed to do more... then my family and my non-technical friends DEFINITELY needed to do more.

I spent days looking for a good comprehensive “beginner’s guide to modern digital security” and came up with nothing. Lots of very technical information. Lots of jargon-filled articles. If you knew what you were looking for, you could sometimes find something specific and relatively beginner friendly… but I never found anything comprehensive. And what beginner knows exactly what they need?

So I’m writing it. Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Securing Yourself in the Modern Digital World.

3) The Philosophy

If you are ever the target, if someone wants to get YOUR data specifically, you’re pretty much doomed. There’s nothing you can do to stop them. It’s depressing, but luckily it's also pretty rare. (If you are important enough to be this sort of target, you should probably stop reading this guide and go hire a professional.)

But that’s okay. Because the approach you should take to security is “to outrun the lion, you must only be faster than the slowest gazelle."

If you take even just the first steps toward securing yourself and your data, there’s a good chance the bad guys ignore you and go after people who left themselves wide open. You just won’t be worth it.

That’s the goal of this guide. If you want total security, then you need to become an expert. If you just want to live your life in peace knowing you’re more secure than the average Joe or Jane, this guide will get you there.

4) Software That Will Help

A) Password Manager:

A password manager is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a piece of software that manages all your passwords for you.

When you sign up for a website, your password manager generates a random strong password and saves it so you never have to remember it.

(Aside: A strong password could look like this: Ffhs$ao8y2IO@*f90a*!fs*na. It could also look like this: Correct horse battery staple. A strong password just means it’s random, it’s long, and it would take a computer a very, very, very long time to guess. While “Correct horse battery staple” is dictionary words, it’s a bunch of them in a random order, and it turns out to be VERY difficult for computers to guess.)

When you log back in to that site, you unlock your password manager by typing in a single Master Password, and it fills in the username and password information for you. The Master Password is saved on your computer, rather than on the internet, so no one can get to it. The webcomic XKCD has some good advice on creating a good master password.

Some people think this is dangerous, because it goes against conventional wisdom like “never write your password down” or “don’t store passwords on your computer.” But done correctly it’s not only very safe, it's one of the most powerful security tools that exist today.

It means you can have a strong, unique password on every single site on the Internet. If one website gets hacked, it limits the damage to just that website - it won’t compromise your accounts on any other site.

Recommendation: 1Password. There are Windows, Android, Mac and iPhone apps, which should cover all your major devices. 1Password is pretty universally accepted to be one of the best password managers out there. You need to sync your data between your devices (phone, computer) somehow, but they have several fantastic options in a great tutorial for getting started here.

Strategy:

You have a lot of passwords. This seems like a daunting task. We can make it simpler though by breaking up the work by level of importance!

Once you’ve set up 1Password, do Phase I immediately, Phase II when you can, and Phase III during everyday use of the internet. As you’re logging into each of these accounts, generate a new password with 1Password and use it as the new password for that account.

  1. Phase I (Do right away!): Money and authentication. Banks accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, PayPal, email, and Facebook. (if someone gets access to your email, they get everything). These are the MOST critical accounts - where your money sits, and how you get money in and out. Email and Facebook are included here because if someone gets ahold of your those accounts, they can pretend to be you and gain access to other sites, too. Don’t forget sites like Mint or CreditKarma here!
  2. Phase II (Do when you can): Big purchase sites (like Amazon), social media (Tumblr, Twitter), and other sites or software with information important to you. Anywhere where someone might be able to use a credit card on file for a big purchase, pretend to be you, or access any other sensitive information.
  3. Phase III (Do during everyday use): This is everything else. All those random, miscellaneous websites you have to log in to. Don’t go after all these right away (unless you want to!). Just reset them as you use them. Every time you log into a new site (or go to a site with a password saved), take a minute and reset the password with a strong, unique password from 1Password’s generator. It’ll add 30 seconds, tops, to your visit, but after a week or so you’ll hit all the places you visit on a regular basis, and you’ll be much more secure.

B) Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

There are three different factors, or ways, you can authenticate yourself on the internet. Something you know, something you are, or something you have. A password is an example of something you know. Fingerprints are something you are. Your cell phone is something you have.

One-Factor Authentication is what most of the internet uses: a username and password. These are things you know.

Two-Factor Authentication is where the internet is moving. Using a combination of something you know (username/password) with either something you are (fingerprints), or something you have (like a cell phone).

Two-Factor Authentication is, hands down, one of the best ways to further secure yourself online. Google, Apple, and Facebook all encourage their customers to use it.

It’s pretty simple, too. After you put in your password, a website will email or text you a one-time use secret code. You put that code into the website to confirm your identity, and then it lets you log in.

Even if someone steals your strong, unique password, they'd ALSO need access to your email or phone (which is hard to get), or your finger (which is hopefully even harder to get!).

Look through this list of sites that use Two-Factor Authentication. If you use any of these companies, take a minute and enable it. Save time and do this as you’re changing all your passwords to put into 1Password.

C) Virtual Private Network:

These let you encrypt the communication between your laptop and “The Internet."

Have you ever been in a coffee shop and used their free Wi-Fi? Did you know that with a few simple pieces of software, anyone in the coffee shop could eavesdrop on everything coming through your internet connection?

That means they could digitally listen in when you put your password into Gmail, when you file your taxes, or when you’re collaborating with your coworkers on a sensitive business document.

The first step to stopping this from happening is to use a “Virtual Private Network.” In layman’s terms, this encrypts your internet connection between you and a computer out on the internet. People at the coffee shop can still listen in, but they’ll see something like “kh4UNyuKGM{G4.7” instead of “my password is ilovedogs123."

To learn more about VPNs, you can watch this short video, “VPNs in Plain English."

Recommendation:

OSX/iOS/Android/Windows: Encrypt.me. The simplest VPN I’ve ever used. It’s beautiful and well designed, sits in the background, and will connect automatically when it detects an unsecured internet connection. One of my all time favorite pieces of software.

D) HTTPS Everywhere

HTTPS Everywhere is a plugin for Firefox and Chrome. After you install it, it forces many sites to use HTTPS. The “S” in HTTPS stands for “secure.” HTTPS encrypts all information sent between you and that website. If someone is digitally eavesdropping, instead of seeing your password is “catsrule123,” they just see a jumble of text and numbers.

This doesn’t force HTTPS on every site on the internet, but it does on many. You don’t have to do anything to use this, just install it and you’ll be one step better off.

Download the Chrome version or the Firefox version.

(What’s the difference between HTTPS and a VPN? They’re similar. A VPN only encrypts from your computer to the VPN server, whereas HTTPS encrypts all the way from your computer to the site you’re talking to. However, it’s up to the website whether or not they use HTTPS - if they don’t, you can still be safer than you would be otherwise by using a VPN.)

[editor's note: Because I'm an idiot, I don't have https installed on my site. After you install HTTPS Everywhere it miiiiight break my site. Whoops. I'll get that fixed soon!]

5) Protect Your Credit

When a company leaks your credit card number, social security number, or other personal information, the standard response is to offer a year or two of free “credit monitoring services.” After the OPM hack, the federal government is offering all 22 million people effected three years of monitoring, at the cost of over $300 million dollars.

It’s great that organizations are taking responsibility and trying to help those affected, but monitoring services are just that - monitoring. If someone steals your identity and opens up a new credit card in your name, you still have to deal with the fallout, which can be terrifying, stressful, confusing, and expensive.

So what can you do?

Freeze your credit! This makes it temporarily impossible to open up a new line of credit in your name. (it does NOT stop your credit score from changing. Your credit SCORE can still change, this just prevents someone from getting your credit report or opening up a new line of credit)

I didn’t even know this was a thing you could do until recently, but in less than eight minutes (I timed it!), I froze my credit with all three credit bureaus ( Experian, TransUnion, Equifax). Depending on what state you live in, it may cost $5-$10 per company. Your credit score is NOT damaged or penalized by freezing your credit. $15-$30 to freeze your credit is a small cost to pay for the safety and protection it provides.

When you freeze your account, you’ll either be given, or asked to generate, a secret PIN. Generate a random number if you have to, then keep it in 1Password (there’s a section called “Secure Notes,” which is perfect for things like this).

Sometimes you will need to let people access your credit. For example, you need to take out a car loan, open a new credit card, or apply for a job that does a credit check. As you’re getting ready to do this, use the secret PIN to “thaw” your credit, then banks and credit card companies can request your information again.

You do need to freeze your credit with all three credit bureaus, but for a maximum of $30, this is the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and your identity.

To freeze your credit, go to the Credit Freeze pages for Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

Learn more about freezing your credit at the FTC and Lifehacker.

6) Security Questions

What is your mother’s maiden name? You can find that on a marriage certificate… which is a public record.

What is the name of your first boy/girlfriend? If you’re younger than 25, there’s a decent chance this information is on Facebook.

Where was your first job? LinkedIn ruins this one.

What was your high school mascot? A combination of Facebook or LinkedIn plus a bit of googling wrecks this question.

Most security questions are terrible. The answers are either obvious, or can be found with a little bit of clever googling or facebooking.

So how do you fix this? You can have the most secure password and login system ever, but if someone can just reset your password because they figured out your favorite movie from your Facebook profile… you have a pretty big liability.

It’s easy. Just make up answers.

My dad gave me this idea - when someone asked him to provide his mother's maiden name for security reasons, he made one up. Now he only ever uses that. Much more secure than using the real one, which is easily discoverable.

I use 1Password, generate a new password, and use that. My answer to “What is your favorite movie?” might be "DTR@8n8B#B9hFd.” Then I leave a note in my 1Password profile for that account that says “Favorite movie: DTR@8n8B#B9hFd.” Mother’s maiden name? It’s not Bananaphone, but I could use that. If I ever have to reset my password, I glance in 1Password to check on the answer to my question.

7) Conclusion

The hacking scenes from CSI are notoriously, painfully, hilariously bad. The real world doesn’t quite work like that. But personal internet security is an incredibly serious issue.

In 2012, there was over $24.7 billion in losses due to identity theft. Those are the latest statistics I could find, but I can only imagine that number is going up, not down.

There is way, way more you could do to be even more secure. But let’s be honest - most of us prefer convenience over security. This guide is the minimum you should do to maintain the highest level of security with the lowest amount of work.

All in all, following this guide from start to finish should take between sixty and ninety minutes (depending on how many passwords you have to change).

You could also do any individual item here (like freezing your credit, which takes less than eight minutes!) and you would be objectively better off than you are today.

Go through and implement the six low effort, high security steps in this guide. Then send this guide to your friends and your family. If you do the things here, let me know in the comments so I know people are using this! If you have questions, email me zaccohn@gmail.com.

There are lions out there. And they’re hungry. Don’t be the slowest gazelle.

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Fri, 08 Sep 2017 19:16:01 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/the-beginner-s-guide-to-securing-yourself-in-the-modern-digital-world
Zac's Guide to Introductions and Etiquette http://blog.zaccohn.com/zacs-guide-to-introductions-and-etiquitte There’s a good chance you're reading this because I sent it to you. If I sent it to you, there’s a good chance you just asked me to introduce you to someone.

Cool!

I’m thrilled to make an introduction for you, but they aren’t free. I don’t mean you have to pay me. It's just that many people don’t realize intros cost the introducer something.

Every time someone introduces two other people, they put a little bit of their reputation on the line. They spend some social capital. If the introduction goes well, it pays off! But if something gets bungled, it makes me look bad.

Introduction etiquette, while it might not seem like a big deal, is not an innate human skill. That's why I'm sending you this quick guide to establish expectations.

What I will do if you ask me for an introduction:

  • Reach out to anyone I think would be helpful to you, or a specific person if you have one, and ask them for permission to introduce the two of you.
  • Write a two-part introduction email. In the first part, I will address them and be talking about you. In the second part, I will be addressing you and talking about them. The purpose of the first part is to sell you a little bit, pique their interest, and provide some context in the email thread. The purpose of the second part is to transition the conversation to you and give you a natural jumping-off point.

What you should do:

  • Give me enough information that I can make a compelling introduction. If you want to make this easy for me (hint: you do, because then I’ll want to help you out more in the future), write me an email I can forward to them. You can write two separate emails - one casual one saying “hey I want to talk to this person about the project I’m working on,” and then send me a separate, more formal, email I can forward with all the context they’d need to know.
  • After I send the intro, it is YOUR job to respond first, not theirs. Respond to the intro chain within 24 hours. The sooner the better. I hopefully got them excited about talking to you… act excited to talk to them!
  • Move me to BCC in that response. I want to know you responded, but I don’t need to stay on the chain.
  • If you’re asking for a meeting, propose 2 or 3 times in your first response, then say something like “if none of these times work, let me know when does.” That makes it very easy for the recipient to glance at their calendar and say yes, and can shortcut a lot of scheduling tennis.
  • Once you agree on a time, send a calendar invite (unless they did). I like to include both names in the calendar event title (example: Samantha and Zac get lunch). If you’re meeting in person, be sure to include the location and address, your phone number in case something goes wrong, and a brief description of what you want to talk about in the description (to jog their memory in case they forget).
  • Circle back with me after the meeting and let me know how it went. I intro’d you two because I care about you both… so make me feel good about connecting you two!
  • If they don’t respond back, follow up after 3 or 4 business days. I already checked with them and they said they want to talk to you, so don’t be shy.

If you do all these things, it will make both of us look good. Happy introducting!

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Sat, 22 Jul 2017 17:23:15 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/zacs-guide-to-introductions-and-etiquitte
Top 26 Things I Did At 26 http://blog.zaccohn.com/top-26-things-i-did-at-26 On my birthday for the last two years, I've made lists of the Top 24 Things I Did At 24, and The Top 25 Things I Did At 25. It's a fun yearly tradition that I'm continuing. Hopefully, for every year I grow older I'm forced to do more interesting things. So, in no particu]]>

On my birthday for the last two years, I've made lists of the Top 24 Things I Did At 24, and The Top 25 Things I Did At 25. It's a fun yearly tradition that I'm continuing. Hopefully, for every year I grow older I'm forced to do more interesting things.

So, in no particular order:

  1. Guerrilla Compliments v2
  2. The Priceline Glitch Trip: NYC->Milan->Prague->Paris->Bangkok, all for $177. Pictures.
  3. Speaking at the 2014 Lean Startup Conference
  4. Getting flown down to Chile to help SaasGeneration.
  5. Crashing a random parade (which I later realized was probably a protest. Of what? Who knows!) in Valparaiso, Chile.
  6. Getting flown to Amsterdam to give a talk for Hyatt.
  7. Attending a 200+ person pillow fight. (and somehow I lost my shirt)
  8. Teaching Monica Guzman how to drive stick, and then live streaming the experience.
  9. Launching www.AmazingAirfare.net, getting a hundreds of paying customers, and then selling the business.
  10. Going to Orcas Island and building mysterious puzzles for future visitors.
  11. Working with my friend Fisher to help the State of Washington figure out how to build the best IT organization possible.
  12. The First Annual "Easter Egg Hide” where we hid easter eggs all over Capitol Hill.
  13. Going to DENT 2015 and giving a parkour workshop there.
  14. Going to a Metalachi show (a metal mariachi band).
  15. Going to a small SEAL “assault” training (with airsoft guns).
  16. Sprinkle Packing Party. (BOX IS LIFE. LABELS UP. NOTES FOR ALL.)
  17. Going to 10 new countries (Austria, Germany, France, Thailand, Myanmar, Egypt, Turkey, The Netherlands, Chile, South Africa)
  18. Moving to DC with Lauryl.
  19. Sleeping in a treehouse in South Africa, and waking up to Bushbabies in our ceiling.
  20. Seeing elephants, giraffes, and so much more at Kruger National Park Game Reserve. Pictures.
  21. Hearing a whale singing while scuba diving in Cape Town.
  22. Seeing my first shark in the wild, up close and very personal.
  23. Joining the federal government to work for 18F.
  24. Giving a talk, explaining what my team is and what we do, hundreds of people on my third day, with 27 minutes notice.
  25. Seeing Aladdin, my first broadway play.
  26. Traveling to South Africa with Lauryl for three weeks.

Okay 27. Lets rumble.

***

Picture is of me doing a backflip in Egypt in front of the Great Pyramids. This was just before our guide bribed the guards to let us into the far one and keep everyone else out, so we could have a quiet, private experience.

Definitely a highlight of the year.

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Sat, 24 Oct 2015 01:29:03 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/top-26-things-i-did-at-26
This Is What Real Life Looks Like http://blog.zaccohn.com/this-is-what-real-life-looks-like TL;DR: I’m publishing a read-only version of my live To Do and To-Done list. Transparency has been a big theme lately. The current #talkpay movement encouraging people to publicly disclose their salaries. Pushes for wearable body cameras to bring greater transparen]]>

TL;DR: I’m publishing a read-only version of my live To Do and To-Done list.

Transparency has been a big theme lately. The current #talkpay movement encouraging people to publicly disclose their salaries. Pushes for wearable body cameras to bring greater transparency to policing. Transparency into NSA’s surveillance efforts.

Transparency isn’t just a buzzword - it’s a powerful thing. When something hides in the shadows, it’s hard to see exactly how big or small it is. What color it is. Sometimes even what it is altogether. So your imagination fills in the gaps. And we all know that the details our imaginations invent are rarely accurate.

But when you illuminate something hiding in the shadows, you can suddenly see all the details. The monster is revealed to be just an everyday coat hanger.

The examples I gave above are big issues facing society today. But there is something to be said for everyday transparency, too.

I've been thinking a lot about the public image people present vs reality, and about the lack of clarity into what people's day to day lives are really like. I’m sure Producers on televisions shows are very important… but I have no idea what exactly it is they do. A student I know wants to be a graphic designer, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know what a graphic designer really does all day. And does anyone know how project managers stay busy all day?

I get this all the time. When I tell people I’m a consultant or an entrepreneur, they tend to say “Okay, so… what does that mean?”

Well. I’ll show you. As an experiment, I’m going to publish a read-only version of my master Trello board.

I’m going to give anyone in the world who wants to see it detailed insight into my day to day life. Everything from “invoice client x” to “build Twilio integration” to “do laundry.” The glorious to the mundane. I’ll keep a history of “Done” items so people can see not only what I need to do and what I’m doing, but also see what’s been completed.

I’ll publish links to this blog post and my Trello board on my main site, periodically on Facebook and Twitter, and include it in my email signature.

I don’t have any specific metrics for this experiment, but I am curious if:

-People view it more than once
-Other people adopt it as well (it’s easy! You should! #ToDoPublicly)
-The “surveillance” aspect pressures me to get things done faster and not let things sit around unfinished.
-It reduces "did you do that yet?" and "when will you do that?" type questions.

The last point I think is valuable for people at work. If someone asks you to do something, instead of making them ask when it will be done or what the status is, they can just look and see.

This will be a fun experiment. Trello doesn’t have a way to track people viewing a public board, so if you do take a look, hit me up on Twitter or email me (my domain name at google.com) and let me know what you think.

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Mon, 04 May 2015 16:13:49 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/this-is-what-real-life-looks-like
Public Speaking. Sometimes You Have to Suck Before You Can Rock. http://blog.zaccohn.com/public-speaking-sometimes-you-have-to-suck-before-you-can-rock The very first time I did any serious public speaking was the final pitch at a Startup Weekend.

Preparing for it, I pretty much knew I was doing everything wrong (wrote out the whole talk word for word, was trying to memorize it, etc), but did it anyway, and... it was brutal. It took me 5 minutes to get through the first 45 seconds of my pitch, and during the Q&A the judges just said "No questions." I let my amazing team down, I embarrassed myself, and I embarrassed my employer... which was Startup Weekend itself!

(Un)luckily, one of my team was taking a video. A few days later, I finally brought myself to watch it.

Turns out... it wasn't as bad as I thought. Don't get me wrong - it was still bad. But it wasn't "an asteroid the size of Venus hit the Earth" bad. That made me feel a bit better. So I actively put myself in more places where I could speak, so I could practice and get better.

Fast forward a few years later to today: As I write this, I'm sitting on a hotel bed in Amsterdam. The Hyatt saw a talk I gave in the Philippines on Youtube, found a talk I gave at TEDxSeattle, then paid me (a lot) to fly me out to The Netherlands to give a talk at an internal sales conference they were hosting.

How times change.

But you know what? Before every talk I give, including this one, I get so nervous. Before everyone gets there, I like to sit in the chairs. Pretend to be out in the audience. I'll sit in three, four, five different spots if I can, and just watch the stage. Think about what it will be like for them to watch me. I try to get into the audience's head. Take a bunch of really deep breaths.

Then it's showtime. Performer mode turns on, auto-pilot gets engaged, and nothing can stop me.

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Fri, 17 Apr 2015 09:20:57 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/public-speaking-sometimes-you-have-to-suck-before-you-can-rock
Unexpected Cynicism http://blog.zaccohn.com/unexpected-cynicism I see myself as a pretty positive person. I believe people can generally do anything, if they decide to truly make it happen. One of my favorite retorts when someone says they can’t do something is “Not with that attitude!” In 2008, my parkour friends a]]>

I see myself as a pretty positive person. I believe people can generally do anything, if they decide to truly make it happen. One of my favorite retorts when someone says they can’t do something is “Not with that attitude!”

In 2008, my parkour friends and I realized that negative attitudes are really detrimental to our training. Every time someone says “That jump is impossible” or “I can’t do this vault,” it’s admitting defeat. And if you admit defeat, you’ll never succeed.

So we started playing a game called “Banana, Mango, Coconut.” We picked the three most common negative words people would say when training (can’t, never, impossible). Every time you said one of those words, you had to do ten pushups. (We ended up replacing those words with banana, mango, and coconut, respectively. “I coconut this jump! I banana do this vault.”)

It might sound silly, but I think this game went a long way in forging a more positive attitude on life. Even if there’s just a small chance of a positive outcome, if you preemptively decide on a negative one, there’s now NO chance of the positive outcome happening.

A great example of this was my Thanksgiving goal. My roommate and I decided to go to Turkey for Thanksgiving (we were already in the region). So I decided, naturally, I wanted to spend Turkey Day in Turkey eating turkey with a Turk.

Almost 100% of people I talked to, after laughing at how ridiculous this idea was, said “I don’t think they have turkey in Turkey.”

I can’t describe how many people said this, and it actually started to bother me. If I accepted that they probably didn’t have turkey in Turkey, there was no way I was going to find it. But if I made it my MISSION, if I had a BURNING DESIRE that nothing could stop me from spending Turkey Day in Turkey eating Turkey with a Turk… if there was ONE PLACE in all of Istanbul that served turkey, I would find it. If there was a non-zero chance of success, I was going to succeed.

(spoilers: I succeeded)

However, I’ve noticed recently that I might be a lot more cynical than I thought I was. A few people have pointed this out, and since then I’ve noticed how it creeps into my thought process in subtle ways.

I’ve found it mostly comes out when dealing with other people - specifically new people I don’t know very well. Today, I was able to qualify at least one aspect of it a bit more:

I find it really, really, difficult to evaluate people who are bad at the things I’m good at, but I expect them to be good at.

For example, lets take someone who is running a small one or two person web company. If I am just meeting this person, I kind of expect them to have at least a basic understanding of copywriting, online marketing, and sales. If they’ve spent a reasonable amount of time on their company, I expect them to have a deep understanding of their customers’ problems, to be able to articulate them clearly, and to be able to pitch their company and product effectively.

In this example, if I met a founder who is absolutely terrible at writing copy, or has never talked to a customer, or can only pitch their solution, not the problem it’s solving… I lose a lot of faith in that person. Too often, I’ll write them off (or, if they’re receptive, switch into teacher mode).

I find it very, very difficult to evaluate someone if they don’t meet my (assumed) expectations for the skills they have. And that’s not fair. My expectations aren’t based on some universal rule, and just because they’re garbage at writing copy doesn’t mean they’re not legitimately good at something else.

The better I get to know someone, the more this goes away. But I don’t want to wait to get to know someone before realizing how unexpectedly amazing they truly are.

I recognize this is a flaw, and I’d like to work on it. I’d like to eliminate my cynicism altogether, but first I need to keep identifying areas where I’m cynical so I know what to work on.

If you have any suggestions (or other areas where I’m cynical that I maybe haven’t noticed yet), leave them in the comments!

***

Picture is of a backflip in Phuket, Thailand. In my opinion, this was about the only good part of Phuket.

I moved into a new apartment today. It's a cool place, and I'm very close to lots of friends. Should be a lot of fun!

I launched a new side project this weekend. It's called Amazing Airfare. Basically, for $8 a month I will email and text you all the crazy airfares I find. I'm only sending airfare that's more than 50% off. If you get jealous of my $177 trip to Milan/Vienna/Munich/Prague/Paris/Bangkok, or my upcoming $277 roundtrip flight to Johannesburg... this would be a good thing for you to sign up for. :)

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Thu, 08 Jan 2015 09:17:23 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/unexpected-cynicism
What Is Today For? http://blog.zaccohn.com/what-is-today-for I opened my eyes. It was dark. Really, really dark. Oh, right. I still have my sleep mask on. I took off my sleep mask. It was bright. Really, really bright. I looked at my phone. It was 12:08pm. Uh.. crap. I put the sleep mask back on. My friends went ahead to Prague]]>

I opened my eyes. It was dark. Really, really dark.

Oh, right. I still have my sleep mask on.

I took off my sleep mask. It was bright. Really, really bright.

I looked at my phone. It was 12:08pm. Uh.. crap.

I put the sleep mask back on.

My friends went ahead to Prague, and I'm staying in Munich another two days to meet up with a friend. My friend isn't free until Monday night though, so I didn't have any plans for today. Turns out, I slept until noon.

By the time I finally got showered, dressed, and went outside, it was 1:30. I headed to Karlsplatz (Karl's Plaza) to take my backflip picture... but the lighting was all wrong, so I gave up on it for today.

I wandered into the old city to get some lunch, and by the time I was done eating and had paid the bill, it was 3:30pm. I originally planned to work on my book, but the the restaurant didn't have any power outlets, so I read on my Kindle instead.

I went back to the hostel to charge up and start writing, but when I got there... I just couldn't bring myself to write. We're almost done writing the book, but everything that's left is hard, complicated, and important. There's a lot of contextual information to keep track of, and the work is a combination of editing, expanding on bullet points, and thinking about what's missing and writing it from scratch.

It's exhausting and tiring work, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it today. So when my new friend from yesterday found me in the hostel lobby and asked if I wanted to get dinner, I said yes.

Because I've been sprinting ever since I landed in New York 9 days ago. And I'm exhausted. And looking forward, in the next seven days I'll be in 4 new cities, 3 new countries, have driven 6 hours, flown another 15 hours, and jumped countless time zones. It's going to be intense.

I'm definitely the type that always wants to go. Always wants to fit more in. Get more done. But at some point, I have to think about what's next. The next week is going to be more exhausting than this past one, so maybe taking today to rest is actually a good thing. Sometimes you have to listen to your body and do what it needs. Once you listen, take the appropriate mindset.

If I don't get anything done, I feel like I've wasted a day. If I decide today is for resting, then I've done what I need to do.

***

I had a much more in depth second half to this post, but I stupidly hit the wrong button and lost it all. I did my best to re-write it, but it's way later than I'm happy with, so I'm just posting this one as-is.

At the beer hall yesterday, I waved some Brazilians over to hang out with us. My friend and I decided to draw a portrait of one of them. Together. At the same time. With the same pen. It looks a little more like an Angry Bird than a Brazilian, but it was a fun experiment. The bottom half is our attempt to sign the piece of art. With both of our names. At the same time.

  • Communicate: Yes.
  • Write: Yes.
  • PT: Yes.
  • Meet someone new: Yes. Software developer from Canada who's working on Augmented Reality.
  • Do something new: Yes. Swung from a stripper pole at the hostel bar. (Seemed like a good idea at the time...)

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Mon, 03 Nov 2014 01:12:41 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/what-is-today-for
Always Say Yes http://blog.zaccohn.com/always-say-yes "It's 5:45pm. We'll just head upstairs and get some rest. Lets regroup around 8pm and go out." The four of us headed up to our room. My friends laid down to take naps, while I worked on how I was going to get from Munich to Prague to catch my next flight. At eight, we we]]>

"It's 5:45pm. We'll just head upstairs and get some rest. Lets regroup around 8pm and go out."

The four of us headed up to our room. My friends laid down to take naps, while I worked on how I was going to get from Munich to Prague to catch my next flight.

At eight, we were going to meet up with one or two people from the walking tour of Munich we went on earlier that day and go out to a beer hall. They were going to meet up with us at the bar in the basement of the hostel at 8pm.

Well, 8:10 rolls around, and everyone is still asleep. 8:15, someone stirs and sleepily asks if we should go out or stay in. We decide we should go out, somewhat out of guilt for our new friends who were waiting for us.

And we had the best time.

A new girl staying in the hostel joined us, and we went to a beer hall. For Americans who have never experienced a beer hall, think a school cafeteria, but with lots of character, personality, people, and (obviously) lots of beer.

Almost immediately after we sat at an extended picnic table, I made eye contact with two Brazilians across the room. Without really thinking, I waved them over. They got up and started walking towards us.

"Oops. Guys, I think I just invited these two people to join us." I said just as they sat down. Luckily, Brazilians are super social and they immediately jumped into the conversation.

And they were awesome.

We ended up Googling hilarious fake animals from our home countries (drop bears, anyone?), drawing (very, very, very bad) portraits of each other, and pulling pranks on each other. They changed up the dynamic of the group, livened up the conversation and brought even more internationality to the group (which was currently Americans, Australians, and Brits).

I'm meeting a friend in Munich on Monday night. I have to be at the airport in Prague on Tuesday by 3:50pm for a flight that I cannot miss. The only flights that would get me from Munich to Prague in time on Tuesday were $800. The trains were all too slow. I found a bus that would work. Barely. But it's be sketchy and risky. And the consequences of failure would be pretty huge.

Then I found a carpooling service called BlaBlaCar. A guy named Simone had posted that he was driving from Munich to Prague on Tuesday morning. For about $50, I could ride with him.

Many people would say no. What if he bails? What if he's sketchy? What if the ride is super awkward?

All that might happen... but what if it doesn't?

***

Picture is of Munich at sunset. To get this picture, we climbed 91 meters (about 400 stairs) to the top of St. Peters Church, which was built in 1158.

Today we went on a walking tour of Munich. The tour guide was pretty awful, but we met some new friends, so definitely a net positive. We walked through the English Gardens, which is apparently 2 to 3 times the size of Central Park. Which is already huge. We took naps, then went to an amazing beer hall.

People often wonder how I can have a good time at bars, even though I don't drink. This beer hall was a perfect example of how to have an amazingly good time. Maybe a full post on the beer hall later.

  • Communicate: Yes.
  • Write: Yes.
  • PT: It's 4am, but I'm going to go do it as soon as I hit the "submit" button on this post.
  • Meet someone new: Yes! Five people today. Two from the tour, one was another traveler from the hostel, and then two people I randomly waved over to sit with us at the beer hall.
  • Do something new: Yes. Went to a beer hall. Bonus: Drew a picture with someone else while we both held onto the pen and were trying to draw a portrait of someone at the same time.

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Sun, 02 Nov 2014 02:56:41 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/always-say-yes
Routine: Failure. http://blog.zaccohn.com/routine-failure Short post today, because laptop battery is at 5% and I'm very sleepy.

  • Communicate: No, not really.
  • Write: Yes. (Not a blog post, but did a bunch of writing for my book, so that counts).
  • PT: No. Excuse: was running late this morning. But excuses still mean no.
  • Meet someone new: No. Excuse: was on a train most of the day. Still a garbage excuse.
  • Do something new: Yes. Went on my first train in Europe! Maxed out at 230kph. It was very, very fast.

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Fri, 31 Oct 2014 21:51:51 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/routine-failure
Want to Start a New Routine? Easy. Just Disrupt Your Whole Life. http://blog.zaccohn.com/want-to-start-a-new-routine-easy-just-disrupt-your-whole-life I've been thinking a lot about routines since last December. My friend Sebastian is incredible at maintaining routines, and my friend Tynan considers routines one of the secret ingredients to consistency, which he thinks of as his superpower. I am definitely not an exper]]>

I've been thinking a lot about routines since last December. My friend Sebastian is incredible at maintaining routines, and my friend Tynan considers routines one of the secret ingredients to consistency, which he thinks of as his superpower.

I am definitely not an expert at maintaining routines, but I've had fits and starts. In January I started a "Monthly Focus Project." Every month I was going to pick one (JUST ONE!) of the many activities I want to improve. January was Blues Dancing. Other activities in the hopper were poker, tricking, poi, writing, yoga, etc.

The intention was that during the month, I'd find a way to do that activity as much as possible, it would always be the default activity, and it would take precedence over other options. At the end of the month, I'd either repeat the same activity if I wanted to improve more, or switch to the next one.

In January I went dancing 18 times (which was great!). I learned so much, and I made huge leaps in my dancing that I've been able to largely maintain to this day. decided to repeat it the next month. In February, I went dancing 1 time. The project fell apart.

In March, I spent a month traveling to Palestine, Israel, and China. I decided I was going to blog about my experiences every day. During the two weeks in Palestine and Israel, I woke up early every day to write. I wrote about my expectations vs the reality of Palestine, I wrote about Palestinian startup culture, I wrote about losing my passport and how people react to crises. I've been able to remember so many details, so many stories, and so many of my thoughts about that trip.

Then I went to China, and didn't write at all. Whomp whomp. I remember China, but not nearly as well as I remember Israel and Palestine.

I started going to Physical Therapy in September for some chronic shoulder pain. In her office, the PT and I did a lot of tests and exercises and movements to help her figure out the best way to correct the problem. After each session, she'd give me homework. Very simple movements I could do with little to no equipment that should fix my shoulder. I saw her four times over about 6 weeks.

I did the exercises a grand total of three times.

This was really frustrating. I was paying her a lot of money. I trusted her. Her tests actually stopped the pain in my shoulder - I knew this would work. So why didn't I do the freaking exercises?

It came down to routine. I had a routine at home. And it's really hard to change routines. It's not like I actively decided not to do them. It's just that I usually only thought about doing them when I didn't have time or couldn't do them.

I only have three minutes before the bus. I'm in the car. I'm falling asleep, and if I get up to exercise I'll be wide awake. I'm in the shower, I'll do them when I get out and dry off (but then I forget).

Adding something as simple as 10 minutes of simple exercises to my daily routine was really hard.

Several times, I'd try to write down my intended morning routine, so I wouldn't have to think. I could just read it off the post it note on the wall.

That would work well for a few days, but for the last six months my schedule has been anything but standard. Some days I have to get up at 5am. Some days, 7am. Other days, I don't have to wake up at any particular time so I focus on getting a full 8 hours. Some days I slept in hotels, some days I slept at friends' houses. Ultimately, all this fluctuation meant my routine would get disrupted.

Thinking about when I've succeeded, when I've failed, and the Why's, it seems like there's always a major life change involved. Traveling, for instance. When I travel, I can start and maintain new routines easily. As soon as I go back home, I fall back into my old routines.

Now that I've recognized that, maybe I can do something about it. When I come back from #pricelinetrip, I'll either be homeless, or have to dive right into finding a new place to live. While I'm going to continue trying to change my habits at home, I can definitely use my new apartment as a catalyst for change.

What do you wish you did as part of your daily routine? What can you do to start incorporating that? Leave a comment and share!

***

This has been Day 2 in Vienna. Went on a walking tour of Vienna and went to an opera for the first time. Picture is of the Opera House.

On the flight to Europe, I made a list of a few things I want to do every day on #pricelinetrip:

  • Communicate with at least one person from back home
  • Write every day.
  • Do my PT exercises every day.
  • Meet and talk to someone new every day.
  • Do something new.

I'm going to start including whether or not I did each of these five bullet points in the *** section of each of my blog posts. For this post:

  • Communicate: Yes.
  • Write: Yes.
  • PT: Yes.
  • Meet someone new: Yes. Canace, from England. Speaks English, German, French, Russian.
  • Do something new: Yes. Went to the Opera.

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Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:56:18 +0000 http://blog.zaccohn.com/want-to-start-a-new-routine-easy-just-disrupt-your-whole-life