Why I have a “hooray” file and you need one too

There’s a lot of bad career advice in the world. But early in my career I read an article with this tip: Any time you get significant praise, drop it into a file marked “Hooray.” Then, when you have a bad day, pull out your hooray file and flip through it. It will remind you of all the great things you’ve done and all the great people you work with.

I’ve been doing this for well over a decade and it really works. Not only does it help life my mood on a tough day (and, as a PR pro I’m likely to have a lot of those) but it also comes in handy at performance review time.

Your hooray file can be paper or electronic — I actually have both. I have an email folder since most praise comes that way now, and then a paper folder for notes and such. I actually recently started putting some of the physical notes up on the wall over my desk. That’s been a real mood and confidence booster.

What are you waiting for? Start a hooray file today. You’ll be glad you did.

Better Than Resolutions

My friend Charlie has a blog and a newsletter that are must-reads for anyone working in tech in New York City.

Before the holidays he blogged a list of things to do in 2013. I like this way better than resolutions.

Here’s some of Charlie’s list:

  • Three people I’m actually friends with that I would like to be better friends with.
  • Ten people I should know, but don’t.
  • Five people I’d like to help be successful.
  • Three things I’d like to learn.

Check out the rest of Charlie’s list here. And sign up for Charlie’s newsletter here. It’s full of all kinds of great events in New York for people working in tech. Which might inspire you to add “Go to more tech events” to your list of to-dos in 2013.

J.D. Falk

Last night my colleague and friend J.D. Falk died after a year-long battle with cancer. My company’s CEO wrote a post on our company’s site that gives more insight into J.D. and his work in the email industry. This is my personal memory of him.

I think it’s appropriate that my first real interaction with J.D. was over email. We were trading emails in the weeks leading up to him leaving Yahoo! to join Return Path about how we were going to announce his appointment. In one of his emails I noticed a line of type at the top of the email that said MY FROGS ARE ON FIRE. It struck me as very odd because it was in a place that I had never noticed any text before. I was so fascinated that I spent several minutes figuring out how he’d done it. (It was the “flag” field in Outlook which can, as I learned, be customized.)

I was so proud of myself for figuring it out that I replied to his email and changed the custom text to say AND MY SNAKES ARE DROWNING. I can’t remember his exact response but I do recall that I got his trademark *grin*.

In in the spring of 2010 he and I embarked on a large project to launch a second company blog at Return Path called Received:. It was a project that he was very passionate about. We had already solidified our collaborative relationship through my editing of his writing, but this took us to a new level. He was moving from being simply a writer (though that was a very important contribution) to becoming an editor as well. Over the course of that summer, through to launch and for several months after we had bi-weekly “editorial chats” via phone or, when technology cooperated, Skype. In many ways those chats were like recess for me — a half hour to just talk to someone smart about the things were both passionate about. What an absolute treat.

It was also a treat to serve, as humbly as I often felt I did, as his editor. J.D. was an amazing writer (he confessed to me once that if it paid a decent living he’d have become a professional writer — and he certainly had the talent to do so) and he always wanted to be better. He enjoyed the collaboration of the editing process. I am a better editor today because of my work with him.

I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to work with J.D. and I will miss him terribly.

You can read much more about J.D. on the memorial site that has been set up to celebrate his life and record the amazing impact he had on the world.

J.D. Falk

The Year in Ideas

This week’s NY Times Magazine is the annual Year in Ideas Issue.  This is my favorite issue of the whole year. And this one is the tenth anniversary.

The whole thing is worth a read, but I’ve done the work so you don’t have to.  Here’s my picks for stuff that is most relevant to us:

Cybercom:  (What the Pentagon is — and is not — doing to secure the internet.)

The Long-Life-Span Smartphone:  (Interesting as smartphones get more and more ubiquitous.)

Emotional Spell Check: (Fascinating idea that you could have something to check your email for “tone.” Posits that some companies could prevent you from sending a message that violates their “tone policy.” Ugh.)

Social Network as Social Index:  (Interesting all around, especially the quote about using social networks for market research.)

Lebron James’s “Decision”:  (While noting that James screwed this up, it just shows the ongoing erosion of establishment media. We all own the printing presses now.)

The making of the cover with a QR code made out of balloons: (I confess I still don’t understand what the heck these codes do and I just figured out how to read them, but the cover is very cool.)

Virginia Heffernan’s Medium Column is on Tor, a system for sharing information anonymously: (Very interesting and very cool.)

In Pursuit of the Perfect Brainstorm: (Thinking about thinking. Plus, watch consultants who get up to $500,000 per month! Oh, and this one contains a good media relations lesson. Never, never, never ask a journalist not to write about something. Not only will that guarantee that they will write about it, but will also guarantee that you will be quoted asking them not to write about.)

A Physicist Solves the City: (Fascinating anyway, but mostly interesting for the part at the end where the physicist applies some of what he has learned about cities to corporations.