This will be my first year of saying no

For as long as I remember, I was proud of being someone whose default response was YES. It was the right mind frame for my teens and 20s. But I turned 30 last year. And I now I want to get better at the other side of that spectrum: saying no.

So I made it one of my 2017 resolutions: to say NO more often. Though I hope to do lots with that perspective, it will come down to focusing my attention.

This is my pledge to myself that I will say no, that I will limit what I do and agree to so that I only focus on what I can do well. That means I will have to say no to things I care about.

One of the clearest ways I’m doing that is by dropping and limiting my existing extra curricular activities, while being far choosier about any I add. Understand: this does not mean I don’t have interest in these or other issues. This means I’m focusing on what I can provide unique value to and fits me now.

I’m aiming to take this more into my day job (so I don’t let my office get as cluttered and messy as it was in the header photo from early 2015) but for the first clearest way to show my progress, I wanted to share what I’ve already set in motion.

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I turned 30 and fell out of shape. Here’s what I did about it

Not long after my 30th birthday early this year, I had what might be called a commonly American experience. I noticed I had suddenly gained a bunch weight —  going from weighing something like 190 lbs, where I had been for years, to 220 in what felt like just a couple months. I also just felt worse.

That puzzled me — my diet hadn’t changed much, I was still (somewhat?) active, with basketball and bicycle commuting and frequent walks. What went wrong? I had been a skinny kid my entire life: why would I gain weight? …This wasn’t entirely because I turned 30, right? (Oh my were my friends amused by this).

It took me more than two months to figure out the pretty straightforward answer and the rest of this year to do something about it.

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Here are some things I’ve learned about being a better writer

For its age and influence and subjectivity, writing is one of those crafts that require great study and practice, though they don’t guarantee success alone.

The ordering of words has always been a great love of mine. I’ve been writing at length for as long as I can remember in whatever medium I could find. I’ve spent the last 10 years developing my news writing form, a tradition I have great pride in. However I’ve tried to keep developing my creative storytelling instincts too — fiction being a complimentary but wholly distinct offering from the non-fiction I know best.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

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3 trends I learned this year that totally shook my understanding of the American economy

I learn new big foundational truths every year. Yet for some reason, three trends in particular that I learned this year meaningfully shifted how I understood my country, in particular the work I do in reporting and organizing around economic development.

They’re so important and telling that I admit I’m a little embarrassed I only really understood them this year.

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“I want a thousand 100-person companies”: a few notes on my part of a profile on Curalate CEO Apu Gupta

Writer John Marchese profiled Apu Gupta, the CEO and cofounder of image intelligence startup Curalate, in Philadelphia magazine this month. It’s a good piece, so read it.

(Last year, Phillymag kindly profiled my cofounder and I too )

I’ve followed Apu and Curalate since their earliest days and been long eager to discuss entrepreneurship ecosystem building in the Philadelphia region — as I do in a dozen other communities in the country. (Find Technical.ly coverage of Apu and Curalate, including the offices we shared).

Business communities need to grow new, dynamic companies. In a still young Philly tech startup sector, we’ve asked the question of whether Curalate will be that region’s next big story, as part of building its scene further.

So in trying to contextualize Apu’s importance, John joined me at our annual Super Meetup this summer and asked me some questions. I wanted to share a few more thoughts on the piece.

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What I learned at the Online News Association 2016 national conference

I’m a fan of the Online News Association‘s annual conference. I’ve been before and went again in September to Denver, getting the chance to speak again too.

My favorite part of the conference is the chance to catch up with peers and meet new friends, largely to check in on whether I think my organization is still sharp. As a local chapter organizer for ONA, I got the added treat this year of networking with other local organizers too. But helpfully I do often find a handful of traditional conference sessions on topics I’m thinking about and learn some things, particularly tactical tips and tricks. I wanted to share some of what I learned.

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The speed of government (and other institutions) is a feature not a bug

Recently a few ideas came together for me that made me want to acknowledge something that might be obvious to others. It isn’t directly related to the Election but it offers a timeliness.

At their best, institutions, and governments specifically, move slowly by design. Like the plan for charter schools influencing school districts, the very hope for startups and other young organizations is to be a place for risk and experimentation.

By merger or sheer influence, the best of these ideas should survive their way through bureaucracy and other obstacles. Others won’t survive. Though that has worked for so long in much of American political life, we were just reminded of how vulnerable that still is. But that isn’t the real goal.

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