My 12 Rules to Live By

Anybody worth learning from has plenty they stand for.

I love hearing the rules of thumb, the standards, the conventional wisdom and the accrued learnings of these people. Similarly I try to capture tightly-phrased aphorisms and holding myself accountable with plenty of direct and specific lists and resolutions.

So of course I was a sucker for the concept of ‘12 Rules for Life.’ It’s a book published early this year by Jordan Peterson that spiraled from popular to, fitting for today’s era, being engulfed in a strangely hyper-gendered debate. The book’s over-simplified approach of ordering one’s life with structure did gain positive feedback, including a podcast episode from Malcolm Gladwell. But because Peterson is aflame in lots of identity politics, I walked away from the the book less interested in adding to that debate than with something else.

I spent the last several months taking notes of the many universal truths I held myself to, and recommended for others. It became a fun game for parties among friends and family: what are your 12 Rules to Live By?

Let me share.

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01:10: Hip Hop Icon T.I.

Who better to explore one of popular writing’s most contested modern debates than an icon who has worked on both sides of that debate? That’s why today’s episode of The Writing Process Podcast, the final of this first season, is with T.I.

Conventional wisdom tells that the process of developing rap lyrics was polarized by the genre’s most prolific star: Jay-Z maintained he would develop lyrics in his mind, influencing Biggie’s habit of not writing lyrics either. That transformed a generation of rap stars into memory-led lyricists.

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Build the habit of making habits: resolutions of mine that stuck

A friend asked me what I thought is the best skill to develop. Build the habit of habits, I told her.

That’s how you get the most out of yourself and your place. It won’t always work but if you develop the rigor and constitution to choose to add a habit and then go and do just that, you’ll be gold. That is how you develop discipline.

My method for doing this is my near obsessive approach to annual resolutions. Each year, I put forward a dozen of them, many straightforward goals but often several tied to habits I want to add to who I am. I tie them to individual months but in truth I plan to do many of them throughout the year and beyond.

Recently I was considering how many personality traits of mine I believe started as resolutions. I think they’re a good example of building the habit of building habits. I wanted to share.

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Here’s the data to put our country’s startup frenzy into context

Policymakers and economic development strategists are startup crazy — in pursuit of a silly goal. I know. I’ve spent most of the last decade reporting on young tech companies, exactly the slice of firm creation that has led much of the attention in this post-recession fixation.

Though I’ve taken various approaches at understanding what, if anything, is really different about this era’s of business creation, I recently found myself pulling together some data that I wanted to share.

Hype around startups — newly created businesses, particularly ones that are approaching new business models — has merit. But the concept isn’t as new and their impact isn’t yet as bold as you might hope — Millennials are on pace to be one of the least entrepreneurial generations on record.

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I am a white Airbnb host. I reviewed 102 guest requests to assess my own racial bias

Peer-to-peer, short-term housing platform Airbnb is probably my favorite consumer web company. A traveling member since 2011, my wife SACM and I have been hosting travelers too for most of the last year. I’m a proud and happy user.

Yet I know that some of the loudest news about Airbnb in its last couple years of mainstream expansion has been controversial: first, about the company navigating municipal hotel taxes and, most recently, its central role in a conversation about racial bias in the sharing economy.

You know, #AirbnbWhileBlack.

So now that my wife and I have been hosting for nearly a year and have received more than 100 requests, I wanted review for our own selection bias.

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I got married. Here’s a bunch of data on the experience.

I got engaged. Then I got married.

Between those two dates, I built one of the most involved spreadsheets of my life (yup, that’s something I think about). SACM and I used that spreadsheet to choose our wedding venue, predict attendance, invite guests, track purchases and monitor gifts. We’ve also been using it to give advice to friends.

Some of what we collected is private but lots of it is worth sharing for your own planning and budgeting purposes. That’s what I do below.

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Journalism isn’t what we should try to save: Philly example

A couple times a year, someone in Philadelphia technology will say to me, what that community really needs to broaden its prominence is “its own Tech Crunch,” a reference to the established and influential tech business blog with Silicon Valley roots. The implication is, with all due respect to the maturity of Technical.ly Philly (relative to our newer, smaller markets) and its readership and regular events, that Philadelphia needs a megaphone to a global audience of investors and talent.

When someone says this, I hide my cringe and instead I politely nod, before changing the subject.

Of course, a statement like that shows a profound lack of understanding of audience, goals and impact in online media. Tech Crunch is established and influential because it covers big, well-funded tech business nationally, not a fledgling community in a non-traditional hub. Technical.ly Philly looks the way it does because of where it is. It doesn’t have national readership because it isn’t national in focus. The people who say “we need a Tech Crunch,” are confusing outcomes and solutions (Silicon Valley was the global tech leader first, then it spawned Tech Crunch, not the other way around).

Put another way: Media is a Mirror. This is a problem that happens elsewhere.

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15 things Ice T said during an insightful speech at an MIT event I also spoke at

Approach pitching a reporter like any business act, with purpose. I gave an updated version of a presentation I’ve given before on how to get your business media attention, with my continuing to evolve thoughts about the process, as an editor and reporter, to a Small Bytes entrepreneurship conference at MIT in February. But the keynote was rapper turned actor Ice T and proved interesting to be sure.

He was funny, smart and, truly, actually fairly insightful. He knew who he was and was playful about that but he had a long life of experience. It made me think about how valuable time-developed wisdom is. Pop culture or not, he had some wonderful stories with practical thoughts.

Maybe the personally most amusing part was that because I spoke right before Ice T, he watched my talk and referenced it a few times, referring to me as “the reporter.” I will smile for years in the future whenever I think of Ice T saying, after I addressed the crowd and told them that the media doesn’t owe anyone any favors: “Like the reporter said, no one gives a fuck about you.”

Though I was expecting to mostly just be amused, instead, I found myself jotting down a few notes worth remembering. Find them below.

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How Spring Street could thrive: survival for small towns in a new urban age

Newton is a small town in the northwest corner of New Jersey, where preserved forests, protected open space and state-backed farm land has curtailed suburbanization to maintain the foundation of what could be a thriving community in an urban age. It has a dense Main Street corridor and the anchor institutions of a 250-year-old town, as a gateway to this beautiful rural region. It also happens to be where I grew up.

Elsewhere in Sussex County, there are lake houses and golf courses that attract vacationers and tourists (and reporters) from the New York City market — that’s where my parents and other families came from. Though I believe there are unique assets, I also think this story is one that will relate to communities throughout the country and certainly elsewhere in the U.S. Northeast.

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Here’s the final math on my middle class $100k college education

I have now fully paid the $100,000 that my college experience from Temple University cost. Here I share the breakdown of some more specifics on what those costs include and how I paid them.

This month, six years after graduating from Temple, I will put $1,800 to close out the last of my student loans. As many of my peers, who attended ‘out-of-state’ universities and are from, relatively speaking, privileged, middle class families will tell you, I accelerated this process considerably. I don’t like debt, so each year since 2010 when I was able to do so, I paid more than I was required to in order to speed the process of getting debt free.

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