Growth Feedback Framework

I recently published a post on Medium about feedback culture. Specifically, I applied the Growth Mindset to feedback to help organizations address feedback problems. Here’s a preview:

Let’s face it, it’s hard to give feedback that matters. Feedback that matters should help the receiver improve, but that kind of feedback is rare in many workplaces because it isn’t given for fear of offending someone or feedback tends to only point out errors without offering pointers for improvement. This lack of honest feedback in turn leads to tension and lingering problems, a dysfunctional organization.

This is a phenomenon I noticed at FiscalNote back in Fall 2015 and one that resonated with others on the Product team. Early that year, we had launched a new product only to find it harder to sell than expected. Some people including myself had the feeling we had completely missed the mark only to find ourselves making incremental improvements with the hope that the next update would get us that product-market fit. We found ourselves skirting around the giant elephant in the room — the fact that we decided to build what was easy and not what solved new pain points for our customers — and lacked brutal honesty with each other. In these sorts of environments, it feels hard to hold each other accountable without hurting feelings and as a result, a lot of time gets wasted mulling over issues instead of taking action.

Read the full article here!

I will start posting thoughts on technology and entrepreneurship on Medium, so check it out and follow me if you like what you see!

21. August 2016 by Earl
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2015: What if it’s a gift?

Earl at Smithsonian Zoo

A young teen opens up his Christmas presents to find an Xbox One. It’s a huge upgrade from the hand-me-down PlayStation 2 he used to play as a kid. He loves it and immediately becomes addicted to Halo 5, playing it for hours on end, even sacrificing school work and pickup games with friends. A couple months later, while playing Halo 5, the boy curses and chucks his controller at the console. Clink! The controller knocks over a cup of water perched on a coffee table between the boy and the TV set. The water splashes all over the console, and few seconds later, the screen goes blank. Worried, the boy runs to his father and asks him to fix it. The father walks over, tinkers around for half an hour and declares, “Son, you’re Xbox One is dead.” “No! Why! This is the worst!” the boy yells. The father, calm as the blank TV screen in front of him, looks his son in the eye and says, “It’s your fault you lost your temper, son.” “But, it isn’t fair that my Xbox broke so soon,” continues the boy, tears forming in his eyes, “Who knows when I’ll get a new one!” The father smiles and tells his son, “Oh, but what if it’s a gift?”

While reflecting on 2015, I found it hard to come up with one story to tell, one lesson I learned, or one change that happened. How is one supposed to fit an entire year, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, or 31.536 million seconds into one reasonably short blog post that won’t bore people to death?

But then I realized that everything that was running through my head really boiled down to this: Think big.

To be specific, think big in the face of change. A lot changed for me in 2015.

  1. I graduated college and left the place I called home for the past four years.
  2. I forged amazing friendships with and mentored some freshman during my last year at Yale but then moved hundreds of miles away from them.
  3. I met and dated a girl who made me really happy, created incredible memories together, but then lost her.
  4. I became a product manager at FiscalNote after spending almost two years writing code and took ownership over several large initiatives—growth, metrics, and our API.

Change can be a blessing, but it can also be hard. It doesn’t discriminate between health, money, relationships, or career. It touches everything in your life, seemingly at random.

There’s a quote I love that goes, “Victims are frightened by change; leaders are inspired by change.” This is one of the mantras I try and live by. I’m not going to lie. At one point or another, I was frightened by every change that happened this year, but that fear and discomfort, slowly but surely, changes to inspiration. You think bigger than the past, the present, and the what-if. You begin to see opportunities born out of the current situation, out of change. How fast that shift happens—if at all—depends on your mindset.

On a similar vein, I don’t believe in karma. I don’t believe in luck. I don’t believe in destiny. I believe everyone is in control of their life. It’s easy to give in to external factors. It’s easy to say, “That’s not fair,” or “It’s out of my hands.” Once you believe something is out of your control, that you should leave things as-is, then you don’t have to work. However, there’s always something you can do. By blaming external factors, you victimize yourself and give up your power. If you take a step back and think bigger than that one change—if you turn a little to the left or to the right and take a few steps forward—then you’ll be able to look over and see that being forced to change paths was a gift.

Read on for my 2016 resolutions!
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10. January 2016 by Earl
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Outcome Independence

View from The Penthouse

They say ignorance is bliss. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not. Maddening curiosity is not bliss, nor is slowly settling into the life you know without taking a step back to look at the big picture and what else is out there. The past couple weeks, I went on vacation, and for once, I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I stopped working. I stopped lifting. I got on a flight to LAX and didn’t look back.
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21. March 2015 by Earl
Categories: Life | 1 comment

2014: Habits I Plan to Keep and Acquire

Earl on a rock

Will Durant once said, while paraphrasing Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” In the spirit of excellent habits, most of my 2015 New Year’s resolutions are structured as habits I plan to acquire or continue to keep up. Hopefully, these can help you think of some habits you want to pick up in 2015.

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09. January 2015 by Earl
Categories: Life | 1 comment

2013: Strangers, Money, & Opportunity

Last Year's Short Rib

The title of this post sounds a lot like the headline of some political scandal, but in fact, it highlights the keywords of things I learned this year. I don’t know about you guys, but I learned and changed a lot in 2013. I discovered new passions, such as Olympic-style weightlifting. I tried new things, from coding at hackathons to wrestling, and I changed the way I make decisions.

Cantonese Pork Belly at Nom
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01. January 2014 by Earl
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Raku and Dolcezza Artisanal Gelato

Tuna Tartare at Raku

Tomorrow, I am going up to New York before I head back up to school the next day Thursday. I look forward to returning to school because, over the summer, I set my mind on a career path and found what passions I really want to pursue. Without delving into details, I gained new life experiences this summer. For that, I have to thank everyone I spent the summer with—fellow interns in Houston, old high school friends I met up with in California, new friends I made at Google, and more. Yet, as I prepare for my third year at Yale, I can’t help but feel rushed. With only two years of college left, I wonder if I’ll find myself in the spring of senior year wanting to start over. This is something I’ve talked about with recent graduates and alumni, and they’ve all agreed that by the end of senior year, Yalies are ready for and accepting of moving on to the real world. While comforting, this doesn’t change my renewed determination to maximize the latter half of my college years, so here’s to the next two years.

Raku

Last weekend, I visited a hip Japanese restaurant located in the heart of Bethesda, MD. Located in the midst of a busy shopping district, Raku is easy to overlook, but for its reasonably low prices, it doesn’t disappoint.

When I met my friend Sarah at the restaurant on a Friday evening, Raku was packed to the brim. Chances are, without the reservation I made earlier on in the week, we would have looked at a healthy waiting period before getting seated. In retrospect, some time spent with the menu before getting seated wouldn’t have hurt.

Raku’s dinner menu spans over 15 sections, from First Flavors to California Lineups. Among the intriguing options are ‘Seoul’ Train Roll and Chinese Five Spiced Duck Breast. Raku’s menu brings the indecisiveness out of most people, and it is menus like this that make me want to pursue a part-time role as a paid food writer, just so I could order everything that fancies my mind.
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20. August 2013 by Earl
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Google Chrome Academy 2013

Team Baguette

Last week, I attended a program called Google Chrome Academy, and it was one of the most memorable weeks I’ve enjoyed in my life. Chrome Academy is a weeklong camp at Google’s main campus in Mountain View, CA, where rising sophomores and juniors learn about web technologies, such as AngularJS and Polymer, and build their own web apps for a culminating presentation. In a sense, it’s like a week-long hackathon. To me, it was a paid vacation. Everything is covered—from basics, such as flights, hotel, and food, to extras, such as Patagonia backpack, Nexus 7, and a Google apron. We rode around in limos, posed for photos with the storied bicycles Google has lying around campus, hand-made pizzas at a Google café, took pictures of ourselves sleeping on charter buses, ate garlic fries at AT&T park while watching the Giants face off against the Marlins, and talked late into the night about where we wanted to be next summer.

Few things in life are better than you anticipate it, but this was one of them. Perhaps it was the late-night coding fueled by beef jerky and OhYeah! protein bars, or the laughter shared with my teammates who all came from different walks of life, or the feeling of roaming Googleplex as if I were a freshman again, but everything seemed just right. I found myself inside a bubble where nearly everything and only the things I care about* were all there. I even managed to get a few sleep-deprived, weightlifting sessions in, one of which resulted in a snatch PR.

At Google, we heard first-hand about web technologies. For example, Eric Bidelman, one of the developers of the new Polymer framework, taught us about web components and Polymer. Vojta Jina, a developer working on AngularJS, introduced us to the emerging Javascript MVW framework. We learned how to optimize our websites and utilize HTML5 features from Googlers who helped write specs. Everyone who dropped by were masters of their fields. I have no doubt that they were all probably busy with more pressing matters, but here they were, there, in-person, open to having one-on-one conversations and help sessions.

The food I ate, the free swag I got, and the new technologies I learned about will all fade into the past, but the people I met, the friends I made, the struggles, laughters, and aspirations we shared will be with me forever. Thank you to everyone who became a part of my experience at Chrome Academy, especially the organizers—Allison, Janet, Desiree, and Peter—my team, and the few others not on my team but wished you were.

*This is a dangerous statement to make because I care about many more things, such as family, but I’m going to go ahead and abuse my literary license.

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27. June 2013 by Earl
Categories: Life, Tech | Tags: , , , , , | 3 comments

Reflections Upon 2012

Leaving France

As a way to assess how well I spent 2012 and to make 2013 a strong year, I’m going to go through very briefly things I learned this year, things I appreciated, goals I accomplished, etc. This is for my benefit, but maybe you’ll pick up some things along the way too.

What went well

People

Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day

I met a lot of fantastic people this year and also improved my relationship with people I knew since before 2012. I shared some incredible experiences with people I never would have expected to know back in January last year. I really wish I could list them all here, but I don’t want to accidentally exclude anyone, so I won’t. However, if you think you are one of those people, thank you! You made my 2012 infinitely better, and I hope I did the same for you.

Goal: Despite meeting a lot of great new people, I grew apart from some people I was close with last year or even in the first half of 2012. I want to try and hang out with those people more in 2013. I also want to keep meeting new people. Continue Reading →

30. December 2012 by Earl
Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , | 1 comment

Christmas Dinner

Kimchi and egg sandwich

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! Above, is a kimchi and egg sandwich I made a few days ago. I spent the majority of the day today cooking and working out. I talked to some nice stranger at the gym who went to Hobart College in upstate New York. Apparently, he played lacrosse there, and decades later, he doesn’t seem to have gotten out of shape at all, definitely something we should all aspire to—lifetime fitness.

For dinner, I cooked NY strip steaks in a 132ºF water bath for ~7 hours. I learned that 7 hours is much too long to cook a strip steak for. The texture of meat somewhat disappeared, and in retrospect, I should have gone with a quick 1-1.5 hour cooking time.

We also had a ton of roasted vegetables—yams, butternut squash, beets, and Brussels sprouts. Everything besides the Brussels sprouts were simply seasoned with olive oil and sea salt. I used a balsamic, Dijon mustard vinaigrette for the Brussels sprouts. The Dijon mustard was the last of an artisanal brand I brought back from Paris this summer. Continue Reading →

25. December 2012 by Earl
Categories: Life | Tags: , | 2 comments

Fall Semester & Heirloom

New England chopped salad at Heirloom

This past fall semester has been quite hectic for me. I took on five classes, a board position at the school newspaper, and, more recently, a new job with Yale’s Collaborative Learning Center. On top of that, the Yale Epicurean put out another stellar issue, and the Epicurean recipes editor Lucas founded a culinary society, which I am now a part of. I also lifted with the club Powerlifting Team for the early part of the semester, though scheduling conflicts put an end to that and forced me to lift on my own. I’m hoping to be able to attend practices again in the spring.

Anyways, despite being overloaded and stressed for time, this semester has also been an reinvigorating one. I feel like I’ve gotten back the rigor I had during my junior year of high school where every second had a purpose—a slight overstatement but something I strive for. I also learned a lot, from what sub game perfect equilibrium is to how basic facial recognition works. I love learning new things and being productive, so this has been a great semester in that sense.

I’ve also figured out that I definitely want to get into the computer science field, though I feel like this is something I knew subconsciously for quite some time. The only question now is whether I double major with CS and Economics, just major in CS, major in the CS & Math joint major, or major in the Electrical Engineering & CS joint major. Regardless, I’ve gotten enough requirements out of the way so that I can do any of the above by taking only four classes a semester from here on out, which will give me more time to pursue side projects and learn more applicable computer science knowledge, since Yale’s CS curriculum is concept-heavy.

But enough about my life, after all, this is a food blog, and you’re all probably hungry for some food pictures. Continue Reading →

18. December 2012 by Earl
Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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