The Stories I Loved In 2015

My first ever original article for Medium was “The Medium Stories I Loved in 2014” and since this is my first full year on the site, I thought it fit to revisit the topic and create a list for this year. Similar to my previous list, there is no specific order for any of these (except for my favorite) since they’ve all had an impact on my life this past year in meaningful ways.

To make it easier, I’ve sorted the articles into categories: Personal Development, Lifestyle, Technology, and Humor.

Personal Development

Next time you have an idea and it gets rejected, I want you to think of these emails.

I wish I could frame this post. Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO of AirBnb, shared these 5 emails he received when attempting to raise a $150k round at a $1.5 million valuation for AirBnb. All were rejections, discussing why the VC thought AirBnb wasn’t the right idea for them to invest in at the time. The company is now valued at $24 billion.

I want to get to my goals faster. I want to be better tomorrow. I want to learn everything I can so I can go create value ASAP. We all have 24 hours in a day and I feel compelled to use every minute in the most productive manner. If I’m eating breakfast, I’m watching a tutorial on Udemy; if I’m in transit, I’m listening to a podcast; if I’m waiting for the bus, I’m reading an article on Pocket. If I don’t, it feels like I’m falling behind.

This entire article, but specifically this quote, really opened my eyes. I’m currently a 20 year old college student and have experienced this same sensation in my life, a sensation I described in my post earlier this year. If I’m not constantly working on a project or something productive, I feel like I’m falling behind compared to my peers. This insightful post from Susie helped me realize that I need to take a step back and reevaluate where I put my energy in my life.

Occasionally people confuse productivity with checking their phones, when that couldn’t be further from reality. Since phones form powerful habits, the best solutions are actions we can take to weaken the strength of the habit loops.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am definitely addicted to my phone. I check it the first thing in the morning and the last thing when I go to sleep, as well as constantly in-between classes, at social events, even at dinners. This article from Max Ogles helped me realize how many fallacies I had with my reasoning behind why I was on my phone so much, as well as what I could do to help break the cycle. As a result, I’ve moved/deleted a ton of apps on my phone and have made notifications almost nonexistent. These are small steps, but I think it’s a good starting point.

I decided to make a change and quit starting my day with negative things. I decided to remove all opportunities for the boa constrictor of negativity to make his way around my neck. I decided to start spending the first 10–15 minutes of my day with positive experiences.

Through Jason’s article I learned how to become one with my morning routine and it has helped immensely with my overall satisfaction throughout my life. Jason’s routine consists of InstaCoffeeHobbes (a combination of Instagram, Coffee, and reading Calvin & Hobbes every morning). I’ve strived to do something similar with my morning routine, mainly by using Instagram and Snapchat right when I wake up. I’ve found that those networks are generally more positive, upbeat, and lively, giving me the energy I need to start my day.

I love Ina’s post about the steps she took to land her perfect job at Zumper because it shows how the most important aspect in getting what you want is simply hard work. I have people ask me often how I’ve gotten speakers such as Mark Cuban and Evan Spiegel for my student organization at UT Austin, and the answer simply is work. Cold emailing, rolling with the punches, and determination are all that you need. Whatever you want in life isn’t impossible, the only thing limiting you from getting it is yourself.

Lifestyle

The first time this happened, 0ver 150,000 people visited the blog. The second time, it was about half that amount. And then the third time, it reached over 1 million visitors and was shared via Facebook over 250,000 times — all in about a week. Pretty crazy.
But here’s the craziest part: none of that matters.
No matter how amazing you are today, you have to get up and put the hours in tomorrow. And the next day. And so on.
Because that thing inside of you that causes you to create already forgot yesterday’s successes, it’s hungry. And if you don’t feed it something new, it will eat you alive.
That, my friends, is why artists kill themselves, why they get depressed after a monumental success and never create anything again. After going big with some huge, mega success that plummets them into instant stardom, they seemingly have nowhere left to go.
But that isn’t why they got into the game in the first place. And it’s not why you and I are in it, either. At least, I hope not.

Earlier this year, I had an article that went viral. “The Truth About Going Viral” was posted on January 9th, a mere week after my article was gaining traction. At the time it proved to be a chilling look into the future for what I was should expect as I continue with my journey.

It took me a lot to start writing again. I felt like I had reached the top of my journey, with seemingly nowhere to go. I’ve revisited this post a few times over the past year to remind myself that fame isn’t why I “got into the game in the first place”. It was a cool side-effect at the time, but the main reason I started writing is because I simply love to do it. If one person or one million read my blog, great. What’s more important is that I’m having fun, because if it becomes a chore or a stress that I get nothing out of, then what’s the point of doing it?

A beautifully written article about a major problem in Silicon Valley that needs to be addressed. Too many students have an unbelieveable amount of pressure to succeed and to be the “next” (insert famous tech/media celebrity here) that it becomes too overwhelming for anyone to bear. I’m unsure how we as a society can best address this issue, but recognizing the problem in the first place is a good way to start.

ClickHole, a Buzzfeed-esque parody site created by The Onion, is by far one of my favorite websites because of how absurd and poignant it can be. This behind-the-scenes look into how ClickHole works is truly fascinating and shows how something that seems so random can actually be very carefully calibrated.

Vox’s article about the problem associated with going back in time to kill baby Hitler is one of those articles that really makes you think. Obviously the gut reaction would be to kill baby Hitler, but after this article you may think twice. It was a fun read that challenged me to look at the concept of time travel in a very different light.

Technology

Here’s my tiny theory, in a word. Abuse. And further, I’m going to suggest in this short essay that abuse — not making money — is the great problem tech and media have. The problem of abuse is the greatest challenge the web faces today. It is greater than censorship, regulation, or (ugh) monetization. It is a problem of staggering magnitude and epic scale, and worse still, it is expensive: it is a problem that can’t be fixed with the cheap, simple fixes beloved by tech: patching up code, pushing out updates.

This post was in a very close second place for favorite article in 2015. umair’s discussion on what has lead to Twitter’s decline is a must-read for anyone who is trying to cultivate a network, whether that be an application, social media following, email listserv…the lessons from this article and argument are endless.

How should the car be programmed to act in the event of an unavoidable accident? Should it minimize the loss of life, even if it means sacrificing the occupants, or should it protect the occupants at all costs? Should it choose between these extremes at random?

One of my favorite articles this year came from MIT’s Technology Review where the author discusses the moral implications of autonomous vehicles. It’s not something you would normally think or read about self-driving vehicles, but it’s a real issue that we as a society will need to figure out. It may not be at the forefront now, but I can imagine that in the future this will become a hotly debated issue among lawmakers.

A company’s narrative moves like a clock: it starts at midnight, ticking off the hours. The tone and sentiment about how a business is doing move from positive (sunrise, midday) to negative (dusk, darkness). And often the story returns to midnight, rebirth and a new day.

Journalism is an industry that thrives off of the news cycle, with technology journalism being no different. Publishers know what kind of articles generate the most engagement from readers and will often go down that path, regardless of it its necessarily the “right” path of not. It’s important to understand the narrative that Aaron describes in his article because it’s something that a lot of startups will run into. Aaron also gives terrific advice as to how to combat this narrative to form your own.

Because an idea is 1% and execution is 99%.

Too often people in the technology industry get bombarded with NDAs before discussing products or projects with budding entrepreneurs. On college job boards there are plenty of startups that don’t really describe what they’re working on for fear their idea will get stolen, preventing students (prospective employees) from even looking into the company. This post describes why these NDAs don’t matter and how the most important thing for you to focus on is the product.

The little blue checkmark is something so elusive, attractive, and unobtainable to the majority of the online community. Haje’s post is a wonderful deep-dive into Twitter’s verification system and has proven to be a helpful resource when others have asked how to get verified on Twitter. I think this article is something everyone who is active on social media should read.

Humor

Given that the upcoming film Minions tracks the same characters through prehistory up until the mid-twentieth century, it is very clear that Minions are immortal. They were here long before us, and they will live on long after we turn to skeleton and ash. The Minions will comb through the wreckage of what were once our cities and culture, “Banana?” they will ask… but bananas will have died out long ago, a distant fragment of memory, floating on a wisp through the aether of time and space.

If you don’t read The Awl, you need to start. Their brutally honest articles and snarky commentary make them stand on a special level above the competition. In one of my favorites, “How Minions Destroyed the Internet”, The Awl goes into further detail than previously imaginable about the Minion, focusing on race, gender, sexual preference, and more in order to truly grasp how these…things fit into our society.

- Doing a “takeover” of any number of antidepressant medications by making the pills look like little BB-8 droids.
- Sponsoring WWE Monday Night Raw and having villain Kylo Ren square off against John Cena.
- Partnering with Medieval Times to have all the knights battle each other with lightsabers instead of swords.

The latest Star Wars film had some of the most aggressive marketing in recent history, leading to cross-promotions with “…Ample Hills ice cream, ESPN, gummy vitamins, Kay Jewelers, a $28,500 Devon watch, Nerf,Furby, Pottery Barn Kids, American Tourister luggage” and more. I loved Hassan’s take on what else needed to be added to making the marketing for Star Wars even more special.

I am fun.
I enjoy fun. I both have fun and can be fun. Fun is a word that accurately describes me and a large quantity of things of which I am fond. I appreciate fun when I encounter it, and I have even been known to partake in activities that produce fun for myself and others. Fun is something I often have when amongst a group of people. In such situations, I am capable of amusing others and, in turn, of being amused by them.
Thus, I am a fun person.

Politics aside, I think most people can agree that politicians attempting to win over the young crowd can be a bit awkward. Almost every presidential candidate is on Snapchat and attempts to be as “relatable” possible. However, none can be as cringe-inducing as Hilary Clinton, who is responsible for gems such as “I’m just chilling in Cedar Rapids”:

And how her campaign is powered by pizza and…?

Speaking of Twitter…

Sarah Cooper is one of my favorite writers on Medium which made it difficult for me to pick simply one article of hers to showcase. Her take on what it means to be “smart” on Twitter is painfully accurate. As someone who uses the platform consistently, Sarah really hit the nail on the head.

The startup world is full of quirks that have been highlighted in shows such as HBO’s Silicon Valley. I loved Matt’s post because, similar to the previous article from Sarah Cooper, it range a bit *too* close to home. For those in the industry, this post will cause you to laugh…and cringe.

I don’t even have words to describe this article, just read it.

My Favorite Story All Year

As someone who expresses herself through words, refraining from sharing them can be quite difficult. I don’t want the world to know everything about me, just as much as I’m desperate for someone to talk with for hours about nothing and everything. Balancing these feelings and forgoing the momentary support of a favorite or a “Like” was a challenge.

Selena Larson’s fantastic story about “How to pretend to be happy on the Internet” really shook me because of how genuine and truthful it was. As described in my post earlier this year, I’ve experienced similar feelings as Selena when dealing with how to approach happiness online. The sensation was something I always found incredibly difficult to discuss and even harder to describe. Selena elegantly identifies the feelings associated with this new online phenomena, the challenge we face today of separating our personal and digital lives. I recommend this article to everyone I know because of how relevant it is to not only my life, but the lives of everyone my age.