Archives for January 2013

Hustle Hard Interview Project: Daniel Ha



To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that bring me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.


I went to San Francisco to talk with Daniel Ha, co-founder of Disqus, the online discussion and commenting platform that I use on this blog. He ended up giving me ADVICE THAT WAS SO MONEY, it has profoundly re-shaped the way I approach my goals and impacted how I spend my time. No joke. This 26-year-old dude schooled me. And changed my life. He didn’t pay me to say that. Unless you count a bottle of water as payment. Then he totally paid me.

EJL: I started using Disqus shortly after I started blogging, so I can’t say that I was making an informed choice, but I’m relieved and happy I chose Disqus. Y’all have been amazingly responsive and helpful each time I had a question or an issue. It’s made me wonder Who are you people? 

DH: My longtime friend, Jason Yan, and I started Disqus our junior year in college. We came up with the name Disqus first, and then started to build a concept to service online communities. These communities were part of the original promise of the internet. We wanted to help shape what the future of internet conversation was going to look like.

EJL: Settle something for me. It’s pronounced “discuss,” right?

DH: Right. It doesn’t bother me when people mispronounce it. We’re probably the ones saying it wrong. But that doesn’t bother me either.

EJL: You and Jason dropped out of school to focus on Disqus. At 21, I can’t imagine that you were taken seriously by everyone. How did you not let that affect your hustle?

DH: I was around a lot of people who were like-minded. The “young and inexperienced” excuse didn’t work because a lot of folks were in the same place and still went on to do great things. I’ve held on to some advice that Alexis [Ohanian], one of the founders of Reddit, gave me early on. Even if other startups have better resources or smarter teams, the one thing I can control is how hard I work. I can just want it more. I shouldn’t let the fact that someone else worked harder be the reason I didn’t succeed.

EJL: Since 2007, you and your team have built up Disqus as a network that reaches over 700 million unique visitors and sees almost 5 billion pageviews each month. CNN, NPR, and The Atlantic are just a few of the company’s major clients. Talk about big things poppin’. How did Disqus grow so quickly?

DH: We took a scrappy hustler attitude with Disqus. Anything we didn’t have or we didn’t know, we just applied pure unadulterated hustle to it. We talked to people one at a time until we got something going. Everyone here has different personalities, but we all hold the same values. I don’t think about success as a beginning, middle, and end. It’s about pushing hard and pushing through.

EJL: How do you manage to stay so focused while responding to client needs and connecting with the people in your personal life.

DH: When I’m working, I make sure that I’m doing things of value. Adding worth instead of just feeling busy.

Sometimes, when you think you’re hustling, you’re spending a lot of time on tasks with depreciated return. I can spend 10-12 hours a day doing something, but at the end of it, do I know what I just did?

It’s important to identify what you really want to do. Don’t work off of a To Do List. Work instead off a Tactical Requirements List. If, at the end of the week, you don’t finish one or two main goals while you did 40 or 50 other things, then you weren’t really successful. Maybe you slowed someone else down. Maybe now, you have to find a different way to do your task.

You can spend the bulk of your time on trivial minutiae, but it’s really only a small handful of things that matter.

Whatever trajectory you’re on, you know it’s important when not doing those certain tasks forces the next week to be a completely different week. Always look at the big picture.

*Daniel’s last answer ranks among some of the best life and focus advice I’ve ever gotten. Since this interview, I have been mindful about just “keeping busy,” and making sure that my time is well-spent on the people and the goals I believe are important.

Wallflower Giveaway



I was thrilled when Yury, one of the founders of Wallflower offered to send over a 5 FT TALL MAGENTA DAHLIA (valued at $135 each) for a giveaway. So when I opened the tube from Wallflower and found not just one but FOUR magenta dahlias, I was beyond stoked. I can’t wait to post pictures on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) of the toast Yury also sent, which I plan to display in our dining room.

Four lucky winners will each receive ONE magenta dahlia.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below with your best tips for productivity and ways you stay focused. Only comments left on THIS BLOG POST qualify for the giveaway. I’ll announce the winners next Monday.

Let’s be friends on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Twitter (@ElizabethJLiu). You know, in case you feel like taking a break from all of that productivity.


(Not a) Monday Dare (but I can explain): No sir, I don’t care about my safety


Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the link to see the complete list of Monday Dares or to learn more about its origin.

This week: Schedule a car tune-up

I’ve suspected for some time now that I’m not a good driver or a responsible car owner. “Oh, Elizabeth, it’s probably because you’re an Asian lady,” you might say. That really offends me. LADY? How so? I already told you- I only wore the matching merino wool cardigan set with the jeweled collar and contrast stitching detail that ONE time because my Tupac vs. Biggie shirt was in the wash. Let it go.

I had to put a price tag on my personal safety yesterday. Not that Life is precious and priceless bullshit, but a real dollar amount value. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided my life was most certainly not worth the price of four new car tires.

As I was packing up my car after a Homegirls Buffets and Bling weekend trip, I noticed my front left tire seemed a little flat. I took a minute to congratulate myself for noticing and texted Harv so that he could also revel in my hyper-awareness. He didn’t say “Good job!” or “Sharp eyes!” or anything, which really hurt my feelings. Instead, he asked if I had already called AAA and reminded me to stayed inside my vehicle if I was on the side of the road. Clearly, he was focused on the wrong things, but I let him have it. Sometimes it’s just better to let people think what they want because they’ll never be able to grasp the gravity of a situation.

After the AAA mechanic inspected the tire and assured me that I just had low air, he suggested I roll by a tire shop before making the 300-mile drive home. When I hesitated, he launched into a passionate monologue. It might have been about safety. The only words that really stood out were “free inspection.” He should have started with that. I like free.

When the tire shop technician brought in two of my tires with a grim face, I braced myself for bad news. He said that both tires were worn dangerously low and were now unsafe, but one was worse than the other.

Me: Just give me one new tire.
Tech: I wouldn’t recommend it. The walls are separating. It’s dangerous. You need to get all four replaced.
Me: Sheesh. All four? What is that? Like, $100?
Tech: They’re $300 dollars. Each. $350 if you want the better ones.
Me: I don’t care about my safety then. Just replace the worst one.

It seemed like a solid decision, but after texting pictures of the supposedly worn tires to a few car fanatic friends and getting responses like “That’s an accident waiting to happen” and “You don’t deserve a car. You’re totally not responsible enough,” I reconsidered.

Now that I know my life is worth at least $1,200, I think about myself differently. Instead of writing a Monday Dare yesterday, I spent the evening making “I’m really expensive. Handle with care.” lapel pins for myself. Thank you for understanding.

Ever had to spend a shitload on car repairs? Or made an unsafe decision just to save money?

I waste a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram (username: flourishinprogress). Join me. Let’s be unproductive together.
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