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.
I did a double take the first time I saw a Wallflower. Yury, one of the founders, invited me to take a closer look, and I couldn’t believe the detail in the self-adhesive, photographic print, wall decals. Because I know myself, I, of course, asked, “But what if I mess up on my first attempt?” Yury grabbed the edge of one of the dahlias and peeled it off the wall. Then pressed it back on. Then peeled it off. Then pressed it on. He said he had probably done it dozens of times that day. The dahlia still looked amazing. In case I had any lingering doubts, 8-year-old Olivia proves just how easy it is to fancy up any space with a Wallflower.
I was thrilled when Yury 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.