The Kaizen Newsletter #52 (30/06/2020) - Why Jack Han is my favourite sports writer

Thoughts on non-zero days, weekly reviews and the importance of volume and consistency

You can also read the entire article on my website.

There are actually multiple reasons why Jack Han is my favourite sports writer.

The main reason is that he's able to analyze hockey through different lenses such as data, analytics and first principles. Another reason why I love his writing is how he uses concepts from different industries and applies them to hockey. And finally, I just find it really cool to see a fellow Asian succeed in a mostly white-dominant sport such as hockey.

But before we dive in, who exactly is Jack Han?

(It’s the Asian dude in the middle if you didn’t already know)

I first learned of Jack through his 1-minute tactics videos he used to post on Twitter. He then had a brief stint as a contributor for The Athletic (where I started to read his articles), before getting hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. He then spent the next two years as a player development analyst, a hockey ops assistant and an assistant coach for the Leafs AHL team.

He very recently quit his job as an assistant coach and currently writes on Substack and recently published his first e-book, Hockey Tactics 2020 (which I obviously purchased).

Now that you are caught up, let's expand on why I enjoy his writing so much.

A blend of hockey knowledge, analytics and first principles

I love how he's seamlessly able to blend hockey, data/analytics and first principles all together in his writing.

This is a quick Venn diagram I made of how I view his writing lol.

We already have excellent hockey writers that have an analytical background such as Micah and Dom, to name a few. But Jack is definitely the first writer that I've seen who uses first principles to explain hockey concepts.

The reason why thinking from first principles is so important is because it allows you to break down complicated subjects (in this case hockey) at a very fundamental level which will then allow you to come up with new solutions instead of reverting back to the same solution over and over again because "it's always been that way". Especially in hockey, where any non-traditional solution is almost always looked down upon (until someone wins the cup with a new solution and everybody copies it).

According to Jack, the first principle of hockey is the following: Create a small advantage, then connect them in sequence to create a larger advantage. In one article, he uses this principle to explain why Woman's Canadian National team has been lagging behind the USA. For the longest time, Canada has put an importance on being coachable, being defensively responsible and being fit as the main criteria of who should be on the national team. The only issue with this thinking is that the game of hockey has evolved and now rewards players who are quick on their feet and offensively gifted. Sadly, Canada’s mentality has not and is one of the reasons why we have a very hard time beating the USA.

But he doesn't always use first principles to explain tactics. What makes him such an interesting writer is that he's able to select the appropriate medium to perfectly present his arguments.

  • In one article, he uses video clips (hockey knowledge) to present a case study of Seth Jones' defensive weakness.

  • In this article, he blends images (hockey knowledge) and team stats (data/analytics) to argue if you should (or not) play on your off-wing.

Using a mix of his hockey knowledge, analytics and hockey first principles explains why he’s able to communicate so well through his writing.

Applying concepts from different areas to hockey

One of my favourite things to do as a writer is to take a concept I learned from one industry and try to apply it to another industry I'm interested in and see how it works.

And that's something that Jack does constantly.

In his latest article, we see him apply learnings from books such as The Art of Learning or concepts found in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

In the same article, he also uses a KPI, a concept used in business, when suggesting a development plan for Quinton Byfield, an upcoming star NHL player.

Another example of this is when he wrote an article on how can top kitchens can make you a better hockey coach.

Doing this is one of the best ways to find creative solutions and it makes his writing more enjoyable as well.

Asian Representation

I wasn't sure if I wanted to mention this, as I don't want to take anything away from his writing (it's definitely the biggest reason why he's my favourite writer), but I can' t help but think how awesome it is to see a fellow Asian making it to the NHL - no matter what you're doing.

As a Habs fan, I was super happy when we traded for Nick Suzuki, a half-Japanese player and even got his jersey (thanks Chan).

And I had the same reaction when I heard that Jack found work at the NHL level. Sadly, there's no jersey to buy, but I did buy his book!

Unlike in business, Asians are very underrepresented in the hockey circle, so I can't seem to help it but for root for them. The same way as Nick Suzuki is inspiring other Asian players to pick up hockey as a sport, I'm sure that Jack Han is also inspiring other Asian hockey-lovers that there's a place for them in other areas as well (such as writing, coaching and management).

One cool fact about Jack - he's actually the first Chinese-born person to stand behind a bench in an AHL or NHL game!

Wrapping Up

If there’s one word I can use to explain Jack’s writing is that it’s fresh. As I mentioned previously, the hockey world is definitely not a place where creativity happens often and I appreciate Jack’s unique writing through different lenses to explain hockey concepts and tactics. I’m excited to continue following him in his writing journey and wherever the hockey world takes him next.

If you think his writing would interest you, I'd definitely suggest subscribing to his Substack and the book that he recently published.


🤔 Thoughts

📱Thoughts on No More Zero Days

I enjoyed this Reddit post where u/ryans01 explains his concept of "No More Zero Days". It serves as a very nice introduction to the importance of self-improvement and the benefits it can bring you. I tried to summarize his rules here:

001 - No more zero days

Every day you should do something that helps you move towards one of your goals. Want to be more fit? Do ONE pushup. Want to read more? Read ONE page. It doesn't matter how big or small the output is - it just needs to be non-zero.

002 - Be grateful to the 3 you's

Be grateful to the past you for the things past you has done for you. Thank him for killing those squats yesterday at the gym. Thank him for choosing to write the first draft of your newsletter so that it's easier for you today.

Help your future you - treat your future you as your best friend. If you really cared about your best friend, would you allow him to waste 2h on Twitter instead of working on the newsletter? Be nice to your future you as if it were your best friend. Fuck your present self and help your best friend instead - your future you.

003 - Forgive yourself

Sometimes you won't be able to help your best friend. It happens to the best of us. But don't kill yourself because you weren't productive. Forgive yourself and then see the next opportunity as giving back to your future self once again.

004 - Exercise and Books

Pretty simple and straightforward - try to move your body and move your brain (read) every day.

✉️ Thoughts on Weekly Reviews

A few weeks ago, I wrote a newsletter on how I was helping my future-self by preparing a weekly plan every Sunday.

I soon realized that it might not have been the best approach.

Why?

Even though I was planning ahead, I was never able to really know what I did and or didn't do during the past week.

Using a sports analogy, it's like if I would go game after game and never actually sitting down to view what I did well and what I need to improve on. If a player would do that, he would never be able to improve himself.

As a knowledge worker, I also want to make sure that I know what to focus on for the upcoming week.

This is why starting this week, I'll be incorporating a quick weekly review every Sunday (right before my doing my weekly plan).

The one that I will be following is Tiago Forte's template.

⏳Thoughts on volume and consistency

I always knew that being consistent is super important. I mentioned it in a few of my previous newsletters as well.

But to be honest, I've never really felt the impact of being consistent. And that's because I've always struggled to be consistent lol.

I've recently joined a newsletter mastermind since I really wanted to improve my writing and newsletter as a whole.

And due to that, I was able to meet two really inspiring people in Cullin and Brandon. Both of them are up-and-coming Tweeters and have been killing it recently.

I realized shortly after following them that one of the main reasons why they are killing it is because they are posting a lot on Twitter CONSISTENTLY.

And since I didn't want to be left behind, I decided to try it as well.

Honestly, there's nothing to brag about, but with around a week of consistently sending out at least 3 tweets per day, I was able to increase my followers by 21 (almost at a 100 👀).

Edit: I'm actually at 105 now. Yay me!

I feel that I repeat this to myself constantly, but if you really want to be great at something, the trick is really just to publish as much as possible.

Want to build better products? Create more products or create more features!

Want to be a better writer? Write more!

Want to be a better tweeter? Tweet more!

🐦 Tweets

  • Just a great reminder to create > consume.

  • I shared this with my mastermind group on Sunday, but it's stuck with me since. Replace tweeting with anything you're trying to do right now.

  • This tweet hit me, especially the "Taught at a young age to work hard, but done to gain external validation". I'm happy there are other young Asians like Du that are trying to change this mentality.

  • SMH. Kids these days. How can they NOT know any of these songs?

🙏 Shoutout

  • Shoutout to my man Cullin. Had a blast vibing with you on our call and love what you've been doing with Writer's Bloc so far.


👋 End Note

If you want to know what I'm up to now, you can check it on my website here.

If you enjoyed the Kaizen Newsletter, then it'd be cool if you can share it with your friends. They can sign up here.

Feedback is always appreciated, so let me know what you liked and what I can improve on by replying to this email.

If you see any cool articles, links, tweets, stories or podcasts that you think are interesting, feel free to share as well at alex@alexhughsam.com