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The latest news on Careers from Business Insider

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    herbalife kids green

    It used to be that the brightest young Wall Streeters were the ones who landed internships at Goldman Sachs.

    Now the standard has changed, and the most coveted internships on the Street are at hedge funds and private-equity shops instead.

    The young financiers who pull this off are the elite among an already sharp group of people. And many of them have one thing in common:

    They are leaders and members of university investment clubs.

    These students are underwhelmed by their Ivy League courses; they know the ins and outs of finance as well as any junior banker, and many of them aren't even 21 years old.

    Suited up and sophisticated

    About 100 of these students from colleges across the US and Canada gathered in New York last weekend for a young investors conference cohosted by Bloomberg Institute and Upgrade Capital, a talent scout that showcases young investors to financial firms.

    Some of the attendees were interns at typical investment banks. But most said they worked or had worked on the buy side — that is, hedge funds or private equity.

    Setting these young people apart is not just their willingness to don suits and ties and spend a Saturday afternoon networking. It's the thoroughness with which they understand investing and the real passion they bring to it.

    Unlike many young Wall Streeters who simply fall into finance, swayed by recruiter pitches during junior year of college, these students have known for years that they love investing. To them, taking the typical Wall Street career path, which begins with a two-year banking gig (known for grueling 100-hour workweeks and high-pressure work environments), means "taking it slow."

    upgrade conference

    They've studied the industry and know exactly what areas interests them, from distressed debt to energy trading to quantitative analysis.

    Managing real money

    Their investment clubs, too, are sophisticated and highly structured. Some schools, such as Wharton, have more than one club. Within each one are multiple investment teams — each with its own leaders — that focus on different industry sectors.

    Some clubs manage real money: Queen's University's, for example, manages nearly $1 million on behalf of the school endowment.

    And the students gain more real-world skills through such groups than in any of their academic courses.

    One student lamented that what he learned in school related solely to equity investing and the skills he picked up were transferable to only a limited number of professions, namely investment banking and value investing. What if you want to learn about credit markets?

    Another noted that while some schools offer courses on things such as financial derivatives, students don't learn anything beyond basic pricing models that would work only in a perfect market.

    Goldman Sachs as a 'backup plan'

    Upgrade Capital conference

    Ultimately, students join investing clubs to set up a career on the buy side sooner rather than later.

    "Let's face it," one Wharton student interning at a hedge fund said. "We're all going to get jobs in banking."

    The only question, he continued, was whether they could skip the two-year banking experience that most young Wall Streeters endure and go straight to a hedge fund after graduation.

    That student said that among Wharton's elite investment club, an internship at Goldman Sachs would be viewed as a backup plan.


    Of course, that's not the case for everybody in these clubs. You have to honestly be passionate about investing to succeed.

    Another Ivy League student noted that if your self-education stops with merely joining a club and showing up to meetings, it won't be enough to catapult you to the buy side.

    That student spends all his free time poring over credit analyses and books written by his favorite hedge fund managers. Now he, too, is interning at a hedge fund.

    He said "a monkey" could do the job of a junior banker. But he knows you have to "do it for yourself"— provide your own self-education — if you want to skip over that experience.

    Upgrade conference

    SEE ALSO: Inside the life of a Wall Street intern: It's not very hard, but it's grueling

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Sallie Krawcheck's Advice For Wall Street Analysts

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    Multitasking with phoneLinkedIn Influencer Jeff Haden published this post originally on LinkedIn.

    Whatever your definition of success (each person's definition of "success" is and should be different), one thing is true for everyone: Success means getting things done.

    Highly successful people are able to get a lot more things done, and here are simple ways you can too.

    1. Eliminate every "ego" commitment.

    We all do things that have more to do with ego than results.

    Maybe you serve on a committee because you like how it looks on your CV. Maybe you teach at a local college because you like the words "adjunct professor." Or maybe, like me, you do radio interviews just because it seems cool to be on the radio, though it in no way benefits me professionally. (There are a few I would do no matter what just because I like the hosts.)

    Anything you do solely for ego is a waste of time. Think about things you do mainly because they make you look important, smart, or cool. If it provides no other "value," drop it.

    Anything you do that serves the greater glory of you is a waste of time; besides, the best glory is reflected, not projected.

    2. Don't struggle for that extra 5 percent.

    I'm fairly competitive so when I start to do something I soon start wanting to do it better than other people.

    (OK, I'm overly competitive.)

    Take cycling. I'm faster, fitter, etc., than the average person. But compared with the fast guys, I'm nothing. They can drop me within a few miles. Drives me crazy. Makes me ride more and train more and spend tons of hours on a bike—and for what? So I can hang with them for a couple more miles? So my time up a certain mountain is only 30 percent slower than theirs instead of 40 percent?

    The kind of improvement has no real importance.

    Sure, I may get in better shape, but at that point the improvement to my overall health is incremental at best. And in the meantime I have to spend hours on cycling I could spend working toward more important goals.

    Or I could just spend more time with my family, the most important goal of all.

    Think about something you already do well but are trying hard to do even better. Then weigh the input with the outcome.

    Sometimes "good" truly is good enough, especially if that 5 percent gain is hugely disproportionate to the pain required to reach it.

    3. Find the perfect way to say no.

    Most of us default to saying yes because we don't want to seem rude or unfriendly or unhelpful. Unfortunately, that also means we default to taking on more than we want or can handle.

    It's important to know how, with grace and tact, to say no.

    Maybe your response will be as simple as, "I'm sorry, but I just don't have time."

    Develop your own way of saying no and then rehearse so it comes naturally. That way you won't say yes simply because you think you should—you'll say yes because you know it's right for you.

    4. Eliminate useless "me time" commitments.

    I used to play fantasy baseball and football. But when I thought about it, I had no idea why. Sure, I could rationalize it created a nice break in the week. I could rationalize it was a "mental health" activity that let me step aside from the stress and strain of business life.

    I could, but that wasn't true. I just did it because I had always done it, and once I start every year I don't want to quit because, um, I'm not a quitter. (I know that sounds stupid, but I'm willing to bet you do at least one thing for the same reasons.)

    Look at the things you do because you've always done them and decide if it's time to stop.

    Here's an easy test: If you wouldn't do something while you were on vacation, there's no good reason to do it when you're not.

    5. Set hard limits.

    Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. We instinctively adjust our effort so our activities take whatever time we let them take.

    Tasks should take only as long as they need to take—or as long as you decide they should take.

    Try this: Decide you'll only spend 10 minutes a day on social media. Just 10.

    The first day you'll get frustrated because you won't get everything done you "need" to get done. The second day you'll instinctively skip a few feeds because they're not as important. The third day you'll re-prioritize and maybe use a tool like Buffer to get better organized.

    By the fifth day you'll realize 10 minutes is plenty of time to do what you need to do; all that other time you used to spend was just fluff.

    Pick a task, set a time limit, and stick to that time limit. Necessity, even artificial necessity, is the mother of creativity. I promise you'll figure out how to make it work.

    6. Establish a nighttime routine ...

    read,night,bedThe first thing you do is the most important thing you do, because it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

    So be smart and prepare for that "first thing" the night before. Make a list. Make a few notes. Review information. Prime yourself to hit the ground at an all-out sprint the next day; a body in super-fast motion tends to stay in super-fast motion.

    7. ... And a morning routine.

    Then make sure you can get to that task as smoothly as possible. Pretend you're an Olympic sprinter and your morning routine is like the warm-up for a race. Don't dawdle, don't ease your way into your morning, and don't make sure you get some "me" time (hey, sleep time is me time). Get up, get cleaned up, get fueled up—and start rolling.

    My elapsed time from bed to desk is about 15 minutes (easy since my commute is two flights of stairs), so there's not much I can improve. So I do something else; I get my most important task done before I check email.

    Think about it this way: Sprinters don't do cool-down laps before they race. Neither should you.

    8. Outsource the right tasks.

    I was raised to think that any job I could do myself was a job I should do myself.

    That's why it took me a long time to decide the kid down the street should cut my grass. He can use the money. I can use the time.

    But that's a simple example. Here's an even better approach: Write down the two or three things you do that generate the most tangible return. Maybe it's selling. Maybe it's developing your employees. Maybe it's building long-term customer relationships.

    Me? I make the most money when I'm writing; anything else I do that takes me away from writing limits my ability to generate revenue.

    Figure out the two or three things that you do best—and that generate the best return on your time—and then strip away all the other "stuff" by outsourcing those tasks. (Or, oftentimes, simply by eliminating those tasks.)

    Your bottom line will thank you for it.

    9. Fix what you often break.

    I used to be terrible about putting meetings and phone calls on my calendar. I figured I'd get to it later, and then I never did. Then I spent way too much time, often in a panic, trying to figure out when and where and who ...

    All that time was wasted time. So I finally decided I would immediately enter every appointment into my calendar the moment I made it — no matter what.

    You probably have at least one thing you tend to mess up. Maybe you don't file stuff properly. Maybe you put off dealing with certain emails and then forget them. Maybe you regularly find you're unprepared for a call or meeting.

    Whatever your "things" are, fix them. You'll save time and aggravation.

    10. Don't multitask.

    Plenty of research says multitasking doesn't work. Some research says multitasking actually makes you stupid.

    Maybe you agree. Maybe you don't. Either way, I feel sure there is at least one thing you do that is so important, you should never allow a distraction or a loss of focus.

    Choose one important task and commit to turning away everything else when you tackle it. Focus solely on that task. See if you do it better.

    I bet you will — and I bet that will make you decide to stop multitasking when you perform many other tasks.

    More from LinkedIn:

    SEE ALSO: Your phone is making you less productive and prone to mistakes

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's how to form better habits faster

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    Getting admitted to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is no easy task. After a rigorous application and interview process, only about 14% of applicants are accepted.

    One way of improving your chances is studying and answering as many sample interview questions as you can. 

    Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, helps clients earn admission to top MBA programs. She has an undergraduate degree from Wharton and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

    Over the past decade, Blackman has studied successful Wharton interview transcripts and put together an interview guide featuring sample questions. The questions are broken into three categories: teamwork, leadership, and communication.

    We've selected interview questions and possible follow-ups in each category from Blackman's Wharton interview guide.

    Teamwork questions

    Teamwork questions cover how well you work in team settings and how you handle conflict. Sample questions include:

    • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a weak team member.
    • Tell me how you have addressed the opinions of others in group situations.
    • Tell me about a time you encountered conflict in a group and how you handled it.

    Possible follow-up questions:

    • What did this experience teach you about yourself?
    • How have you applied this knowledge to your work and/or personal life?
    • How did the rest of the team feel about your actions?

    Successful answers will reflect "an ability to empathize with others and understand both the practical skills and the emotional needs of others on the team," Blackman writes. It's also important to recall your own thoughts and feelings when describing your actions.


    Leadership questions

    The key here is to provide proof that you've stepped up and made an impact in your personal leadership experiences. Sample questions include:

    • Tell me about an experience where there was no formally appointed group leader.
    • Tell me about a time when you had to build a team or lead an effort.
    • How would you describe your leadership style?
    • What is your definition of leadership?

    Possible follow-up questions:

    • How did you get others on board with your project?
    • What specific strengths do you think contributed to your success?
    • Do you feel you made any mistakes during this process?

    "When choosing examples to discuss, you'll want to tell stories that truly define your attributes as a leader," Blackman writes. "You may have had a number of leadership experiences, but which one had the greatest influence on your leadership development or highlights significant aspects of your leadership style?"

    Communication questions

    Your communication skills will be examined in two ways: how you persuade others and defend your ideas. Sample questions include:

    • Tell me about a time you had to persuade others to agree with you.
    • Discuss a time when your ideas were challenged by others.
    • How have you navigated a professional disagreement?
    • What are characteristics of effective/ineffective communication?

    Possible follow-up questions:

    • What were your initial thoughts when you encountered resistance?
    • Have you changed your presentation style as a result?

    "Outside of all of the modern tools and technologies at our disposal, a person who makes an impact must communicate in a way that impacts others, earning their respect and encouraging them to follow the lead," Blackman writes.

    Closing questions

    At the tail-end of the interview process, it is common for Wharton to give you the opportunity to take the lead with questions like:

    • Is there anything we haven't discussed that you want the admissions board to know?
    • Do you have any questions for me?

    This can be an opportunity for you "to highlight any strengths you weren't given an adequate occasion to discuss," Blackman writes.

    SEE ALSO: 7 traits Wharton looks for in ideal MBA candidates

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 5 scientifically proven ways to make someone fall in love with you

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    girl writing

    Thanks to the internet, people are reading and writing more than ever.

    But is it me, or does it seem like the quality of that writing has gotten worse?

    However, this can be a good thing. These days, solid writing really stands out. It can be a competitive advantage in anything you do.

    Want to know how to improve your writing?

    Or have you ever thought about crafting the next great novel or screenplay?

    Want to know how to write like a pro?

    Me, too. So I called my buddy Andy.

    Andrew Kevin Walker wrote the blockbuster Seven, starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. Here's the trailer:

    Andy was also a writer on many other big projects including Sleepy HollowThe Hire, and Fight Club (you might notice in the credits that the three cops who attack Edward Norton are named "Andrew", "Kevin" and "Walker.")

    His new book is Old Man Johnson.

    Below you'll learn:

    1. The thing that immediately tells readers you're a good writer.
    2. How to surprise your audience.
    3. The mindset you need to write like a pro.
    4. The secret to effective collaboration.
    5. How to make readers feel something when they read your work.

    And much, much more. Alright, ramblers, let's get ramblin'… 

    1) How To Improve Your Writing

    Andy recommends two things you can do to vastly improve your writing — whether you're writing an email, a presentation for work or a screenplay for Hollywood. What's the first one? Here's Andy:

    When I'm reading something, what lets me know if I'm in good hands or not is whether there's a sense of structure to it.

    Do you have a beginning, a middle and an ending? Does one build on the other? Is there a sense this is going somewhere? Does it seem like you have really thought this through? Here's Andy:

    Knowing where you're going is key. If you don't, how can you know what your theme is? How can you foreshadow anything? When you know what your ending is, then you know what you're writing. It may change as you're writing but I really feel like you have to have a "true north" that you're heading toward — and that "true north" is your ending. You don't have to know every detail of it. With Seven I always knew that there were going to be seven deadly sin murders. Therein lay the structure of it. Good cop was gonna become "wrath" in the end. With that I had a skeleton on which to build the spine of the story.

    writing outsideAnd other experts agree. When I interviewed UCLA Film School professor Howard Suber, he said structure was vital.

    Good stories are built on the word "but", not the word "and." This insures that there are twists and turns, and a relationship between what came before and what will come after.

    What's the second thing you need to do? Revise. First drafts are never final drafts. Here's Andy:

    That golden rule that "writing is rewriting" gets ignored a lot. Completing it is one thing, but then going back to the beginning and completing it again is the most important part of the process. In fact, I would say "completing it again and again." You should rewrite your rewriting too.

    When I spoke with Harvard professor Steven Pinker, he said the same thing. Here's Steven:

    Much advice on good writing is really advice on revising. Because very few people are smart enough to be able to lay down some semblance of an argument and to express it in clear prose at the same time. Most writers require two passes to accomplish that. And after they've got the ideas down, now it's time to refine and polish. Because the order in which ideas occur to a writer is seldom the same as the order that are best digested by a reader. And often, good writing requires a revising and rearranging the order of what you introduce so that the reader can easily follow it.

    (To learn the good work habits that all geniuses have in common click here.)

    Structure and revising will definitely improve your writing. But what gets the attention of an audience, especially in this age of zero attention span? You gotta surprise 'em. Here's how…

    2) How To Surprise The Reader

    Surprise is about defying expectations. So to do it you must first know what your audience expects from the type of writing you're doing. This is true for everything from PowerPoint presentations to creative essays.

    Know your "genre" and what your audience expects and you'll know what you need to do to surprise them. Here's Andy:

    It's only by being aware of genre and audience expectations that you can really surprise people… Best example for Seven was taking a movie that's about characters who desperately want to catch a murderer and an audience that's awaiting the cathartic moment of capture — and then having the killer turn himself in. Stealing that catharsis from the audience and sucking all the air out of the room so that the characters — and now the audience — are off-balance. And then everyone is going, "I don't know what's going to happen next."

    That shocking moment (NSFW) is here:

    And UCLA Film School professor Howard Suber says this sort of surprise is essential to creating engaging writing. Here's Howard:

    Without the surprise, without the twist, if you don't pull the wool over the audience's eyes, then it's unlikely you're going to be memorable. It's precisely the fact that things are not what they seem that makes a story interesting.

    (For more on how to be a great writer from Harvard's Steven Pinker click here.)

    Okay, so you've got structure, you're revising your work and incorporating surprise. That can definitely improve your writing. But what does it take to write like a pro?

    3) How To Write Like A Professional

    Are you enjoying putting those words on the page? Is it making you smile? Congrats, you're screwing up. Here's Andy:

    When you're writing, if you're super happy and having a fun time — you're probably doing something wrong. Good writing means being a perfectionist. And that means being at least semi-miserable. But that's a good thing. Perfectionism leads to rewriting. Now you can get so depressed over writing that you get in your own way, but a happy writer probably isn't pushing themselves hard enough.

    Sound crazy? Research shows that experts emphasize the negative. They have to. If you aren't continually identifying what isn't working you can't make it better. Here's Andy:

    Before you show it to anyone else, are you really asking yourself, "Is this the absolute best it can be?" Are you being as hard on yourself as you can possibly be? Because those important reads that may get it seen by an agent or a publisher, those reads are really rare and you won't get two of them out of the same person.

    We've heard a lot about "flow." Flow is pleasurable — but it doesn't make you better. As Georgetown professor Cal Newport explains, it's "deliberate practice" that improves skills. And that means you're always working at the edge of your comfort zone, not in a blissful state of flow.

    Okay, so you're focusing on the negative…

    frustrated businessman

    But you also need to stay optimistic.

    I know what you're thinking: Huh? How the heck do you embrace negativity and also be optimistic?

    If you keep emphasizing the negative, you get depressed and you quit. Research shows pessimism kills grit.

    And with all the rejection and criticism in Hollywood, it's too easy to give up. So while you have to focus on the negative while you're writing, you need to keep some optimism cooking when you look at the big picture. Here's Andy:

    One of the most important things for any writer is to be constantly refilling their reserve of naiveté. If I weren't as wholeheartedly naive now as I was on my first day leaving film school that I was going to achieve something in the world of screenwriting, then I wouldn't still be doing it. It's like selective memory. If you can't tamp down the bad experiences you've had writing — and they're numerous — almost actively forget them and refueling your optimism each time, then you'll just stop… I'm as optimistic about writing now as I was at the beginning — which is completely delusional. Embracing delusion is really important. They say the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." But if you're not doing that in Hollywood, you'll never survive. It's only the person who has the determination to keep saying "yes" in the face of all those "no's" that will make it.

    Does this sound crazy? Here's what's interesting: the schizophrenic mindset Andy's describing is the same one seen in elite athletes.

    Via Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success:

    Doublethink is essential to the success of leading athletes and other top performers… Take top golfers…they have to make scrupulously rational choices about shot selection (laying up, for example, rather than going for the green), but once they have committed to any given shot, they have to be—indeed, they train themselves to be—irrationally optimistic about execution. Nick Faldo, the six-time major winner, made precisely this point when I interviewed him at the Open Championship in 2008. "You have to be very calculating in selecting the right shot," he said. "You have to make a decision based upon a realistic assessment of your own weaknesses and the scope for failure. But once you have committed to your decision, you have to flick the mental switch and execute the shot as if there was never any doubt that you would nail it."

    It's what Andy calls "the manic-depressive requirements of writing."

    So how does he do it? How do you hold matter and antimatter in your head at the same time?

    Andy keeps that ruthless perfectionism brewing… but he makes sure he feels he's making progress on a regular basis. Here's Andy:

    One of the things that's important is to create a daily or weekly sense of completing something. I'm not going to be done with this script for months or years. It may not get made into a movie. If it does it'll be years from now. I can't finish this script today but I can finish sweeping the floor. I can't finish this novel today but I can finish this submarine sandwich. I can finish this nap. Every little bit of distraction or procrastination that has closure to it is a small reward for the person whose main journey of writing has its reward so far away and on such uncertain terms.

    Bestselling author Dan Pink has written about the power of these "small wins" to keep us going. Teresa Amabile's research at Harvard shows nothing is more motivating that the feeling of progress. By building this into his schedule, Andy is able to keep going even with a mindset that is deliberately focused on the perfectionistic negative.

    (To learn how Navy SEALs build grit and learn to never give up click here.)

    But in many work environments writing can be a collaborative process. Hollywood is no different. So what if others are doing the writing and you need to give feedback? How do you help them improve — without insulting them?

    4) The Right Way To Collaborate

    Andy has worked with director David Fincher on a number of memorable films, including Seven and Fight Club. Why have their collaborations been so effective?

    Because Fincher is a master at suspending his ego when giving feedback. Here's Andy:

    Fincher does a lot of things that a lot of people don't do. He listens. He actually collaborates. He's incredibly specific with his input. But he's not desperate to put his stamp on something. It's his lack of ego. Usually when you're getting notes on a project, the person giving them is clearly motivated by having their voice heard, their ego being stoked.

    When I spoke with FBI behavior expert Robin Dreeke he said the exact same thing about effectively dealing with people: Suspend your ego.

    And the secret to writing well when you're part of a team is to give others that chance to contribute in the areas where they know more than you do. Here's Andy:

    Really good actors like Morgan Freeman, and Brad and Kevin, will always take your worst stuff and make it a thousand times better than it was on the page. And so the lesson is, when it goes from the page to fruition, less is better. In the right hands, you'll be amazed how much better it gets.

    It's only when great writing, great directing, and great acting come together that you get moments (NSFW) like this:

    (For more on how to make people like you — from an FBI behavior expert — click here.)

    We've learned a lot about solid writing. But, in the end, nothing is more powerful than moving people emotionally. How can you do that? Andy has an answer.

    5) How To Make Readers Feel Something

    It all comes down to one word. Here's Andy:

    Honesty is the most important ingredient.

    That's what made Seven work. Now Andy didn't literally follow the old advice of "write what you know." He was never a cop… or a serial killer for that matter.

    But the script was honest regarding what he was feeling about New York City while he was writing it. Here's Andy:

    Seven came from a very personal place. The argument that's taking place both internally and externally for Mills, (Brad Pitt's character) and for Somerset (Morgan Freeman's character) is an argument that I was having with myself, living in New York City in the late 80's. If there's anything that elevated it above an exploitational film, it was the stuff that came from me personally. The "write what you know" wasn't experiences I had; I was never a policeman tracking down this terrible, murderous villain, but it was the debate over "look what this city's become." I was empathizing with John Doe and having him express frustrations of mine — in the worst way possible. It was an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other — and this is the argument that Mills and Somerset are having, that I was having. Morgan Freeman wants to quit and Brad never will. As a writer, I had to earn that moment where Morgan Freeman, despite his pessimism about the city, decides not to give up. And that's what drives him to say, "I'll be around" at the end of the movie.

    (For more on how to tell great stories from a UCLA Film School professor click here.)

    Okay, Andy's told us a lot about how to be a better writer. Let's round it all up — and learn how we can apply it to any career.

    Sum Up

    Here's what Andy had to say about how to improve your writing:

    1. Structure lets readers know they're in good hands. And finishing a draft is just the start. Writing is rewriting.
    2. Surprise comes from knowing the expectations of your audience — and then turning them on their head.
    3. The best writers know how to balance the negativity of perfectionism with the optimism that keeps them going. Making sure you have "small wins" can help.
    4. Collaboration is about suspending your ego. Stop thinking about yourself and focus on what would objectively make the piece better. 
    5. Making a reader feel something is about honesty. You don't have to come from the future to write science fiction but there does have to be something of yourself in the story for that emotion to show through.

    And these ideas don't just apply to writing. You can be an artist at anything if you take the mindset of an artist and strive to be great at whatever you do. Here's Andy:

    In the same way that there's an art to crafting surfboards or an art to designing cars, there's an art to pumping gas or being a garbage man. No matter how much you're being paid or what you're doing as a career, you need to embrace the art of it and not be afraid of the artist in you… Find the art in everything you do.

    In my next weekly email I'll have more writing tips from Andy (including the best way to find original ideas and discover your voice as a writer.) To make sure you don't miss it, join here.

    Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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    SEE ALSO: Here's why people work like crazy, even when they already have everything they need

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    girl writing

    With a job being something that we can no longer count on and more demands than ever on our time, we seem to be in constant search of balance and fulfillment.

    This has created a huge “follow your passion” movement, which suggests that you should earn a living by creating a livelihood from your greatest life passion.

    But getting intoxicated by the passion story is akin to “business beer goggles.” You aren’t thinking clearly or seeing the reality.

    For businesses to be successful, entrepreneurs need to think about opportunities from their customers’ perspective as much as from their own perspective.

    While I do believe that successful businesses have leaders — and often employees, by the way — who are passionate about the business opportunity and their customers, you do not need your life’s passion as a starting point.

    If you were passionate about the television show "Dexter," I’m pretty sure that doesn’t translate into you starting a serial-killer business — despite being amoral and illegal, I don’t think the market opportunity is that large. But seriously, why do so many people think that you need to earn a living from what you love to do the most?

    Related: The Rocky and Bullwinkle Effect: Why You Should Consider Marketing to Multiple Audiences

    1. Passion isn’t a starting point. is a business where passion followed opportunity, but wasn’t the starting point. I can’t imagine that Tony Hsieh is more passionate about shoes than most of the women that I know. He is, however, completely passionate about customer service, which helped take that business to the top of its game.

    But people’s life passions generally aren’t around concepts like customer service, which drive successful businesses. Kids grow up wanting to be firemen, ballerinas, baseball players or Star Wars characters, not community builders.

    If you ask someone their passion, I can guarantee that 99 out of 100 times or more, you will get answers like golf, dancing, wine, scrapbooking or sex before customer service, community building and customer loyalty. If you start with passion, Imelda Marcos or Sex & the City’s Carrie Bradshaw end up running before Tony Hsieh.

    tony hsieh zappos

    Successful businesses identify a customer need or want — an opportunity. When the entrepreneur is incredibly passionate about filling that customer need and is uniquely positioned to be the best person to do so in some way, that’s where business success happens.

    And here’s the brilliant part: As long as entrepreneurs aren’t a bandwagon hopper trying to jump on whatever is hot, they will likely find an opportunity from an area of interest. For example, if you have no interest in green technologies, it’s not likely that you will notice a customer need in that area. On the other hand, if you are a foodie, it’s quite possible that you will run into an opportunity in or around food.

    2. The reason work is not called ‘fun’ or ‘hobby.’

    One of the ways to truly have some semblance of balance is to try to keep your work life from seeping into the rest of your life. If you have something that you do to relieve stress or add joy to your life, do you want to layer on the requirement of earning a living from it?

    Once you depend on something to put food on your family’s table and to pay your mortgage, it changes the entire nature of the relationship. Sometimes, work can be fun, but it’s not called that for a reason. Plus, we weren’t designed to always be “on.” We need time to recombobulate and relax.

    Passions are magical, but businesses are grounded in realities. Do you remember when Dorothy and the gang peered behind the curtain to find out that the Wizard of Oz wasn’t an all-powerful being, but rather, kind of a loser? Or when you found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real? Or when you figured out that your parents weren’t superheroes, just people with flaws? It sucked, right? 

    Our hobbies are about escapism. There is a bit of magic and fantasy in them. When you make that your business, you are privy to the nuts and bolts. That tempers the magic.

    Related: The Simple Customer-Service Mistake That Cost $800

    3. It’s not all about you.

    Having a hobby is a total self-indulgence. It is something that you can do that is mostly — if not entirely — you-centric. While you may think that you can have a business that is all about you, you would be wrong. A business is about your customers. In your business, you only get a say if it jives with your customers’ wants. Otherwise, they don’t buy from you.

    We need to educate entrepreneurs that by approaching a business from what you are lacking or missing or passionate about, you are completely ignoring those who allow you to have a business: your customers. Again, our environment is fraught with competition. Customers, whose attention spans are contracting, are bombarded with messages and are harder to reach than ever. You have to make the customers the most important part of your business.

    If you want to fulfill a passion, do it. That’s what hobbies and free time are for. But if you intertwine that desire with a business, remember that your passion does not pay your for goods or services.

    While you may find an opportunity from things that you are passionate about, I don’t think it’s the best starting place to create a business. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. However, the exceptions don’t make for a good strategy. It is possible to win the lottery, but that doesn’t mean that you should invest all of your money in lottery tickets.

    While you absolutely need to be passionate about making your business a success, you don’t need to make a business from your greatest passion in life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Find the opportunities that ignite a passion within you — that is where the success will happen.

    SEE ALSO: 15 hard lessons everyone should learn in their 20s

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    Man Looking at Computer Screen Frustrated

    Proper grammar seems to be a thing of the past — why stress about tiny technicalities, right? Wrong.

    You should be a grammar stickler for many reasons. Do you want to risk turning off potential clients, employers and connections because of grammatical mistakes?

    Many people are so concerned with what they are saying in an email or text message that they completely forget to pay attention to how they are saying it.

    If you choose to turn grammar mode off when you are communicating with friends, that is one thing, but there is absolutely no reason to send a professional communication that contains errors.

    Here are six grammatical errors that are so simple, yet such common offenders. Make sure you aren't making them.

    1. Your/You're

    This is probably the most common mistake I see on social media, in text messages and in emails. This one is real simple — if you are trying to say "you are" then "you're" is correct. If you are talking about something that belongs to you, such as "your car" then you use "your."

    2. Too/To/Two

    Many people confuse these and don't even realize they are doing it. It's really easy — "two" is a number, "too" is an adverb that means "also," and "to" is a preposition used to express motion, direction, limit of movement, contact, a point of limit in time, purpose, intention and destination — to name a few.

    For example:

    "I would like to become an entrepreneur."

    "I too would like to become an entrepreneur."

    3. There/Their/They're

    What should have been squared away in third grade continues to haunt grammar police on a daily basis. The there/their/they're mistake is common — but it's really simple to avoid.

    Use "they're" when you are trying to say "they are."

    "Their" should be used when you are indicating possession.

    Finally, "there" needs to be used when referring to a location.

    Example: "They're going to love working there. Their company culture is amazing!"

    4. You/U

    This one is really just pure laziness rather than a grammatical mistake. Texting has completely ruined grammar and you/u is a perfect example. I understand that "u" is perfectly acceptable if you are texting a friend and are in a rush — but it's not acceptable in a professional email.

    Here is an excerpt of an email I received last week from a C-level executive that is in charge of a company that does business worth several hundreds of millions of dollars every year:

    … that would be gr8! Talk to u soon!

    He managed to nail two text slangs back to back like a champ. Again, if it was a text message, fine — but a professional email is no place for this. This email is actually what sparked me to write this article, so thank you grammatically challenged C-level executive.

    5. Then/Than

    When you are talking about time you use "then," and when you are making a comparison you use "than." It really shouldn't be that difficult to distinguish which one to use:

    "We are going to grab a quick bite to eat and then head back to the office."

    "This new software update is much better than the previous version."

    6. It's/Its

    This one confuses a lot of people, mainly due to the apostrophe, which typically symbolizes possession. Use "it's" when you are trying to say "it is," and use "its" when you are looking for the possessive form of "it."

    "I looked at its owners manual to get the correct settings."

    "It's a beautiful day outside."

    SEE ALSO: 20 stupid grammar mistakes that even smart people make

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    thinker thinking thoughtful sculpture worried outside

    It's a well-known adage: What happens to us plays far less a role in our happiness and success than our responses.

    To develop and maintain the kind of mental toughness that success requires, it's crucial that you keep your thoughts and self-talk positive and avoid the habits that lead to negativity and unhealthy behaviors.

    The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we never see them fight.

    Help keep yourself prepared for whatever comes your way tomorrow by practicing good habits of mind and attitude:

    1. Emotional stability. Leadership often requires that you make good decisions under pressure. It's important that you maintain your capacity to stay objective and deliver the same level of performance regardless of what you're feeling.

    2. Perspective. Mental strength lets you carry on when the world seems to have turned against you. Learn to keep your troubles in proper perspective without losing sight of what you need to accomplish.

    3. Readiness for change. If change is truly the only constant, then flexibility and adaptability are among the most important traits you can develop.

    4. Detachment. You can get through setbacks and come out even stronger if you can remember that it's not about you. Don't take things personally or waste time wondering, Why me? Instead, focus on what you can control.

    5. Strength under stress. Maintain resilience in the face of negative pressures by developing your capacity to deal with stressful situations.

    body building muscles6. Preparation for challenges. Life and business are filled with everyday demands, the occasional crisis, and unexpected twists. Make sure you have the resources to withstand the professional and personal crises that you'll sooner or later be facing.

    7. Focus. Keep your attention on the long-term outcomes to stay steady in the face of real or potential obstacles.

    8. The right attitude toward setbacks. Complications, unintended side effects, and complete failures are all part of landscape. Mitigate the damage, learn the lessons that will help you in the future, and move on.

    9. Self-validation. Don't worry about pleasing others: That's a hit-or-miss proposition for anyone but the worst sort of waffler. Instead, make a concentrated effort to do what is right and to know what you stand for.

    10. Patience. Don't expect results immediately or rush things to fruition before their time. Anything worthwhile takes hard work and endurance; view everything as a work in progress.

    11. Control. Avoid giving away your power to others. You are in control of your actions and emotions; your strength is in your ability to manage the way you respond to what is happening to them.

    12. Acceptance. Don't complain about the things you have no control over. Recognize that the one thing you can always control is your own response and attitude, and use those attributes effectively.

    13. Endurance in the face of failure. View failure as an opportunity to grow and improve, not a reason to give up. Be willing to keep trying until you get it right.

    boston marathon winner 2015

    14. Unwavering positivity. Stay positive even — especially — when you encounter negative people. Elevate them; never bring yourself down. Don't allow naysayers to ruin the spirit of what you're accomplishing.

    15. Contentment. Don't waste time being envious of anyone else's car, house, spouse, job, or family. Instead be grateful for what you have. Focus on what you've achieved and what you're going to achieve instead of looking over your shoulder and being envious of what someone else has.

    16. Tenacity. It comes down to just three words: Never give up.

    17. A strong inner compass. When your sense of direction is deeply internalized, you never have to worry about becoming lost. Stay true to your course.

    18. Uncompromising standards. Tough times or business difficulties aren't good reasons to lower the bar. Keep your standards high.

    Becoming a mentally strong person takes practice and mindfulness. It requires tuning in to your bad habits and making a point of learning new habits to replace them. And sometimes it simply means learning to get out of your own way and let things happen.

    SEE ALSO: 15 hard lessons everyone should learn in their 20s

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    There are certain traits that extremely successful people share. Here are five traits that high achievers tend to demonstrate in daily life. 
    Produced by Eames Yates. Original Reporting by Jeff Haden. 
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    Online Class

    You have to continually expand your knowledge to succeed as an entrepreneur.

    Thankfully, educational institutions and technology are making continuing your education more convenient through online courses.

    While there are thousands of informative and inspiring online courses you can take, here are classes you definitely should enroll in if you want to be an entrepreneur.

    1. How to Build a Startup

    This free course over at Udacity is instructed by Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, educator and developer of the famous customer development methodology. The course is an introduction to the basics of the Customer Development Process which includes learning how to develop and test ideas, how to listen and engage your customers, and how to deliver your product to your audience.

    It only takes about a month to complete the eight lessons.

    2. Essentials of Entrepreneurship

    Through Coursera, you can learn some of the basic components of entrepreneurship by University of California, Irvine, instructor David Stranden, MBA. It’s an interactive course that consists of approximately four to eight hours of video and reading lessons, along with the occasional quiz.

    The course covers entrepreneurial skills and tools, marketing strategy, human resources and accounting.

    3. Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate

    If you already have work experience, and about a grand to spend, then this online course offered by Stanford University is designed just you. The course was influenced by the spirit of Silicon Valley and will provide students with the tools and strategies to launch their start-up. What’s most appealing about this course is you can hear from successful entrepreneurs and customize the program with classes relevant to you.

    The course is self-paced and should be finished within 90 days. After completing the course, you’ll have the official Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate.

    4. 21 Critical Lessons for Entrepreneurs

    computer workingPresented by Jason Nazar, CEO of Docstoc, this two-hour video course includes 21 lessons Nazar has experience himself. Covered in the course is vetting ideas during the early stages of your startup, how to raise money, selecting the right team, and practical growth strategies.

    This priceless course is great for potential entrepreneurs and can be taken for free at Udemy. You’ll even get a nifty certification after completion.

    5. Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs

    Professor Michael R. Pratt from the University of Maryland instructs this great introductory class on when and how entrepreneurs can raise funds. Additional lessons include where to find investors, looking at various funding options, the components of a term sheet, how to perform key valuations, and how to make your pitch to investors.

    This four-week course can be taken for free on Coursera.

    6. Introduction to Finance

    It’s one thing to secure funding for your startup, it’s another beast when it comes to valuing the company. That’s why this course, taught by Gautam Kaul of the University of Michigan, is a must-take for all entrepreneurs. It will teach students how to make the appropriate personal and professional financial decisions by exploring the fundamental principles of valuation.

    The 15-week course can be taken on Coursera and includes real-world examples and video lessons.

    7. Law and the Entrepreneur

    Taught by Esther Barron and Steve Reed of Northwestern University, this course offered at Coursera covers how to choose an entity for your business, selection of a company name and trademark, and protecting intellectual property. It also teaches entrepreneurs how to structure agreements with partners and investors.

    The format consists of case studies and four or five short video lectures each week, as well as reading assignments and a quiz.

    8. Introduction to Marketing

    What’s the point in starting your own business if you can’t market to the right audience? This course is instructed by Barbara Kahn, Peter Fader and David Bell from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, which is constantly ranked as one of the top marketing departments in the world. The course discusses key principles like branding, customer centricity and go-to-market strategies. I used this to learn how to better brand my online business. It's taught me to pay attention to detail and make things stand out.

    The four-week course consists of lecture videos, quizzes and discussions.

    SEE ALSO: 9 free online resources that will help you advance your career

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    Man Stressed Out

    Maybe you hate your job or you're overworked. 

    Or maybe the pressure at work is just too much for you.

    Regardless of the cause, how you manage your job-related stress is serious business. If your stress levels continue to build up over time, job burnout is a likely result.

    Stress expert Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of The Stress Institute and Mindful Living Network, helps people manage their physical and mental stress. 

    Hall shared a list of emotional and physical symptoms that are clear-cut signs you could be experiencing job burnout. 

    Emotional Symptoms

    Being too stressed can take an emotional toll, which in turn can affect your job performance and relationships.

    Here are the emotional symptoms of job burnout, according to Hall:

    • Anger
    • Aggression
    • Lack of motivation
    • Feelings of detachment
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Ambivalence

    "Stress is a great thing because it causes us to stop and assess our jobs and the unhealthy and unhappy choices we are making in our lives," Hall says.

    Physical Symptoms

    Job burnout extends beyond how you feel mentally. It can create serious physical problems that can become dangerous.

    Here are the physical symptoms of job burnout, according to Hall:

    • Gastrointestinal problems (GI tract, abdominal pain, reflux, constipation, or diarrhea)
    • Repetitive headaches
    • Back pain
    • Insomnia or chronic exhaustion
    • Unusual weight fluctuation

    When workplace stress turns into chronic stress, it affects much more than your career success.

    "Chronic stress creates health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity, chronic pain, and an increase of cholesterol," Hall says. 

    Because people are so "overbooked, overworked, and overwhelmed," Hall has created a simple acronym to help you manage stress: ACE. It includes being aware of your stress triggers, choosing one at a time to alleviate, and experiencing self-care.

    It's important that you don't suffer alone, Hall says. Talking to your supervisor can help, she says, because many companies "are now well-versed in the physical and emotional consequences of chronic stress in the workplace and the economic costs associated with job burnout."

    Further, taking a vacation can provide benefits like improved mental health and a lower risk of burnout. And if your symptoms are chronic or severe, consider speaking with a health professional.

    SEE ALSO: Here's a simple trick to perform better in stressful situations

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    Albert Einstein

    LinkedIn Influencer Travis Bradberry published this post originally on LinkedIn. 

    We’ve all said things that people interpreted much differently than we thought they would.

    These seemingly benign comments lead to the awful feeling that only comes when you’ve planted your foot firmly into your mouth.

    Verbal slip-ups often occur because we say things without knowledge of the subtle implications they carry.

    Understanding these implications requires social awareness — the ability to pick up on the emotions and experiences of other people.

    TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence (EQ) of more than a million people and discovered that social awareness is a skill in which many of us are lacking.

    We lack social awareness because we’re so focused on what we’re going to say next — and how what other people are saying affects us — that we completely lose sight of other people.

    This is a problem because people are complicated. You can’t hope to understand someone until you focus all of your attention in his or her direction.

    The beauty of social awareness is that a few simple adjustments to what you say can vastly improve your relationships with other people.

    To that end, there are some phrases that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in casual conversation. The following phrases are nine of the worst offenders. You should avoid them at all costs.

    1. “You look tired.”

    Tired people are incredibly unappealing — they have droopy eyes and messy hair, they have trouble concentrating, and they’re as grouchy as they come. Telling someone he looks tired implies all of the above and then some.

    Instead say: “Is everything OK?” Most people ask if someone is tired because they’re intending to be helpful (they want to know if the other person is okay). Instead of assuming someone’s disposition, just ask. This way, he can open up and share. More importantly, he will see you as concerned instead of rude.

    2. “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!”

    Once again, a well-meaning comment — in this case a compliment — creates the impression that you’re being critical. Telling someone that she has lost a lot of weight suggests that she used to look fat or unattractive.

    Instead say: “You look fantastic.” This one is an easy fix. Instead of comparing how she looks now to how she used to look, just compliment her for looking great. It takes the past right out of the picture.

    3. “You were too good for her anyway.”

    When someone severs ties with a relationship of any type, personal or professional, this comment implies he has bad taste and made a poor choice in the first place.

    Instead say: “Her loss!” This provides the same enthusiastic support and optimism without any implied criticism.

    4. “You always …” or “You never …”

    No one always or never does anything. People don’t see themselves as one-dimensional, so you shouldn’t attempt to define them as such. These phrases make people defensive and closed off to your message, which is a really bad thing because you likely use these phrases when you have something important to discuss.

    Instead say: Simply point out what the other person did that’s a problem for you. Stick to the facts. If the frequency of the behavior is an issue, you can always say, “It seems like you do this often.” or “You do this often enough for me to notice.”

    5. “You look great for your age.”

    Using “for your” as a qualifier always comes across as condescending and rude. No one wants to be smart for an athlete or in good shape relative to other people who are also knocking on death’s door. People simply want to be smart and fit.

    Instead say: “You look great.” This one is another easy fix. Genuine compliments don’t need qualifiers.

    6. “As I said before …”

    We all forget things from time to time. This phrase makes it sound as if you’re insulted at having to repeat yourself, which is hard on the recipient (someone who is genuinely interested in hearing your perspective). Getting insulted over having to repeat yourself suggests that either you’re insecure or you think you’re better than everyone else (or both!). Few people who use this phrase actually feel this way.

    Instead say: When you say it again, see what you can do to convey the message in a clearer and more interesting manner. This way they'll remember what you said.

    7. “Good luck.”

    This is a subtle one. It certainly isn’t the end of the world if you wish someone good luck, but you can do better because this phrase implies that they need luck to succeed.

    Instead say: “I know you have what it takes.” This is better than wishing her luck because suggesting that she has the skills needed to succeed provides a huge boost of confidence. You’ll stand out from everyone else who simply wishes her luck.

    8. “It’s up to you.” or “Whatever you want.” 

    While you may be indifferent to the question, your opinion is important to the person asking (or else he wouldn’t have asked you in the first place).

    Instead say: “I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but a couple things to consider are …” When you offer an opinion (even without choosing a side), it shows that you care about the person asking.

    9. “Well at least I’ve never ___.”

    This phrase is an aggressive way to shift attention away from your mistake by pointing out an old, likely irrelevant mistake the other person made (and one you should have forgiven her for by now).

    Instead say: “I’m sorry.” Owning up to your mistake is the best way to bring the discussion to a more rational, calm place so that you can work things out. Admitting guilt is an amazing way to prevent escalation.

    Bringing It All Together

    In everyday conversation, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Try these suggestions out, and you’ll be amazed at the positive response you get.

    More from Travis Bradberry:

    SEE ALSO: 8 small things you do that people use to judge your personality

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    Donald Trump

    If you're like most people, just the thought of addressing a group is enough to send chills up your spine.

    In 2014, public speaking was ranked America's No. 1 fear, coming in ahead of heights, bugs, snakes, and needles.

    But presenting in front of people is one of the core skills leaders need to master

    Skip Weisman, a workplace communication expert, offers advice to help businesses improve their communication. He says there are four fundamental characteristics of a great presenter. 

    1. A good presenter is focused.

    It all starts with focus. A good presenter is focused on providing value to the audience and addressing the audience from their perspective, Weisman says. You shouldn't just highlight your expertise or knowledge; offer examples or anecdotes to connect with the audience.

    2. A good presenter has delivery skills.

    Delivery skills are crucial in any form of communication, especially when talking to a large group. It's important to use powerful body language, like maintaining eye contact and using open gestures, to engage with the audience and reinforce your points, Weisman says.

    3. A good presenter is a storyteller.

    Your audience doesn't want to be lectured. It's imperative that you speak to your audience, not at them. In this regard, a good presenter "is a great storyteller that takes the stories and connects them to learning points important to the audience based on the presentation content," Weisman says.

    4. A good presenter is patient.

    As a speaker, it's critical to give your audience a moment to reflect on key statements, Weisman says. It can be brief, but a skilled presenter "takes a few breaths and slows down after making a key point." The speaker can also ask a reflective question to make the discussion more applicable and relatable for the audience. 

    SEE ALSO: The 3 communication skills every leader needs to master

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    Brian de Haaff

    I once had a boss that made life miserable.

    Every day he seemed to go out of his way to change my priorities and present my ideas and work as his own.

    I was trapped in his world of lack of vision, deep uncertainty, and lack of confidence.

    I did my best to stay on track and productive, but ultimately found a new job. I learned many lessons from him — for that I am thankful.

    Many leaders begin with the best intentions, but allow the position to go to their head. They start to make their decisions based on something other than what is right — pride, greed, or flimsy morals. Or worse, fear of being found out as an imposter. Sound familiar?

    The world needs more examples of leaders to learn from. We certainly have enough bad ones.

    I have good news for you if you are reading this and nodding in agreement. Great leaders are out there. You just do not hear about them because they are rare, stay out of trouble, and avoid the spotlight. The lessons that make them who they are today are rarely shared.

    I have been fortunate to learn from both lousy managers and some incredible product managers in my life. Wisdom that I otherwise would be blind too. After spending time with them and watching how they lead others, I discovered that they share a few hidden traits.

    Let me share them with you today, because I make a point to apply these lessons as the CEO of Aha! (which is product roadmap software) each and every day with our team.

    1. Work hard

    Being elevated to a position of leadership does not mean that you get to relax and let others do all the heavy lifting. Be prepared to work even harder than before, especially now that others are counting on you.

    2. Be kind

    Kindness is a core value of our company. I know from experience that it makes work more worthwhile and enjoyable. That does not mean that you avoid having difficult conversations with team members when you need to — you say what you need to say but consider your words and your delivery carefully. Kindness makes a big difference.

    3. Set an example

    If you are a leader then you set an example just be being in your role — a good example or bad one. You show future leaders within your organization how they should behave. That means you should know where the organization is headed and clearly communicate your strategy transparently. Be open and honest about where you are leading the team and a positive force as you help the team get there.

    4. Keep learning

    The most important thing I have learned about leading others is that you are never done learning yourself. When you think you know everything — that is when you are really in trouble! You can learn something new about leadership every day if you are open to receiving it and applying it. Challenge yourself to always keep growing.

    5. Stay humble

    Leaders must constantly guard against allowing their position to go their heads. Give praise and encouragement to others, and remind yourself that you cannot do everything on your own. Be your greatest critic and laugh at yourself when things go wrong.

    The world would be a better place if more leaders started thinking of their role in these terms, and realizing the positive or negative impact they can choose to have on others.

    Do not take this responsibility lightly. Do not squander the opportunity to become the best leader that you can be. Great leaders do not have time to waste worrying about their image. They focus on the work at hand and discover the secrets of leadership that make their teams great.

    SEE ALSO: 7 TED Talks that will make you a better leader

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    elon musk commencement speech

    The tech industry is legendarily built on the brilliance of college dropouts. Steve Jobs didn't finish. Neither did Bill Gates or Larry Ellison.

    But just because they didn't all walk at graduation — or make it to their second semester — doesn't mean they weren't shaped by their years in the Ivory Tower. 

    Gates became friends with Steve Ballmer at Harvard, Ellison learned he was a pretty good computer programmer at the University of Illinois, and Jobs considered his time at Reed College among the most valuable experiences of his life. 

    Meanwhile, Peter Thiel — who actually did graduate from Stanford — now thinks college is such a waste of time that he offers $100,000 scholarships to students who want to bypass college and start innovating now. 

    What can we say, everyone's experience is different.

    This is an update of an article originally by Aaron Taube.

    SEE ALSO: From selling bras to taming lions, here are the summer jobs 19 super successful people had before they were famous

    Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page, University of Michigan

    Page had been a quiet child growing up in East Lansing, Michigan, but he began to blossom among fellow engineers at University of Michigan during his tenure as an undergrad in the early '90s, according to a profile by Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson.

    At Michigan, he hung out with other tech-obsessed students, and became editor of a newsletter put out by Eta Kappa Nu, an electrical and computer engineering honor society. Those articles, notes Carlson, reveal collegiate-Page to be "an opinionated, forward-looking thinker — and a goofball."

    He was also a risk-taker. "He proposed a project, and I don't remember the details, but I specifically remember I said, 'Larry, I don't know if you can do that," his senior project advisor told Business Insider's Lisa Eadicicco. Page wasn't sure either — the project involved hacking the Palm Pilot to "do something it wasn't supposed to do"— but he was willing to try. 

    (The risk paid off. Page got an A+.) 

    Tesla cofounder Elon Musk, University of Pennsylvania

    After two years at Queen's University in Canada, Musk studied physics and economics at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Musk's housemate and close friend at Penn, Adeo Ressi, recalled at a 2010 event held by that Musk did not drink and was "the biggest dork I've ever met." 

    Meanwhile, The New Yorker reports Musk loved first-person shooter video games (he briefly considered going into the video game business) and he was so focused on his schoolwork that his mother would check on him to make sure he was eating and changing his socks every day, according to a 2012 Forbes story.

    But even then, Musk had an entrepreneurial spirit — Penn's alumni magazine reports that he and Ressi made money by charging other students to attend their house parties, an enterprise they took very seriously.

    "It was a full-out, unlicensed speakeasy," Ressi told Musk's biographer, Ashlee Vance. "We would have as many as five hundred people. We would charge five dollars, and it would be pretty much all you could drink — beer and Jell-O shots and other things." 

    Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Stanford University

    Mayer was already an overachiever by the time she enrolled at Stanford in 1993, having served as president of her high school's Spanish club, treasurer of its Key Club, and captain of both the debate team and pom-pom squad, reports Business Insider's Carlson.

    Unsurprisingly, this intense focus on achievement continued in Palo Alto, where a former classmate describes her as having been "very smart and very serious."

    But according to Carlson, Mayer wavered from her initial plan to become a doctor, finding that she preferred the problem-solving skills used in computer programming to the rote memorization needed to succeed in pre-med classes.

    As an upperclassmen, Mayer excelled teaching younger students in her symbolic systems major, a course of study that combines linguistics, philosophy, cognitive psychology, and computer science classes.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    smile 20s millennialLike the writers of the US Declaration of Independence, we believe that the pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right — and one that’ll improve your productivity, too.

    Here are the 6 best hacks from books on happiness that we’ve ever found.

    You’re probably well aware of Google’s smashing employee benefits package, and in a moment of incredulous jealousy you might even have scoffed at the pampering.

    Among the boons to Googlers are: massages, a bountiful and excellent free canteen, swim-in-place pools, free haircuts, laundry services, and gym equipment — even travel insurance for you and your family.

    Now, take a moment to collect your jaw from the floor and stow your snarls because, as usual, Google’s onto something.

    A team of behavioral economists at Warwick Business School found that all the investments Google makes in heightening employee happiness actually pays off. Through studies involving math problems, chocolate, and comedy videos, they were able to determine that on average, happier people were 12% more productive.

    Multiply 12% across an entire workforce and what you get is exponential advancement. Scale that effect solely to you and the benefits are significant, too. Happier people live longer and healthier lives, make friends more easily, and, in general, live better.

    At Blinkist, we’ve read literally hundreds of great nonfiction books, which means, much as you can stumble upon happiness, we’ve stumbled upon some very sound advice as to how anyone — yep, even you — can be happier. If you’re ready to be happier and you know it, clap your hands. Or just keep reading. 

    1. Keep a gratitude diary to focus on the good times.

    Professor Barbara L. Fredrickson is an expert on positive emotions, so her book "Positivity" is a great place to start our quest to be happier.

    According to Fredrickson, experiencing positive emotions in day-to-day life can have a profound impact on happiness, so we should seek out ways to capture and intensify those feelings.

    Specifically, she advocates striving for a ratio of feeling three positive emotions for every negative one. But how can we hope to predictably and regularly achieve the “be happier” ratio? One of Frederickson’s tried-and-true methods is a gratitude diary.

    A gratitude diary is exactly what it sounds like: a journal where you note down things you’ve felt grateful for recently, such as eating a delicious meal or having great friends to talk to.

    Why does it work? Well, gratitude is a powerful positive emotion. If experienced frequently, even small doses of it lead to a continuous improvement in your general attitude towards life. The role of the diary is to find out which situations repeatedly make you grateful, so you can trigger more gratitude by recreating them.

    For example, if you find through your journalling that talking to your parents about your childhood gives you a feeling of gratitude, you can easily retrigger the same experience by calling them up.

    2. Practice mindfulness — of the positive and the negative.

    Frederickson also touts mindfulness as a great technique to be happier.

    When you’re mindful, you’re willfully and actively perceiving everything you experience. For instance, on your way to work, you might usually let your mind wander to your troubles, like that unpaid gas bill or the stressful project you need to finish. But if you’re mindful, you can instead focus on and savor the singing birds, the spring flowers, and the sunshine, thereby giving you a happiness boost!

    But the benefits of mindfulness don’t stop short at the warm and fuzzy feelings. A dose of mindfulness on negativity can do you good, too. Being mindful of negative feelings allow you to rationally examine and question them. For example, say you’ve just missed the bus and feel a pang of anger.

    Being mindful of your negative feelings can help you ask yourself: did I really need to get so angry at myself just because I missed the bus? Mindful reality checks like this help dissipate most negative emotions, especially our exaggerated reactions to unimportant things like that missed bus. When you consider these minor trials calmly, it’s easy to laugh them off and refocus on the positive.

    To be more mindful, Frederickson recommends meditation. Even if with just a few minutes a day you’ll start to see the difference.

    hug laugh smile

    3. Energize yourself by getting back to the basics.

    Next up for a round of advice-giving on our happiness quest: meet author and blogger, Gretchen Rubin.

    Rubin embarked on a year-long journey to increase her own happiness, a feat whose outcome was her bestselling book "The Happiness Project."

    Rubin found that the key factors to happiness were energy and vitality. Simple as it sounds, feeling physically and mentally fit is enough to significantly ratchet up happiness. And feeling energized makes us want to engage in other activities, like sports or social events, which in turn generate more moments of happiness.

    But how do you generate energy, anyway? The base components are just banal enough to be overlooked: enough sleep, a balanced diet, and physical activity.

    Your happiness hack: a walk. Even a mere ten-minute stroll produces an energy boost, but it’s a good idea to try for 10,000 steps every day. Consider getting yourself a pedometer like Rubin did and start keeping track of your steps. This will help you feel more active because you’re consciously energizing yourself, and as a bonus you get the thrill of fulfilling your step quota each day.

    4. Be generous to your friends for twice the happiness — yours and theirs!

    Friendship is an essential part of a happy life: good friends we can trust, talk to, and have fun with help us navigate every day life’s trials and tribulations with a smile.

    Just as in marital relationships, a big source of happiness in friendships is generosity. During her year in the happiness lab, Rubin found that the surest way to be happy is to focus on helping others feel happier. This doesn’t mean you need to lavish your dearest with expensive gifts or trips or VIP treatments.

    What’s most nourishing to a friendship is helping those you hold dear to continue rising above themselves. Being there for them when they’re in need, and spending time with them will make them much happier than any earthly possession ever could. Perhaps presaging the Marie Kondo tidying craze, Rubin helped several of her friends clean out their closets and felt her happiness doubled—for her friends and for herself.

    “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” — Gretchen Rubin.

    Trying this approach for yourself is easy and there’s really no limit to what you can do. You might choose to help a friend move house or with organizing a party. Have a skill your friend wants to learn? You could volunteer to work on it together. Whatever you choose, the experience of unstintingly giving is satisfying, both for you and your friend.

    5. Don’t try to buy happiness — but do buy things that make you happy.

    Happiness theorists say that buying a new car or a nice piece of clothing will only make us happy for a short time, and as soon as we’ve gotten used to the new acquisition, we’ll go back to the same level of happiness we had before.

    Rubin, however, found part of the story missing here. True, the satisfaction of a buy may be short-lived, but it’s real, and always involves a positive feeling of growth.

    That’s why she decided that it’d be all right for her to indulge in the occasional modest splurge as long as it provided her with some added value. During her honeymoon, for instance, she treated herself to room service for the first time ever. Another time, she shamelessly bought an expensive food processor, which she has since used to make healthy fruit shakes for herself and her family every day — giving her energy and putting her in a good mood.

    The bottom line here: don’t splash out on useless junk, but don’t hesitate to buy something that you think might add real value to your life. You just might be happier for it. 

    people lost map

    6. Navigate according to a fun map.

    Our final happiness hack comes from Ryan Babineaux’s and John Krumboltz’ book "Fail Fast, Fail Often" which deals with how fear of failure can keep us from attaining our full happiness.

    They also provide a very concrete way for you to squeeze more pleasure out of your daily life: a fun map.

    To make this tool sounds deceptively simple, but the logic checks out. All you need to do is literally jot down all the places you frequent and rate them by level of enjoyment you usually feel in them. Based on the results, try to avoid places where you feel the least happy, like the train or your poorly lit office.

    Instead, seek out activities and places you enjoy, such as parks and museums. If you walk to work, you might assess the various routes you could take to get there. Is there a particularly scenic way you often eschew because it takes five more minutes? Consider investing the extra time: if the aesthetic experience makes you happy, it’s well worth it to go a little out of your way.

    Any way you choose to frame it, whether unalienable right or career booster, relationship strengthener or fountain of youth, being a little happier can only do you good. Try one of the hacks above or try them all and let us know how they worked for you, or let us know what some of your best happiness hacks are in the comments.

    SEE ALSO: Adopting this surprising habit of highly intelligent people can make you look smarter at work

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    man painting

    It's no secret that the workforce can be tough for those in the creative industry.

    Artists, writers, musicians, designers — though these careers are much-needed, the pay can be low and the competition can be tremendous in some parts of the country.

    It's best for creative professionals to carefully consider their location if they want the best possible salary in the lowest possible cost-of-living location, as a $40,000 salary can stretch much further in, say, Austin, Texas, than New York City.

    Personal finance site Smartasset analyzed the most favorable cities for creative professionals in the US. Recognizing more than 28 professions — including architect, multimedia artist, choreographer, and painter — they evaluated the affordability and creative culture in 176 of the largest cities in the country, providing every city with a score for either category.

    A city with a low cost of living yielded a favorable affordability score, and a city with a high percentage of creative workers earned a high creative culture score. Cities with a "Perfect 100" affordability score demonstrate a cost of living that is 85% of the national average or lower. Cities with a "Perfect 100" creative culture score have at least 125 creative workers for every 10,00o — while a city with 10 or fewer creatives per 10,000 received a score of zero.

    According to the results, creative professionals should steer clear of the coasts when looking to excel in their career and save money. The East and West coasts — namely, where the big job markets are, like in California and the Northeast — prove to be too expensive to live comfortably on the average artist's salary. In fact, the only coastal city to make the cut was Durham, North Carolina.

    Here are the top 10:


    Click here to read more about why each of these cities made the Top 10 list.

    SEE ALSO: The 15 Hottest American Cities For 2015

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    jack welchLinkedIn Influencer Jack Welch published this post originally on LinkedIn.

    If there’s one thing that’s in short supply in almost every organization, at every level, it’s straight talk – candor.

    It’s business’s biggest dirty little secret that in most companies, most people would rather hide or spin the truth than share it, making it hard for everyone to bring the reality of the situation to the surface and fix it.

    That’s human nature, of course. We all have an innate instinct that tells us from a young age to prevent awkwardness and avoid hurting feelings. Or maybe we’re afraid of the very real organizational consequences of being candid in a company culture that doesn’t welcome openness.

    But, assuming your organization wants it, getting candor right – with your reports, your peers, and your boss – is a skill that can make or break your career. Here’s how to make it work with all three.

    Straight talk with your team

    When it comes to candor with your direct reports, the best approach is to have quarterly reviews where you sit down and say, “Here’s what you’re doing well and here’s what you need to do better.” That way, there’s no BS around it.

    The word “need” is very important because people tend to listen to what they’re good at and they might not hear the tougher message if you soften it too much. Now, this process doesn’t have to involve long HR forms and pages of documentation. It can be as simple as a handwritten note on a little card with the two columns above.

    This kind of appraisal has to be done frequently — at least twice a year. At our management school, we do it quarterly. As a leader, the more you can give candid feedback, the more everybody wins. You win because you’re not harboring it and becoming passive aggressive. The other person also benefits because they get what they need to improve.

    We know someone who started her own company and she recently told us how she hired a good friend of hers who is now really screwing up her business. When we asked, “Have you told him?”, she said, “Oh, I know I should but I haven’t done it yet. I’m worried about hurting his feelings … But I’m getting really passive-aggressive because I’m so mad about it.”

    In this situation, everyone loses and the ending is never pretty.

    The peer-to-peer minefield

    Candor in peer-to-peer discussions is almost always difficult, but avoiding it is never helpful. Say you’re running Division X and the other guy running Division Y is mucking up your thing in X. But, you need Division Y’s political, technical, or sales support for various reasons. How can you be candid and honest without sabotaging yourself?

    women outside talkingIn this situation, friendship will carry you a long way. We have an edict – love everyone you work with. If you cross purposes with someone at work, you’ve got to remember that — “love everyone.” Keep it in a note in your drawer. If you start to see “them” as the enemy and your teams get Balkanized, it’s really important to say to yourself, “This is what I really like about this person. I’m going to assume they have the best intentions. Let’s have that candid conversation but not go in as enemies.”

    Taking your colleagues out to lunch or going to dinner and really getting to know them is all the better. These days, you can type an email to somebody sitting in the next cubicle. But don’t let technology replace relationships. One of our kids works in a company where all the employees in their group have lunch together every single day. It might seem old fashioned, but imagine how it helps the work. We are huge advocates of people being friends at work — it just changes everything.

    Speaking truth to power

    We often hear in Q&A sessions, "I don’t know where I stand. My boss never wants to talk about my performance.” We always recommend never going to your boss with a confrontational stance. “I want this. I deserve that. This is where it should go.”

    The winning play is to come in asking for help – asking for your boss’s thinking about your job relative to what his or her expectations are. Say something like, “Can we take a minute to talk about my career? I think I’m doing it alright but I’d love to get your input as to how I might do better. Am I getting there? Is there more?”

    Or, if you’re on different sides of an issue, you might go in saying, “Here’s where I think you are . . . Here’s where I come out on this . . . In the end it’s your call, and I’ll go either way. I just want you to have another option.” Now you’ve given your boss a way out without directly challenging his or her authority. Something like this is the best shot you have at winning a candid discussion upward.

    Candor isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t be harsh or blatantly direct. Coming in the “side door” in the latter two relationships will always beat a head on confrontation. Getting that right can propel your career to new heights... Getting it wrong could kill it.

    More From Jack Welch:

    SEE ALSO: 7 skills all successful communicators have mastered

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    human resources

    I’m sure you've heard of the Miranda warning. Television crime dramas like "Law and Order" have told us: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law …”

    Well, when it comes to our work environment, I've got the “The Marshall Warning: At work, anything you say or do (or anything you should have said, but didn’t) may be held against you!” 

    Although I meant The Marshall Warning to be somewhat of a joke, unfortunately, it’s also very true.

    In fact, I’ve seen many people run into problems (sometimes big problems) at work because they weren't aware how HR really works behind closed doors. 

    In this article, I’ll share 3 HR secrets and what you can do to avoid getting yourself into hot water at work.

    1. If you're having trouble with your manager or having personal problems, you may not want to turn to HR. 

    Why not? Because the primary job of HR is to protect the company, not you. Certainly there are times when what’s best for you may also be best for the company, but other times that might not be the case.

    Fix: When you’ve got issues either at home or with your boss, your first step should always be to seek help externally. Find someone outside the company as your sounding board. Talk with either a close friend, or professional coach, or even a trusted mentor. It’s best to get an objective opinion and advice on the situation before possibly jeopardizing your situation at work by sharing your concerns with HR.   

    Depending on the severity of the situation, you might even need to consider moving on entirely or hiring a lawyer. If that’s the case, it’s best to wait until you understand what you're facing and ensure you are fully prepared before you approach HR.  

    2. Don't expect HR to keep anything you say confidential — even if you ask. 

    That’s not so say that some HR professionals might keep your concerns private if you request it. But an HR professional is not a lawyer, a priest, or a doctor and he or she is not required to keep your concerns private. She can and will share your information as they see fit — particularly in cases that might lead to legal issues, that individual must report what you say to senior leadership. 

    Fix: Assume that if you share something with HR it will be repeated to other people within the company — including your boss. And by the way, you should also assume that HR may not be sharing everything they know with you. Again, I know I might sound like a broken record, but the function of HR is to protect the company. Always keep that in mind. 

    3. Good work does not "speak for itself.” 

    Specifically, working extra hard is not enough to get noticed or promoted. I’m going to repeat this one because it’s so important. Working extra hard is not enough to get noticed or promoted.

    Why? Hard work often goes unnoticed because most managers are too busy focusing on problems. And by the way, although research suggests that this advice applies more to woman, it certainly applies to both men and women.  

    Fix: Even if you are uncomfortable, you need to toot your own horn and also have colleagues tout your latest accomplishments. Also it helps to be part of the “in" crowd through effective internal networking.

    If your goal is to rise to the highest levels within an organization, it’s important to carefully and properly call attention to your expertise, claim credit for your victories, express your informed opinion, and speak-up. Don't focus on how hard you're working or how late you are staying.

    Instead focus on quantifiable results and qualitative kudos received from others. And when you receive praise, always ask if he or she is willing to send something to you or your boss in writing. Finally, increase your overall exposure by volunteering for cross-functional teams, professional organizations, and committees. The more people who can speak to your skills and accomplishments, the better for you. 

    Here’s the bottom line: it’s important to know when to shut up and when to speak up. Seek outside help when you have personal issues, and remember that HR is not required to keep your words confidential. And on the other side of the spectrum, when things are going well and you are achieving great results, take steps to ensure that many others within your organization are aware of your successes as well.   

    SEE ALSO: 6 sample questions employers ask to assess your personality

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    GettyImages 480654760

    Some companies in China are taking unorthodox measures to reduce pressure and stress on their employees.

    Companies like Woffice, a property services company in Handan, a city in northern China's Hebei province, invited their employees to wear masks to work on Tuesday, which was dubbed "faceless day," reports Yahoo News.

    It's the latest feature of Woffice's monthly series of "relaxation days," according to Yahoo. In an attempt to relieve the pressure of keeping up appearances, the masks obscure facial expressions. Workers that chose to participate did so to take a break from smiling and to remain anonymous to customers.

    The relaxation days may be a reactionary measure by companies concerned with their employees' well-being. Roughly 600,000 Chinese workers die each year from working too much, Bloomberg reports.

    On Tuesday, most masks worn by employees were black and white with purple highlights, Yahoo reports. These masks were originally worn by a character named No Face in the 2001 Japanese movie "Spirited Away."

    GettyImages 480654766

    Other employees donned the Guy Fawkes mask, known from the movie "V for Vendetta." 

    GettyImages 480654762

    SEE ALSO: A Chinese company is replacing 90% of its workers with robots

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    brainstorming bored at work

    You’ve probably heard the productivity adage that “done is better than perfect,” which certainly sounds more appealing than “the devil is in the details.”

    However, as an editor, it’s my job to check (and double check) the work that comes across my desk.

    Moreover, almost every job description I’ve ever seen asks for people who are detail-oriented; not “sometimes detail-oriented and sometimes slightly less so for the sake of efficiency.”

    So, at first glance, the idea of just plowing through work and ignoring the finer points feels impossible.

    In fact, just the thought of it used to make me uncomfortable. I love details, fully polished finished products, and giving off the impression that I’m someone who puts a lot of effort into my work.

    However, after realizing my obsession with details was holding me up time and time again, I decided there are situations in which you have to let it go. Because, as I’ve learned through my experiences, allowing yourself to get things done without pausing to think (and overthink) as you go will help you work smarter. Read on for three times when you can let the specifics slide — and still be seen as someone who cares about your work.

    1. When You’re Brainstorming

    I love words, but nothing interrupts a train of thought like an internal spelling bee. When creativity is called for, give yourself permission to think without critique. 

    If you want to take something in a new direction or if you’re trying to come up with different ideas or creative wording, jot your ideas down. If autocorrect or a squiggly red line is going to tempt you to waste brainpower proofreading, get old school and grab a pen and paper. 

    Trying to find the best way to respond to a challenging email or one that calls for fresh and inspired ideas? Take the pressure off by deleting the address in the “to” field so that you know you can’t accidentally send it before you’re ready. Spend all of your energy and time brainstorming. Think now, edit later.

    2. When Time Is of the Essence

    Obviously, you always want to put forth your best work. But sometimes, best has to be relative to the impossible timeframe you were handed.

    Let’s say you have a client who asks you to change the entire direction of your pitch — and send back a new draft in 30 minutes. You could spend your brief allotted time perfecting one aspect, or you could think in broad strokes about the overall project.

    Sending along approximations of new slogans with potential shifts in timeline and indications of how this may affect budget will often be seen as more impressive than sharing one (albeit perfect) new title. 

    This could also apply to major events. For example, you arrive to your venue and discover it is not at all set up how it should be. (And you specified it so clearly in your emails!) You could think through how you had imagined everything, from how many pens would be at the sign-in desk to the origami swans the napkins were to be folded into; or you could triage. Focus on the big picture: Take care of ensuring an adequate layout, seating, food and drink situation, and go from there. 

    3. When Staying Calm Is Better for Your Career

    Just to be clear: The purpose of the paragraph above was not to give you license to tear through a venue trying to fix everything at warp speed. I’ll admit that on more than one occasion I’ve sprinted around venues to physically demonstrate how I’d like tables reorganized at the last minute before an event, sworn at the printer as I pushed up against an impossible deadline, and looked like an absolute Tasmanian devil. (Before any guests arrived, obviously.) 

    But, here’s what I learned: Tasmanian devils do not inspire a lot of confidence. Moreover, someone who is freaking out is not pleasant to be around. You could get everything done — perfectly — and still not look promotion-worthy because you seem a little too frenetic to manage others.

    What can you do? Look — and try to be — calm under pressure. Take a deep breath and remember that when things go awry, done is better than perfect. Staying positive and moving at a slower pace is preferable to running someone over to cross the final details off of your list.

    No one wants to be known for cutting corners. However, by being strategic, you can give yourself a break here and there — and have more time to double-check your work when it counts.

    SEE ALSO: 12 signs you're suffering from job burnout

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