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The latest news on Careers from Business Insider

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    Mark Cuban

    Some of today's most successful people, like Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey, and Paul Allen, have said that they've learned from failure.

    It's pretty clear that failure is an inevitable stepping stone on the way to success, but how can you overcome it and actually accomplish your goals?

    Well, earlier this year, two University of California-Berkeley business school lecturers published a book called "The Other 'F' Word" in which they offer a seven-step framework for using failure as a valuable resource for success.

    Here are the seven steps that can help you overcome failure, which authors John Danner and Mark Coopersmith call the failure value cycle.

    1. Respect and anticipate failure in order to reduce the fear of it.

    It starts with acknowledging and accepting that failure will happen. "Failure is like gravity — a universal and pervasive force," Coopersmith tells Business Insider. "In order to turn it from a recurring regret into a strategic resource, companies have to stop denying and ignoring it."

    2. Rehearse to improve your reflexes.

    Properly rehearsing for failure can help a company get back to business faster. To do so, Coopersmith and Danner suggest applying what they call the "Un-Golden Rule," which means to "do unto yourself before others can do unto you."

    "Companies should regularly and creatively assess their own most fragile vulnerabilities before those are exposed and exploited by competitors eager to capture customers and market share," Danner says.

    3. Recognize failure's signals earlier to buy time.

    41C+TUjKoWLAn "early warning system" can help buy a company time to make better decisions to minimize the effects of failure. Coopersmith and Danner recommend rewarding customers, suppliers, and employees for identifying situations worth fixing or improving.

    4. React quickly to minimize damage.

    This is where "companies can flunk failure most visibly, but also when they can shine in adversity," Coopersmith says. It's important to have a plan of how your company will triage failure, "like a hospital emergency room does," and be willing to ask for time "to clearly understand the situation and assemble your response," the authors say.

    5. Reflect to draw insights.

    "This is when you take the time to fundamentally understand what happened and why, and what it means to you and your organization," Danner says. Treating failure like feedback, as a positive resource, will be beneficial.

    It's a matter of asking the right questions in the right order. "What, why, how, where, and when will probably generate better understanding than asking who," he says. This will allow leaders to engage employees in useful conversation about "developing a response which has positive implications for culture, productivity, and the ability to better incorporate those insights and people in the next stage."

    6. Rebound to put new action plans into play to improve performance.

    "Effective rebounds usually rely on the leader's ability to re-engage, if not inspire, his own troops for returning to the field with the increased wisdom they've just been handed and the opportunity to perform even better," Coopersmith says. With this, don't focus on those around you. Keep your focus on what you control and what you and your team can do.

    7. Remember to strengthen workplace culture.

    In their book, Coopersmith and Danner highlight four important ways to remember failure in a constructive way:

    1. Stories are where the lessons of failure are informally entered at the most fundamental level in the organization's cultural narrative.
    2. Rituals are repeated activities that highlight the most important aspects from the failure.
    3. Relics are physical artifacts that remind the organization of what it learned from each failure.
    4. Reports are a formal memorialization of the failure and the lessons learned.

    kevin systrom mike krieger instagram foundersIn a short video about the book, Coopersmith brings up Instagram as an example of a company that has successfully gone through the steps. When the Instagram founders talked to their early customers, they said it was too complicated, Coopersmith says.

    The customers did, however, say that they loved the photo section of the app. So the founders went back and created the simple photo app that grew to 150 million users twice as fast as Twitter.

    "If they had just listened to their customers and the customers said 'this product is a failure; this product is too complicated; we're not sure how to use it;' and they hadn't listened in between and said 'what's failing and what can we find that's a success? What can we learn from this?' Then they would have just shuttered everything and gone away," Coopersmith says in the video.

    Danner also brings up WD-40 as a company that repeatedly failed, 39 times to be exact, but overcame it to become successful. The WD-40 Company has since grown into a $1.3 billion valuation.

    Failing 39 times may be a bit over the top, but the moral is that failure absolutely will happen. How you react and work past it, though, is what will determine your success.

    SEE ALSO: This billion-dollar company failed 39 times before becoming successful

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    biking colorado

    I have worked with some of Silicon Valley’s best entrepreneurs and unfortunately some dismal ones too.

    Because we are all part of the Software Revolution, the Valley attracts the world’s most ambitious and gives everyone a chance to build something great. So what determines if you will build what matters or simply die trying?

    I have learned that a few simple signs reveal if an entrepreneur has what it takes. And the signs are fairly simply to see if you know what you are looking for.

    So, do you know what foreshadows each entrepreneur’s future? It’s not where they went to school or how much money they have raised. And it’s definitely not who they know. It’s all about the habits they develop.

    Yes, if you observe an entrepreneur long enough, their habits can tell you everything you need to know. Tell me about your business-building habits and I can often predict your future. 

    Aha! is the second company I started with Dr. Chris Waters, and we have had an incredible journey so far. Every day brings new challenges, and there is never a day when there is not some small success to celebrate. I hope to encourage others along this path of entrepreneurship and guide them toward how to build solid, successful businesses.

    I certainly do not claim to have all the answers, but experience has been an excellent teacher on the subject of building software companies. Over the years, I have learned — and put into practice — several good habits that have helped me build strong businesses that have created lots of value of customers and the teams that have worked on them.

    The good news is that these habits are free for anyone to develop. Clearly, I am not the first to adopt them.

    Be a goal-setter

    Everyone knows that setting goals is important. However, many people just give lip service to the idea and fail to live a goal-driven life. Successful entrepreneurs do not get where they are by accident. They know how easily they can get distracted by the daily minutiae of running a business. That is why they set a strategy and look to their goals first to plan their daily agenda. They even look forward to bigger challenges because they know how to tackle hard problems — by setting small achievable goals and continually moving forward.

    In fact, Aha! is built around this idea that vision, strategy and goals are fundamental to building a strong business. We help companies create roadmaps so they have a clear path to reach their goals. That is how our own business has been able to move forward so quickly. Trust me — becoming a goal-setter works.

    Bounce back quickly

    Successful entrepreneurs are not immune from life’s troubles. I know this to be true. There have been times when my life has become a little too real for my liking, and my first impulse was to hide away for a while. That is a natural response to stress.

    But successful entrepreneurs know they cannot check out for too long. There are people counting on you and decisions that must be made. If you have a tendency to get down and stay there, you must remember that you have started something that is now bigger than yourself. So even when you do not feel like it, you have to be resilient and bounce back.

    Live with purpose

    I have written before about the myth of work-life balance. Successful entrepreneurs know that there is no such thing, no nice, tidy separation between work and the rest of life. However, they also understand that while work is vital to life, developing relationships is important too. They are also aware that owning a business puts extra strain on the people they love. They take time to invest in those relationships that matter so much.

    My work at Aha! allows me to live this purposeful kind of life. Because I lead a distributed teamacross the U.S., I work from my home. This allows me to be more present in the lives of my family because I do not want to miss a thing! I can do my work yet be close to the people who are most important to me. Do not focus on your business at the expense of your family and close relationships.

    If you make these habits part of your life, you will not only position yourself to be successful, but you will also be happier while getting there.

    SEE ALSO: 11 things successful people do right before bed

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The sleep habits all successful people share

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    Papa John's Pizza

    In today's startup scene, the phrase "fail fast" is thrown around a lot.

    We're constantly reminded of the importance of creating a minimum viable product, market testing it, and throwing it away if no one buys it.

    However, the "fail fast" philosophy goes against what created some of the world's largest and most successful companies. As you'll see below, these companies weren't born in a tech incubator, but rather as passionate side projects, by founders with a strong desire to succeed.

    1. Papa John's

    In 1972, John Schnatter, better known as "Papa John," was working at his father's tavern. Upon hearing that it was on the verge of going under, Schnatter sold his prized Camaro to keep the business afloat. Needing to quickly increase sales, he decided to knock down the broom closet and turn it into a small pizzeria. What started as a small tavern that sold pizza evolved into the world's first Papa John's.

    2. Chipotle

    Steve Ells, the founder or Chipotle, had just finished culinary school in 1993. His goal was to open a fine-dining restaurant, but he didn't have the funds to do so. With a small loan from his father, he opened the very first Chipotle to raise money for his dream restaurant. Within the first month, Chipotle sold more than 1,000 burritos, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    3. Craigslist

    In 1995, Craig Newmark moved from Detroit to San Francisco for a new job as a programmer. Being new to the Bay Area, he created a small message board where he could regularly post social events occurring around the city that he thought other programmers would like. The site surged in popularity after Newmark added a section where people could post job offerings. Eventually, the site expanded to all major cities, fueling its growth as one of the largest sites on the internet.

    4. Harley-Davidson 

    Harley Davidson

    As one of the most recognizable motorcycle names in the world, Harley-Davidson has become a brand with cult-like popularity. However, many don't know that the famous bike started out as an experiment between two friends after they saw the first "horseless carriage." As the story has been told, Arthur Davidson and William Harley began experiments to take the work out of bicycling. They quickly realized that their invention had a wide appeal and started making consumer versions of their motorized bicycles--what we now know as Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

    5. Yankee Candles

    In the 1960s, Yankee Candle founder Michael J. Kittredge was a broke teenager. Penniless, and with his mother's birthday coming up, he decided to make her something. He gathered all the old crayons he had, melted them, and made a candle. Proud of his work, he showed his neighbor, who offered to buy the candle for $2. Kittredge's entrepreneurial spirit got the best of him, and he decided to sell it. This led him to realize he might have a great business idea on his hands. A few years later, while in college, Kittredge made candles in his parents' house as a side business. It wasn't until his parents told him they couldn't handle the boxes of candles everywhere that he finally decided to expand. In 1998, Kittredge ended up selling Yankee Candle for more than $500 million.

    SEE ALSO: The 12 coolest social media companies in Silicon Valley

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The sleep habits all successful people share

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    argoBack in November 2014, SOFREP writer Frumentarius wrote an excellent piece titled Top 5 Qualifications for CIA’s Clandestine Service, which outlined the checklist of resume items for aspiring spies.

    The list included background prerequisites such as military experience, language, experience abroad, higher education, and life experience.

    In this article, I will discuss some of the internal qualities that the Agency looks for in a candidate, and that a successful intelligence officer must possess and maintain throughout their career and even into retirement.

    Some of the attributes can and must be learned and taught while on the job, but most are intrinsic to the officer’s character.


    Probably the most important of all of the attributes, this is also the most difficult to maintain, as attested to by the fact that, despite the Agency’s strenuous vetting and hiring process, it has endured such traitors as Philip Agee—who published a book in 1975 titled “Inside the Company: CIA Diary,” which exposed the identities of roughly 250 alleged officers and agents—and Aldrich Ames, whose 11-year span of treason compromised over 100 intelligence operations and is responsible for the deaths of at least 10 CIA assets in the Soviet Union.

    In essence, integrity comes down to the unofficial definition of “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” We all know that the right choice is not often made by those who choose the easy road. Be it in training, in the office while writing up the report, or sitting face-to-face with an asset at a meeting, memorizing the details of the crucial information being passed, the common denominator in the equation is…you.

    The Agency and your colleagues trust that you will do the right thing every time, and not just because you’ve been pegged as “one of the good ones.” Lives can and will be at stake, and those trusted with our nation’s secrets must be above reproach—even our leadership (yes, yes, I know the history and I read the news…that is a debate for another time).


    ISAF army photoIf you read my book review on the CIA’s memorial to its fallen, “The Book of Honor,” then you will know why this is important. Honor and courage don’t always happen on a battlefield. Sometimes they are shown when an operation goes wrong, or when an asset has to be extracted through an extremely non-permissive environment.

    Sometimes it shines brightest from the cell of a dark and wet prison in a far-off place where no one even knows you are being held, and the bad guys are using every means at their disposal to make you talk, but you stick to your cover story, despite your body and mind begging you to make the pain stop.

    Hopefully you will never have to rise to that level of honor and courage, but remembering those who have every time you strap it on and hit the field may keep you from having to.


    jason bourneNo need to expand on this one. If you have been in the military, run a business, or been a parent, then you know all about flexibility. In the Marine Corps, we called it Semper Gumby—pseudo-Latin for “always flexible.” Things can change in a heartbeat, and most certainly in the intelligence community.

    It can be as simple (yeah right) as your boss saying, “Hey, I need you to handle this last-minute brief to the front office,” or as nerve wracking as your asset showing up to a high-threat meeting with his wife…and her parents. Whatever the case, you need to be prepared, at least mentally, to handle the sudden changes and go with the flow.


    argoIn one exercise I had to go through during my training, I was entering a simulated airport in a simulated country while in alias. As soon as you stepped into the “terminal,” you were fair game.

    I stepped in front of the customs officer who asked me the prerequisite, “What brings you to our country?” and “What is the nature of your trip?” sorts of questions, then started to send me on my way. I was home free, and feeling great.

    Then I heard words that even a legit traveler never wants to hear: “Uh, excuse me sir…could you come with me a minute?” It caught me off guard, and for a second, I almost panicked, but I remembered what had been taught.

    Off to secondary I go. I end up sitting in front a polite and disarmingly friendly customs agent who repeated the questions that the first guy did, with a few curveballs thrown in (such as, “Oh, you live in X town? I have a cousin there…is the library still on 4th and Main?).

    Having done my homework, I knew that the town shared a library with another city, so there wasn’t one at that location. I walked out of the exercise with a pass and a new lesson for working in this business: Walk in with confidence, and you’ll walk out with your freedom.


    Seems weird to list this given the above-listed trait, but humility does not mean timidity or lack of self-confidence. It simply means that you realize that you are human, that you are not (despite what your parents, your high school yearbook, or what you wore on your uniform tells you) invincible, and that you will make mistakes. In the intelligence business (and the military, hell, in life) it is called self-assessment.

    Know yourself, your shortcomings, and your strengths. During IO training, after each exercise  (like most places) the student is given feedback. But in this case, the seemingly innocuous question, “So, how do you think you did?” is anything but. The instructors want to know that you are able to assess your performance honestly—the good and the bad.

    Unlike a real-world op where it is just you and the asset (see integrity, above), they will know exactly how the exercise went, but they want to see how accurately you assess your performance. And unlike the Bond movies, ego will only get you sent home.

    Amiable (friendly)

    U.S. army soldiers look on during the multinational NATO exercise Saber Strike in Adazi, Latvia, June 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
As those of us who have spent any time in the military or the intelligence community know, being friendly, especially to those who deserve anything but, is never easy. And I have seen my fair share of bosses who, for whatever reason, have thrown that trait straight out the window.

    For whatever reason, they are bitter and angry, and take that out on their subordinates, who, if they produce, do so out of fear. But I believe that the old adage “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” holds true, from the boardroom to intelligence operations.

    This is not to suggest you should be a pushover or that you have to be cheesing from ear to ear every day, but come on, lighten up a little. While they make for good movies, the stoic, constant hard ass is likely to fall flat on his face, especially when trying to build genuine rapport with an asset could mean the difference between a solid recruitment and a “Screw you, that Russian guy was nicer.”

    And I do mean genuine. People, your coworkers and teammates included, are not dumb—they know when you are being fake. So leave the sour face for when you need it. For me, that’s whenever my daughters bring a boy home.


    soldiers civilians armyIn this case, the definition of the word is: “(of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.” We all have our opinions, formed by a variety of sources including our upbringing, talking to friends, books, TV and the Internet.

    But here’s the thing: In the intelligence world, we deal in facts. Period. (Again, I get it, the IC has more than once screwed that up. And again, that debate is for another time).

    So if you aspire to be an intelligence officer, this is a realization that you need to come to. This is going to bother some folks out there, but oh well: There is no place for generalizations, stereotypes, racism, or prejudice when it comes to intelligence gathering. Full stop.

    Having said that, do we contend with all of the above at times? Of course. We are humans. But what I mean is you need to be able to put all of those things aside, knowing that the person that you call a “towel head” or other ignorant slur may be the guy or gal who is able to provide you the intel that may stop the next attack. The ‘Merica bullshit won’t work here.

    Obviously, love your country and complete the mission and your duty, but be smart about it. And as I said above, people are not stupid. They will see past “the fake.” The only place that opinion should come into play is A) when giving an assessment of a situation, asset, or topic within an intel report and B) when asked.

    Learn to keep it under your hat until the appropriate time, and all will be well.


    argoQuite simply, the opposite of the above. As I said, there is nothing wrong with having and voicing your opinion (in most cases). Just know when and where to use that tool.

    There will be many times where, out of the blue, you will be asked what you think of something, even when the person in front of you has already made up their mind. They want to know where your head is at, and that is your time to shine.

    Also, as mentioned above, when providing an assessment of an asset or case, your opinion is paramount to its advancement of termination (no, not as in killing the person…it means to end a case or a relationship with an asset).

    Headquarters wants to know what an asset or potential does and just as importantly, why you think they do it. So flex that opinion muscle, but at the right time.

    Sense of humor

    Last, but certainly not least, is maintaining a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at a situation or even at yourself, you may not be cut out for this gig. I thrive on self-deprecation in a humorous way, because it keeps things light, reminds me that I am human, and keeps me focused.

    We all make fun of one another at work, and it helps the day go by. Overseas, it’s even more crucial. Seemingly never-ending days, numerous hazards, deadlines, missing your family, and other stresses may not vanish, but they can be eased by being able to find the humor in a situation. At the very least, it will keep you from going crazy.

    So, there you have it. Certainly not an all-inclusive list, and the reasons I gave above are not cookie cutter. As with everything, it is unique to the situation and the individual, and should be applied as such. But for anyone hoping to dive into the world of intelligence, this list might help you get a good start.

    Self-assessment is the key. If you don’t think that you have one or two of the attributes, work on it. But be honest with yourself. You will save yourself a lot of time and grief later on, and in the end, it might make you a better person. (Okay, feel-good moment over. If you don’t have it, you just don’t. Suck it up, learn from it, and move on to the next objective.)

    was, until recently, an intelligence officer with the US government. During his time, Powell focused on full spectrum intelligence operations related to the Middle East, South America and Africa, as well as liaison duties with foreign and US intelligence partners. In a past life, Powell was a 10 year United States Marine, and also worked in the nuclear security industry. He currently holds a dual BA in History and Political Science, and despite being a world class IO, he failed miserably in his last mission to steal the secret recipe for KFC's 11 Herbs and Spices chicken. His posts are his own opinions and do NOT reflect those of, nor are they in any way endorsed by, the U.S. government.

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    angry boss

    About half of workers at some point have left a job to get away from their manager.

    Not the work, not the clients or coworkers. The manager.

    We’ve written before about how 95 percent of managers are wrong about what best motivates employees at work. Now we know that many managers are so bad they’re making half their employees leave the job.

    According to another survey, 19.2 hours are wasted every week — 13 during the workweek and 6.2 over the weekend — worrying about what a boss says or does.

    It’s not easy being the boss. But terrible habits make it hard to be a good boss. Don’t be a terrible boss. Avoid these common habits of bad managers and maybe your employees will stick around a while.

    1. They lose their cool

    Sadly, many people have horror stories of a terrible boss loosing their cool and flying off the handle. This type of boss is among the toughest to deal with. Losing your cool is a hard habit to break. If this is your boss, think hard about sending your resume elsewhere.

    If that’s not an option, consider the right way to approach this person.

    Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job,” recommends the “calm” method.

    • Communicate more frequently and in a venue that works for your boss.
    • Anticipate problems before they worsen, and have solutions.
    • Laugh: use levity to help your boss keep a rational perspective.
    • Manage up: set limits with your bosses diplomatically, and let them see the benefits of your suggestions.

    And be careful about approaching this boss at the right time.

    “Timing is important with emotionally prone bosses,” Taylor told Business Insider, “don’t go into the lion’s den in your zeal for approvals, and certainly avoid early mornings, just before lunch, or after some bad company news.”

    2. They blame others

    Spreading blame around to subordinates — and not accepting any for themselves — is a recipe for a toxic work environment.

    It’s important to know why leaders do this and to build a strategy for thriving in this environment. If your boss is throwing blame around, there’s a good chance they’re somehow anxious about having blame placed on them (bosses have bosses, too, remember).

    Vineet Nayar recommends working to understand the root cause of this anxiety. Nayar is founder of the Sampark Foundation and author of “Employees First, Customers Second.”

    “Understand the root cause,” Nayar wrote in Harvard Business Review. “Step back and look at the big picture. Many pressures – such as year-end goals or unfinished projects — might be the cause of the boss’s anxiety. Make sure you aren’t feeding your boss’s insecurity by acting too aggressively. If you approach him or her collaboratively, you might just get better results.”

    3. They contact workers who aren’t working

    Fewer sounds are more stressful than the chime of an incoming email from a boss on a day off. Unfortunately, many workers — especially those gunning for advancement — see late-night and weekend emailing as a way to show initiative. Bad bosses encourage this behavior.

    The avalanche of emails has gotten so far out of hand that some companies are instituting no email during non-work hours policies. Others are getting rid of email all together or shutting down the servers in the evening. Officials in France even banned after-work emails. How very French of them.

    There was a time when contacting an employee after hours involved a lot of friction. Sure, the boss probably had the employee’s home phone number. But probably not handy. And what if the person was out? Or the line was busy? or any other number of totally reasonable situations. This all created an environment where after-hours communication was basically for emergencies only.

    Now, bosses have a loaded gun of inbox messages to forward and a real touchy trigger finger.

    Cliff Oxford, founder of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs, suggests both parties be up front about knowing the expectations for after-work communication. And bosses should know, if you’re going to interrupt Saturday night, it better be for a good reason.

    “We need to have a conversation. And we need to come to an understanding between the company and the employee up front — before the hiring takes place. Happily, there is much we can agree on. No one should feel obligated to interrupt Friday night dinner just to check in,” Oxford wrote in an Op-Ed for the New York Times.

    4. They don’t share a vision

    There’s a major disconnect between employer and employee that has to do with company vision. In a typical hierarchy, the bosses are closer to the big picture direction of the company. They see more clearly what’s at stake and what’s up ahead.

    It can be motivating. Unfortunately, many bosses keep this vision to themselves. They are up in the crow’s nest and employees are down in the boiler room, shoveling fuel into the furnace. The ship may be going somewhere great, but it’s hard to get excited about it when your down in the boiler room.

    John Brandon, a writer and former IT manager, wrote that failing to share a vision was one of the biggest mistakes he made as a boss.

    “Perhaps the worst thing I did as a boss during those years was that I didn’t hit home the whole point of the team. My last role involved leading a writing and design team, and I had some great ideas about how to make sure end users understand complex applications. My transition to the writing field worked smoothly because it’s essentially the same thing–distilling complexity. But I didn’t share the vision enough, and people often rebelled. They didn’t know where the team was going, and I expected them to read my mind. That was my biggest mistake of all.”

    5. They only communicate about work

    Look, nobody’s saying your boss has to be your best friend (sometimes it works). But employees have reported low morale especially around bosses who are only interested in talking about work.

    Workers surveyed in a Gallup poll (the one where half of people said bad bosses made them quit) reported that they want to be in contact with their boss on a daily basis, and not just about work. Workers reported that they want managers to take an interest in their personal lives too.

    On top of that, managers failing to take an interest in an employee’s career development is a problem for many workers. Workers want to know that they’re making progress and doing something meaningful. Too often, “where do you see yourself in five years” is asked in the job interview but never followed up on in the actual job. If bosses aren’t open to having big picture conversations, it’s hard for employees to feel valuable.

    According to one study, opportunity for growth and professional development is the top priority among candidates applying for jobs.

    Monique Valcour, a professor of management at EDHEC Business School in France, wrote that this is what separates the good managers from the bad.

    “Becoming a great developer of employees requires managers to expand their focus from “How can I get excellent performance out of my team members?” to “How can I get excellent performance out of my team members while helping them grow?” Valcour wrote in Harvard Business Review. “Savvy managers know that doing well on the second part of the last question helps to answer the first.”

    SEE ALSO: How successful people overcome toxic bosses

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    young professionals

    Consider the cliche job interview question — What’s your biggest weakness?* What’s the worst answer you can give?

    “I’m a procrastinator.”

    Probably no quicker way to ensure you’re “not the right fit” for that job. No matter what the job is.

    Procrastination has become one of the ugliest words in modern work. It’s practitioners are stigmatized more than employees who make bad choices and blow up the company. They at least were doing something, the thinking goes.

    But what if we’re thinking about it all wrong? What if the impulse to procrastinate is one of the more valuable tools we have?

    Turns out it is. And learning to harness procrastination for good can teach you things about life and work that might otherwise take years. Procrastination, no matter how vilified, knows exactly when to rear its villainous head.

    Or as Nassim Taleb put it in his book “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.”

    “Psychologists and economists who study ‘irrationality’ do not realize that humans may have an instinct to procrastinate only when no life is in danger. I do not procrastinate when I see a lion in my bedroom or fire in my neighbor’s library. I do not procrastinate after a severe injury. I do so with unnatural duties and procedures.”

    Put this way, it’s easy to see how your brain uses procrastination to show you what’s really important.

    Think about the last thing you procrastinated on. Was is a matter of life and death? Probably not. Likewise, think about the last task you were laser focused on, I bet it felt like a pretty significant undertaking. Think about the last time you applied for a job or promotion that you deeply wanted. Did you fool around or get right to it?


    How procrastination works: A battle of two brains

    Procrastination can be thought of as a battle between two forces in your brain, both fighting to send you signals on how to behave. Let’s take a look at these two systems and what each does.

    The limbic system

    The limbic system is a network in your brain that includes hypothalamus, the amygdala, and the hippocampus. It controls many emotions and actions essential to life, like eating. It is where emotion is regulated. It’s often characterized as the “feeling and reacting brain.” You feel thirsty, you have a drink. It’s a quick response to an immediate need. That’s limbic 101.

    The prefrontal cortex

    If the limbic system is the “feeling and reacting brain,” then the prefrontal cortex is the “thinking brain” This is where the complexities and nuance goes down. Language, problem solving, long-term planning. The PFC is what makes humans special. It is our most evolved brain region but also the one most susceptible to stressors. A tiring day at work will not make you forget to feel hungry, but it can temporarily wash away your ability to grasp complex problems in your prefrontal cortex. Ever wonder why you struggle to phrase something eloquently when you’re hungry and tired?

    The limbic system doesn’t like when you engage in complex tasks that have no short-term reward. It constantly fights for short-term dominance. While your prefrontal cortex bears the burden of doing what’s best for long-term gain.

    You might think the most successful people are all prefrontal cortex. That’s not the case.

    Entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham has written that some of the most successful people he’s encountered are terrible procrastinators. And he’s noticed three types of procrastinators, based on the activities they pursue instead of what they “should be doing.” Procrastinators are pursuing:

    A: Nothing
    B: Something less important
    C: Something more important

    “That’s the sense in which the most impressive people I know are all procrastinators,” he writes. “They’re type-C procrastinators: they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.”

    Or put another way:

    “Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work,” Graham writes.


    A better definition of procrastination

    The two systems butt heads (no pun intended) and the result is procrastination. Your limbic system pulls you away from something complex, with long-term benefits, toward something more emotional with short-term benefits.

    Looking at it this way we can craft a better definition of procrastination. Most dictionaries define procrastination as the act of putting off or delaying something that should be done.

    This definition ignores a second, crucial step to procrastination: the act of choosing instead to do something emotionally rewarding for short-term gain. We often fail to see this because what we chose to do when we procrastinate is often so trivial that it seems like nothing at all.

    What’s usually said: “I procrastinated on the big project, I did nothing all afternoon.”

    What’s more accurate to say: “I avoided the big project because, while rewarding in the long term, it’s complex and strains my prefrontal cortex. Therefore I chose to watch cute cats on YouTube because it’s emotionally rewarding in the short-term.”

    Consider this then a better, more-full definition of procrastination:

    Putting off or delaying something complex, with long-term benefits, in favor of something emotional with short term benefits.


    Good procrastination and how to use it

    Now that we understand where procrastination comes from, and have a better way of defining it. We can start to use it to our advantage.

    Taleb uses procrastination to decide if he’s really passionate about his work. If he found himself procrastinating on writing a particular chapter, he cut it from his book.

    “Why should I try to fool people by writing about a subject for which I feel no natural drive?,” he writes.

    Some people have the will power to interrupt procrastination and put themselves back on track. This is seen as success. Unfortunately, all they’ve done is wrestle their impulses into submission. They’ve done nothing to analyze the procrastination and figure out where it came from.

    Procrastination is a symptom, you need to find the source.

    Here’s your new challenge: Don’t just kill procrastination. Perform an autopsy and find out where it came from. Here is a series of questions to ask yourself the next time you find yourself procrastinating.

    1. What are the long-term benefits of the task I’m putting off?
    2. Can I do without those benefits?
    3. Can I achieve the same benefits through some other task?
    4. Can I replace those benefits with equally-valued benefits that are achieved some other way?
    5. Can I delegate or outsource the activity and receive the same benefits?

    If you answer yes to any of 2-5, consider eliminating the task from your life and getting the benefits some other way. Otherwise, the exercise may give you the boost you need to buckle down and get back on task. Now that you’ve reflected on the long-term benefits, you might just be more motivated to get back to work.

    You might have learned something valuable about yourself.

    Now back to the cats.

    SEE ALSO: Researchers discovered a psychological trick that will help you stop procrastinating

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    Jeff Bezos

    Since its founding in 1994, Amazon has gone from an online bookstore to an online everything store — and along the way, it’s completely changed the way we do business on the internet.

    Amazon’s success comes down not only to its innovative sales and commerce strategies, but also to the mindset of Jeff Bezos, company founder, president and CEO.

    Bezos’s approach to work and success have made Amazon’s meteoric rise possible.

    1. Regret nothing

    Bezos founded Amazon after leaving a vice president position at investment firm D.E. Shaw & Co. It’s tough to leave behind a financially secure, high-powered post like that one.

    But Bezos claims that he tried to imagine himself decades into the future, looking back on his life: He wanted to be in a position where he would regret nothing. Jumping ship to start a new web-based company at a moment when the internet’s future was still uncertain was a huge risk — but one Bezos knew he had to take it.

    "I knew that if I didn’t try this," he told Time magazine, "I would regret it. And that would be inescapable." Bezos calls this attitude his "regret minimization framework." Now that Amazon is one of the top companies in the world, it’s clear that Bezos’s risk-taking and regret-avoidance paid off!

    2. Play the long game

    In the early days of Amazon, Bezos warned investors that the company was years away from turning a profit. And this was on purpose: In 1997, he told Inc."We’re going to be unprofitable for a long time. And that’s our strategy."

    Bezos was playing the long game. The company was growing quickly in the late 1990s, developing new customer service strategies and, as some argued, burning through cash. But Bezos’ willingness to put it all on the line paid off in 2003, when Amazon earned its first full-year profit. Bezos’s vision included recognizing that things wouldn’t always be easy, and that to become profitable, you have to work your way there — which involves envisioning and playing the long game.

    3. Start narrow, then diversify

    Today, Amazon sells just about everything, from books and movies, to clothing and groceries. And with Amazon Prime and Amazon Studios, it’s getting into the media production game. But Amazon started out selling one thing and one thing only: books. Book sales were Amazon’s proving ground: Bezos envisioned them as the first step towards creating the "everything store" that he envisioned.

    This strategy — starting with one specific product, and building a strong e-commerce system around it before diversifying — let Bezos slowly turn Amazon into an e-commerce giant.

    4. If you want to be innovative, prepare to fail

    Amazon is one of the world’s biggest retailers and they’ve made online shopping a normal part of our everyday lives. But Bezos founded the company in 1994, when online commerce was new and its future uncertain. Bezos himself didn’t expect the company to succeed.

    In fact, he told Time that he had a warning for his first investors: "I think there’s a 70% chance you’re going to lose all your money, so don’t invest unless you can afford to lose it." It was only in taking a huge financial and career risk that Bezos was able to get Amazon off the ground. It goes to show that, if you want to be innovative, it means taking risks. As Bezos put it "That’s actually a very liberating expectation, expecting to fail."

    Luckily for Amazon, and for anyone who shops online, while Bezos expected to fail, his mindset led to unprecedented success.

    SEE ALSO: A 2004 email from Jeff Bezos explains why PowerPoint presentations aren't allowed at Amazon

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    young professional women

    The old adage of "don't ask, don't get" is usually true when it comes to promotions and raises.

    If you don't let your manager know about your career goals, it's much less likely that you'll get to where you want to be.

    That said, workers often ask for promotions without stopping to consider if they're ready for them, or even if they've earned them.

    If you want to impress your boss and move up the corporate ladder, what you do is just as important as what you say.

    Here's how you can show your manager that you're ready – without ever saying a word.

    1. Do important work first

    What boss doesn't love a super-productive employee who gets things done before she has to ask for them? If you want to make the most of your day and get things checked off your list, then do them earlier in the morning. Research shows that people are most productive a few hours after starting work, then efficiency takes a dip until around 3:30 p.m.

    Therefore, don't put off your most important work till later in the day, because by then, your brain won't want to have anything to do with busywork. Plan accordingly, people.

    2. The Golden Rule

    "Treat others as you would want to be treated" also applies in the workplace, especially if you're looking to advance … the right way. Throwing others under the bus is no way to get ahead in your career, but it is a fantastic way to make everyone hate you and never want to work with you in any capacity ever again.

    Show your boss that you're a hardworking individual who understands the importance of teamwork. Remember, "It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice."

    3. Clean up your online image

    Social media can be your career's best friend … or its worst nightmare. If you think for moment that personal posts (like these) on your social media networks won't impact your professional life, then you're in for a rude awakening. Did you know that 93% of recruiters admit that they use or plan to use social media to find candidates online? Do yourself a favor and clean up your social profiles so that you're not worried about whether or not your past is going to come back to haunt your career later on down the line.

    4. Lend a helping hand

    Something as simple as being kind to a co-worker or volunteering for a worthy cause can improve your reputation as a professional and build your network, not to mention make you feel good as a person. Become known as the kind, considerate colleague who lends a helping hand when you can, and your boss will surely take notice and keep that in the back of her mind when your performance review rolls around.

    If you think about it, lending a helping hand around the office also shows your boss that you have the initiative and skills to manage others, which will make her feel more comfortable with delegating more responsibility and power to you, without you asking.

    5. Learn a new skill

    What better way to get noticed than to acquire a new skill that allows you to contribute to your company (and your career) on a great capacity? There are plenty of online resources that enable you to acquire new skills in your free time, so you don't have to fret about courses conflicting with your job. 

    One of the most valuable skills you can acquire in your career is to learn how to code. In fact, President Obama said, "If we want America to stay on the cutting edge, we need young Americans like you to master the tools and technology that will change the way we do just about everything." To see what skills are sure to make you a standout professional, take a look at this post and take your pick.

    As weird as it sounds, when you help others in their journey to success, you actually get more out of it than you would only looking out for yourself. Standing out in the working world isn't accomplished by pushing others out of the way, it comes from recruiting others to join your group. As we all know, it takes a village to advance in your career. Choose wisely.

    SEE ALSO: Here are the real reasons you're not getting promoted at work

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    woman speaking

    Most businesses that fail do so because the leaders running them don’t create a culture of awesomeness.

    In other words, their leadership strategy sucks. And it cripples everything that they do.

    Business culture is a curious thing. You have one whether you realize what it is or not.

    And if you’re not focused and clear about the culture you are working to cultivate in your business, you’re going to end up fostering an environment that talented high performers want nothing to do with.

    Awesome people will stay away. Good people will leave. Selfish, passive aggressive people will take over.

    Eventually, you’ll destroy yourself from the inside out.

    The sad truth about culture is that many leaders only change when money is involved.

    You’re losing money, not making enough money, or looking to grow sales radically — those are the times where business leaders most often stop and think about the environment they’re creating.

    And it’s usually too late to drive the immediate change leaders what.

    Culture is a massive ecosystem full of seasons, storms, and heroes.

    Just because you need to make more money right now doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to bend the laws of nature to your will. That’s not how culture works.

    That’s not how inspired employees work.

    Frankly, you’ll never drive massive amounts of new revenue if you’re not focused on creating a high impact, inspired workplace.

    Before you create revenue, you have to create motivation and a reason to fight.

    Making money or earning another bonus isn’t a big enough reason for employees to stay inspired and captivated by your company mission.

    Stop trying to “create a culture” and instead build an environment where hard-working people who exceed expectations feel loved and appreciated.

    It’s really comes down to doing a few things.

    1. Spend time not just on doing better but on being better.
    2. Fire negative people and destroy passive aggressive activity wherever you find it in your organization.
    3. Apologize when you do something wrong and be clear with everyone around you about your expectations for them.

    Don’t just do these things one time on one day in one month where you suddenly realize that your revenue goals are tremendously off the mark.

    Do these things every day.

    Preach them. Teach them. Reward them. Protect them.

    Don’t expect anything to change overnight. But stay at it.

    Looking back though you realize your growth was a result of creating an awesome place to work at it — not because you bought a new sales enablement platform or raised the quota on your account executives.

    SEE ALSO: 9 super-successful people share their biggest leadership secrets

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    Richard Branson

    Most aspiring entrepreneurs feel it in their bones — they were born to be an entrepreneur, to the point where nothing else in life could satisfy them.

    They’re dissatisfied as employees, followers or consumers.

    They want to create, build and grow their own enterprises, and they’re filled with the passion of their own ingenuity.

    Here are 50 habits that born-to-be entrepreneurs can’t help but show. How many do you possess?

    1. You can’t sit still. You’re always itching to come up with something, and do something great.

    2. You’re always coming up with ideas. Good or bad, the flow of ideas never stops.

    3. You can pinpoint flaws in other ideas. It comes naturally to you.

    4. You marvel at successful business owners. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are just a few of your heroes.

    5. You get excited when you see a successful business in action.Whether it’s a local bar or a supermarket franchise, you can’t help but smile when you see a good business.

    Related: 7 Attributes of an Extraordinary Entrepreneur

    6. You constantly think of ways to improve your employer’s business. When you’re at work, you only think about how it could be better.

    7. You hate being told what to do. You’re resentful of taking orders.

    8. You love to learn new things. How tos and tutorials are what you’re all about.

    9. You take things apart to see how they work. Remotes, toasters, phones — you love to see the inner workings.

    10. You dream of wealth. Money isn’t everything, but you can’t help but have it on your mind.

    11. You don’t give up easily. You face tough challenges but keep going.

    12. You’re disciplined in your habits. You have set routines that don’t get broken easily.

    13. You aren’t afraid of hard work. You give everything in your life 100%.

    14. You have a high threshold for risk. You don’t take blind risks, but you don’t stay complacent either.

    15. You meet as many people as you can. You aren’t afraid to branch out and meet new people.

    16. You talk to everyone you meet. Strangers aren’t intimidating to you.

    17. You bounce back from failure. You’ve experienced crushing failure, but it’s never stopped you from coming back.

    John Paul Dejoria 2

    18. You like calling the shots. You like the sound of being a director.

    19. You set goals for yourself. Big or small, goals fill your life.

    20. You help people whenever you can. You’re interested in the greater good.

    21. You find challenges in everything you do. You seek out opportunities to challenge yourself.

    22. You find ways to inspire people. You’re inspired by inspiration.

    23. You plan everything down to the little details. Plans are a prerequisite for any activity.

    24. You’re proud of yourself. You like who you are.

    25. You help your friends solve their problems. You’re great at problem analysis.

    26. You effectively delegate tasks and assign resources. In household chores and business operations alike.

    27. You set deadlines for yourself. No excuses.

    28. You like telling stories. You love to tell people about your experiences.

    29. You’re hyper competitive. You can’t even play a board game without flipping that switch.

    30. You get involved with things. If you see a car on the side of the road, you get out and ask if you can help.

    31. You cut out things in your life that don’t work for you. If it’s inefficient or bothersome, it’s gone.

    32. You negotiate whatever you can. Flea markets and salaries are just the beginning.

    33. You see the potential in people. You don’t see people for who they are. You see them for who they could be.

    34. You’re calm in a crisis. When stuff hits the fan, you still think logically.

    35. You follow up with people when you want something. You don’t let opportunities go.

    Related: 6 Traits of a Maverick That Make for Successful Entrepreneurs

    36. You avoid things that waste your time. You’re immune to mobile games and idle social-media time.

    mark zuckerberg37. You persuade people to your side. You’re a natural rhetorician.

    38. You make rational decisions, not emotional ones. For the most part, you trust your logic over your emotions.

    39. You don’t forget people’s emotions. Still, there’s great sympathy in you.

    40. You lose track of time when pursuing passion projects. Time seems to fly when you’re heads-down working on something.

    41. You frequently start new passion projects. Every week, a new idea is transformed into a hobby.

    42. You constantly upgrade your house (or car or anything). There’s always something to tinker with, replace or improve.

    43. You’re crazy about new technology. You’re addicted to learning how new technologies can improve your life.

    44. You read the news every day. It’s an ingrained habit.

    45. You read books voraciously. Every book offers something new.

    46. You listen to that internal voice. You trust your instincts.

    47. You listen to others’ advice. You make your own decisions, but listen to others’ opinions too.

    48. You don’t dwell in the past. When bad things happen, you keep moving forward.

    49. You make sacrifices for what you want. You know you have to give things up to see greater success.

    50. You never write off your dreams. You take your aspirations seriously. They’re a part of you.

    SEE ALSO: 20 successful entrepreneurs share the most important lesson they learned in their 20s

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    laptop ball pit working fun office

    We live in a world of scarce understanding and abundant information.

    We complain that we never have any free time yet we seek distraction. If work can’t distract us, we distract ourselves. 

    We crave perpetual stimulation and motion.

    We’re so busy that our free time comes in 20 second bursts, just long enough for us to read the gist and assume we understand. If we are to synthesize learning and understanding we need time to think.


    The modern storm of bits and stimulation, relents only when we sleep. (And then only if we remember to turn off the iPhone.) Lost in all of this is the art of stillness.

    We live in a world with more information than ever and yet we understand less. We have come into the belief that the simple act of reading confers understanding. Worse, most of our reading is elementary reading, or skimming — a far cry from syntopical reading, which seems more fertile for the mind willing to do the work.

    But that’s just it. We don’t want, or can’t find the time, to do the work that’s required to hold an opinion. It’s much easier to simply read the opinions of another and let them think for us.

    What’s worse is that we get confused.

    When someone else does the work we think we understand the problem better than we do. This is why Elon Musk asks questions of depth when hiring people. He wants to filter out the people who did the work from the people who took credit for the work. And so with thinking.

    Deresiewicz concentrating

    Understanding comes from focusing, chewing, and relentlessly ragging on a problem. It comes with false starts, dead ends, and frustration. Thinking requires time and space. It’s slow. It means saying I don’t know.

    In short, thinking is everything the modern workplace is designed to eradicate.

    We’re expected to have an opinion about everything and yet our time to think is near zero. We hold more opinions than ever but have less understanding. We don’t even understand ourselves. How could it be otherwise?

    As Milan Kundera wrote in his 1996 novella "Slowness,""When things happen too fast, nobody can be certain about anything, about anything at all, not even about himself."

    Carl Honore

    Larry Dossey, an American physician, coined the term "time-sickness" in 1982 to describe the belief that "time is getting away, that there isn’t enough of it, and that you must pedal faster and faster to keep up."

    Carl Honore, wrote a book, "In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed," to explore why we’re always in such a rush, what if anything is the cure for time-sickness, and whether it’s desirable to slow down.

    The book is not an all-out declaration of war against speed.

    Speed has helped to remake our world in ways that are wonderful and liberating. Who wants to live without the Internet or jet travel? The problem is that our love of speed, our obsession with doing more and more in less and less time, has gone too far; it has turned into an addiction, a kind of idolatry. Even when speed starts to backfire, we invoke the go-faster gospel.

    We’ve become fast and fat.

    Overwork is a health hazard in other ways, too. It leaves less time and energy for exercise, and makes us more likely to drink too much alcohol or reach for convenience foods. It is no coincidence that the fastest nations are also often the fattest. Up to a third of Americans and a fifth of Britons are now clinically obese. … One reason we need stimulants is that many of us are not sleeping enough. With so much to do, and so little time to do it, the average American now gets ninety minutes less shut-eye per night than she did a century ago.

    "Inevitably," Honore writes, "a life of hurry can become superficial. When we rush, we skim the surface, and fail to make real connections with the world or other people." Moreover we don’t make connections with ideas. We don’t synthesize. We don’t test theories over time. We don’t play with ideas.

    When everyone goes fast, most advantages brought by speed get lost. The only choice we see is that we have to go faster. It’s an arms race that I call the Red Queen Effect. David Foster Wallace summed this up perfectly when he said, "Bees have to move very fast to stay still."

    The implications on thinking are fascinating. We are all fast-thinkers now.

    We have forgotten how to look forward to things, and how to enjoy the moment when they arrive. Restaurants report that hurried diners increasingly pay the bill and order a taxi while eating dessert. Many fans leave sporting events early, no matter how close the score is, simply to steal a march on the traffic. Then there is the curse of multi-tasking. Doing two things at once seems so clever, so efficient, so modern. And yet what it often means is doing two things not very well. Like many people, I read the paper while watching TV — and find that I get less out of both.

    In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age, we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts. Boredom — the word itself hardly existed 150 years ago — is a modern invention. Remove all stimulation, and we fidget, panic and look for something, anything, to do to make use of the time. When did you last see someone just gazing out the window on a train? Everyone is too busy reading the paper, playing video games, listening to iPods, working on the laptop, yammering into mobile phones.

    Instead of thinking deeply, or letting an idea simmer in the back of the mind, our instinct now is to reach for the nearest sound bite. In modern warfare, correspondents in the field and pundits in the studio spew out instant analyses of events as they occur. Often their insights turn out to be wrong. But that hardly matters nowadays: in the land of speed, the man with the instant response is king. With satellite feeds and twenty-four-hour news channels, the electronic media is dominated by what one French sociologist dubbed "le fast thinker" — a person who can, without skipping a beat, summon up a glib answer to any question.

    In a way, we are all fast thinkers now. Our impatience is so implacable that, as actress-author Carrie Fisher quipped, even "instant gratification takes too long." This partly explains the chronic frustration that bubbles just below the surface of modern life. Anyone or anything that steps in our way, that slows us down, that stops us from getting exactly what we want when we want it, becomes the enemy. So the smallest setback, the slightest delay, the merest whiff of slowness, can now provoke vein-popping fury in otherwise ordinary people.

    Slow does not always mean slow.

    Fast and Slow do more than just describe a rate of change. They are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections —  with people, culture, work, food, everything. The paradox is that Slow does not always mean slow.

    Speed is not always the best policy.

    Evolution works on the principle of survival of the fittest, not the fastest. Remember who won the race between the tortoise and the hare. As we hurry through life, cramming more into every hour, we are stretching ourselves to the breaking point.

    Fast eats time. One consequence of fast is that we make poor decision after poor decision. Those decisions don’t go away never be seen again. It’s not like we make a bad decision and we’re done with it. No, the consequences are much worse. Poor decisions eat time.

    They come back to haunt you. They create issue after issue. They feed into the perpetual motion machine of busyness. And in a culture where people wear busyness as a badge of honor bad decisions actually lead us to think that we’re doing more.

    SEE ALSO: New research shows that a common workplace mistake is actually contagious

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    Alarm Clock

    The inventor of the snooze button most certainly was a cruel individual.

    Not only does this little switch on our alarm clock tease us with the hopes of another few minutes of refreshing rest, it disrupts our natural sleep cycle — improving our chances of being tired and cranky throughout the day. 

    Not. Nice.

    Why is that?

    “When you hit the snooze button, you’re doing two negative things to yourself,” said Robert S. Rosenberg, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Az.

    First, “you’re fragmenting what little extra sleep you’re getting, so it’s not the best quality.” Basically, the extra 10 or 20 minutes become meaningless. And second, “you’re starting yourself on a new sleep cycle that you won’t have time to complete.” This “messes with your brain hormones” and disrupts your circadian rhythm, the body clock that regulates your awake and sleep time.

    This fragmented sleep causes the same disoriented sensation as waking from an ill-timed nap. Called sleep inertia, it’s "the feeling of grogginess … that can come from awakening from a deep sleep" and can last throughout the day. Sleep inertia can also affect both memory and decision-making abilities.

    So those extra few minutes aren’t worth it?

    Every time we’re lured by the empty promise of a few more minutes to snooze, we set our sleep cycle up for a crash.

    Just so you know, that craving for a few extra minutes of slumber occurs because you’re not getting a full night’s rest in the first place — the seven to nine hours each night most adults need. Chronic sleep deprivation puts you at higher risk of developing serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. And, you’re more likely to gain weight.

    Not sleeping makes me fat?

    Research has shown that poor sleep disrupts your glucose metabolism (how your body processes sugar), including decreases to insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Both are precursors to diabetes.

    When it comes to weight gain, losing just a few hours of sleep, a few nights in a row, increases your chances of reaching for high-calorie junk food during the day. A brain operating on broken or diminished sleep craves unhealthy fatty foods and is too groggy to make good food choices, so the pounds start piling on.

    As for heart disease, that junk food — plus an increased level of stress hormones in the blood, caused by sleep deprivation — takes a toll on the cardiovascular system.

    I’m done with that button.

    Good thinking. A better idea might be to count those minutes and make your bedtime that much earlier.

    SEE ALSO: I tried to quit hitting the snooze button for 2 weeks and I failed miserably

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    checking email smartphone

    Burnout doesn’t happen overnight.

    Usually, the feelings of extreme exhaustion, ineffectiveness, and general apathy accumulate slowly.

    Until one day you wake up one and say, "I cannot and will not get out of bed and go to that office."

    And while most causes of burnout — such as project overload, unfairness, and insufficient rewards — come from work itself, there are things you can be doing differently. 

    Spoiler: You’ve heard this before. And you’ve probably ignored it all before because you want to be successful.

    Well, big news, these three habits might make you feel more successful in the short run, but down the road, you’re going to find yourself hitting a dead end. 

    1. Checking email all the time

    With our phones next to us every second of the day, who can blame us for being glued to our inbox? What harm does it do just to see what’s coming in? Well, studies from the American Psychological Association show that "workplace telepressure," or the urge to respond quickly to work-related messages, leads to higher levels of stress, worse sleep, and more health-related absences from work.

    And it’s not hard to imagine why. By continuing to refresh our inbox even after we’ve left the office, we’re erasing all the boundaries that should exist between our professional and personal lives. 

    Sure, sending back immediate replies might occasionally help you stay on top of your responsibilities. But, more often than not, it’s just putting more work on your plate. Odds are low your boss or coworkers need a reply before the next morning — and if they do, it’s usually very clear when that’s the case.

    How to stop it

    Refraining from checking your email after work hours requires — you’ve guessed it — self control. But if you lack the willpower to resist your inbox (the temptations are strong, we know), start by turning off all notifications on your phone and making sure that they don’t show up on your lock screen.

    If that still doesn’t keep you away, Inbox Pause is your next best bet. Simply download the app and, with a single click, put all new messages on hold. Then, you can easily unpause your inbox the next morning — when you’re ready to enter work mode. 

    2. Working through lunch

    The clock strikes noon, and the decision of the day arrives: Do you order in and spend the next hour eating — and working — in front of your laptop, or have a meal with real humans, a.k.a., your colleagues? Just kidding: There is no decision. You’ll be eating at the desk because you’ve convinced yourself that you’ll get so much more done this way.

    But, by repeatedly choosing to work during lunch, you’re deprioritizing your physical and mental health. WebMD’s research shows that eating at your desk encourages mindless eating and overeating. Plus, you miss the opportunity to get your blood flowing and your heart pumping — two things that are key to survival.

    How to stop it

    To ensure that you spend at least one to two lunches a week away from your screen, schedule meals ahead of time with a coworker you haven’t spoken to in a while, or the new hire who’s noticeably still figuring out the company culture. Once an appointment is scheduled into your calendar, it’s much less likely that you’ll bail and decide, last-minute, to just order in. 

    3. Not scheduling "me time"

    Take a look at your schedule. When’s the last time you allotted time to yourself to do something that has zero work benefits? If your calendar’s only reserved for meetings, networking, and more meetings, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever considered relaxation time as a to-do. 

    How to stop it

    To start the habit of penciling "me time" into your calendar, Muse writer Leslie Moser suggests scheduling a "very specific activity that will help you unwind" instead of "making vague promises to yourself about finding free time."

    That is, think about what you love and, rather than "penciling in an hour of 'downtime’ on Wednesday night, write 'catch up on my favorite blogs with a cup of coffee’ or 'take a bubble bath.’" By being precise about the activity and the time, Moser believes you’re making your "me time" much more actionable.

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

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    meditating view desert

    You know the feeling when you're stuck in traffic? Or a long line at a restaurant or grocery store? That's your body's stress response.

    As our stress levels increase, our response continues over a long period of time and puts our work effectiveness and health levels at risk.

    Once we've identified our stressors, it's crucial to learn how to reverse our stress response, writes Elizabeth Scott in her book "8 Keys to Stress Management."

    Here are six simple activities she recommends that can help us improve how our bodies respond to stressful situations.

    Visualize yourself doing what you love.

    "When we vividly picture ourselves engaging in an activity, the brain can't tell the difference between what we are imagining and what we are actually experiencing," Scott writes.

    Visualization in the form of stress management can work in a few ways, starting with the simple fact that we can shift our mental focus to less stressful situations. Furthermore, they can help us settle into a relaxed state, both mentally and physically.

    Learn the art of Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).

    "The idea behind PMR is to tense and relax all the major muscle groups in a systematic way, draining the muscles of residual tension in the process," Scott writes. It can be done in a few quick steps:

    1. Set aside a few minutes and find a quite place to sit or lie in a relaxed position.
    2. Tense the muscles in your scalp for 30 seconds, lifting your ears if possible and clenching whatever possible.
    3. Then relax and allow the tension to drain out of your head.
    4. Repeat the process, starting with the muscles in your face moving down through the shoulders all the way to the feet.


    Use self-hypnosis to relax your mind.

    Self-hypnosis is a way to create a much deeper state of relaxation that visualizations, Scott writes. With self-hypnosis, "you can tap into your subconscious mind and plant suggestions that allow you to relax, let things roll off your back, and maintain habits that relieve stress."

    There are many online audio resources available for self-hypnosis. Different audio tracks can be used for different goals, including depression or stress management.

    Mini-meditation is quick and relaxing.

    While normal meditation generally has a duration of 15-20 minutes, mini-meditations last up to five minutes. The purpose is to quickly minimize the body's stress response and immediately relax the mind.

    "Taking a few minutes to focus inwardly can help you to stop focusing on the stressful situations around you, which can help you to get out of a mindset of feeling threatened and allow you to reverse your stress response," Scott writes.

    Tech Insider's Matt Johnston writes of his experiences with "Metta" meditation, a type of mini-meditation he does on his way to work.


    Consider autogenic training to calm your body.

    Autogenic training "involves training the mind to alter physiological responses that are generally automatic," Scott writes. Unlike the previous breathing exercises, however, it's hard to simply pick up and is best when taught by a professional therapist, she writes. When learned, though, it can be a quick way to lessen stress on your body simply through the use of your mind.

    Find support through a close friend.

    Perhaps even simpler than any of the above options would be finding support, whether it's through a friend or a professional.

    "Long, conversational sessions with a good friend or therapist can be extremely useful in destressing," Scott writes. "However, getting a quick pep talk from a close friend can be an even simpler way to get to a place of feeling more relaxed and grounded and can be considered its own stress relief technique."

    SEE ALSO: 8 steps to feeling happier, healthier, and less stressed out

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    computer work

    Forget overpriced schools, long days in a crowded classroom, and pitifully poor results.

    These websites and apps cover myriads of science, art, and technology topics.

    They will teach you practically anything, from making hummus to building apps in node.js, most of them for free.

    There is absolutely no excuse for you not to master a new skill, expand your knowledge, or eventually boost your career.

    You can learn interactively at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home. It’s hard to imagine how much easier it can possibly be.

    Honestly, what are you waiting for?

    Take an online course

    edX— Take online courses from the world’s best universities.

    Coursera — Take the world’s best courses, online, for free.

    Coursmos — Take a micro-course anytime you want, on any device.

    Highbrow — Get bite-sized daily courses to your inbox.

    Skillshare — Online classes and projects that unlock your creativity.

    Curious — Grow your skills with online video lessons. — Learn technology, creative and business skills.

    CreativeLive — Take free creative classes from the world’s top experts.

    Udemy — Learn real world skills online.

    Learn how to code

    Codecademy — Learn to code interactively, for free. — Learn how to code from scratch.

    Udacity — Earn a Nanodegree recognized by industry leaders.

    Platzi — Live streaming classes on design, marketing and code.

    Learnable — The best way to learn web development.

    Code School — Learn to code by doing.

    Thinkful — Advance your career with 1-on-1 mentorship. — Start learning today with easy tutorials.

    BaseRails — Master Ruby on Rails and other web technologies.

    Treehouse — Learn HTML, CSS, iPhone apps & more.

    One Month — Learn to code and build web applications in one month.

    Dash — Learn to make awesome websites.

    Learn to work with data

    DataCamp — Online R tutorials and data science courses.

    DataQuest— Learn data science in your browser.

    DataMonkey— Develop your analytical skills in a simple, yet fun way.

    Learn new languages

    Duolingo — Learn a language for free.

    Lingvist — Learn a language in 200 hours.

    Busuu — The free language learning community.

    Memrise — Use flashcards to learn vocabulary.

    Expand your knowledge

    TED-Ed — Find carefully curated educational videos

    Khan Academy— Access an extensive library of interactive content. — Search the largest collection of online guides.

    Squareknot — Browse beautiful, step-by-step guides.

    Learnist — Learn from expertly curated web, print and video content.

    Prismatic — Learn interesting things based on social recommendation.


    Chesscademy — Learn how to play chess for free.

    Pianu — A new way to learn piano online, interactively.

    Yousician— Your personal guitar tutor for the digital age.

    Written by @kristynazdot, founder and CEO of  —  app discovery platform for inspiring entrepreneurs. At the moment, it features 1,500+ handpicked tools for startups, small businesses, and freelancers.

    SEE ALSO: I took Harvard Business School's new pre-MBA course online — and it is definitely worth the 150 hours and $1,500

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    work happy

    When we were younger, we heard “use your words” all the time.

    And maybe it’s time to bring that mantra back — because using the right words at work is an easy and effective method of boosting your reputation while simultaneously making your co-workers feel awesome.

    So, ready to stand out for your thoughtfulness, tact, and influence?

    Here are the eight phrases that need to be in your professional vocabulary.

    1. “That’s brilliant”

    The last time someone called my suggestion brilliant, it made my day. “Brilliant” is much more powerful than “great,” “awesome,” or any of the other adjectives we typically call on to praise someone’s work or concept.

    Yet I’m careful to only use this word when the situation merits it, since I don’t want to seem inauthentic.

    2. “That’s genius”

    Same idea. You rarely hear “genius,” so it definitely packs a punch. Using it is a great way to show your respect and appreciation of a co-worker.

    3. “Thank you”

    “Thanks” sounds flippant. “Thanks so much” is usually excessive. “Thank you!” is rarely authentic on a day-to-day basis in the workplace (yes, that exclamation mark makes a difference).

    But a simple thank you, period strikes the perfect balance between genuine and grateful.

    4. “Fantastic question”

    When someone asks a question, he or she’s admitting to not knowing something—however, with this response, you’re essentially taking responsibility for that thing.

    So instead of feeling bad, the person’s proud to have zeroed in on a crucial-but-missing element of the conversation. And, as a bonus, this comment encourages future questions—which leads to a healthy and transparent environment. 

    5. “Yes, and…”

    This might be Improv 101, but it’s also a great way to remove “but” from your vocabulary. (Something I’m working at doing, along with “actually,” “sorry,” and “me.”)

    Whenever people hear “but,” they instantly become defensive. After all, it’s pretty clear you’re about to disagree with them or deliver unwelcome news.

    Replacing the “but” with “and” lets you deliver exactly the same message while making sure your listeners keep an open mind. 

    6. “I understand”

    Half of the conflicts I see in the workplace could be solved if someone had just said, “I understand.” (And not “I understand, but …”)

    No one wants to feel like the crazy person in the situation. By acknowledging someone’s emotions or opinion, you’ll make him or her way more likely to compromise.

    7. “How can I help?”

    As someone who’s fairly low on the company totem pole, I try to offer my help any time I can. And I get a lot of surprised (and grateful!) looks.

    If you’ve got the bandwidth, try offering help next time your co-worker or boss is telling you about an issue he or she is facing. Even if you get a no, your willingness to take on a problem that’s not yours will be noticed — and remembered.

    8. “In your situation …”

    I usually try to frame my feedback as, “This is how I’d do it,” rather than “This is how you should do it.” That way, the person I’m talking to has a choice: He or she can follow my suggestions, or not. Giving people direct advice — even when they’ve asked for it — can make them resent being told what to do.

    SEE ALSO: 14 habits of the most likable people

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    Man Paying Bills with Laptop

    You know how the saying goes: Bad habits are hard to break. But sometimes it’s even harder to create good habits — especially good money habits.

    Roughly one in three millennials surveyed by Bank of America and USA Today said their parents did not teach them good financial habits at home.

    Similarly, only 19 states in the U.S. require schools to offer personal finance courses, according to the Council for Economic Education.

    With rising student loan debt, millennials are struggling to put money away for retirement — or at all. The key to taking control of your finances, however, is to start young. Here are nine essential money habits you should master by your 30s.

    Read: 10 Ways to Go From Millennial to Millionaire

    1. Create and stick to a budget

    Without a budget, you can’t take control of your finances. A proper budget tells you where you want your money to go — not where you’ve already spent it, said P.J. Walsh, a certified financial planner at Walsh Financial Planning.

    Don’t view budgeting like balancing a checkbook by simply tracking where you spend your money. Rather, your budget should tell you how much money is going toward mandatory expenses — like rent and student loan payments — and how much you have left over to save or spend.

    Free mobile apps like Mint and Mvelopes make it easy to track your income and expenses, develop a budget, and stick to it. But while setting up a Mint account might be easy, keeping tabs on your budget and making adjustments to it every month takes discipline. “A budget is not a ‘set it and forget it’ process,” Walsh said.

    Related: How to Budget Your Paycheck Like Elizabeth Warren and Jean Chatzky

    2. Live below your means

    More than 20 percent of millennials spend more than they earn, according to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Even if you’re scraping by paycheck to paycheck, you’re still falling behind on retirement savings. To truly get ahead financially, you have to live below your means so you can build wealth and reach savings goals.

    To live below your means, you’ll need to make sacrifices — like skimping out on daily Starbucks runs and cutting down on weekend drinking. Reconsider where you eat and how much you’re spending each meal. Small purchases can add up.

    Say, for instance, you work a typical 40-hour work week and eat out at lunch with coworkers everyday. If you’re spending $7 per meal, in one month you’ll have spent $140. Over the course of a calendar year, you’ll have spent $1,680 — and that amount doesn’t include the cost of breakfast, dinner and weekend brunches.

    3. Manage credit wisely

    Overall, millennials aren’t doing a good job of managing credit wisely. They’re more likely than other generations to be engaged in costly credit card behaviors — like carrying a balance, making minimum monthly payments and paying late fees — according to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

    But why are these behaviors so costly? If you’re maxing out credit cards and paying bills late, you’re hurting your credit score. And a bad score can affect your ability to get more credit and forces you to pay higher interest rates.

    You can boost your credit score and improve your credit history by keeping balances low and avoid opening too many credit accounts at once. If you need to use your credit card to afford a purchase, chances are you shouldn’t be making the purchase.

    You should also periodically check in on your credit report. You can get a free credit report from Be sure to report any errors that might be weighing down your score.

    Business Man Walking with Umbrella

    4. Build an emergency fund

    Only 33 percent of millennials have an emergency fund, according to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. When you’ve only recently graduated or started working full time, finding room in your budget for a rainy day fund might seem impossible. But Walsh said contributing to an emergency fund should be treated as a mandatory expense — not a luxury.

    Without an emergency fund, you’ll likely have to rely on credit cards to cover a car repair, a trip to the emergency room and other unexpected expenses. If money is tight, start saving in small ways.

    Set up small, automatic deposits from your checking to your savings account. Even saving $25 every two weeks can save you $650 over the course of a year. If you receive a bonus, immediately put a portion of that money into savings. If you made plans for brunch but cancelled last minute, transfer the money you would have spent into your savings — after all, if you could afford brunch, you can afford to put the money away.

    Related: 9 Steps to Saving a $10,000 Emergency Fund

    5. Save for retirement

    29 percent of millennials said they are actively saving for retirement, according to Bank of America and USA Today. While saving for retirement might not seem like a priority in the face of student loans, the sooner you start saving for retirement, the more quickly you can build up savings — that’s the power of compound interest.

    “Taking advantage of compound interest as soon as you can can give you tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands more in retirement,” said Erin Lowry of Broke Millennial. If, for example, you contribute $100 every month in a retirement account and earn 8 percent back on your investment year over year, you’ll have more than $135,000 in savings in 30 years. Delay your savings by ten years, however, and you’ll have just over $55,000.

    6. Set financial goals

    Less than half of millennials surveyed by Bank of America and USA Today said they have savings goals. Without knowing what your future financial plans are, saving money — and saving enough — can be difficult.

    Although long-term goals are important, Lowry recommended setting shorter-term goals to help you save for purchases you’ll need to make sooner rather than later. Having money saved for Christmas gifts, for instance, can help you establish a hard budget come winter. Having a savings plan for a car down payment will also reduce the size of your auto loan, if you need one at all.

    7. Pay bills on time

    Millennials aren’t the only ones struggling with their finances. More than one-third of consumers paid late bills in 2014, according to a survey conducted by Fiserv, a provider of financial services technology. Not only can paying bills late hurt your credit score, they can lead to hefty fees — which will leave you with less money to pay other bills.

    If you’re having trouble remembering to pay bills, set up automatic payments through your bank and service providers. You also can use apps like Mint Bills to receive alerts when bills are due to avoid late fees.

    remodel renovation

    8. Learn to do-it-yourself

    One way to spend less every month is to learn how to cook, clean and make repairs by yourself. Lowry recommended avoiding restaurant expenses by cooking meals at home. She cooks large quantities of food on the weekends so she can enjoy packed lunches during the week.

    Lowry also does her own nails and has taught herself how to make simple repairs around her apartment. With instructional videos on YouTube, paying a plumber to have your sink unclogged, for instance, might not be worth the expense.

    Read: 33 Expensive Services You Should DIY

    9. Stop relying on parents for financial support

    About half of millennials have received financial assistance from their parents after moving out, according to a study conducted by Fidelity. If you have a job but are still relying on your parents to pay for groceries or your cell phone bill, you might need to take initiative and cut the cord. Adult children who continue to rely on their parents as a source of income won’t learn to become financially independent, said David Bader, a certified financial planner (CFP) and regional director at Merrill Edge.

    Depending on your parents could be hurting their financial futures, too. Saving for retirement, after all, doesn’t stop once you’ve hit your 30s.

    SEE ALSO: The 8 smartest things to do with your money in your 30s

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    editing laptops beach

    There’s no denying, entrepreneurs — or those aspiring to be — must retain as much knowledge as they possibly can and they must also continue to grow it.

    That’s because, in order to be successful in any market, you’ll need to hone your skills, knowledge and be vigilant in your work.

    That’s why, in addition to knowing your business, employees and various strategies for success, you must also know how to use all the tools at your disposal.

    These days, those tools are mostly composed of modern tech and software.

    You don’t have to be a techie at heart to be a successful entrepreneur, but there are several forms of technology that you will need to understand — and know how to use appropriately — to stay afloat. This rule can also apply to many job-seekers and business professionals looking to enter a high-profile market. At the very least, adding these particular skills to your resume will improve your personal branding, making it more likely you’ll land a position.

    Without these skills, you might not fail, but you certainly won’t rise above your peers and that’s important. To make an impact for your business or brand, you’ll need to know a lot more – and have a lot more tools at your disposal – than just the field you’re entering. Simple skills like Web design techniques, working with social media and communication tools, and even marketing will greatly affect your success.

    Ultimately, you’ll need to know a lot more than what’s listed here, but these are some of the most important tech skills required if you want to reach the top of your field.

    1. Social media

    Social media isn’t just for personal use, it’s a remarkably effective communication and marketing platform for businesses too. If you don’t have a business, it’s also a great place to improve your personal branding. You can always hire a team to handle this process, but successful entrepreneurs always knows how to do the work themselves.

    It’s not just about using the big networks like Facebook and Twitter, either. You’ll also need to know how to make a splash on new networks, and how to market across all of them – even some smaller ones that might crop up later. Understanding how to communicate with your audience and manage customer support is just as important. The social media space is always evolving and changing and you need to be ready for it.

    It’s a bonus if you have experience or know your way around social media tools like Hootsuite and Buffer, too.

    This is one of the first skills you should focus on if you don’t already have experience.

    2. Know how to wireframe

    Knowing how to wireframe a page is more technical in nature than it is technology-based, but it’s still just as important. Once you know how to complete a wireframe, you’ll have a better understanding for how Web pages, apps, software and various projects are designed. At first, you may wonder why this is important, especially since you’ll likely have a development, tech or product team to handle this.

    It’s because, once again, knowing how to do the work yourself means you can communicate more effectively and more openly. In addition, if and when you run into problems, understanding the process will allow you to better visualize a solution.

    Since this is a particular skill you’ll want to know before starting up a business, some great resources to look at are Digital Telepathy and Wireframe Showcase

    Dropbox homepage

    3. Working with the cloud

    Local storage has taken a backseat lately, and now everything is being stored in the cloud. Cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Salesforce and many others are ideal for sharing large files and hosting community-based file systems. This is especially important if you’re working on an app, piece of software or similar tech-related platform.

    A solid understanding of the cloud – including what it is and how to use it – will make you a more efficient collaborator, improving your competitive skillset

    4. Basic HTML and CSS coding

    HTML and CSS are integral to website design and administration. In fact, HTML is one of the most widely used languages in Web development. At the least, you should have a basic understanding of these core technologies so that you can better understand websites and the Internet as a whole.

    From the onset, it’s tough to pinpoint times where you would absolutely need this skill; but when you’re in the thick of it, HTML and CSS knowledge will definitely come in handy. Consider the times when you’ll need to generate a Web page for your business, or your professional portfolio, and when you’ll have to customize said portal. You can hire a Web developer to handle the heavy loads, but you’ll still need to understand the basics to shape the website to your liking.

    Plus, it will help you better understand and communicate with your team of Web developers when the time comes.

    5. SEO marketing

    SEO – or search engine optimization – is not as impactful as it once was. That doesn’t mean it’s any less important in the world of marketing. You simply cannot hope to survive if you don’t understand the basics of SEO, and how to use it to your advantage. It’s still a considerable factor in the visibility of a website, and it’s especially important for small to medium businesses.

    A small company like United Yacht Sales – which has done an excellent job with its website SEO – can hope to remain visible in search results much longer. This in turn drives more traffic to its website, bringing in more potential business and ultimately resulting in higher profits. Naturally, you can see why this is an important skill for budding entrepreneurs.

    6. Online accounting and bookkeeping

    In the long term you may have a team or group who handles the accounting and bookkeeping for your business. In the meantime, it would be beneficial if you understood the process and could complete it yourself. Since managing your books and finances is largely software and online-based these days, that’s where you’d need to focus your attention.

    There is a long list of accounting software you can use to aid with this task, but you’ll still need to understand the software package you choose and that includes knowing your way around it.

    laptop headphones

    7. Graphic design and image editing

    At some point, you may need to dive in and help design or edit various images on your website. In other cases, you may need to assist in creating solid advertisements, fliers or promotional materials for your brand. Whatever the case may be, understanding the fundamentals of graphic design and knowing how to edit and manipulate images is a crucial skill in today’s market.

    Knowing how to use design software like Adobe Photoshop or Canva will greatly increase your skillset and make you a more valuable asset. Expect this to be one of the personal branding skills that modern companies and marketing firms look for.

    8. Email marketing and communication

    As an entrepreneur, you have to be a go-getter. It’s not enough to leave outreach and communication solely up to your customer support and sales teams. In fact, for your business or brand to succeed, you’ll need to invest time marketing and communicating via email too.

    There’s more to it than just sending out blanket emails, of course. Understanding when, how and who to email are all parts of the equation. However, once you grasp the core ideas behind email marketing and can confidently reach out to potential clients yourself, you are well on your way to success.

    SEE ALSO: 6 skills that all extraordinary entrepreneurs have

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    alone in a stadium

    A young woman wrote to me recently about fears about the future:

    "I’m in my 20s and I’m trying to figure my future out. I’m just wondering how to stop worrying and letting the fear of the unknown totally consume my daily thoughts (I’m moving from Sweden to American and have no idea how to find a job, a place to live, etc.). I’m very much scared of the future, even though I have overcome obstacles before."

    The first thing I would say to her is: You are not alone.

    Lots of people, young and old, are afraid of the unknown, especially when things are not settled, everything’s up in the air.

    I have a daughter in her early 20s, a son who is 18 … they have no idea what the future holds for them. Neither did I when I was young, and to be honest, I still don’t! Things are a little less scary for me these days, but I know what it’s like to be afraid of a wide open, scary future.

    The second thing I would say is this: No one has the answers. No one knows the best path you should take. No one has figured out the ultimate answer to your problem of fearing the future. The best of us just fake it and make it look like we know what we’re doing. We don’t. We’re still trying to figure it out too, and the honest truth is, most of us are either scared s---less or faking it, even to ourselves.

    But you want some practical advice, I’m sure. So let me do my best here … but always remember that 1) you’re not alone, and 2) no one really has any answers, if we’re being honest.

    Get good at something

    You don’t have a job, no fixed things to do, things are wide open … and that’s scary, but also an advantage. Your schedule is open, and you have immense possibilities.

    The way to take advantage of that is to find something to get good at, and then get good at it. As good as you can.

    And here’s more good news: it doesn’t really matter what you choose. If you choose to get good at design, and work for two years on that, and then discover you hate it … you can switch! You might then get good at making hand-crafted goods, and then switch when you decide that’s not for you. You might then learn programming and get good at that. Or learn blogging, and get good at that. It doesn’t matter.

    It doesn’t matter because time spent getting good at something is never wasted. You learn about how to get good at something. You meet others who are passionate. You make connections, with people and with ideas and with yourself. You learn about yourself in the process.

    How do you get good at something? First, go offline, so you get away from distractions. Then:

    1. Pick something, anything, that interests you.
    2. Find the easiest next step, and get moving on it.
    3. Find joy in that step.
    4. Find someone to share it with. Better yet, find someone you have to turn it in to, like a boss or colleague or client or friend who will hold you accountable.
    5. Find the next easy step, and enjoy that as well.

    You’ll suck. You’ll doubt yourself. You’ll wish you were better, faster. We all do that, but the good news is, you’re young and it’s good to suck for awhile. By the time you’re in your 30s, you’ll suck a lot less.

    You’ll build some momentum. You’ll start to love it because you start to get good at it. You’ll start to think you know what you’re doing, then realize there’s a lot more to learn, and then find that scary, then find that exciting.


    Connect with interesting people

    Find people online doing interesting things, meet up with them in real life. Find people who are passionate, who are building things, who are pushing themselves, who dream big, who are mindful and joyful and healthy and friendly and shy and gregarious and adventurous and curious.

    Befriend them. Be there for them. Be helpful. Make them laugh. These are your people.

    They will lift you up, excite you, fill your life with meaning. They’ll make sincerity and joy your new normal.

    These people will help your future career in some way, but that’s not the important thing: what really matters is that friends matter. Having ones that dump on you sucks. Having ones that support and inspire you, who love and value you … that makes life meaningful.

    But don’t worry so much about what other people are doing. Shut off the social media sometimes, and just focus on what you’re doing. When you get together with friends, find out what they’re doing, and be happy for them, but don’t worry that you’re not doing those things. That’s their life, and it’s awesome, but your life will be uniquely what you decide to do.

    On finances

    You don’t have a job yet. That’s OK, but you need to find a way to make money. You can freelance, wash cars, drive for Uber, get a temp job, be an intern, it doesn’t matter. Find a way to pay rent, and ideally, learn some great skills while you’re making rent.

    If your job isn’t a dream job, just do it for now to pay rent, and spend your spare time building a skill, getting good at something. But don’t let yourself get stuck in that job — keep your eyes open for something better. Start your own business on the side if you can.

    Spend less than you earn. Everyone says it, then most people ignore it. The secret is to want very little. Be satisfied with few possessions, simple food, not needing the newest everything or the coolest restaurants or entertainment. Find a library, read some free books, work on some skills, eat simple vegan food. Save as much as you can. Yes, you’re young and not worried about retirement, but having money when you’re old isn’t the point — the point is to build an emergency fund so you aren’t scared about making rent.

    woman drinking coffee stress

    Worrying about the future

    It’s normal to worry about the future, but probably the best antidote is to learn to shift your focus to what’s right in front of you, right now.

    Are you doing some work? Focus on the physical act of doing that. Are you eating? What are the physical sensations of the food like. Are you riding a train? How does your butt feel on the seat, your feet feel on the ground? What are the sounds like? What can you see around you?

    This might seem like trite advice, but what happens is that you learn to turn from your anxiety about the future to noticing what’s around you in the present moment. And you realize that while the unknown future might seem scary, the present moment is just fine.

    You’ll find, from one moment to the next, that each moment is fine. You’ll start to develop a trust in the present moment. And that’s the antidote to fears about the future: learning to trust that you’ll be OK, because as each moment passes, you keep being OK.

    SEE ALSO: The 20 best places to live in your 20s

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The sleep habits all successful people share

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    kdojawUddiWVDkoNuTwos8sjcEs3qG64oiU1tmiI tc,3KgYYgWBsQupQ4NLQGUYjkkwLedpELxPUWsXMh2Vm58

    Part of building a successful small business is keeping your foot on the gas even when you aren't in the office.

    Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of Hint Water, a flavored-water company, has developed habits that help her stay productive while traveling.

    Goldin started Hint Water in 2005 because she wanted to create a healthier flavored water without sweeteners. Most flavored waters contain sweeteners comparable with diet sodas, and that wasn't cutting it for Goldin.

    Hint Water says it uses only the essence of fruits and has no added sugar or sugar substitutes.

    The San Francisco-based beverage company started as a specialty product. It has since moved into grocery stores like Whole Foods and Publix and is part of corporate food-service programs for major companies like Google and Facebook.

    What's more, its e-commerce business has helped it increase revenue 100% over the past year, according to Goldin.

    The growing business, which has 36 employees, has Goldin traveling about once every other week. She shared her top tips for staying productive on the road:

    1. Always book an airline that has guaranteed Wi-Fi service.

    It might seem obvious, but not doing this can be a big mistake. Since flying tends to be a quiet few hours when you can focus, logging on in the air can be a great way to get things done.

    Goldin uses her early-morning flights as a chance to catch up on emails and think about people she should reconnect with. (She prefers to fly Virgin America, she says, because all of its planes have Wi-Fi.)

    2. Don't rely on an airport's charging stations.

    Having access to the internet won't do you any good if your laptop or phone dies. We've all been in that frustrating situation at the airport when all of your devices are dying and every charging station is crammed with people. That's why Goldin says she never relies on charging stations and makes sure she shows up at the airport with fully powered devices.

    3. Develop a morning routine.

    6fgB8WNUiY36IGCfe6wE96eazV fqiHCYUm7Zy66CPY,DNNbS_mw49Dabz6S86wiSSNdqWFiM4Z3Ln 0aRjaYBYGoldin does her best to exercise and maintain her morning routine, whether she's traveling or not. Ideally, each morning starts at 5:30 with a latte and a mug of hot water with lemon. Then, after catching up on any messages she received overnight, she takes a hike.

    Each hike is followed with a homemade smoothie, usually including kale, apple, strawberries, and some Hint Water for a quick energy boost. For extra potassium, she'll occasionally throw in a banana.

    4. Get familiar with where you're going.

    Having everything planned will make your trip easier. Goldin uses websites like TripAdvisor and Tablet Hotel to find hotels and restaurants and to learn about the must-do activities at her destination.

    Another useful app that Goldin recommends is Pocket, which lets you save articles from Twitter to read later. And once an article is saved, you don't need Wi-Fi to read it, Goldin says.

    5. Stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet.

    Being properly hydrated and following a healthy diet while on the road can help keep your energy up throughout the day.

    Unsurprisingly, Goldin drinks plenty of Hint Water every day. She also avoids eating too much salt or sugar while traveling — which isn't easy when you're bombarded by salty and sweet snacks at the airport and on the plane — because it keeps her feeling alert and balanced.

    SEE ALSO: The best music to listen to for optimal productivity, according to science

    Join the conversation about this story »

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