13 Observations (and Life Lessons) at 33

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Thank you for the many wonderful birthday wishes, amigos! May your blessings be doubled in return for each of you and your families. While I have your social-media-assisted attention, here are some observations and free life lessons at 33.

1) 33 is old. According to Russians, since Jesus did his last marvelous acts and had his final supper at 33, it means this age brings real adulthood. Having 2 kids confirms only the obvious.

2) Your level of happiness (and meaning in your life) is very much based on the quality of humans around you every day. Spend time only with good people that wish you well and stay away from a-holes who don't mean well. Life is too short and precious to waste on negative emotions. You are the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with. Let that sink in. No wonder I'm a kid at heart ;)

3) Fix yourself ASAP. Life is too short to beat yourself up about the past and your current shortcomings. Get help, if you need it (and we all need it at some point). No human is perfect. Sleep as well as you can regularly (kids permitting). Eat only what you need to function well during the week and treat yourself on the weekend.

4) Create hard and fast rules around work hours and being with family, as well as your finances. Planning is much more important than you can imagine, especially if you're a "free spirit." Plans can become broken, but without a framework, you won't have a point of reference. If you don't separate work time from family time, you'll harm both sides of the (often non-existent) divide.

5) Take a weekly Sabbath from the mundane, electronic and inertial. It's a gift, so embrace it and don't squander it!

6) Minimize all the *stuff* (crap) around you. Live and tread lightly. Cut the cords holding you back in the past. Stop buying *stuff* to feel good. It never makes you feel good for long. Embrace experiences over said *stuff.* Even if you end up doing something far out of your comfort zone, you will learn SO much just from pushing yourself beyond your disgust, biases, expectations, etc.

7) Be good to all people, especially the jerks. They need it most. Be late for the bus because you helped someone. Do something nice and productive that you're not paid for at least once a day.

8) There is no ideal free time to be creative. It never comes, so don't hold your breath waiting for it. Write, paint, act, speak, find inspiration and express it NOW, not tomorrow and not later today. Keep a notebook and write down your experiences. Memory is notoriously selective and only gets worse with age.

9) Be that magic mentor that you've always looked for. Be the first to help others without seeking anything in return. What goes around, comes around. Always, eventually, often much later, but it does.

10) Negotiate. This time, every time. All relationships - with family, friends, bosses, strangers - are a form of negotiation. Negotiation is not zero-sum, but it always brings value over saying and doing nothing.

11) Live and let live. Life is too short to judge others (and yourself) negatively. Look for the best in people, but always have your eyes open. Everyone is flawed, everyone has been through pain and trials. Learn from each person, whether for what to do or NOT to do in life. Forgive others easily - and yourself, no less so. Don't let the small stuff kill you. Use the 80/20 Principle in everything you undertake. Plant new seeds every day. Write down new ideas and start new ventures when possible. Create a healthy daily routine and the good habits to go with it. Stick with it and leave room for error and experimentation.

12) Be grateful for the people in your life and the circumstances of your life. It's here today, gone tomorrow. There is always a billion or two out there living with much less in opportunity and resources than you and in much worse conditions. Your potential is far beyond what you know and what you let yourself.

13) No one - NO ONE - owes you a damn thing in life. Not your parents, not siblings, spouses, children. Hard as it is to accept and process, this fact also makes you more grateful and motivated to treasure the good and helpful people in your life.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

[Lifehack.org Post] 12 Reminders A Married Man Wants You to Know and Remember

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Being married changes people. Some couples become closer and happier. Some become distant.

You learn to truly co-exist with someone every day, despite their flaws—and more, despite your own. You learn to work with what you have today, not what you want someday from him or her. You learn to give—and to receive, as well. Your true self starts to reappear from childhood. Marriages force you to negotiate and compromise—a LOT, no matter you like it or not. After the first two years or so of lovey-dovey soft stuff, it becomes about just wanting to do good for him or her. After the honeymoon’s forgotten, it’s about the comfort, spending time together, not the glamour or the fancy gifts.

The act of getting married’s easy. Staying married’s hard.

A friend’s father-in-law once said, “This got me through a good twenty first years of marriage: ‘You’re right, I’m wrong. I’m sorry, I will change.’ One day, she tells me. ‘Hey, I’ve heard this one too many times.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, I will change. I’m wrong, you’re right.’ And this has lasted me another ten until today.”

Wisdom in marriage is hard-earned, in stride. Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

1. Marriage is constant work.

Never stop dating. Always pay attention. Keep learning, sharing, laughing with your partner. Treat yourself well and treat your partner even better. Never neglect your looks or words or actions—or your thoughts. Keep working hard to be a better person, lover, partner, chef, bartender and caretaker, janitor and driver. Seek truth, not to be right.

Make sure to listen carefully—the first time, every time. Just get stuff done ASAP, on time. Keep your mouth shut; don’t moan and complain. Be helpful, be encouraging. Get your chores done each day, don’t wait. Know when the storm is coming; it will pass. The morning’s wiser than the night. Resolve your argument before you sleep (apologize!)

2. Argument is just not worth it

Most of the time, the argument is just not worth it. Pick your battles carefully.

Being right will make you proud one moment, but will piss her off. Bad move. Be smart.

3. Laugh hard

If you can’t laugh, you’ll die. And if you can, you’ll manage through mundane, profane, the painful and the thrilling.

4. How’s life? How is your wife?

One and the same. That’s one cliche both sexes can agree on.

5. It can be like riding on a roller coaster

How’s married life? The answer can be different any given day. Today is glorious, tomorrow awful. And so what?

6. Never compare your couple to any other.

This always leads to disaster. Never compare your house, your relationship, your sex life, your wealth or anything else to anyone else’s. That’s the first step to being consumed by fear, jealousy, envy and all the other negative emotions.

Live your own life. Bring out the best in each other and work on your own couple, per your own standards and expectations.

7. Instinct and emotion trump pure reason.

This is the hardest thing for some people to learn and then accept. Sometimes, one spouse is often right despite what may seem wrongful reasoning, irrational demands, emotional appeals. Reason alone is not enough and leads you down wrong paths. Sometimes you really have to listen to your spouse and follow his or her requests, then ask the questions later.

8. Well, do you miss the chase?

Yes and no. Even if you loved to date before, when married, you’ll think twice and three and four times before pursuing another man or woman. Once you invest all your efforts with one person for so long (and actually succeed), why would you want to jeopardize it for a shallow hook-up?

More to the point, if you’ve stopped chasing your wife, you’ve lost a step yourself. If you’ve stopped exciting her with your jokes, actions and ideas, you need fresh material. It’s your job to keep her excited about you and where you’re going together in life.

Your wife is a different woman every day. Make things exciting by wooing her like you want to win her. Try something new once in a while. The same goes for those of you with husbands!

9. Doesn’t the sex get bad?

If you let it, for sure it does. If either of you let things get stale in any part of your relationship—especially this one—it can really bring down the enjoyment factor.

Here’s a novel idea (followed by Orthodox Jews): separate for a few days each month and don’t touch each other at all. When you’re back in the saddle, it’s gooood.

10. Patience isn’t a virtue; it’s earned.

Not just patience with your partner, but with yourself. You have to always work to improve yourself, but progress is never quick.

Patience is the only way you can get past all the frustrations that can pile up when you take two people with different personalities, hormones, cultures, languages, worldviews, types of hygiene, ways or organizing life and so on and put them together in one house.

Meditate, pray, take a walk around the block. Play the long game. Do whatever you have to do to be patient with your partner and with yourself. You will prevail over your foibles and get over the silly things that cause you to argue and become frustrated.

11. Your spouse is always #1.

Not your book, not your job, not your best buddy. When your spouse needs you, you drop everything. Or eventually, he or she will drop you.

12. Never settle or backslide.

Once you do, your relationship starts a slow death. Maintain the high standards for yourself you had when you met—and impressed—each other and fell in love.

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Yuri Kruman is a healthcare entrepreneur, published author and blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com, based in New York.

How A Shy Kid Like Me Learned to Negotiate

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I grew up with a group of brilliant and strong women all around me, but they all struggled with something I think a lot of people deal with — they could not negotiate. And neither could I. My mother’s a professor with a science Ph.D. One grandma was a doctor in the 1940s. Her sister was as well. An aunt had been a dentist in the 1910s in Minsk.

My sister went from a fashion background to an MBA and business ownership and quickly learned the ropes.

I married a brilliant and strong woman who negotiates like second nature — and for pay, to great effect. The contrast, in some ways, could not be stronger.

The pain — tears from being passed over for promotion, for an increase, slights (perceived or otherwise), the silent anger and resentment due to words or acts by bosses who were inevitably all male — still sting today.

How could it be? I work SO hard! I know I am the smartest and best worker with the most ideas and publications, plus the most industrious of all of them — and still this.

And as a boy, all these aggressions were magnified. The women in my life had lived and managed through the hell of Soviet Stalinism and anti-Semitism, the compound stresses of an emigration and assimilation, plus divorce and worse.

How could it be that in America, the land where all of us are equal, they had lost their voice? Year after year, month after month, I was frustrated by the evil men I hardly saw.

Uncover Hidden Scripts

As for my own development, it took big system shocks to get the ship to sail upright and straight. I didn’t learn negotiation from my law school studies or from years in finance. It didn’t magically absorb from reading business books or blogs.

It took unpacking baggage from my childhood — with all its Soviet Jewish norms of culture and behavior — to uncover all the hidden scripts I had controlling my existence from afar. Selling was stigma, self-promotion being the lowest form.

Negotiation was beneath us — shameful commercialism. We were too cultured, too polite, for that. We suffered silently as martyrs but upheld ideals and moral rectitude. The world was turned against us and we couldn’t trust anyone.

But I also started seeing the benefits of asking for a better price, of asking for a better starting salary and title, of making small talk to ingratiate myself, of doing research on the person I was dealing with.

These were the sorts of small “infringements” I’d found so dastardly before. Once I had called a spade a spade, I’d had enough of martyrdom and misery.

In my wife’s culture, bargaining’s like hygiene. If you don’t practice it, you’re shunned and disrespected. The paradigm of shame is quickly turned up on its head.

If you don’t bargain and negotiate, you’ll be a failure, plain and simple. With this in mind, how can I possibly abstain and stay behind? For what? To please a set of vague ideals? No, thanks. Now, where’s my discount?

Practice Negotiating in Any Way

At first, to bargain was as pleasant as a kidney stone. I practiced in a market in Morocco, then in Israel. It worked! Success begat success, and I got bolder.

Soon — unemployed — I dared to bargain for a higher starting salary with my new boss. I brought the facts and numbers to the table and firmly asked for $10K more, plus changes in the contract. Next thing I knew, I got exactly what I wanted!

Another time, I turned a contract role into a full-time gig (with benefits, 401(k) matching, paid cell phone and more) with one quick call directly to the CEO. As it turned out, he is a masterful — and merciless — negotiator. I learned a ton from working with him and then negotiated huge discounts on rent and software for the company.

Another factor is necessity, that mother of invention. When you have student debt the size of icebergs and you call Manhattan home, you quickly start asking always for a better, cheaper, faster way to do things — NOW, not later, not tomorrow.

The Answer Will Often Be “Yes”

The urgency takes hold of you and steels your confidence. Why not? If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no.

Quite often, actually, you get a yes. This may be because others have an expectation bias and have already committed to the cheaper sale. Maybe the person has the mindset that negotiation is a sin, just wants to let go and wash their hands of it.

With salary and benefits, there’s often extra money budgeted for you. A title can be fungible, depending on the context. When making deals with vendors, you do often find more leverage in unexpected places.

Ask, and you often will receive — some extra benefits for cross-promotion, a strategic partnership or other smart win-wins. It is your job to be creative.

Stop Believing Negotiation Myths

It is a fallacy, assuming always that the other side won’t budge. You’ll often find that humans are just human in the end. They often want to please, be nice and helpful to you, but you have to ask.

It’s also foolish to keep thinking that to bargain is unprofessional. Think of it as a trial project for your boss. If you can stand up for yourself and bargain with him, then you’re showing:

  • Confidence
  • Business sense
  • Thoughtful preparation
  • Interest
  • Commitment

If these are not the very traits your boss is looking for, then don’t go work for him!

Winning Negotiation

The key to winning a negotiation is an understanding of terms of business and in yours and others’ motivations and desired results.

First, know exactly what you’re worth to bosses, vendors, clients. Do research on your market, the true price and markup. Ask people in the industry.

Be bold, take risks — but do it smartly and with preparation. The boundaries when making deals are often far beyond your mind’s own limits on yourself.

Take paper and a pen and write down what you want to get across. Note your thresholds and stick to them — the more specifics and real numbers, the better.

Now, find a partner who you can practice with beforehand. Ideally, this is a friend or spouse who’s been a boss or vendor rep or business owner and a devil’s advocate.

You want someone who’s people-savvy, observant and experienced, with sense of body language and your weaknesses and strengths. Get him or her to tell you how you come across.

After this, work to fix the problems your friend has pointed out. Then, go in and get what’s yours.

Develop the Negotiation Mindset

The negotiation mindset, when compounded daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, has a tremendous upside. Practice negotiating in your everyday transactions — at your grocery, your coffee shop, on Craigslist.

Find coupon codes online, use Amazon to check for the cheapest price. Once you attain this mindset, you will find that others cannot take you for a ride. You sniff out scams and don’t fall prey to marketing so easily.

Granted, it can be daunting at first to speak up and to overcome your limitations, but immensely powerful. You’re losing absolutely nothing in the back-and-forth and often winning self-respect and boldness to achieve much greater things.

Know what things really cost. Set concrete terms. Be confident. You will be shocked how often you will win.

After a while, negotiation is a pleasure and a habit, much like brushing your teeth. The only things you have to lose are misery, frustration and your own stumbling blocks.

The money in your pocket and a healthy sense of self are great fringe benefits as well.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

With this in mind, it is imperative for women (and men) to bargain and negotiate. Ten thousand dollars left on the table now can mean $500K abandoned over a career.

A lower title can slow one’s growth and progress by a magnitude. Take ownership of how you come across to bosses and executives, as well as business partners and your clients.

Often, the very thing you dread (negotiation) is precisely what the other side is looking for. In other words, you often can’t afford NOT to negotiate this time and every other time.

Do all the hard work now. Then practice, practice, practice, and you’ll reap the benefitsimmediately.

Now, to get back to all the brilliant and strong women in my life. Among them are war journalists, executives, top scientific experts and consultants, engineers, high-end lawyers, bankers and VCs, product managers and others.

Time after time, I’ve heard how in “The Talk” with Mr. Boss, Executive or Client, they just freeze.

Meanwhile, males with worse degrees and grades, work ethic and experience would leapfrog them, negotiate and win big salaries, promotions, titles, contracts, deals. They did all of this despite appalling manners, sexism and a nauseous basket of fraternity behavior.

Stand Up for Your Worth

Over the years, these women have turned to me with their frustrations about men at work — male managers, executives, etc.

How much frustration, tears and disappointment (and time) could easily be saved through simple training and unpacking baggage, plus a little research? Hundreds of thousands left at the table, better titles, better lifestyles, plus a sense of worth and fairness?

Ladies, lift up your heads! There’s nothing alpha-male, shameful, risky, or arrogant about acknowledging your true worth and sticking to it in negotiation. Like all good things in life, it takes determination and a plan.

If you don’t change, you will forever be a slave to your own doubts and hidden scripts. It is a heavy — and unneeded — burden.

If (and when) you do, the world is yours, no matter if your debt or unemployment or the other circumstances seem to hold you back. To paraphrase Hillel the Elder, if you don’t stand up for yourself, then who will stand up for you?

And being yourself, who are you if not for yourself? And if not now, then when?

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[This is also a post on WorkAwesome.com]

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Yuri Kruman is a healthcare entrepreneur, published author and blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com, based in New York.

On Emotional Intelligence - How To Develop It and How To Use It Effctively

An excellent discussion of the importance of Emotional Intelligence in everything from hiring as promotions to personal interactions. EI has become an indispensable part of the recruitment process, not just in choosing a spouse. Acquire it, practice it in everything you do and use it well. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_59.htm?sthash.F5gyPtTQ.mjjo