8 Ways to Turn Your Guilt, Shame and Procrastination into Better Health, Finances and "Done."

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It was the best of times for productivity advice. It was the worst of times for productivity. Despite an endless stream of upbeat self-help books and articles, the great majority of us simply can't change our lives completely overnight. Gradual change is harder, but as always, necessary. There are no shortcuts, we are always told, but this is only partly true.

The algorithms that run our lives - from ingrained habits and routines to Google searches and our Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIN feeds - have all been optimized and tinkered with by someone else. Remember when you had no email, Facebook or the news to check first thing when you woke up?

On top of the time wasted, there is always guilt and shame - and often awful stress - over procrastination, both at work and home. That's how decision-making and our productivity become so warped and clouded by reaction, not proactive thinking.

Before I got my act together in my twenties, I drifted for a good long while until the status quo became impossible to keep. I had to get my act together or risk losing what I had. The chaos had become impossible to manage. I started meditating everyday and taking better care of health, took pains to understand and learn to manage my finances. I broke the vicious cycle of perfectionism and disappointment over unfinished projects.

Here are the strategies I used to turn my negative emotions into high performance:

1) Lower the barriers to making decisions easily and gaining the habits to get things done. Each night, I would prepare my lunch and work clothes and the tools and conditions I needed for my mediation. This took away the need to make decisions in the morning, so I could get things done (eat better, meditate, get to work on time, etc.). This took the guilt and shame out of the equation.

2) Turn my guilt about letting others down into the habit of waking up early to meditate. I would be exhausted from the night before, but because I felt guilty about letting down the other guys in the synagogue that needed me to make 10 for morning services, I would drag myself up and go to pray with them each morning.

The fear of bad appearance meant maintaining an “expensive” look on a very limited budget. This turned into a Negotiation Mindset backed by budgeting, seeking better prices and negotiating big purchases. This forced me to overcome a fear of negotiation and led to multiple raises and better benefits at work, among many other financial and other rewards.

3) Make myself accountable to someone else (my wife, best friend, mother, etc.), using the shame of disappointment as a force for productivity. Before I met my wife, I was writing my first novel on and off for 5 years without much progress. When she told me, "finish or I'm out of here," it got done within a few months. My second novel was finished in 7 months because of a fellowship deadline.

4) Use my guilt about not eating well consistently (thanks, Mom!) or following through to create simple good habits for my diet. I set easy and clear conditions for myself. If I wanted to eat breakfast, first I'd have to pray/meditate. Then, in order to get to breakfast, I'd have to drink water first to start my digestion. Then, it turned into a glass of water before every meal and eventually other small, but critical changes for better digestion.

5) Channel my procrastination on Facebook and LinkedIN into set time windows during the day to read important industry trends and health, personal finance and productivity tips. Guilt over procrastination never diminished the amount of time I spent on social media. So, I filtered my news feeds to get rid of distracting, annoying and useless posts from "friends." I "liked" the FB and LinkedIN pages of publications and people and companies I actually wanted to read and left out all the rest. This way, when I would go in by habit, I would spend my time wisely and improve my life tangibly, even while “wasting time.”

6) Automate as many things as I can relating to good habits of health, personal finance and productivity. This meant leaving my phone in another room when having dinner with family and overnight, to get me awake and out of bed irreversibly. I automated 401(k) contributions to maximize the company match, my student loan payments (getting back a quarter point in interest charges) and monthly transfers into savings (Digit.co and my bank app), as well as credit card payments to take advantage of "you won't spend it if you don't see it," of credit card points and frequent flyer miles, cash back and other card perks.

I started using apps (Asana, Mint, Credit Karma) to check in each week to see my full professional and financial pictures. Most of all, I automated my Negotiation Mindset during purchases to save a lot of money and think more creatively about my partnerships with people and derive more benefit for family, my boss and others in my business and professional contexts.

7) Train my (quite rational) fear of appearing to be a hypocrite when criticizing others into making sure I was always (or as much as my flawed human nature allowed) on time, presentable and prepared, positive, on message, concise and in some way helpful to whomever I met. Since I hate it when people waste my time when they are late, unprepared, un-presentable, off-message, long-winded and unhelpful to me in any way, it made only perfect sense that I take care of all these things myself first.

8) Channel my laziness when it came to stopping to eat more healthy food during the week. Since I started being more religiously observant, I had to do a washing and prayer ritual before eating bread and then again after. Since I was too lazy to do this, I effectively eliminated bread from my diet during the week.

Now go and turn your fears into success! And if you're feeling really inspired, head on over here and here to learn how to start good habits and eliminate bad ones, once and for all. Start your journey up and forward today. Time's a wasting.

**And, as ever, if you have any questions at all, please do get in touch!**

Are there other proven strategies you’ve used to channel your negative emotions into better health, wealth and productivity? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

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Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author and contributor to Money Magazine, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

 

[Lifehack.org post] 23 Proven Strategies to Get Through Any Hardship - and Thrive

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[Originally published on Lifehack.org] Nobody sets out in their life to fail, get hurt by others or get ill, go bankrupt, take on massive debt, take punches from the world until they die.

But when these things inevitably happen - sometimes in a row - it can completely take the wind out of your sails. We have the choice to see the tests as something necessary to improve our lives or otherwise as needless misery.

Most of us grow up setting long-term goals and hearing that quite anything is possible. Then, we encounter more and more resistance as we age - from competition at an ever higher level - and from "circumstances."

At every level, starting with your college, you are striving for the top 10% (or better). For grad school, then top jobs, it's always the top 10% of that old 10%. That's how survival of the fittest works, we're told.

Except that fitness is but one small factor in the battle to swim through the darkness to the mythical and distant island of "success." Intelligence and pure hard work are critical, but over-rated. So is luck. That's why A students end up working for C students often.

Grit is the key ingredient for those that "make" it to the top of any field. Work long enough on any problem and you'll make some headway, often quite a lot. Even if not the smartest, wisest or the fastest worker, you'll outlast, outwork and ultimately outperform the smarter, wiser, faster folks.

A Russian saying puts it best. "The slower you go, the farther you'll get."

Those with true grit have generally overcome some combination of big childhood traumas, failures in their business and in family and personal setbacks. Yet they have persevered because they felt that life was worth continuing, that all the challenges were there for some big purpose well beyond themselves.

--

In my own life, I grew up in a single-parent home, then emigrated here from Soviet Russia, put myself through college and then law school, managed to survive New York despite Recession, unemployment, massive debt and setbacks in my business and a lot of mini-traumas on the way. Yet, here I am, much stronger than before, more focused, healthier and wiser than before - and more accomplished.

What's worked for me? An over-riding sense that difficulties come and go, always for good, for growth. A discipline to get through certain problems to the end and also knowing when just to let go.  A wealth of patience and a boundless curiosity. Knowing my place and mission in this world and always seeking to improve and change for better - for my own sake and my family's.

These are the detailed strategies I've used to weather through great challenges and come out ahead:

1) Get a grip on life. Stop just surviving and learn to thrive.

First, break the vicious cycle that keeps you miserable and frustrated, poor and running in place. If I can do it, you most certainly can, as well.

2) Value your time above everything else and others will learn to value your time above all.

It's your most precious resource and is always diminishing.

Until I learned to value my time above all, friends, family and everyone I met could easily manipulate me (on purpose or not, doesn't matter) into spending my precious time on useless conversations, behaviors, habits, etc. In the end, learn to recognize patterns in your own behavior and the behavior of others to avoid wasting time on conversations that bring no useful, constructive effect to your life or the life of the other person/people.

Once I set limits and acknowledged the obvious bad habits in myself and others to engage in useless conversations - where I wasn't improving someone else's life or my own or was otherwise learning and taking something useful away from the experience, suddenly, I saw my time in a completely different light. Others started valuing my time much more and productivity went up a great deal.

3) Create good habits and get rid of bad ones. Keep a consistent (and consistently healthy) daily regimen.

This is a really basic, but under-appreciated point, especially for young Invincibles. A solid and consistent daily regimen will keep you in one piece through the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs.

Here are 12 easy life-changing habits you can start today. Sleep 7-8 hours a night, EVERY NIGHT (and here are 9 ways to improve the quality of your sleep). Wake up early to take advantage of the most productive (morning) time. Get up and stretch from your chair every hour. Pack a healthy lunch and healthy snacks (almonds and other nuts, PopChips, fruits, etc.); eat out sparingly. Take good care of your digestion, because if you don't, you'll be miserable too often to function well and die too soon from chronic disease. Walk around quickly as often as you can to get exercise. If you hate the gym like me, do push-ups every morning. Take the stairs, not the elevator, as much as you can. Take good care of your hygiene (don't be lazy at night), especially your teeth and skin.

Learn how to relieve your stress in safe and reliable ways. Have close friends and family around. Minimize (ideally, eliminate) the time you spend with people that add negativity (jealousy, envy, wasting of time, perpetuation of bad habits) and stress to your life. Exercise regularly. Eat well, consistently. Sleep well. Have a glass of red wine once in a while. Reinforce good habits with others who have them.

Learn to control your impulses. Outrun, outwalk, outcrawl, make a detour around temptation. Acknowledge your limitations and outsmart yourself. Simply stay out of the context where you can't control your impulses. Simply keep away from unhealthy food, activities, relationships, spending, people, language, influences, etc. Be smart and cautious enough to nip trouble in the bud.

Learn to say no to people. This is by far one of the most important skills and habits of all. Practice makes perfect.

4) Take good care of your mind.

Find a highly recommended therapist with a sliding scale to help you dig through and unpack and throw away all the awful baggage from childhood that's holding you back from seeing yourself in a healthy way and moving forward with life and succeeding. Drop the stigma. Create good habits around positive thinking, stress relief (see above).

Get rid of toxic thoughts and overcome their effects on you.

Kill all your sacred cows and really start living.

Make no mistake - your mental health (or lack thereof) will make you or break you.

5) Eliminate negativity from your life as much as you can, day in and day out.

Be relentlessly positive, even while remaining a realist pragmatist. This means removing people that put you down or shower you with jealousy, envy and unproductive and unhealthy ways to spend time. Minimize listening to depressing music and watching depressing movies. Manipulate your mood for the better with music that lifts you up and keeps you moving forward.

Value your time above all (see #2).

6) Develop a Negotiation Mindset in all your dealings with people.

Practice negotiating for cheaper coffee or fruits at the farmer's market, where you have nothing to lose. Research, understand and internalize your true value to employers, business partners, landlords and all others you deal with. Be confident about your capabilities and set your limits when you go in to negotiate. Come in with concrete and measurable facts about what you've done, on what budget and time frame, how much money and time you've saved the team and company. Practice with a coach or a no-holds-barred friend beforehand.

Before I ever negotiated for anything, I was hampered by all sorts of insecurities and hidden scripts in my head that were passed down from parents, siblings, friends and cultural vectors. When I met my wife, who grew up in Morocco and negotiates for a living, the paradigm was turned upside down. In Morocco, NOT to negotiate is insulting and looked down upon. Locals always know the true price and the "acceptable" margin.

EVERYTHING is negotiable.

I slowly untangled my own hangups about negotiation, learned to understand my own true value to an employer or business partner or vendor in each case and started practicing with negotiation in a Moroccan bazaar, where there was absolutely nothing to lose.

With time, I successfully negotiated a full-time offer with benefits after being offered a contract. At that job, I ended up negotiating a 23% discount ($45K off) on financial management software - far better than expected for a company of our size. I then negotiated a cap of 1% on rent over 5 years (saving the company $17K). At another job, I negotiated $10K and better benefits/perks higher before starting. Since then, I've negotiated big discounts (20% or more) on everything from moving company expenses to rent, consulting rates, car rental fees, credit card fees, hotel chain points, coffee and all sorts of other large and smaller purchases.

After a while, developing a negotiation mindset has not only saved (and made) me tens of thousands of dollars, but also given me confidence and competence that are priceless. It's a snowball effect that consistently opens up big savings, perks, freebies, extra points and other "hidden" benefits.

The rule with negotiation is simple: If you don't ask, the answer is always no!

7) Connect to something higher than yourself through meditation and finding your roots (culture, religion, nationality, etc).

Put yourself in a context where you feel connected to where you came from and who you are, so you will have the bedrock for growth in your personal life.

My own experience with becoming an observant Jew has been a very long and winding road full of potholes and false turns. I've also learned to balance the various parts of my identity in my own way - Russian-American, Kentucky boy, New Yorker, writer, lawyer, financier, entrepreneur, etc. Every person's path is quite unique and frankly, it should be. Cookie-cutter transformations are often false and rarely last.

8) Practice gratitude daily, right after you wake up and before you go to sleep.

Literally count your blessings each day. Say thanks as much as possible to others, especially your family and close friends (where would you be without them and their support?). Write thank you notes by hand to others to set yourself apart in their mind.

Here are 10 things to be thankful for RIGHT NOW.

9) Live frugally, within your means. Organize, understand and regularly manage your finances. Find ways to make more money, not just to save and scrimp.

Not knowing the full picture of your finances will be a constant source of stress and family argument. It's actually critical to your health and well-being. Take it seriously and get your act together ASAP.

Put away at least 6-12 months of earnings as a cushion in case of unemployment or unexpected expenses. Carefully monitor your credit through carefully (Credit Karma, for example). Automate monthly bill payments, monthly savings and investments. Use budgeting tools to control your spending. Understand your cash flows and their timing clearly. Pay off your debts ASAP, starting off with the highest-interest loans first. Find ways to make more money by using your existing (or adding new) skills by freelancing, consulting, coaching or otherwise creating an online business. Learn to live frugally without completely forsaking a lifestyle you actually enjoy.

Living frugally is a virtue, but of course never quite easy, especially if you're used to a certain level of lifestyle. However, it often means the difference between "a little more fun now/misery later" and "a little less fun now/happiness a little later."

On a practical note, when you "deprive" yourself of material things you're used to, you find out that you truly need very little except basic necessities to get by. You will learn to be incredibly resourceful with food, entertainment, budgeting, hosting, dating, finding freebies and discounts and planning ahead. Even though it may seem like an awful chore for the first some time, living frugally actually forces you to become more independent and self-confident in your life choices, focusing you on what's truly important - experiences above material things.

When I was 9, I helped Mom buy a car for us, so she just had to give a check and we owned the car. At 15, I convinced her to buy a house, despite a shaky job and finances. My approach to money became to spend ahead of making money, which led to awful credit card debt that took years to repay. It caused me to move out of New York for a few months when I couldn't afford rent after law school. A lack of foresight, research and planning (aspiration without the perspiration) led to a quarter million in student loans from law school right when the Recession hit.

Only when I got married and saw down with my wife (who has always had a much healthier relationship with money) to review our finances, did it hit me just how much my ostrich-in-the-sand attitude had cost me in dollars, sense, time, late payments and opportunities in life. Before this, I had no idea how to budget or understand cash flows, or visualize the full extent and terms of my student loans.

Once I bit the bullet and learned how these things actually work, I felt greatly empowered to get rid of my student debt, optimize credit card spending to maximize points, to negotiate for discounts and otherwise take control of saving and spending. Now, it's hard to imagine my head was in the sand all this time.

10) Look internally for meaning, not to material wealth, circumstances or to other people.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Liberate yourself from the chains of jealousy and envy. Your only relevant measure of success is against your own potential, which is always much greater than you can imagine at your lowest. Seek experiences, not material goods. Stick to your ethics and morals and never stray from them for anyone or anything.

My mother's a neuroscience professor and two grandparents were doctors, so I grew up really wanting to be an MD/Ph.D. After my grades tanked in college, it became just Ph.D. After a year in my Ph.D. program, I left with the heavy weight of parental disappointment. I worked for a year and went to law school, realizing mid-way that law was not for me. In the depths of the Great Recession, I went into finance to make a living and realized after 3 years in that I was not doing anything enjoyable or working to my potential. That's when I left to start my own company in health tech and ended up working for two other startups  in the space, doing finance/operations, then product management.

Despite burnout, soul-searching, lots of criticism from family and friends, I persevered to find my sweet spot in helping health tech companies launch and scale quickly. All these experiences - both good and bad - have given me a thick skin and discipline, a better understanding of my virtues and faults, a great set of skills I use in all areas of life and a much clearer sense of what gives me meaning and happiness professionally and personally - and what doesn't. All of this is well earned and priceless as life experience.

In short, every person's path is different. Some find their way quickly and others take their time. Neither guarantees success or failure. The journey is just as important as the destination. Keep plowing - and constantly sowing new seeds - through the hard times. Work hard (and smart). Learn as much as you can along the way and you will certainly find your meaning and purpose in the process.

11) Always plan ahead and prepare with as many specifics as possible.

Break down goals into specific tasks. Set deadlines for each task. Track your progress. Celebrate small wins. Use project management tools to help you optimize the process. Set unrealistic, crazy goals - then research how successful people have achieved such goals. Follow their model. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Creative, artistic types have the hardest of times doing this. Having been born this way, I've nevertheless forced myself to break down lofty goals like publishing a novel, getting into a new industry, making a certain salary by a certain age, paying off student debt, understanding and managing my finances, etc. The first novel took 7 years. The second took 7 months.

Careful, realistic planning that involves small tasks, specific timelines and budgets brings the lofty into the realm of the possible and doable.

Minimize the number of daily decisions you have to make.

Prepare your lunch the night before. Choose what you're going to wear tomorrow before sleeping. Think Zuckerberg and his famous hoodie and Steve Jobs with his turtlenecks.

12) Research every person you deal with in business and personal life and have a clear picture of what you're getting into ahead of time.

A couple hours spent on due diligence now can often save you months and months of untangling yourself from a-holes and frauds, fake friends, failed joint ventures, lawsuits and other nightmares. Caveat emptor.

Before I learned to take myself seriously and set boundaries and rules, I used to fall for all sorts of schemes, one-sided friendships, bad deals, gigs that went unpaid, etc. Once I learned to dig deeper beforehand, this dramatically changed my preparation for dealing with every person I met by choice. Now, before I meet someone, I know exactly where they are coming from, what are their motivations, how I can help them and how they can help me. This makes all interactions instantly more useful and valuable for both parties and cuts out the BS to get right to the point of how we can work together to help each other.

13) Keep a journal and write down your experiences, both good and bad.

This is one of the best ways to give yourself therapy and perspective on what you've been through and how you've persevered. It is also critical to collecting new ideas and sowing new seeds daily.

In my case, keeping a notebook and pen always handy to take down observations, ideas, new concepts, things I overheard on the subway, lines of poetry, beautiful pieces of art or music I saw or heard, my craziest and most desperate thoughts at my lowest and amazingly inspired reflections at the highest - are all chronicles I can look to anytime to see my own development as a son, husband, father, writer, lawyer, financier, traveler, negotiator, etc. It's always invaluable to remember who you really are and what you're capable of when circumstances make you forget.

14) Always take the long view, but show up for the small things every day.

Don't get too high with the highs in life and don't get too low with the lows. Always find a way to press ahead. If you take good care of yourself, you will have a long time to work on important problems with your full energy. 5 years is a good reference point for how long it takes to become a top expert in your field and generate solid revenue in the process.

Rome wasn't built in a day. Don't waste your time planning to be the first to build Rome overnight. I've failed many times trying to build castles from cards overnight. The big successes all took a really long time, lots of hard work and evolution and constant improvement to materialize.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Find ways to stay focused. Constantly prioritize things in the order of what gets you to your goals fastest and most effectively.

Shoot for 1% improvement each day in whatever you're working on (a trait, a project, a relationship, etc.). Otherwise, you'll burn out and give up too fast.

15) Use the 80/20 Principle in your interactions with people and in the work you do.

Don't kill yourself softly with perfectionism. In the end, Getting Sh*t Done always beats Perfect, but Unfinished. Think Most.

Use the concept of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as a guiding principle when building something.

16) Don't do it alone.

Cultivate mentors and advisors (in real life AND online, in the knowledge of others who write about overcoming the same problems).

Learn from every person - both what to do and what NOT to do. Read widely and voraciously on the experiences of others with the issues you're having. Nothing that you're going through, no matter how difficult or painful, has not been faced by someone, somewhere in the world, who's lived to tell about it.

Enlist help from friends and family to keep you on track and accountable, as well as motivated and encouraged. However, don't rely on everyone being on board with what you're doing. It often takes at least a partial success to make even the closest people to you to see the value in what you're doing.

17) Keep challenging yourself in small ways daily. Don't just react. Be proactive.

Take the stairs. Get up an extra 15 minutes early even though you fell asleep late. Take a walk even if you're tired. Do an extra lap around the park. Hold yourself off from buying that nice-looking danish. Out-walk, outrun temptation just this once.

This way, you'll show yourself you're capable of greater things than you imagine. You'll slowly push your limits out a little, then a little more. Eventually, this builds into a competition with yourself. This grows into a discipline and habits that are good for health and wealth and productivity, etc. It's always working on the little things that are attainable from day to day that yields the greatest of results.

Maybe it's just a personality type, but I've always felt driven to push myself beyond laziness (despite being lazy), to remind myself that I'm capable of small physical and intellectual feats that I managed when younger. This means taking a cold shower (15-20 second) every single morning, signing up for a half-marathon one day and jogging 4 miles in the park after not running at all for 6 years, taking the stairs with 40 pounds of groceries, waking up early to go to synagogue despite sleeping far too little, speaking French even when I can use English, writing essays in Russian after emigrating at 9, and many other small and big challenges I set for myself on a daily basis over the years. Maybe it's a way to stay young at heart.

The point is, it works quite well to keep me physically and mentally nimble despite all the setbacks and hardships in life, the bad logistics and circumstances and other things I can blame when I don't feel up for doing something. Oh, did I mention having a kid? Nope, no excuses.

18) When you fail, fail quickly and cheaply.

Learn from your mistakes and never make them again. Going forward, avoid jumping blindly into any new venture, relationship, debt, career, trip, religion or scheme. Always do your research ahead of time on the people involved, cost, previous successes and failures for others who've been through it. Always get a second, third and fourth opinion. Always look for a cheaper, better, faster option of whatever you're considering. Don't trust "gut feelings" until you've analyzed in depth all the relevant data to understand the likelihood of success (and failure).

Take calculated risks. See how others who have done the same thing have fared over the short and long term. Read and ask questions on Quora, Reddit, in related forums and in person. Crowd-source solutions from your networks. You'll be shocked how much useful and highly relevant information you'll find out there to solve just about any problem you can ever face.

19) Get fired at least once.

Make no excuses when it happens. Take a short time to let the strong emotions pass. Understand without resentment and emotional attachment what went wrong, how to fix it and what you need to learn from the experience.

When you get fired, figure out what you need to do differently to improve your performance. Don't just blame the boss for being an a-hole and unreasonable. Are you in the right industry and role? Are you more of a start-up person than corporate or are you too risk-averse?

When I was fired once, it was incredibly painful, since it stopped income flow, disappointed my loved ones, shook my confidence and burned bridges. But I got up, rebuilt myself, understood what went wrong after the emotions died down and moved on with the difficult, but necessary lessons.

The key is not to dwell on the disappointment, but instead to see it as something you can (and must) fix. Understand the root causes (you may just suck at the job or care little for what you were doing; it was a bad cultural fit, the wrong role, wrong industry, company size, etc.; likely, it's some combination of all of these). Now, look inward to understand better who you are, what role you're happiest in and then find the company that will nurture and push you in that role, then the appropriate industry and title.

Here's how to find out what you're really meant to do in life.

Here's how to find out whether you should work in a startup or stay corporate.

Here's how to find your career personality type.

20) Live in New York City or London or Paris or other large metropolis for at least a year or two - ideally more.

You will go through many difficult, but amazingly fruitful growth experiences, which will sharpen your mind and craft and earning power and knowledge of human psychology far beyond anything you could imagine if you stayed back home.

Yes, you will fall for many schemes at first and make many blunders and likely fail in a few relationships and business ventures. But you will also build a thick skin, an appreciation for finishing what you start, a taste for competition with the very best and for always doing things at a high level and quality, for good food and drink, for great company, for what exactly it takes to be successful anywhere (you make it here, you'll make it anywhere).

You'll often be at the edge of the cliff and at the bleeding edge of everything cool and interesting and important - often at the same time. You will have the best time of your life even while totally miserable - if you survive long enough. You'll make your best friends - and a few enemies, if you're really good at something.

21) Dig deep to understand what ROLE you want to play in an organization. Forget industry and title. Figure out what you really want to do in life.

Are you happiest as the caretaker who makes sure everyone else around is healthy and has everything they need to do well in their roles? Are you most comfortable as the subject matter expert everyone goes to? Does it make you feel good to delegate to others and keep hammering the company mission and vision? Do you love selling others on the company's mission and product?

I've had the fortune to work in many different roles, industries and companies over my career. I've built my own business, advised and consulted countless others, worked with the CEO and janitor and everyone in between. I've done finance and operations, product and project management, strategy, marketing, writing and everything in between. I've worked with every personality type from the relentless micro-manager to hands-off delegator to perfectionist and introvert subject matter expert.

Each person I've worked with has taught me a great deal about what kind of person I am and want to be, about what role makes me happiest and most comfortable (as well as what roles I hate), about the type of people I want to work with (and will categorically, never work with again). Industry and title are important only after you know that you're a good and natural fit for the role you'll be doing and the company where you'll be doing it, working with the right type of people that will bring the best out of you on a consistent basis.

This way, you will do the best work of your life.

22) Sow new seeds every day.

Listen much more than you talk and absorb others' knowledge and understanding of the world! Get out of your comfort zone to meet new people (at meetups, museums, markets, interesting events, not bars). Write down 10 new ideas a day on a notepad (and be religious about it). Read new books. Take courses. Learn new languages, skills and facts. Take on new projects and internships. Find new ways to make a name for yourself (and generate revenue in the process). Write thank you notes to people who've helped you to stay in touch. Visit new places. Take a new way home. Experiment with new foods and ways of seeing the world. Most importantly, always keep moving forward and have no fear! Never stay still.

You simply never know when a random bit of knowledge will help you get ahead in life, when knowing another language or culture or having a certain skill or worldview will get you in the door of your dream job, when the simple (but rare) ability to listen and empathize with another human being may find you a spouse or new best friend.

My own experience has seen me starting to write a handful of books (novels, self-help and others), tens of articles, meeting tens of thousands of interesting people, changing careers, hearing and telling hundreds of stories, speaking in 4 languages at one dinner table, traveling to 4 continents, taking on far too many projects at once, starting several businesses, learning about my capabilities and limits and countless other amazing experiences I wouldn't trade for anything, despite the many false leads and dead ends.

23) Just show up (and be on time).

As the cliche goes, this is indeed half of what makes someone successful. Just showing up consistently puts you ahead of the great majority of people in just about anything you do, especially things you do well. Do it long enough and you'll accomplish great things by persistence alone, even if others have more intelligence, speed or savvy than you.

If there is a "secret" to how I've gone through all the hardships in my life, it's definitely this last point. I've been lucky to know people that are more intelligent, faster and more savvy than myself. But the biggest successes generally come from those that have worked a long time at something, regardless of what others think or say.

--

As you inevitably go through life and fail sometimes and get frustrated, take more punches, know that it's all for something, never just to make you suffer.

Grit and determination will get you through whatever hell you're going through. Don't give up and don't listen to naysayers. Everything that comes your way, you can ultimately handle (trust me). Just keep going!

Later in life, you'll come to see what blessing all the hardship really is. All the same, may your journey be easy and fruitful! I'll be rooting for you.

**And, as ever, if you have any questions at all, please do get in touch!**

Are there other proven strategies you’ve used to get through difficult times? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author and contributor to Money Magazine, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

New Parents' Guide to Finance

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5Z8QJ8SIHD Great news, congrats! You’re gonna be a parent soon! You must be thrilled (and likely worried out of your mind!)

Everyone gives advice, regardless of your wishes not to hear it. Here's how to make sure that the baby learns to sleep well! Here's how you save on diapers! There is this awesome trick I know to potty-train the baby - at 6 months!

So while your head is spinning from logistics (we need a bigger place, a nanny, grandma's coming in from Phoenix, time to tell my boss), you're likely to forget the basics - how to plan ahead and pay for Mini-Me.

While you may think that costs are always unexpected (which is partly true), the good news is that the two of you control the show.

Here are the keys to mastering your finances with your baby in tow:

 

1) Take common-sense (and not-so-common-sense) precautions to reduce financial risk for your family.

a. Take out a reasonably valued life insurance policy for each of you (parents) based on your lifestyle. You never know what can happen, but if it does, G-d forbid, at least the other spouse will not be left in a complete free-fall while raising a baby on his or her own.

b. Put aside a rainy day fund of 6-12 months of (your combined) salary. What if one of you gets fired or decides to quit a job?

c. Review and update (or create) your financial plan to understand your current spending and project increases in what you will need to spend with the baby around.

Budget appropriately for formula and other food, clothing, daycare/nanny, stroller(s), transportation, decreased income (due to time off for Mommy and/or Daddy). Don't be caught off-guard.

Project out the costs (lost income and/or benefits) of staying at home vs. returning to work, how long each of you can stay at home with the baby.

d. Take the opportunity to reviews your finances and taxes to maximize all advantages, whether by earning points from your credit card purchases, maximizing your employer's 401(k) or Roth IRA contributions, negotiating down fees and recurring expenses (phone, internet, cable).

Here is a previous post on **12 Steps to a Comprehensive Financial Strategy**.

Ramit Sethi also gives a great primer on optimizing your finances here.

e. Go into the birth with clear eyes about how you will pay for what and where the money will come from. Have a safety cushion and hedge your risk appropriately. Don't be caught off guard by "circumstances."

 

2) Adjust your tax status when filing taxes and make sure to take advantage of the extra exemptions, child tax credits and child care expenses through pre-tax FSA (flexible spending account) and HSA (health savings account) contributions.

Don't miss out on the major tax advantages of having a kid. Plan ahead for the extra expenses and do your best to take advantage of pre-tax contributions through available FSAs, HSAs.

 

3) Start a 529 plan for your kid.

College is insanely expensive and will only keep rising in cost, so start saving and investing for it ASAP. Start here before you sign up to understand growth expectations, budgeting and which expenses are included and which are not when it comes time for your kid to spend the money on college.

 

4) Adjust your health insurance coverage to cover your baby ASAP.

Purchase any additional types of insurance, as necessary, for you and/or your kid. Choose your plan based on your projected needs. Consider starting an HSA (health savings account) at work to put aside pre-tax money to pay for any projected medical expenses, as necessary.

 

5) Don't run to keep up with the Joneses (or Patels or Ivanovs). **Have your own ideas about what's important for your kid to have and what's not important.**

Discuss your parenting approach and the principles you will put to work when raising your baby.

Communicate constantly with each other and be open about any hangups or reservations you may have with the other person's approach! Hash it out and pick your battles. This process is especially critical if you come from different cultures/countries and types of family.

If you're just "winging it," you'll end up spending tons of money on material goods when experiences are much more valuable - both for baby and for you.

Ask your parents how they raised you, what toys and books you had. You'll always learn a lot when you dig into what worked for them (and didn't) when raising you. You will find that less is always more and simpler is always better.

 

6) Everything is always negotiable. NEVER pay retail (but go to high-end stores to get great ideas for what toys, clothing and other things you want to buy for your kiddo). Always ask for a discount. Worst case, they say no. You'd be surprised how often people are willing to bargain, even on basic goods.

Borrow from, barter and/or swap with friends or neighbors, if you can. This works well, especially if friends or neighbors are at a different stage of life with their kids and have toys, clothing, books or other things that they no longer need (or don't need for now, when you need it).

Comparison Shop. Always check prices on Amazon, Craigslist and E-Bay, as well as local Mommy groups and baby-themes swap events.

Just because you love your baby to pieces doesn't mean you should drop your common sense when shopping for clothing, toys, diapers, books or anything else. Don't lose your head and always think like a rational, intelligent adult!

A free or cheaper version is (almost) always available when you want to buy something expensive. Use IFTTT.com to set recipes to watch Craigslist for items you want (whether a fancy stroller, toy you really want for your kid, extra formula or anything else).

Always do your research about what others say about solving your particular problem ahead of time, especially before making big purchases.

Buy in bulk when you can - but avoid buying every item you need in bulk. Here's a good guide on what you should ad should NOT buy in bulk.

 

7) No difficult situation you encounter is a completely new situation.

Someone, somewhere (likely in your town or neighborhood) has been through it before and knows how to solve the problem better, cheaper and/or faster than you know. Read and do your research. Crowd-source. Ask your friends, neighbors and colleagues. You will be pleasantly surprised how often people are willing to help out materially or with useful advice from their experience to help you solve problems better, faster and/or cheaper.

 

8) Simpler is always better.

Babies don't appreciate when something is expensive. They DO appreciate (and play more at a time with) a toy or other object when it's truly interesting and engaging, which has no correlation with price. When you were growing up, you didn't have any electronic gadgets, a thousand teddy bears or other distractions. Odds are, especially if you grew up in a poor country, you had even less and still turned out just fine in terms of curiosity, intelligence and motivation:)

As you will see, a kid is often more engaged and joyful when playing with a simple box or step-stool, spoon and fork, basic building blocks and shapes, anything with many colors and sounds/words, rather than when playing with an iPad or electronic device.

Stop your kid and show him or her flowers, insects, trees, leaves, cars, people. TALK to your kids! Teach them as many words as possible. Don't flood them with toys, but with experiences they'll cherish for the rest of their lives.

Also, LISTEN to your kids and encourage them to tell you what they see and experience! This is far more valuable than outsourcing to a voice on a machine or even a nanny.

 

9) Start a baby registry ASAP.  Advertise widely among your family, friends and colleagues. Don't be shy - this can really help defray costs and help friends and family feel involved and invested.

 

10) Ask for help from family to cut down expenses from baby-sitting, clothing, etc., as needed. Consider swapping group baby sitting time with friends, neighbors and family.

 

11) Know your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), listed here. Have a good Employment Law attorney ready if your employer gives you trouble about the FMLA or fires you despite your rights thereunder.

  • **Both mother and father** are entitled to FMLA leave for the birth of their child, or placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.

 

12) Get help from a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), financial adviser and/or tax attorney to plan out the tax implications of having a baby, as well as for any questions about a will, setting beneficiaries, cash gifts to the baby and any other related foreseeable events.

It's worth the time and money now and better than scrambling later, because your house is not in order.

 

13) Invest in experiences more than in material goods.

Take great (real, long, engaging, truly restful) vacations. Your spouse and kid will appreciate it much more than more crap accumulating around the house.

Get a babysitter and go on dates! Keep investing time and efforts in your marriage. After all, isn't this why you married each other?

 

Now drop the worries, make a plan and talk to your spouse about your goals and strategies to raise your kid like you want. You'll be surprised about what you agree and disagree about. As parents ourselves, we'll be rooting for you!

**And , as always, if you have any questions at all, get in touch!**

Are there other important strategies you’ve used to get your finances in order for when baby comes? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

21 Toxic Thoughts Keeping You In a Rut (and How To Overcome Them)

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We've all been there before. Nothing is working and you feel like crap about yourself. Everything's hopeless, so it seems. It looks impossible to get ahead. All people suck. I have bad luck. I never get a break. You know the deal.
Maybe you were just born a pessimist. Maybe your life's been hard, so far - maybe quite hard, indeed. Maybe your father beat you or your mother had to work odd hours. Maybe you had to immigrate, escape oppression in your mother country. Maybe you didn't have much of a childhood 'cuz you had to hustle early, all the time.
Maybe you simply took a risk and failed. Maybe a second or a third time - or the tenth. Maybe you just got fired last week. Maybe somebody cheated you or lied to get your money or your time. Maybe you're gun-shy now, expecting to be disappointed.
Maybe your girlfriend or your boyfriend left you. Maybe you're out of money and you lost your job. Maybe you have a family and bills to pay - and awful student loans. Maybe you don't know what to do in life. Maybe you're feeling stuck and want to scream your lungs out at the world.
You're dazed, confused and pissed. How could this happen to me, of all people? What did I do? I don't deserve thisI'm a decent human being.
You get into a funk. You start to think all sorts of toxic thoughts about yourself and other people and about your life. You can't see a way out. You get depressed and start to think of awful, morbid things.
After a while, you just get really sick of all your baggage and your negativity and want to live. Not only that, but now you want to make up for lost time, get cured and better, get your stuff together, not survive, but thrive. You really want to rid yourself of toxic thoughts and get on moving forward in your life. Easier said than done, but the first step is always to acknowledge what the problems are.
Before you rush to read about increasing productivity and better health, about the newest tips from rich entrepreneurs and wisdom from the new-age gurus who work little and rake in a ton, look inward. There's a world of hurt and pain.
There is a black box in your mind that's full of awful scripts (from childhood and from family, from life experience and friends) that play inside your head reliably when faced with all the situations that have stressed you in the past.
Before you can improve your life consistently, you must clean house.
These are the thoughts that hold you back, whether because you're poor, depressed, because you've failed some tests in life, because you see yourself as damaged, less than perfect, if not worse:
1) "Beggars can't be choosers." "I can't afford to say no to [crap job / boss / a deal you can't refuse]." Dead wrong. Your time is just as valuable as a wealthy or successful person's time. Your health is just as valuable as anyone else's. What you do with your precious time and money and mental resources is critically important and must be chosen carefully. This means saying no a lot and choosing very carefully how you spend your days and dollars. When you start valuing your time and money, others will start valuing them, as well. That's exactly how you can increase your value instantly in the eyes of employers, potential mates, business partners, investors, etc.
Beggars MUST be choosers even more than wealthy people. They have less room for error if they want to make it out of their rut.
2) "I'll spend a little today because I don't know how bad tomorrow might be." This is a sure-fire recipe for financial disaster and a series of other problems to follow. Yes, you should reward yourself for small wins to stay motivated. But, when you spend money without a clear sense of how much you take in and how much you pay out (budgeting), as well as without having clear financial goals (more than just making it to the next paycheck - saving for retirement, buying a house, going on vacation, paying for your kids' college, etc.), you will end up broke, depressed and worse. Instant gratification is incredibly expensive in the end. Learn to postpone gratification, seek meaning and great experiences above material things. Your reward will be much greater than anything you can buy now.
3) "I have the worst luck of anyone I know." You're alive and well. You live in a free country with relatively no oppression. You have opportunities to work, make money, go to school, get married to whom you want and raise your kids how you want. There are hundreds of millions of people living under oppressive regimes, starving and/or without an opportunity. Stop complaining about your bad luck. Stop making the same mistakes by learning from them. Work on being resilient and pivoting quickly to improve what you do and how you do it. Iterate quickly.
4) "Whatever little money I have isn't enough for saving, investing, or planning for the future. I just get by." This simply isn't true, no matter how tight your money situation is. There are almost always ways you haven't considered to save money by optimizing your monthly purchasing and also to take in more income than you have now.
Saving money goes beyond shopping in bulk to price-comparing online and through relevant apps, knowing the best time in the year when to buy big-ticket items (cars, houses, TVs, etc.). This also includes careful budgeting and saving, setting financial goals and investing wisely.
Extra income can be had from using your car to become an Uber or Lyft driver, using your foreign language skills to translate, writing and proofreading essays for others, earning money by helping people move, babysit, assemble furniture (on TaskRabbit, for example), reviewing social media feeds, doing surveys, etc.
5) "I'll cut out my indulgences will save my finances." Cutting out lattes or cigarettes doesn't replace careful financial planning. If you have no clue what you take in and what you pay out each month, then making yourself miserable by cutting out indulgences won't make your finances any better. It's much more constructive to make a sustainable monthly budget to include your indulgences than to assume that cutting something out from your spending will make a real difference in the long run.
6) "Sounds good. Sign me up. I'll read the fine print later." Congratulations! You just signed up for a nightmare in exchange for a trinket. If you have no clear idea of what you're signing, what each term means to you in terms of rights, obligations, timing and payment, then you may have just exposed yourself to a world of pain, if you have second thoughts.
ALWAYS do your research and due diligence on the counter-party of the contract and on the terms of the actual contract. It will give you peace of mind and protect you from a lot of problems down the road.
Are they well known, reliable and in business long enough? What do others say about dealing with them? Are they accredited with the relevant bodies? Are they registered with the Better Business Bureau or something similar. Are they solvent? Ask for references and speak to the references, recommended and otherwise.
Regarding the terms of the actual contract, always know the price involved - up front and altogether, your rights and obligations and protections (for example, a warranty), plus the rights and obligations and protections of the other side.
7) "I can't trust anyone in this world except myself." This is a deadly cocktail of pride, arrogance and false self-sufficiency that has to go. There is always someone you can trust in your life - whether your family, your friends, your colleagues or at least people you hire through trusted sources.
Don't trust anyone automatically - trust is earned, after all - but also don't try to do everything by yourself. Do what you're best at on your own and outsource the rest to professionals.
8) "I can just 'feel' if someone is a good person and I can trust him or her." See 6 above. Put emotions aside. ALWAYS read the fine print. ALWAYS do thorough research / due diligence on your potential mate, business partner, person who wants your money and someone whose money you want. NEVER presume anything, either for the bad or the good.
9) "I'm a nice guy / girl and do lots of nice things for other people. They owe me." NOBODY owes you ANYTHING in life except by contract, law or religious precept that you both subscribe to. If you want the other person to actually owe you something, put it in writing as a contract. Don't obligate someone to do something for you through guilt. Offer something to a stranger long before asking him or her for something. Ask for a job, receive advice. Ask for advice, sometimes get a job.
10) "Only a miracle can save me. Nobody has it half as bad as me in life." Relying on miracles denies you of the agency to save yourself and also assumes you have no way out of your situation, both of which are false. Step outside of your situation. Understand that there have been many people who've lived through the same and worse - and lived to tell about it. Find how they've solved the same problems effectively and apply the same techniques to your own life. Take baby steps. Make a plan and break it down to small digestible bites. Start small. Be patient with yourself. Rely on yourself as the only person who can bring you out of your situation.
11) "Finding good help for my problems is out of my price range." Have you ever heard that the best things in life are free? Thanks to the internet and market economics, amazing (free or inexpensive) resources exist online and in person for helping you out of your rut.
Research how others have solved the same problems as yourself. Find forums discussing your issues. Download free apps and other tools to help you organize, plan, execute and analyze your performance. Seek out people and ask for advice - you'll be shocked how willing and happy many people are to help you solve your problems.
12) "People can read all my problems and weaknesses in my face. Why should I bother pretending to be someone I'm not?" Work on making yourself look tougher and more resilient. Ask for honest feedback from loved ones and friends about what impression you give. Learn to talk / psych yourself into a good mood, into confidence before interviews and negotiations. Work on improving your posture and your expression when speaking to others. Finally, build on your strengths and always remind yourself of what they are before interviews, negotiations, dates and other interactions with people. Fake it 'til you make it. Focus and you'll get there!
13) "Nobody ever wants to give me a chance." Make your own chance. For example, if nobody will publish your writing, self-publish or blog it and spread the word through your networks. Build a fan-base for your work. Build your networks in person (invite friends over and have them bring new friends to introduce) and on LinkedIN through shared interests.
Learn to provide value to people long before asking them for something in return. Never take no for an answer. Keep trying again for the same job / company and don't take rejection personally. Grow some cojones, become resilient and move forward, even if it's one small step at a time.
14) "Nobody cares enough about me to help." You don't care enough yourself to ask for help when you most need it. There's absolutely nothing shameful in wanting to better your existence and your family's situation.
15) "I don't know what to do with my life. I don't know what I'm good at." Try doing things you enjoy doing that can also bring in some income. Find a way to deliver value doing what you love and you'll find what to do in your life. It's always better to have backup options (the day job) that will at least interest you and help you reach your other goals.
If you don't know what you're good at, then you need to try doing things that fit your personality and make you feel good about yourself and those you're working with. When you enjoy the actions that make up your work and the people with whom you work, you are already ahead of four-fifths of all people in the workforce. When you can make your job into a paying vocation, you'll have found a job that contributes to your mission and purpose in life - and can help you sustain both.
16) "My Health can wait. I have to make money first." Without health, there is no work and no money, either. Your health always comes first - before your boss's demands, your bonus for working overtime and that expensive car you want to buy. Always look out for #1. You're not made of steel or immortal. All your bad life choices will come back to bite you in the behind, sooner than you think. Stay healthy, eat well, exercise and relieve stress safely and effectively on a regular basis.
17) "Either I do exactly what I want in life or it's not worth it." True wisdom is learning from every man and woman you meet, from every job you take and every single experience you go through. The journey is more important than the destination. Also, when you pay attention to the journey, you will arrive much wiser and better prepared at the destination.
18) "Rich people are always born with a leg up. My family is poor and I have no hope of catching up." How many rags-to-riches stories do you need to hear? Stop complaining and get to work! Rome wasn't built in a day. Because you're poor, you're already super hungry to succeed. Now learn the lessons from others who have done it (read lots of their books and posts, talk to people you admire) and apply them to move forward at least a little every day.
19) "I'm not cut out to be [productive / rich / successful / a professional]. 90% of your success, productivity, professionalism and wealth are directly correlated to your having a mission and purpose in life, getting organized, planning the steps to reach your goals and executing on those plans, step by small step. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is success, productivity or wealth.
Learn from the best by reading their books and articles and doing as they do. Find the best tools available for free or cheap and make using them part of your routine. Organize your daily routine carefully and be consistent every day. Meditate and reflect constantly on your progress in life toward becoming the person, professional and human being you want to be. Learn to think like a professional, wealthy, productive and successful person. Emulate until you make it.
20) "I don't have any connections. I don't know anyone important." First of all, you do or someone you know definitely does. Your biggest non-internal asset to today is your network size and how well you can leverage it to achieve your goals. Get out of your shell, read up on how to build and maintain networks effectively and execute on that strategy to grow. The more people you have in your network, the easier it is to grow it. Start ASAP, if you haven't already.
21) "I can't negotiate in this case. This is just not something that's negotiable." Everything is negotiable. Salary and benefits and responsibilities are all negotiable. Prices for goods and services are always negotiable, no matter what anyone says. So negotiate! Learn from the best, start with small items in bulk and work your way up to bigger and more expensive items.
Know the sales commission cycle for the item you want to buy (month-end and quarter-end quotas for salespeople mean that the best time to buy certain items is at the end of the month and quarter). Know when certain items are in season or not. Negotiate for larger item discounts out of season. Negotiate better terms. Be creative with what you offer in return for a discount. Offer free publicity for their product or a partnership for providing you the product for free.
--
Now that you're more aware of all the toxic junk that's clogging up your mental energy, get working on resolving it, cleaning it out. Get therapy, if needed. Once you decide to change and start to work hard, there's no looking back.
I'm rooting for you. You'll do very well.

Are there other toxic thoughts you’ve learned to cut out on the road to becoming successful in what you do? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

How to Find Out What You Are Meant To Do in Life

DeathtoStock_NotStock2 The vast majority of people – likely yourself, included - are not happy with their job and not engaged at work. You’ve seen Venn diagrams galore about the sweetspots between what you’re good at and your passion and what pays well and the like. Maybe in college or in high school, you took ASVAB or another long assessment that spits out ten possibilities of jobs you might want to consider.

And yet, you’re sitting in your cubicle and wondering what is it that you’re meant to do in life. What do you want to be when you grow up? Your mother’s voice rings in your head. Yet still, you have no magic answer. At times you seriously doubt there is an answer possible.

A part of you, in fact, just never wants to grow up and to focus on one thing. Deep down, you never quite believed in that annoying maxim that your parents and your teachers drilled into you, that says you have to choose and stick with your profession for your life or drift away, become a failure. There is a wisdom there and also folly, equal in their measure.

As we well know, Millenials pursue portfolio careers – they can be product managers and writers or risk analysts and DJs. There is no simple definition of profession anymore, as well. Most people change careers and jobs like gloves. There is no longer a straight path to glory or fulfillment, save for a few fields. There’s no such thing as meritocracy. Your personality and sense of politics are equally (if not, in fact, much more) important for advancement than your brains and execution.

Allow me to propose a heresy - life’s meaning doesn’t have to stem from work! It is a paycheck and an occupation and a means to learn, contribute and perhaps enjoy. There is no biblical commandment for your job to be your all-consuming purpose. There is your family, your hobbies, church or synagogue, non-profit work, whatever it may be.

But no, come on, you say. I’m young and smart and energetic and I know that I can be successful if I only knew where to apply myself. That may be true. Even if you are not a prodigy from childhood, you can easily still bloom much later and succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Think Warren Buffett and Ray Crock, Mark Pincus and a thousand others who created famous brands and giant value late in life.

You may be in your twenties, thirties, even older, if you’re reading this. Many of us pursued name brands of companies, degrees and fancy titles, but are unfulfilled. There has to be a better way.

Here’s my approach:

1) Beyond the many tests of personality and culture fit, there is the question of your role. A role encapsulates what motivates you in a given situation.

What role – that is, opposed to title - do you really, truly, actually enjoy in any situation?

Are you the expert who excels in giving consultations on in-depth details and who analyzes trends?

Are you the silent helper in the background who makes sure the others are on track and doing well?

Are you the planner that can carry off the complex project plan?

Are you an inborn manager and delegator, telling people what to do and how?

Are you the Type A CEO who lives by mission and are hell-bent on achieving it?

Or are you the observer who enjoys his writing far removed from business action?

You may be all these things in some capacity, but which one gives you real enjoyment in the moment?

 

2) Once you have narrowed down a favorite role, you can move on to adding value.

In what capacity can you help others best and thrive? In what capacity would it be easiest for you to make things cheaper, better, faster and kick ass and come home happy after a long day?

Are you a stickler for the right word in the moment? Then try marketing or writing.

Are you in inborn salesman, full of energy, who loves convincing other people that it’s time to buy, buy, baby? The sky’s the limit, GO AND SELL!

Do you enjoy forecasting profits or new trends? Then maybe you should be a data scientist in your favorite field.

Do you see years ahead of everyone and outwork all the rest to get to where you want to be? You might be the right person to go off and start something yourself.

 

3) Once you collect the evidence to show yourself what you enjoy the most, you can go on to mapping it to function in a company by title. Don’t fixate on the title, but on job description. Will this involve a lot of things that get you up all bright and early, thrilled to run to work? If not, keep looking.

 

4) Next, industry makes sense by what you value most. Everyone likes to say that they enjoy helping people. Those in the medical professions want to cure, improve their patients’ health. Investment bankers want to raise the capital for companies to grow. Climate researchers want to turn the tide and save the planet. Sometimes the industry is not so terribly important.

What medium or context is it that excites you most for doing your best work?

You could be crunching data in a healthcare startup, just as well as finance or at Uber.

 

5) Next, go and research companies where you might want to work. It doesn’t have to be the Googles, Apples, Ubers of the world – at least not right away. Often, your break can come inside a tiny startup or established, boring player, where the degrees and fancy titles carry much less weight than motivation, problem-solving skills and good experience.

The best way to get information is, once more, from people on the inside. These are the folks who get your resume directly past the tracking system and into the hands of the HR / recruiter. They are the ones who know interview questions, preferences of the hiring manager, the team dynamic and company culture. NEVER take the company’s own marketing at face value. Read Glassdoor and other reviews, keeping in mind that most reviewers tend to be either quite pissed or drunk with Koolaid. Stay skeptical until the end – at least until the ink is dry on your new contract with the firm.

 

6) Now that you’ve done your research and reflection, you can start to strategize.    

What is the shortest path to get to that specific role inside your chosen industry?

First, focus on the practical. Can you get in a sponsored hackathon and then get hired directly? Great, go for it.

Or can you take a General Assembly course for it? It might be worth the money, then.

How about taking MOOCs for credit – would that show your interest and dedication to potential employers? How about being active in industry groups on LinkedIN and in real life?

Depending on what role you want, you may be able to network your way into a job without much (or any) prior experience. Ask questions on Quora to get a straight-forward, no-nonsense answer from high-end professionals in the field.

Next, read all the books you can about the path the leading lights have taken to start out and grow, excel at the particular profession that you chose.

Before you rush to spend your hard-earned money (or take student debt) for a degree, for courses or for boot camps, go online and find the high-end free resources recommended by professionals (see Quora).

Contact the people in your network in the field who do exactly what you want (over LinkedIN, through  alumni network or another way). Take them to coffee and prepare good questions about paths to get there and the tasks and functions of the job, then companies and titles, then how to interview and what to know, etc.

This is the crucial process of intelligence gathering. If you don’t do it well, you’re liable to get the wrong ideas, spend too much money and get lost. Those working in the field (not academics in the field) generally have their nose to ground, a set of realistic views and expectations.

That said, beware of doctors hating medicine, those angry, burnt-out lawyers, bored accountants and the other misfits who are stuck – naysayers, who are not your friends. Talk to the doers, people with large networks and portfolio careers. They generally have the clearest and most sober view of things. Get second, third and fourth opinions, always, as a rule.

 

**DISCLAIMERS**

It is worth noting that at different stages in your life, you’ll likely want to be in different roles. You’ll find completely different things enjoyable when 22 than when you’re 30, 35 or 45. Exiting college, you are hungry for experience through solid training. You may already know exactly what you want from life or you can struggle through crap jobs, self-doubt until you’re sick and want to change direction. This easily can happen at the age of 30, 35 or 40, even later.

Consider this example. At 22, John starts his job at Google as a Junior Product Manager. At 24, he moves to LinkedIN and there gets his break, leading a team to build an awesome feature that affects a hundred million people, At 27, he’s recruited as VP of Product at a healthcare startup and begins to take the plunge. Here, he begins to build a team to take on cancer through great diagnostics. At 30, his equity stake is worth $3 million and he cashes out after the IPO.

After 2 years, he moves into the dark side, a VC firm, Kleiner Perkins. From his new perch, he is an expert and thought leader, now investing in healthcare and tech. He gives TED lectures and advises startups on their product strategies. After 5 years investing and an awesome record, he plunges back and starts a company with friends from college. He’s got 2 kids, a wife.

His interests, priorities and worldview have completely changed – several times - since 22. Once he got married and had kids, family's meant the most to him, his job taking a backseat.

Each person's finances and circumstances, personality and motivations may be different and change with time. The key's to keep things in perspective. It's great to love your job, but not at the expense of family and loved ones - or your health. Life is a trade-off, but a lack of balance brings great harm.

Not all of us (frankly, quite few of us) can have a straight path as our friend John mentioned here. Most of us will go from job to job and career to career until we reach apathy, complacency or maybe a small share of transcendence along the way. The bliss is really in the journey, often hard and bumpy, crooked as in Snakes and Ladders.

It gets quite hard and harder to amend directions in your life once you have family and kids, so try to get your stuff straight earlier. That said, it’s never quite “too late.” Think of those Buffets and Ray Crocks, Mark Pincuses and all the other fabulously successful late bloomers.

Enjoy the ride, stay humble and stay firmly on the ground, Marty McFly!

I’m rooting for you!

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Are there other tips and strategies you’ve found useful in finding your ideal job or career? Share them with the community in the Comments section below.

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Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*