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.

18 Easy Tips to Instantly Improve Digestion (and Keep Regular)

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Late night again, last night? More pizza, beer, then overload on carbs this morning? No worries, happens to the best of us. But when it happens often, then your gut becomes unhappy and it starts to hurt and bother you.

Digestion is a complex system, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist (or even a GI) to make it work quite well. Instead of trying to change your habits wholesale overnight (unlikely), there's a set of small, quick things that you can do to get yourself into a rhythm.

When you set up digestive habits on an auto-pilot, you will notice quality of life goes up, across the board. But first, you have to tweak your mindset to begin to notice patterns and then problems - to prevent them.

Keep track of your bowel movements, note the frequency and quality and color. Note the reaction of your gut to certain foods. Begin to listen to your body and you'll start to care.

When I was young, I started having acid sensitivity. As a result, I had to listen to my body early - or to suffer when I didn't. This forced me to keep careful track of food I ate, my regularity. Over the years, I've learned what to avoid and what to add, when it is best to eat and when to fast, what are my limits of digestion and how far to test them.

Here are the mostly quick and easy tips I've found to make a world of difference for me.

1) Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

It seems quite obvious, but few of us actually get enough sleep each day. Here's another great reason to try again and again. Sleeping well is easily the simplest thing to do for your digestive health.

When you don't sleep enough - or well - your stomach growls, you're not well-rested and more stressed from little and big things. Stress makes things even worse for your digestion. It's a vicious cycle.

2) Drink lukewarm water with a few drops of fresh lemon juice and a spoon of good honey first thing in the morning.

This is a very easy and effective (Ayurvedic) way to start your digestion off right in the morning. It helps clean out the toxins from the night in your organism and lets your gut focus on its main task.

3) To lower stomach acidity in the morning, eat a banana and drink kefir or eat high-quality (ideally, unflavored) yogurt with natural pro-biotic cultures to replenish your gut bacteria.

Your gut flora is a central and critical actor in your digestion. If it's decimated by antibiotics or harmful foods, it will make digestion much less efficient - and painful for you. Keep your gut bacteria plentiful and healthy and you'll find yourself regular as a train whistle.

4) Walk/move/run throughout the day.

Physical activity stimulates peristalsis (the movement of digesting food through the large and small intestines). Sitting is good while eating to let your body concentrate on digesting in the stomach. However, when you sit for hours and allow the food to digest further down in the intestines, the process takes longer and is less efficient. Simply getting up to stretch and walk around the office - or during a break - can keep things moving along.

5) Cut out baked goods and simple carbs as much as possible - especially for breakfast each morning.

Eating yeasty baked goods regularly spikes your glucose and can lead to pre-diabetes, plus causes a strong spike in stomach acid each morning in anticipation (and increases your sense of hunger, causing you to overeat), if you do nothing else to take it down a notch (see #3 above). These goodies also reliably cause weight gain. It may be a tasty treat now, but its ill effects built up quickly.

6) Hydrate your body throughout the day, but intelligently.

Hydration is a science that can be easily perfected to facilitate, improve and regulate digestion. Each body is different, so don't worry too much about government recommendations. Just keep a water bottle with fresh water at your desk and take a gulp or two at least every 45-60 minutes.

NEVER drink water during the meal, since this will dilute your stomach's acidity and power to digest the food, leading to bloating, burping and inefficient digestion.

The ideal time to drink (ideally lukewarm, lemon-juice-and-honey-flavored) water is within 30 minutes BEFORE a meal and at least 30 minutes AFTER a meal, to allow for the best effects.

7) Eat a large breakfast, smaller lunch and a small dinner.

Your digestive capacity is most efficient and energetic in the morning, less so in the afternoon for lunch and least so for dinner, after a day of activity, stress and hard work.

For this reason, don't eat past 7 PM. At this point, your digestive system's efficiency is ebbing toward its lowest during sleep. Overloading your gut with food - especially heavy, oily food - is a sure recipe for digestive problems like bloating, constipation and heartburn.

8) Eat the same circumscribed set of things from day to day.

When you get your gut used to the same relatively small variety of nutritionally valuable foods (accounting for a balance of protein, fiber and grains) that your system handles well, you minimize the strain (and energy spent, plus any associated problems) on your digestive tract to deal with harsh or unfamiliar foods.

For example, throughout the week for lunch, I rotate the side dish, but keep the staples always at hand. I usually have baked chicken or salmon each day for lunch with either quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat. This keeps it manageable and gives enough variety, without giving my gut something unfamiliar and harsh to deal with on a daily basis. This means fewer system resources (metabolic energy) spent to digest - and more energy left over for everything else.

Keeping this rhythm also allows me to "cheat" once or twice a week on the Sabbath, when I eat two large meals with family and friends, plus a big brunch on Sunday. That's because I know that I'm back to the same steady rhythm on Monday until Friday night.

9) Take your meals at the same times each day.

Your body - like everyone else's - has particular circadian rhythms that regulate wakefulness, hormonal balance, mood - and digestion, among other things. If you take your meals at the times when you generally get hungry - and keep those times the same each day, then you will see that your digestive system and your eating habits will align closely. Try as much as you can to avoid taking meals at strange times and minimize late-night feasts, skipping breakfast and postponing lunch.

10) Don't eat at your desk or when in a rush.

Don't stress yourself with work and other concerns. Turn off your phone for a few minutes and step outside. Sit in a park and truly relax.

Don't eat when stressed. It only makes your digestion worse and adds to misery. Calm down, then eat in peace.

11) If having trouble digesting, eat pineapple/melon/watermelon/papaya after your meal.

Each of these fruits contain enzymes to help cut apart the proteins you just ate into smaller pieces, making it easier to digest. Cultures around the world (from Japan to Turkmenistan to Cuba) serve these to help digestion.

Alternatively, drink tea (anything warm or hot without too much caffeine helps) after the meal. Take coffee sparingly to avoid diarrhea, depending on your sensitivity to caffeine.

12) Control portion size and keep it consistent from day to day.

Eating too much or too little - and changing this all the time, as in when on a diet - is damaging to the feedback between your mind and gut. Your body hoards sugars and fats, so if you eat less of it one day, you will more likely compensate with more, the next day. Instead of trying to fool yourself and your body, just keep your portions sufficient to fill you (and not more) and manage them carefully.

One easy way to control portion sizes is to take your food from home in a pre-determined container that's the same from day to day. When eating a meal at home, simply choose a smaller plate if you're trying to control your portions. You will see this trick alone will make you feel fuller.

13) Remove yourself from the context where you overload on carbs, coffee, booze and other unhealthy foods.

Avoid hanging out with the people who have those unhealthy habits and you'll start losing those habits yourself.

Don't go for those free bagels at breakfast or cupcakes 4 PM. Take a walk, instead. Don't go near that break room. Have your own healthy snacks ready at your desk.

14) Snack on healthy foods throughout the day and don't let yourself get too hungry (for too much acid to be secreted before you eat).

Fresh fruit and veggies work well (dried, as well, depending on sugar and salt content). Almonds are a great snack and help suppress appetite.

The less unhealthy commercial snacks include PopChips and veggie sticks, although beware of the oils used to make them (also bad for digestion). Simple and healthy snacks can be in the form of a Wasa or other flat Scandinavian cracker with cream cheese or jam. Any of these are preferable to drizzled popcorn, potato chips, soda, fruit juice, baked goods and the other usual suspects.

15) Don't go shopping when hungry.

It's an oldie, but a goodie (even while seemingly obvious). You know best when you're hungry. Go shopping AFTER eating, NEVER before.

Stick to your list and set a short time to finish your shopping to avoid grabbing a ton of junk.

16) Take periodic, day-long fasts to reset your digestive system and clear out the toxins.

Use excuses like Lent, fast days or other religious or social reasons to fast periodically throughout the year, without going overboard. Your body will only benefit, as long as you're not pregnant or breast-feeding at the same time.

17) If digesting your food bothers you beyond once-in-a-while, do an elimination diet to see if taking something out prevents certain problems.

Look for allergies leading to heartburn, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, etc. This may instantly improve how you feel when digesting.

18) Avoid drinking coffee at the wrong time during the day.

This can put your digestion our of commission for a while.

We all know the cliches of being exactly what we eat. But science shows quite well that this is true. Digestion holds the key to our longevity and health.

And thus, go forth, digest in peace! Your body - and your productivity and mood - will thank you.

I'll be rooting for your success, as always!

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

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!

– –

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*

 

[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!

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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.

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*

12 Strategies Women Must Know to Nail Their Year-End Review Negotiations

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It's nearing your year-end review. You're really good at what you do, but when it comes to your negotiation skills, you freeze. You might have even taken one of those negotiation courses back in business or in law school, maybe even college, way back when. But what's the use? You feel you have no leverage. You're in the company maybe a year or 18 months, or maybe even less. You'd hate to rock the boat too much.

You've always kept your nose clean, done your work and then some. You're not one of those alpha dogs, always obsessed with self-promotion. You feel that good things come to those who do great work, work well with teams, collaborate, not steal the show.

Congratulations, you've convinced yourself - out of potentially $500K over the course your career, perhaps a handful better titles,  more responsibility, advancement of the type you've always dreamed.

You've fallen prey to hidden scripts - those nasty little parasites that feed on insecurity, uncertainty and fear inside your head. Don't feel too bad - all of us have them, often since our childhood.

Now that you're an adult and savvier about the "real world," it is time to stop the madness. There is too much at stake NOT to negotiate. Plus, it is neither rocket science nor impossible for introverts, the risk-averse, the modest and the shy, plus those without "the guts."

I'd know a thing or two about this paradigm. Before I ever went against the grain of childhood shyness and low self-esteem, I viewed negotiation as the province of the alpha male, the Middle Eastern market, the car dealership, the back-room politician.

In business, these illusions quickly withered. When I transitioned to the finance/operations function for a startup, suddenly it was my role to drive down prices, to negotiate with vendors and the landlord. I started trying to bargain at the market on a trip to Casablanca and then Israel.

I then successfully negotiated with the CEO (a master negotiator himself) to go full-time, instead of contract, with a $15K bump in salary and benefits, plus more responsibility that at my prior job. While there, I managed to negotiate down $45K (23%) from a vendor's original offer for an ERP system and $17K (6%) on rent over 5 years for our new office. This, after being too shy and scared to bargain for an apple at the market just a couple months before.

After a while, it was an actor's game, except with higher stakes. The first and most important rule is simple - if you never ask, the answer's always no!

Over the years, since I was young, the many (brilliant, fearless) women in my life would come to me with their frustrations about bosses, lack of meritocracy and inability to get past fears and insecurities and all the rest, especially with negotiation. The men would simply never go admitting it.

Here are the strategies I've counseled them to take. I have used them myself with great results.

1. Write down your hidden scripts. Make sure to name all of them, spare none. Once you acknowledge having them ("I can't negotiate," "I'm not cut out for it," "I'm simply never good enough," "I do not want to rock the boat," etc.) you start to understand that these are just opinions, hardly facts. Are these scripts carried down from family or friends? Are these based on past episodes that are no longer relevant?

Now, you can start to change these harsh opinions on the subject of yourself. Ask friends what you are good at. Write down the tasks at work that make you feel more fulfilled. Write down the favorite role you play out of all your work responsibilities. Are you always making sure others are thriving? Are you at your best when delegating to others and managing them? The subject matter expert everyone consults? Focus on outlining and hammering your strengths before you lash out at yourself for (perceived and real) faults. This way, you will be better balanced and equipped to eliminate your negative scripts.

Keep one critical point in mind. Your performance at work does not equate to your performance as human being, whether it's good or bad. Being a good human doesn't guarantee being a good worker or team mate. Being a good team mate and worker doesn't make you a good human being. Both take work, but don't mix them. Business is business and your personal life is personal.

2. Write down your work accomplishments throughout the year (and before that, as applicable) in as much specific detail as possible (e.g., saved the company $100K, trained 5 new employees in Excel, saved your manager an hour a day by automating 2 reports, improved client retention by 20%, increased revenue by 15%). Imagine that negotiation with your boss is actually an audition and a chance for you to demonstrate your value. This will be your biggest "leverage" in the negotiation.

Managers and executives see your impact on team and company through the lens of concrete numbers, not how nice a person you are or how much everyone loves having you around. Speak their language and they'll take you more seriously and include you in the club of people who "get it," one of "them." This makes it easier for them to make decisions raising your salary, promoting you and otherwise pushing you up and through to the next level.

3. Know your partner (not "opponent") in negotiation better than you know your best friend. Was he or she a frat brother or sorority sister in college? Is your manager married or single? Kids or no kids? From Ohio or New Delhi? Likes his coffee black or with a little milk? Went to the same college as you or in Australia? What motivates him or her - money? family well-being? women? men? fame? customer satisfaction? cheaper/better/faster work? technology? What is the person's culture? What is their negotiating style? How does he or she view women? How do they view you based on the language (both spoken and body language) they use with you? How about your peers? How does your manager relate to you in comparison with the others on the team?

Without appearing to pry, these are things you should already have bothered to learn and understand by asking your manager directly or observing through their interactions with you and others, through social media presence, etc. No human is a complete mystery and most are actually quite boring, conventional and predictable.

The goal here is four-fold:

a. to create a real rapport with your manager based on shared background, interests and goals. This requires demystifying your manager and ingratiating yourself on a real human level with the person without appearing to pry, pander or "suck up." In the end, it's all about making yourself appear and sound (and act) like a partner in your manager's success, not his or her opponent or roadblock.

b. to tell them what they need to hear from you in a way that's cooperative and non-threatening, showing you have incentives aligned with his or hers and that what you're asking is both reasonable and in the best interest of the team, company and manager himself (not just your own selfish interest) and

c. to find the manager's trigger words for success in what you're asking. When you know his or her specific goals, you can then frame what you're asking in a way that shows clearly how giving you what you want will concretely help your manager to achieve what he or she wants.

4. Be clear about what you're asking. Is it higher salary? Higher title? A higher bonus? All three? More responsibility? Chances to prove yourself? Be as specific as possible when communicating. Show evidence (see #8 below) to back up your request.

If the answer is no (never presume it will be! When you actually ask, unexpected doors often open for you.), what will you ask for as a backup? If you can't have more than a set raise, perhaps you want more days off or better perks or better health coverage? If the answer is no, immediately ask what are the specific steps you need to take to earn that higher salary, title, bonus, more responsibility, etc. This shows you're not just asking to ask, but are committed to making it happen, helping the company

5. Proactively take the sting out of the coming review. Review yourself first! Take criticism from your manager in stride. Nobody performs flawlessly. Before the negotiation, you should know (and have written down) your own weaknesses and strengths, things you've done well and things you haven't. Anticipate where the challenge will come and have a ready answer for each point.

Coupled with your highly specific achievements during the year (See #2 above), this will help you parry your manager's words, stay on your feet and continue with your objectives in the negotiation.

Most importantly, remember that (within the realm of the possible - see #8 below), granting your wish for a higher salary or title or bonus or better benefits/perks, etc. is often a very easy decision for the manager. Just asking often opens the door to getting what you need.

6. See the review for what it is - a DIALOGUE, NOT a monologue (like your interview to get in the company). Be ready for any scenario. If you believe the dialogue is not going to go well, then start opening up new windows for opportunity. Contact recruiters, if you have to. Talk to friends in other companies where you may want to work. Even if you come nowhere close to switching companies, you will give yourself psychological breathing room. This will help you parry whatever feedback you receive, whether negative or positive, and continue with your objective in the negotiation.

7. Control the negotiation yourself from the start. Speak first to build confidence and take the initiative. Begin by thanking your manager for sitting down with you to discuss your performance. Restate your commitment to the team and company, your love of working with the team to solve problems and create value. This will already blunt the impact of any negative feedback and will enhance any positive feedback coming your way.

8. Do careful and diligent research on your company's average salaries for your position, the average progression to the next title, average bonus figures (and how much of it is based on personal, team and overall company performance) and any other relevant industry, city and state averages. Use Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, speak to others in the company that you trust to know these things.

How much room is there within the company for the boss's discretion to increase your salary, title, bonus, perks, benefits, etc.? Make sure not to ask for things that that the manager can't give you. Only ask for things that are within the real of the possible. Make it as easy as possible for him or her to say yes to your request(s).

Invoke authority - someone higher up in the same organization, average salary at your title in the industry and at competitors and other specific figures in your negotiation dialogue.

Know your company politics down cold. What is the expected time for a promotion and expected raise? How does your review compare with that of others on the same scale?

9. Start working on your body language ASAP. Perception is reality. When your posture is bad, you don't speak up, you're overly emotional or overshare your personal life with co-workers, don't smile sincerely and don't project confidence, you are sabotaging your own daily performance and how others perceive you. It's a slippery slope, but luckily, it's also reversible.

Practice standing up straight with your shoulders open, stretching your arms up and out, lifting your head up and smiling. Close your eyes and imagine doing something outdoors that you really love and makes you happy - walking in the wilderness, skiing on a mountain, whatever it may be. Imagine doing your favorite activity that you're better at than anybody you know. Is it writing? Running quickly? Drawing? Put yourself there and run through the activity for at least a minute or two.

Create space for yourself to be in control. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Invigorate your lungs. Do this right before going into the negotiation - in your closed office or bathroom stall. Always put yourself in the best of frame of mind possible right before you negotiate.

Breathe in and out slowly and deeply for a minute before speaking. This lowers your voice and makes you feel and seem more authoritative.

Prepare yourself to look and feel confident RIGHT before the negotiation by standing up straight and tall with your hands on hips or arms spread open in a position of power (e.g., in your office or restroom stall). This shoots up your endorphin level, making you feel instantly more confident and putting you at ease. Try one of these power poses.

Lastly, practice smiling regularly (and sincerely). Work hard to consistently find the positive in people you have to work with and overlook the negative. Remind yourself regularly of activities and people that make you feel good about yourself. Do these activities and re-connect with these people often.

Appear friendly as much as possible without watering down your position or confidence therein. The two are never mutually exclusive. Find the happy middle ground and practice being friendly, even while maintaining your ground.

Throughout the negotiation, maintain good posture, without dramatic posing.

10. Work on the words you speak. Be clear and concise and remain upbeat and down to business, as much as possible, but never humorless. Nobody likes to have Debbie Downer around. Get the cynical humor, high emotion and gossip out of your system and keep away from others around you that do.

Let others assign you to positive stereotypes (hard worker, "gets it done" every time, nice person, clean nose), not negative ones (gossip, depressive, etc.). Always appear well-balanced and relentlessly positive, above all. Don't give your manager or anyone else the tools with which to write you off, keep you down and under-paid and under-utilized, as well as below your own potential.

Always make sure to finish what you start. Don't let negative feedback knock you off your horse (you've now prepared yourself to hear it - see #5 above). Just keep going and finish your list of objectives in the negotiation. Make sure to get in all your points and finish on a positive note, thanking your manager for the feedback and looking forward to creating more value for him or her and the company.

11. Drop any illusions that negotiation is the same, being a woman rather than a man, regardless of whether negotiating with a man or a woman. Humans stereotype instantly and often have strong biases based on background and experience (hence, the need for careful research - see #3 above). This simple human fact is hardly an automatic impediment, but it does present different ways of getting to where you need to be in the negotiation. You absolutely don't need to obsess about "thinking and acting like a man," although certain elements of effective behavior may seem similar to male behavioral stereotypes.

Be aware of the silent stereotypes and prejudices hovering in the background - and transcend them or use them to your advantage! If your boss sees you as a threat to take his or her place, go out of your way to show your commitment to the team and company and his or her success. If your boss appears to think you're a "feeble and helpless woman," it can actually be a big advantage when you impress him or her on the spot with confidence and negotiation ability with the best.

Women tend to better in negotiations when they are seen (and see themselves) as negotiating for a group of people, not themselves (unlike men, for whom this is completely expected). What group do you represent? Under-paid women in your company and industry? Negotiate for the good of a group, not yourself. This will strengthen your position and decrease push-back. Invoke authority whenever possible - someone higher up in the same organization, average salary for your title in the industry and at competitors.

12. Practice, practice, practice the negotiation and get feedback from people you trust who will be frank and honest with you. First, cultivate the thick skin to take the advice as helping you to progress well beyond where you are now. It's a process and won't happen overnight. Start the process as long before your review as possible.

Beware asking close friends or family for frank and honest feedback. They will often hold back for fear of offending you or making it seem that they look down at you. The best alternative is to find an experienced coach specialized in giving frank feedback and teaching the methodology to overcome your fears and hidden scripts, create good habits of self-perception and outward appearance and to negotiate with confidence, knowledge and insight into what works well for women in your industry specifically (plus, armed with any information on company, team and your manager, specifically).

Record yourself in the practice negotiation, if possible, so you can see for yourself how you look and sound. Discount your own bias to put yourself down. Ask for feedback from someone else who can give you an honest opinion (and always take it in stride).

Prepare a detailed list of accomplishments and points you want to get across in the review.

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Now, when you go in for your end-of-year review, you will be armed and ready with the information and the confidence you need to blow your manager away. I'll be rooting for your success, as always!

Are there other important strategies you’ve used to negotiate effectively as a professional woman? 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.

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 Create Good Habits (and Eliminate Bad Ones) for Life

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TDW1O9CWJJ All of us know too well that we should eat a healthy diet and to exercise, to check our smartphones and our email much less often, save more money and invest it better, take vacations and to rest more often, reduce stress, take walks and all the rest of the old "self-help canon."

The trouble is, we're slaves to habit and armed with excuses. Patience is rare and time is short. We're too damned tired. The rent is too damned high. I need my TV time and beer and late-night pizza, discipline be damned.

And yet we know, successful people make success a habit. Bastards.

What does that mean, in practice, anyway, "success?"

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Before I ever ventured into self-help territory, reading up on what makes those top performers so successful, I was  lazy. Procrastination was an art form born out of escapism, lack of discipline and overarching sense of purpose except "living beautifully." Attribute it to Artist's License, if you will.

That's why my first book took me seven years to write. Frankly, I drifted by in life on brains alone until I hit a wall. Becoming a New Yorker makes you quickly realize that all your brains are bested quickly by another's hard work ethic.

Then came the Great Recession, a cool quarter million in high-interest student loans, plus a realization that The Law was not for me.  After being unemployed for months and having to move back home with my Mom, I'd had enough of taking my own nonsense and decided to shape up. I'd reached a low and couldn't stand myself, my crappy habits, lack of focus, purpose, and my general malaise.

That's when I took upon myself to change, to see how all the true successes had arrived at where they were today. Since then, I've read at least ten thousand articles on habits, finding meaning, productivity and health, as well as how true wealth is made.

The more I read, the more I started to believe that discipline - a daily regimen created on a series of good habits over years - is really where success is built. It may be day by day and brick by brick, most boring, least exciting repetition, but it works!

This stood against the way I'd seen the world, the greatest works of art developed in great fits of inspiration. In practice, all the greatest artists had the same routines they built successfully for years. From then on, I decided that according to a Russian saying, "the slower you go, the farther you'll get." That's been my guiding philosophy since then.

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All of us like to mythologize successful athletes and entrepreneurs for their achievements. How do they do it? What's their special sauce? What magic superpower does this one or that one have?

The answer, my friend, lies in the paradox of boring details. Whether it's eating less or exercising more, taking walks or saving away money for retirement, good habits are not genetic and don't attach themselves magically to successful people.

Neither are they forged from superhuman willpower or iron discipline only a few of us have. Building good habits (a few easy examples you can start today can be found here) lies in following a system consistently, day in and day out, in taking small steps and not expecting too much from yourself. It's built on using reverse psychology on yourself, as well as turning around your own laziness and procrastination in your favor.

 

Here are the most common methods successful people use to create and sustain good habits and get rid of bad ones:

1) Find a unifying purpose in life.

Know that everything is connected and has meaning in life. Meditate on this each morning and remind yourself throughout the day.

 

2) Eliminate distractions.

Take a digital or actual Sabbath each week when you remove devices from your life. Power down the phone at 7 PM and don't check it until late next morning. NEVER check your phone first thing in the morning to enable focus and calm to think and plan for your day. Avoid becoming a slave to other people's emails by checking email only at set times during the day (and never right when you sit down at your computer).

 

3) Value your time above all else.

Get rid of things and people in your life that suck your time away without adding value. People will suddenly start to find your time valuable.

 

4) Learn to say no with confidence to eating and drinking things that are bad for you, to people that want to monopolize your time and to other "temptations" that arise out of your planned routine.

 

5) Take small steps every day (go for 1% improvement) rather than go for big wins - these don't stick.

NEVER expect overnight success with your goals - this never works.

 

6) Acknowledge you're human and make mistakes and are not optimized like a machine.

Allow yourself to slip up and take breaks periodically from your routine.

 

7) NEVER be guided by guilt.

You're an adult and doing things because they maximize your pleasure and minimize pain, as well as stick to your values.

As a wise man I met (a renowned marriage counselor) once said, guilt is S-H-I-T.

Acquire good habits because you love yourself, want to live a better life for yourself and your family and have a lot more to give to the world before you move on.

Guilt will never get you half as far as self-love.

8) NEVER compare yourself to anyone else or their path or plight.

All you care about is achieving your own potential in life.

 

9) Make it easy for yourself to create good habits. Set the right conditions.

Get organized and prepare everything you need ahead of time to be successful in your goals. Believe in the system you're using. Follow through from start to finish.

 

10) Be patient with yourself and expect there will be ups and down and you'll want to quit.

Be patient with others involved. They're also human and going through their own difficulties.

 

11) Make yourself accountable to others for failing to get rid of bad habits and for failing to stick with good ones.

Pay a fine for breaking a good habit to your spouse or partner in virtue. Take on goals together with others trying to do the same (spouse or friend or another partner in your goal). Hold each other accountable. As for regular feedback from someone who isn't afraid to tell you the truth.

 

12) Eliminate the lifestyle factors that perpetuate your bad habits.

If it's your smartphone, leave it in another room during dinner or while in the bathroom. Turn it off. Check emails only twice a day at 10:30 AM and 3 PM. If you smoke or drink too much, stop hanging with other people you smoke or drink too much with. Eliminate negative people from your life that are jealous or envious or don't want you to succeed or are otherwise stumbling blocks to you.

 

13) Learn from everyone.

Learn both what to do and what NOT to do. Every person's experience that you meet is a data point in your own narrative of personal optimization and improvement.

 

14) Measure your progress in the most specific terms possible.

Measure time saved, money saved, pounds lost, productivity gained, etc. Make it as concrete as possible and it will become real and tangible progress for you.

 

15) Automate. Reduce the number of decisions you have to make each day as much as possible to make it easier to reach your goals.

Set your alarm earlier by 5 minutes each day until you get up earlier by an hour. Set reminders each morning to meditate for 10 minutes before breakfast. Keep track of your steps taken each day for a month by using a pedometer app. Prepare your lunch for the next day the night before, before you go to bed. Take out the trash and wash dishes before you brush your teeth. Prepare what you're going to wear the night before. Keep pushing yourself until the habit becomes ingrained and you do it on auto-pilot regularly, just as mindlessly as you brush your teeth twice a day.

 

16) Outsource what you can't do yourself.

Get a coach. Buy apps to help you plan, wake up on time, keep to your goals, measure progress. Don't try to do everything yourself. You will fail.

 

17) Reward yourself for small wins and big wins, alike.

Celebrate incremental progress. This is one of the best motivators to keep going until you reach your goal.

 

18) NEVER take on more than one habit at a time.

Perfect one and the next one will be easier. But never double up. You'll fail in both.

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Good habits are hard to form sometimes, but never impossible. No bad habit is easy to break, but it's always eminently doable, with just the right mix of determination, accountability, help from your friends and family, plus taking small, digestible steps.

We're all rooting for your success, as always!

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

Are there other important strategies you’ve used to start good habits and get rid of bad ones? 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*