How A Shy Kid Like Me Learned to Negotiate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncover Hidden Scripts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice Negotiating in Any Way

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

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

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

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

The Answer Will Often Be “Yes”

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

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

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

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

Stop Believing Negotiation Myths

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

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

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

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

Winning Negotiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Develop the Negotiation Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand Up for Your Worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

--

[This is also a post on WorkAwesome.com]

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

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.

How to Think Like an Immigrant To Get Ahead of The Curve

DeathtoStock_NotStock (Ed. Note: This post is dedicated to my amazing mother, Inna Kruman, who has endured tremendous hardships and sacrificed a great deal for her children's success - and still managed to "make it" in America despite staggering odds. I take my metaphoric hat off to her and thank her to no end. This is her story as much as it is mine.)

It is no secret that America's success is tied in many ways to the success of immigrants. Placed squarely in a system that rewards the hustle, many have succeeded - well beyond their wildest dreams back home.

Every successive wave of immigrants has brought its own inventiveness and chutzpah, language, culture and a way of thinking - and of doing things - in other words, its own mentality of immigrants.

Partly because of luck (ability to enter the U.S. and then to be protected by its Constitution, then the fact of living in a time when information flows so easily) and partly due to pluck (work ethic, knowing what you're working for, a challenger's mentality), new immigrants have been successful in so many spheres - yet more and more, with time.

Look at the founders of top startups, the top financiers, consultants, lawyers, politicians and musicians, academics. Increasing numbers of the most successful people in America were born abroad or here to parents born abroad - whether from India and China or Korea, Russia, Israel, Nigeria and France. The list goes on and on.

If we discount specifics of their origins and cultures, we can find the fuel, the fire, the *thing* (or things) that makes these people tick and break through barriers, time after time.

Being an immigrant myself - and yet, quite thoroughly American, at once - I've thought and read a lot about X-factors that all others - not just immigrants - can use to get ahead.

From what I've seen it isn't origin or nationality, religion, gender, even education level that can answer for this great effect.

Let's ask the questions that so many immigrants have answered for themselves in order to become successful here (and likewise elsewhere in the world):

1) Why did you come here, in the first place? What were you running from back home? Repression? Death? High taxes? Lack of opportunity?

The answer for the great majority of us - whether born elsewhere or in the U.S. - is some or all of the above. You're here because of opportunity, because of freedoms - reasons that are clear and stark. Streets may not quite be paved in gold here - and it's getting even harder just to "make it" - but it's still much better than alternatives.

When you're escaping from regimes that want to kill, repress you or just take away your chances to develop as a human and professional, you know exactly what you're working for and why. It could be to feed your family or to get an education and to do exactly what you want to do in life. It could be wanting just to be yourself, to make life better for your kids, to start a business or to make a differenceYou have a purpose and a mission and the energy to follow through.

Failure is very costly and you can't give up. Alternatives are very scary. Your family, your life depend on your success.

Lesson: A sense of urgency and limited alternatives are key to immigrant mentality. It means being traumatized by parents' worries, but it also means you'll give it everything you have to "make it." Figure out what your purpose and mission in life are and apply all your energy to pursuing them!

2) What kind of problems have you had to solve while growing up? Were you the head translator for the family? Chief earner? Troubleshooter? The family's guide to how "The System" works? Did you start working early, as a kid? Were you negotiating constantly because your funds were low? What did you have to sell to stay afloat (let's hope not organs)? What sort of hustle did you have to run?

When you have had to solve hard problems since your childhood, you're not daunted easily. Whether it's problems of logistics, lack of money, human conflicts or the other issues you'll inevitably face, you will break through or go around walls other find too high.

Lesson: Take on challenges you think are too hard. Push yourself out of your comfort zone with people, the job you do, the things you're willing to do to broaden your experiences (travel, take on internships in other fields). In short, take risks and don't follow the straight path (if you have the luxury of not breaking your bank or starving your family, in the process).

3) What motivated you when growing up - and what remains of that to motivate you 'til today? Was it a simple goal - to go to college - or to make more than your parents or the trappings of great wealth? How hungry were you growing up to be like all the "real Americans" - or otherwise, like rich, successful people where you came from? How hungry were you to escape your circumstances - poverty or lack of education or a lack of access? Are you an optimist by nature? Do you push forward because looking back is not an option?

Lesson: What drives you in childhood will generally drive you well into adulthood. If you weren't driven as a kid, find your passion, mission and purpose in life by learning from others, learning about yourself and trying different things (and taking calculated risks to do so). Once you know where you're going and why, you will be driven to succeed all the more.

4) What was your style of work in childhood? After you learned to put out fires through fast wits, how quickly did you learn to plan and save and manage people? What gets you through life as a kid may be either incredibly helpful as maturity or incredibly hurtful as delusion when you hit adulthood.

Lesson: If you were lazy as a kid, you were probably just coasting along on your intelligence alone. If you were a hard worker then, you always will be. A work ethic is something you can gain once you go through the difficult process of finding purpose in life, a mission and the means to achieve it.

Everyone has the energy and work ethic inside them to succeed. Intelligence (as opposed to, and in concert with "street smarts") can be gained in the process, at least enough thereof to be successful.

Street smarts is in many ways more valuable than intelligence, if you're doing anything that involves business and selling (and the great majority of professions and daily transactions today do just that, whether directly to customers or to bosses, employees, etc.) All of us have no choice but to Always Be Selling. 

5) How hungry are you always to be learning? Maybe your love of learning is inborn. Was it a hunger that you've always had or because your parents pushed it? Likely both. Because you're hungry to learn and get better and get up out of the metaphorical ditch where you grew up, you will outlast, outwit, out-learn - and most importantly, outwork - the other guy who didn't grow up with the same "stimulus." You'll feel like the underdog at least until you "make it" to where you want to be - and likely for the rest of your life, on some level.

Lesson: If you weren't born with that hunger, DEVELOP IT! Every person wants to succeed and be the best at something and has that capability deep inside. Develop a hunger by listening to, reading about and imitating others that have it. Fake it until you make it. Or better, work hard, stay hungry and achieve your potential (without worrying so much about opponents or those who've doubted you, etc.)

6) Did your parents invest everything in you, so your life can be better than theirs? You have to pay it back by taking care of them AND pay it forward to your kids. That means you feel the pressure and inherited neuroses. But yet, it also means you're grateful and will get somewhere - or else, you'll feel you have betrayed the sacrifices made for you.

Lesson: If others haven't invested so much in you (and of course, someone has invested in you along the way or you wouldn't be alive today), Invest In Yourself. Value your time and energy. Filter what goes in and out of your body (specifically your mouth) and mind. Resources and time are finite. Invest in yourself by always learning new things, taking care of yourself and by focusing your efforts on the most important people and goals in life.

7) Are you used to looking for loopholes or dealing with discrimination against you? Are you used to having to get around barriers set up to trip you and make you fail? Think Soviet Russia, Commie China, corrupt India.

Lesson: When faced with adversity, you learn that no barrier is too high, no system is too corrupt, no repression too strong to hold you back from achieving your goals. The chip on your shoulder trains you to move mountains by habit. When you have to do this in a (relatively more fair and just) system like the U.S., you will go that much farther and faster than those without that resilience.

In addition, when it comes to innovating and seeing things from a different angle and with different eyes, your ingenuity in getting around discrimination and the selective rule of law will help you a great deal to see connections between people and systems others can't. It's a great asset. To develop this, craft your career as a HYBRID. Work in different industries, constantly learn new things from other disciplines, meet new people from different backgrounds, write down your ideas constantly and find relationships between your ideas and others'.  

8) Were your earlier failures and hard knocks traumatic for you or your family? Have you had to risk a lot and failed and had to face the serious consequences? You've learned to take calculated risks, to think and plan things through very carefully, to make the best of very little time and money. This will help you "see around corners" and help you avoid and minimize mistakes in business and in life.

Lesson: If you were always careful to avoid risks, cultivate yourself to take calculated risks. There are times in life when you have to go for broke, but even if you do, you should always maintain safeguards to avoid losing everything in your life. If you were always a risk taker, cool your heels. In Russia, we say, the slower you go, the farther you'll get

9) Were you frustrated when young by others being unable to understand you or where you're coming from? Did you desperately want to be understood and liked? Then you likely learned how to speak clearly and get across just the message you wanted and nothing more and nothing less.

Lesson: Know your audience at all times and tailor your message accordingly to be understood. This applies equally to all people and all contexts. If you know how to communicate with people - both in speaking and in writing, plus non-verbal cues, you will be golden.

9) Did you have to learn to negotiate early, out of necessity? Negotiate cheaper prices, faster service, for fees to be taken off, to push forward and not be deterred by a-holes?

Lesson: Don't take limits others set before you as gospel. You can always negotiate - and get past those limits AND WIN! If you don't ask, the answer is always no. (And you'll be shocked how often the answer is yes). Even if you're shy, practice negotiating at a market for something small in large volumes.

10) Did you value experiences and people more than material things - because you had few material things, to begin with? Did you have to forgo spending money on entertainment or travel or a car or a house to save up to pay for college or to start a business or to feed your family? If so, you already know that experiences and people are more important than material things can ever be. Money certainly CAN buy many conveniences - including time - but it can't buy taste, happiness (beyond basic necessities and the comfort of not worrying constantly about finances), sincerity, true friendship, love or loyalty.

Lesson: Seek great experiences and surround yourself with great people in your life. Seek meaning, not happiness.

11) Did you have lots of nasty surprises growing up - whether financial, cultural, social, legal, etc.? Did you not fit in, in school? Did you look and sound different from other kids? Did you get harassed just for being who you are? Did you have to deal with sudden money shocks? A flooded house? A broken car? Well, then you know that you can't worry about things you can't control.

Lesson: Work on what you can control - how you speak, how you look, what you know, what people you associate with, what you eat and drink and listen to and look at.

Don't sweat bad weather, traffic, a-holes at your job or angry customers or when the IRS says "pay more taxes" and the like. Life is too short and stressful to be adding nonsense to your busy mind and schedule.

12) Were you taught early on that nothing is beneath you? Your family may have been something truly special back at home, but here, it is All Hands On Deck. 

Were you the one who got assigned the chores of dishes, trash, mowing the lawn, watering trees and plants, going for groceries, proof-reading and researching and so on? Your family may have been rich sometime ago, but now you're here. You have no servants or house help. You ARE the servant and house help. You can't outsource the tasks. You don't get paid - it's just your duty and your payment for the food and drink and electricity that you enjoy.

Yours and family's merits back at home now mean quite nothing. Because you are not squeamish to roll up your sleeves and work, you'll make a grateful and efficient worker and absorb the lessons quickly and MOVE ON. You will have empathy for others coming up behind you - you'll have been there, in their shoes. But then you'll also know why you are going through the hard times - to afford the help, to make life better for your family and self. At least you know you're in a place that values work and industry and gives you chances to succeed.

Lesson: Be self-sufficient to your best ability. Learn to rely on #1 before you ask for help. Be grateful for all things that come your way - both good and bad, the difficult and easy. Learn your lessons quickly and move on. Do not get stuck. Don't dwell on failure or your "circumstances." These always can get worse or better. The good part is, you can change them for yourself. Back in the mother country, you would likely have no choice - or chance.

So make the coffee by yourself and sweep the floors and clean the toilets now. When kids come, you'll be grateful that you know to GSD (that's Get Sh*t Done).

13) Have you had to learn another language and culture on the fly? Have you had to learn to understand, think and speak like people with whom you didn't have much at all in common then? Well, you've been changed for the better by the experience. You've had to open your mind, expand your horizons, gain empathy for others and take roads you never thought you'd travel in life. It's made you stronger, more resilient and confident in your worldview.

Lesson: learn other languages and cultures. Travel and live in other countries for a while. You will gain wisdom and understanding of others that will give you great friendships and unique insights into others, as well as teach you different approaches to a fulfilling life and success in business. 

Knowing another language (or 2 or 5) will serve you in amazingly useful ways throughout life.

Now go forth and hustle like an FOB immigrant! Approach life with that same zest and humility and optimism! You'll be SO glad you did!

Are there other important lessons you’ve learned about becoming successful from being an immigrant in America? 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 Kill All Your Sacred Cows and Really Start Living

RQQMTMI7Z1 "Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. It's getting hard to be someone, but it all works out. It doesn't matter much to me." - The Beatles

"Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you." - Proverb

--

Most of us, regardless of our family's finances or background, grew up with certain people and concepts that remained untouched and untouchable - our sacred cows.

"Grandpa is a saint because he survived the Holocaust."

"My life is so hard because my parents messed me up in childhood." 

"I'm not good with money because I'm an artist." 

For example. when you grow up as a "really smart kid" but financially (and psychologically) insecure, you always worry about the next calamity and bill to pay. You start associating wealth with happiness and blame "circumstances" for your problems. As an adult, you find yourself unable to plan your finances - well, no one taught you.

You let others exploit your insecurity and take your precious time and money for themselves, make you feel guilty and obligated to them. You give of your time and resources selflessly not just because it's the right thing to do - but because you expect your "smarts" and accumulated "good karma" to bring you financial comfort and the company of good people.

When this doesn't magically materialize, you double down on your frustration and guilt, even as you double your hope that something, someone - hell, anything, anyone - will come to "save you." It doesn't happen. After enough vicious cycles, you begin to understand that the world is unfair and that you have to work just as hard as everyone else, despite your intelligence and good deeds. You're starting late, but pick up many lessons along the way, as you deflate your self-importance and start working like no tomorrow to get ahead.

Through all the many upheavals in my life over the years - whether in the ups and downs of romantic relationships and friendships, career trajectory, paying off enormous student loans while surviving in New York, becoming religiously observant, starting a family, learning to live with my flaws and warts (just as much as appreciating myself for the good things) and unpacking all the baggage from childhood as I raise my own daughter - I have learned that killing the sacred cows of my childhood and upbringing is both the most difficult / painful and also most liberating and rewarding process I have ever undertaken.

Here are the lessons I've learned that have helped to set me free:

1) Meaning trumps happiness. When you chase happiness as the end goal, you stunt your growth through painful or difficult experiences. Happiness is going through the process, not the goal. It is often ephemeral and doesn't last. When you seek meaning in life by asking hard questions of yourself and of others (Why am I here? What is my mission in life? How do I achieve it?), you are seeking a framework by which to live and that's with you every moment of the day, not just when you finish something you start or win a prize or reach a goal.

There is no rainbow with bliss at the end when you reach a certain stage in life or income or when you get to live in an amazing place or to meet celebrities or people you admire. You still have your mission in life to accomplish, your problems to solve and your potential to achieve. Get moving!

2) Your sh*t stinks just as much as everyone else's. Be slow to anger; be slow to rebuke your fellow by casting the first stone. The failure or character flaw you see in someone else is often the failure or flaw you have in yourself. But this doesn't mean you should lie down and let others trample all over you, either.

3) You're not a special butterfly. Don't treat yourself like one. You're neither an idiot nor genius, immune to mistakes or to disease, bad judgment or stubbornness. You have no special exemptions in life for being an introvert or sensitive or an artist or a billionaire or famous. Light is the best disinfectant (-L. Brandeis).

You have to play by the same rules as everyone else, even if some people you know may not be playing by all the rules.

Do things correctly and well, then meaning and money and respect (and other blessings) will come to you. Treat others well. Have a plan for your career and finances. Research carefully all big decisions and do due diligence on all people you deal with. Take small bites and chew slowly.

4) Even extraordinary people and people you greatly admire are still living the breathing the same air and are fallible and mortal and sometimes annoying and impossible. Mentors, celebrities, parents, siblings - they all fit into this category, no matter how much wiser, older, smarter, more experienced they may be. Don't replay the gospel they've taught you without questioning it critically. You have your own story and your own potential to guide you and inform your decisions. Understand why your parents or grandparents want you to become something particular in life - and then follow your own drummer (but you better learn to drum, first!) They might be compensating for something they lacked as kids or adults. Make your own path, regardless of whether it coincides with what they want or not.

5) You are not exempt from the rules of life - whether physical or moral, spiritual, financial, legal or otherwise. So learn all the rules and live by them. Don't take shortcuts on substance (it never works). Health (physical and mental) has to be constantly maintained and doesn't maintain itself. You have to practice what you preach and be the same inside and out (or you'll implode with hypocrisy). You need to understand who you are, why you're here and what you're meant to do in order to make it far in life. You have to organize your finances and maintain them actively or they will overshadow everything else in your life. You're not immune to the law, just because you're smart and know your way around the system. You must have all the relevant information to make decisions effectively. When you take risks, do it in a calculated and intelligent way (but do take them!). When you do act impulsively, at least have the good taste and the sense to stop with diminishing returns.

6) No one owes you a damned thing in life (unless by law or contract), regardless of what you've done for them. Learn to be grateful and self-sufficient to what degree you can. Don't rely on people completely; if you do, you'll always be disappointed.

7) When you assume, you make an a$$ of you and me. An oldie, but a goodie. Always do your research and due diligence, especially when it comes to your housing, schooling, potential mates, finances and all other big and important decisions. Again, don't rely on others completely to inform or advise you correctly. Always have your own opinion and data to back it up. Always have a backup plan. Oh, and nobody owes you a damned thing except by law or contract (see #6).

8) Your mate may be the greatest person in the world and the love of your life. But he or she is very much human and fallible and makes mistakes and sometimes misunderstands the world - just like you. That's fine and perfectly normal and you love him or her despite - or perhaps because - of it. That's why you two are complements to each other. Pick your battles. Learn to communicate well. Solve problems together. But don't put your mate on a pedestal where she or he's unreachable, un-reproachable and inaccessible. That's a recipe for resentment of the other, self-destruction and a broken relationship.

9) Beyond the basics, money brings you no extra happiness. Don't live life saying to yourself, "I'll do X only when I reach $Y per year in salary." Do what you can now (while you're young and unattached) without taking out irresponsible debt to do it. Travel, meet people; seek experiences, not things.

10) Your superstitions and scripts from childhood hold you back. Get rid of all your lucky rabbit's feet, four-leaf clovers, omens, talismans. Stop thinking every fourth year will bring you luck. Stop avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk. OCD and superstitions are weak-minded "remedies" to deal with uncertainty that only lead you to act irrationally and avoid evidence / data when making decisions. Superstitions lead you down lots of dark alleys with no good end. Dig deep to find these and how they negatively affect your life.

11) Align your religious beliefs with rational / practical life lessons. Your religious beliefs should not hold you back from common sense and practical considerations for how to organize and live your life. The two should be complementary in that religion should give you a wider perspective for who you are, why you're here, what lifestyle you want to live and how you want to raise a family and achieve your life goals.

12) Every person and circumstance you meet in life (no matter how annoying or enchanting, difficult or delightful) is there to teach you life lessons (sometimes positive, sometimes negative), to help you improve as a human being and professional and to help you move forward. Be kind to others; you don't know what the other person's going through. It's likely just as difficult for him or her as it is for you. Make the best of each encounter and circumstance. Don't dwell too much on disappointments or difficulties. Solve your problems as best and as quickly as you can and move on.

By following these principles, I have managed to rid myself of often-debilitating fatalism and a sense of hopelessness defined by circumstances - whether financial, professional, inter-personal or otherwise. This doesn't magically solve all problems, but it makes them more manageable.

The most difficult part is recognizing that there are many such scripts running in one's head that prevent making decisions effectively, planning effectively and implementing one's decisions. Years go by before one gets sick of one's own nonsense and resolves to change and clean out the junk from one's mind.

I hope this will help you to acknowledge all of the scripts attaching themselves to the decisions you make every day. Once you do, you can start the process of unwinding the weeds from your flowers, so you can continue growing.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Now go forth and uncover it for yourself!

Do you have other sacred cows you've killed to transform your life? 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*

18 Pro Tips to Manage Stress (Sustainably, For Life)

P1000458 It's Monday yet again. You are behind at work, already stressed. The weekend was amazing, but now this. You're sick and tired of being this anxious, with the growling stomach and the sweats, the jumpiness and lack of focus. What to do?

I've been a worrier since I could worry, probably at 5. Here's how I've learned to deal with it. Throughout the day, I:

1) Walk briskly and a lot - regularly and throughout the day. I walk my daughter to her daycare, to the subway. After I'm in the office, I walk at mid-morning, then at lunch and then mid-afternoon. Ideally, it is the same time every day, but even if impossible, I make a point to walk. Even inside the office, I would rather get up and walk over to ask questions that to email. Brisk walking is just as effective as most exercise, without the impact or the risk of injury.

2) Put on my favorite music. The Mozart channel on Pandora helps me focus. Choose your own. It should be music that can put you at your ease and yet excite you just enough to power through the morning work. Toward the end of the day, around 3 (when circadian rhythms are generally low and you need a pickup), I put on jazz (Red Garland channel on Pandora). Again, whatever helps you to improve your mood and power through. Music is very powerful to improve your mood (or mess it up completely, if you don't choose well).

3) Meditate or pray. After I'm up and clean and dressed, I meditate and pray. Sometimes it's by myself and other times, in synagogue with others. I practice gratitude and pray for family and friends, for sustenance, for health and bodily integrity, for life itself, for guidance and for strength. This helps align my purpose and my mission with whatever comes that day, throughout the week, no matter what. This way, I always know why I am doing what I'm doing, even if it's stressful, boring or annoying.

4) Take breaks to stretch every 45 minutes to an hour, max. Sitting's slow death. Your muscles start to lost their tone. Your posture sags. Your resting heart rate goes down. I stand with my legs out, arms stretched and move side to side to stretch the arms and back. I stand up on my calves, back down, handful of reps. I move my neck around from side to side and front to back several times.

5) Filter my information flows effectively throughout the day. In order to stay sane when faced with hoses of emails and requests and articles and data, I organize my email and set up filter rules to know where I can find any message on any subject, from any person. I filter feeds on LinkedIN and on FB so that when I take my break at lunch and check them, I am looking at the news from sources that I want and useful articles from Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Forbes, EurekAlert, etc. I regularly prune the feeds, unfollowing the people and the information sources that are wasteful. You set yours up whatever way you like. Unfollow people that contribute only photos of vacations or cat videos or other junk. Focus your information feeds for only things you need and move you forward in life. Cut down your email to a minimum. Unsubscribe from shopping emails and newsletters you don't need. Cut out the fat and junk.

6) Avoid negative people. These are the gossipers, the jealous, Debbie Downers, people that talk too much and about nothing useful, waste my time and drain my energy. Life is too short. My time's too valuable. There are too many things to do. Move on.

7) Keep a running journal. Whether by email, on paper or a post-It, I always write down my ideas for writing, business, things to do, agendas, goals and things to work on. Not only is this helpful as a record of your thoughts and history, but it's a useful means to move you through great stress and changes, scary thoughts. It helps you organize your thoughts, calm down, refine and craft a strategy for moving forward. It's great therapy.

8) Always organize my things. Aside from information flows, my work space is well-organized, my files easily accessible. The house is reasonably clean, the dishes washed, the trash is taken out. The mind gets cluttered easily and stressed if things can't be found with ease, if there's frustration around cleanliness and order. You don't need butlers, even maids for this. Just keep your things in order and clean up right after meals. Schedule cleanings every week.

9) Always prepare and optimize your time and things. Make lunch and pack it before bed. Go through my notes before the meeting. Check LinkedIN to remind myself about the guys or girls I'm meeting. Make an agenda. Write a project plan. Fill in the details. Do my research. Practice speaking. Always be mindful.

10) Prioritize experiences ahead of things. Experiences are what makes life interesting and fun and meaningful, not clothes or cars or real estate. I stop and smell the roses with my daughter, go out with my wife, sit down to write each day. I spend the Jewish Sabbath with good friends and neighbors. I go for coffee with entrepreneurs to hear ideas and give my own. I get the greatest value from relationships and books. This doesn't take much of a budget or of planning, just my motivation to live life.

11) Don't compare myself with anyone. Not because I'm so special, but because my mission in this life is totally unique, just like yours is and every other person's, equally. G-d and my parents gave me certain traits, some things I'm good at and some others that I'm awful at. Each person is this way. The only thing that matters in the end is what you do with what you have been given. What does it matter that your friend has better shoes or that your sister's smarter? Make the best of what you have. Each person has his path in life.

12) Try hard not judging others harshly; judge them favorably. I have no clue what they have been through in their lives and why they are the way they are. The less I judge, the less I am frustrated with the world and ultimately, my own failings. Each person has his ups and downs, his merits and his failings. Live and let live. Life will be easier for you.

13) Forgive myself. I may be far from perfect, but I'm not a useless shmuck. I push myself, I try my best. I have my highs and lows. Of course I fail a lot, but I have learned to live with it without debilitating doubts about myself. This may be the single hardest thing to practice daily, but it's critical.

14) Don't stress about the things I can't control. Whether it's getting sick, a tax assessment, water damage, hurricanes or terrorism, I've learned to live and focus on the things I can control. There is no point wringing your hands, being superstitious, trying to control your fate. Either your faith will carry you if you believe in G-d or if you don't, you'll think it's arbitrary and all meaningless. Live life as best you can; the rest is up to the Creator.

15) Do the hardest tasks in the morning, when I have the most energy and focus. Small (or even big) wins set me up well for the day to accomplish what I need to do. Motivation is everything. Never waste the day, especially the first half, which is the most valuable. Otherwise, you'll be frustrated and that will snowball into further stress.

16) Take time off from devices. No phone, computer, nothing before leaving home. No phone, computer, tablet, TV screen after 7 PM. There's nothing like abstaining from the constant onslaught of updates and information coming through devices. And most importantly, I take (an actual) and digital Sabbath every Friday night to Saturday night. This is time completely free of devices and is used to catch up with family time, friends and neighbors, plus to reflect on life and what's really important and meaningful in it, what I need to do to improve as a human being.

17) Sleep well and regularly, every single day. There's simply nothing better for bad stress than a good night of sleep. See what I've written on the subject.

18) Maintain a stable and sustainable routine, with room for variation, new experiences. Life is a crazy up-and-down. Because I've crafted and continue tweaking my routine, I always have a structure to the day and week that keeps me going through whatever stress, surprises, unexpected news. Without this, I would become jello, shrink away from life, depressed and miserable.

Now go chill out, you crazy anxious and hot mess! I'll see you on that walk around the park :)

- -

Do you have other strategies for beating stress, anxiety? Please share 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*

45 Productivity Tips For Extremely Busy People

These are excellent and I use most of them myself: http://touch.thedailymuse.com/thedailymuse/#!/entry/45-productivity-tips-for-extremely-busy-people,5266903eda27f5d9d03ec0bb

3 Reasons Exercise Makes You Smarter

3 Reasons Exercise Makes You Smarter http://t.co/IyyEJ5GxpC