6 Simple and Powerful Tips for Successful Salary Negotiation

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As the year's end approaches, so does your review. If you're like most, you're dreading having "the talk" with your boss. You know you're underpaid (especially if you're a woman). You feel the cards are stacked against you, even though you're good at what you do. The job market looks so-so. You're not in the role for long enough. You have no stomach for these things. You have a family to feed and bills to pay. It's not your personality to bargain.

All of a sudden, you are sweating just from thinking. Worry not. All that you need is... PREPARATION (and a glass of wine).

Negotiation isn't some black magic. There's an established process and a language and demeanor that it takes. All can be learned without extraordinary effort.

Negotiation takes good acting. If you're convincing, then you get the thing(s) you're asking for - the role, a raise, then maybe glory. So practice, practice, practice with a friend - or better, with a coach. If needed, fake it 'til you make it.

1. Know what you're worth.

Research Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, industry databases, premium job listings on LinkedIN and other places for how much your position gets paid within your company and by its competitors. Know the industry averages for the same years of experience, education and accomplishments.

Come armed with figures and specifics of what you've delivered since the last review. Know how this compares with the others on the team and in the company. Research what salary, bonus, benefits, etc. you could command in another similar company, perhaps a competitor. Speak to recruiters about similar positions elsewhere to get this information. This process will give you the confidence to ask for what you are really worth. If you're underpaid, you will know what you need to ask for to catch up to where you should be.

Always ask for a specific number ($10K, $20K, whatever it may be that you expect), not just "a raise."

2. Understand the full impact of NOT negotiating. Then start negotiating EVERYTHING.

Missing out on a raise of $10K in your first job out of college can mean missing out on $500K over a lifetime of working just as hard. Conversely, a $10K raise in that first job out can mean earning a whole house-worth, 10 cars-worth, 100 trips abroad-worth or even more, when you compound the interest.

Understand clearly - it's ALWAYS a big deal when you negotiate. It's important the first time and EVERY time.

Practice a Negotiation Mindset with no - or low - stakes.

Bargain for cheaper apples in bulk at the farmer's market. Negotiate a 10% discount at your favorite coffee shop. Go to a Middle Eastern market and bargain hard for every item you buy (it's expected and encouraged there).

With every win, your confidence will only rise to do the same at work.

3. Know the rules. Then push the envelope.

Is your company a startup (especially one that just raised a round of funding?) or is it a large corporation? Startup founders generally have much more discretion to give discretionary raises and bonuses. Corporations often have hard and fast rules around compensation, but even these are very often negotiable.

Ask HR, your team leader or anyone else knowledgeable about internal compensation guidelines. For example, is the yearly raise capped at 3% for next year? Do top performers in the company get a target bonus of 20%? Are bonuses performance-based (fixed at a certain percent) or discretionary to your manager or CEO?

Check your signed offer letter when you joined the company, if it's within the last fiscal year. If something isn't specifically spelled out as a fixed percentage or number (and often, even when it is), then it's always negotiable. Make sure to ask a reputable source, not just listen to internal gossip.

4. Be creative. Salary's not nearly everything.

In case you didn't know, your benefits constitute up to 30% of your total compensation. Health insurance alone can cost upwards of $15K per year for you and your family. How about your cell phone ($1,200 a year)? How about commuter costs ($1,300 in New York for a year of monthly Metrocards). How about a pre-filled FSA to spend as you wish? How about a 401(k) match? Extra vacation days?

Don't get stuck on the numbers for salary and bonus. If they can't raise either of those, push for other things to be covered or paid for. There is sometimes greater flexibility on this than on salary and bonus figures, which are often pre-set by band and performance review.

5. Make it easy for your boss to say yes.

Present your case clearly. Cite specific figures and accomplishments you've had in the past 6 months or year (ex.: negotiated a savings of $300K; brought on $100K of new business; saved the team 100 hours by automating an accounting process, etc).

Quote the average salaries for people in your position in the company, then at competitors and in the industry, at large. Ask for a specific number, title.

Always remain collaborative and friendly throughout the discussion. Never appear adversarial and make it clear this is the only time you're on the other side of the table. Yet, be firm and speak with conviction.

6. Negotiate on behalf of a group, not just yourself.

Are you part of a group of underpaid women at your company? Do you feel you've been passed over for promotions and raises unfairly in the past? Are you negotiating for your family's improved welfare? You are the leader of the cause, so take the mantle and run with it! You'll feel empowered.

When it comes to negotiation, the rule is simple: if you don't ask, the answer is always no. So always ask! You will be shocked how often people will negotiate - even your boss.

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

How A Shy Kid Like Me Learned to Negotiate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncover Hidden Scripts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice Negotiating in Any Way

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

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

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

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

The Answer Will Often Be “Yes”

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

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

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

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

Stop Believing Negotiation Myths

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

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

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

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

Winning Negotiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Develop the Negotiation Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand Up for Your Worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[This is also a post on WorkAwesome.com]

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

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!

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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*

 

[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.

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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.

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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.

--

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!

– –

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.

--

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.

--

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*

The Ultimate Guide To Starting a Business TODAY for (Almost) Nothing

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omkduq9r3zo-olu-eletu There was a time, and not so long ago, when starting a new business meant expenses through the roof. Where do I start? How do I test the concept? And how about the name? When should I start a company? Should it be Corp. or LLC? And what about the logo? AAAAH!!!

Today, there is a huge selection of free tools (or at least cheap ones) available to anyone with time and an idea to plan out, to start and run a business from the comfort of their home and laptop.  But sorting through the garbage and the scams, false leads, dead ends and such can take the wind out of your sails.

We've done the hard work for you to find only gems.

Here is the good stuff, broken down by category:

1) Test Your Idea for Relevance and Find Potential Customers.

i. Create a landing page on LeadPages or UnBounce. Do optimized A/B Testing to see what works and what doesn't to attract potential customers.

ii. Sign up for Google AdWords. Here's a free $100 Credit to start.

iii. Launch a Google Ad (here's a quick guide).

iv. Define what "success" means to you. Is it 100 signups or 10,000? Be clear and measure your results against your success goals. If you reach your goal or get close, you may be on to something with your business idea. If not, it may be wise to drop it altogether or at least change your concept significantly and try again.

v. Follow up with those who sign up first. These often become your most valuable supporters and beta testers for your product(s). Treat them really well, but ask for honest, constructive feedback.

 

2) Create a Business Plan and Present It to Potential Investors, Employees and Customers. Here's a good primer on the process.

i. In short,

a) Create an Executive Summary and Company Description.

b) Describe the Organization and Management, Products and/or Services you're planning to offer.

c) Define your Strategy for Marketing and Sales.

d) Perform an in-depth Market Analysis.

e) Project out your Finances out for a few years. Use conservative assumptions for sales targets, expenses, revenues, etc. Anticipate any debt you'll need to take on or equity rounds you'll need to raise.

f) Create a sample Request for Funding.

ii. Carefully (and concisely) define your company's mission and never let go of it in your mind or how you discuss your company with others. Passion is critical to the success of the business.

ii. Do a SWOT Analysis. Discuss your concept and its viability with experienced people in the industry and field that you trust. If the overall analysis (plus gut feeling) tells you that it makes sense to go forward, given the risks, market dynamics, available resources (financial, intellectual and otherwise) and timing, then continue below. If not, it may be time to get out before you're in too deep, or at least to keep tweaking and testing your concept until you hit on something that generates interest among potential customers, investors and/or employees.

iii. Create a short-and-sweet Pitch Deck for potential investors, employees and customers (tweak it for the appropriate audience).

iv. Create and practice your Elevator Pitch to anyone who'll listen.

v. Create a blueprint for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that you can build and scale quickly. If you're a non-tech founder, here is a good guide to building an MVP.

vi. Define a clear and compelling go-to-market strategy.

vii. Build a core team to execute on your mission and MVP blueprint. Here's a good primer on how to do this most critical of things for your business - and well.

 

3) Protect Any Intellectual Property You May Have.

i. File any trademarks or copyrights.

ii. Consider filing a patent (another detailed discussion here) - whether on your own or with help from a licensed patent attorney, if relevant.

 

4) Name Your Business and Create a Brand Identity. Choose your name very carefully, since it will be your brand's identity in all marketing, investor and other documents, as well as the first thing people think of with regard to your products and/or services.

i. Here's a great infographic distilling the process into the most important components. Here's another quick primer for the business naming process.

ii. Here's a great guide to naming your product(s) and/or service(s). Keep it short, simple, relevant and catchy.

iii. Check GoDaddy.com for available domain names with your business name. If the domain name is taken or on back-order and expensive, decide whether brand identity is worth the expense for you.

iv. Pick your company color scheme very carefully to define your brand identity. Here's a useful guide and here is a excellent, very detailed explanation from KISSMetrics of the psychology of color and conversions (sales) and what works with certain demographics and what doesn't.

v. Create a logo and related graphic designs for your company, products and to use on all related documents and websites. 99Designs is always a great and inexpensive option. Here is a detailed explanation of good design principles to help you with the process.

 

5) Create a Professional-Looking, Clean and Uncluttered Website. Your site should take into account what you've learned through your A/B Testing and interactions with potential customers, investors and employees.

i. Purchase a domain name on GoDaddy.com (this has the best discounts, we've found). Always look for discount code on RetailMeNot or other coupon sites.

ii. Create a Self-Hosted Wordpress page and link your domain to it. Set up hosting (for a few bucks a month) with BlueHost or other well-regarded service. Here's a great guide for the entire setup process, with detailed instructions and BlueHost discount.

iii. Customize the Wordpress theme to reflect the type of business you have. Customize the site's colors to match your company colors and control the associations people create with your company and site colors.

iv. Set up your site with the customized SumoMe for Wordpress plugin's tools and metrics. 6) Form a Business Entity to Formalize Your Idea into a Real Company.

i. Once you have potential customers, investors and/or employees committed to work with you, it's wise to form an actual company. Do not rush to do this first before going through steps 1-5, above.

ii. Think carefully about what type of business entity you want to form, based on your business objectives and exit strategy (sell the company, grow and keep it private or IPO some day). Here is a detailed guide to various business entities discussing advantages and disadvantages, types of legal liability, flexibility, ownership structure, cost of upkeep, dispute resolution mechanisms and other important considerations. Here are related articles and another step-by-step decision guide to help you.

iii. Use VCorpLegalZoom or similar service to form your chosen business entity.

iv. Make sure to register your business with the state(s) where you will be doing business by going through the same service you used to file your business or otherwise manually, through each state's Department of State website.

v. Check with any relevant state and federal agencies that regulate the business you're planning to conduct.

vi. Get a Tax ID number from the IRS.

vii. Open a business checking and savings accounts at a bank that will provide you with excellent customer service.

viii. Based on your corporate structure, decide how you will grant equity and/or other incentives to new employees. Here is a great place to start to get this right.

ix. Lawyer up. In the current business climate, it's much better to be safe than sorry and have a lawyer to call with any corporate, regulatory, intellectual property or other legal issues that inevitably come up. There are lawyers out there who may agree to an equity (or delayed payment or even pro bono) arrangement with a founder in lieu of a hourly or retainer agreement, depending on circumstances and appetite for an alternate arrangement.

 

7) Raise seed funds from yourself, friends, family, angel investors and/or VCs (depending on terms that make sense for your company's mission, exit strategy and the resources you need to get to market). It's better to raise just enough funds from just the right strategic partners than to raise a ton of money from people that don't really buy into what you're doing and can't or won't really help you grow and scale quickly. Pick your strategic partners very carefully.

 

8) Relentlessly execute on your mission. Build your MVP and/or service offering. Go to market with it. Grow and scale your team sustainably. Build features with the greatest positive impact on the greatest number of people first.

 

9) Iterate and improve continuously and quickly as you learn from customers what is working and what's not. Sign up for AppSumo to get all sorts of awesome freebies and huge discounts on things that help you build and acale and measure and improve your business.

 

10) Enjoy the wild ride! Keep at it long enough until you're hitting deadlines and sales targets or until you see no way forward. Be flexible and pivot as necessary when you learn better what customers really want (and what they don't). Change is the only constant and many days, you'll be putting out fires before you can get substantive work done.

 

All the best of luck and I'll be rooting for you!

***DISCLAIMER***: No mention of a product or site should be construed as an endorsement thereof. The writer receives no commission or other financial incentive from any of the sites, products or businesses mentioned herein. Use at your own risk and as always, use your own judgment and discretion. Nothing in the post above should be construed as legal or financial advice. Consult a licensed attorney or financial specialist for appropriate counsel.

Are there other great free or inexpensive tools you’ve used to start a successful business? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

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

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

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

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

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

– –

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

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

How to 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*

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 :)

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Do you have other strategies for beating stress, anxiety? Please share with the Community in Comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

9 Ways To Instantly Improve Your Quality of Sleep

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The simplest cure for what it is that ails us is... a good and solid night of sleep. Russians intone, "morning is wiser than the night." It's hard to argue with the obvious, but how exactly can I sleep well with my worries, obligations, emails, city noise, etc.?
It isn't rocket science, but a few good tricks can really help.
1) Turn off your phone, computer and TV at 7. Rest your eyes and brain. After a long day looking at computer screens, your phone or tablet and TV, your eyes and mind are drained. With too much light exposure after darkness sets, you are beginning to mess up your circadian rhythms and in turn, your quality of sleep. Don't look at your phone before bed. Don't check your emails. Don't worry yourself with things that can wait until tomorrow. Instead, spend quality time with your family. Read a good book. Take a nice walk outside.
2) Avoid eating dinner after 7, especially heavy foods (anything fried, heavy carbs, red meat, anything in a heavy tomato or cream sauce). At around this time, when it's starting to get dark, your digestive system begins to prepare for sleep and becomes less and less efficient after the waking day. During sleep, your digestion is at its least efficient. Going to sleep soon after a heavy meal can cause indigestion and/or other digestive issues, which can easily disturb and lessen the quality of your sleep.
3) Drink a glass of water before bed. Help your body clear toxins from the day. Enhance digestion during sleep.
4) Sleep at least enough hours for your body to recover to peak performance the next day. Your body us unique in the amount of sleep it needs to feel refreshed and ready to go. Ideally, you should wake up at the end of a cycle of sleep, not in the middle. In order to measure your sleep cycles and the optimal amount of sleep, you can download several great sleep apps.
5) Resolve all your pressing problems with people before going to bed. Say thanks, apologize, talk it out. Do whatever it takes to return to your normal emotional state. Just don't go to sleep pissed off or angry or otherwise emotional.
6) Practice gratitude before sleep and throughout the day. Be grateful for your health, family, home, food and sustenance, good friends and the ability to do what you do in life. Meditate or pray on all of the great things in your life. Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, as the old saying goes.
7) Read a good book or story before bed to get your mind off from work and other worries from the day. Dive deep into another person's world. You will at worst escape and at best, learn something new and interesting.
8) Finish your chores before bed and prepare for the next day. Wash the dishes, take out the trash, prepare your lunch. Remember that the state of your home reflects the state of your mind. If one is a mess, the other will be too.
9) Take good care of your dental, mental and physical hygiene before sleep with an established routine that you follow, no matter what. Even if you've had a crappy day, your routine will put you in the mindframe for a good night of sleep.
Now you know. Try out one, two or a few of these and you'll see a real improvement in your sleep.
Sweet dreams tonight!
Are there other tips and strategies you've found useful in getting a good night's sleep? Share them with the community in the Comments section below.
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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 Never Lose Your Job (or at least die trying)

http://touch.thedailymuse.com/thedailymuse/#!/entry/how-to-never-lose-your-job,5272395f025312186c756991

The 5 Biggest Job Search Mistakes…and How LinkedIn Can Help You Avoid Them

The 5 Biggest Job Search Mistakes…and How LinkedIn Can Help You Avoid Them http://buff.ly/1cahGh3

James Altucher: Quit Your Job. Now.

Sharp-elbowed and incisive. Take the advice and mull it over carefully. Wort case, it'll shake you into using your idea muscle to earn extra income or to get working toward starting a company (thereby crating your "dream job). Altucher went through all this himself, so he knows what he's talking about. http://observer.com/2013/10/quit-your-job-now-new-observer-columnist-shares-six-reasons-you-gotta-go/

Are You Ready For Your Next Promotion?

Are You Ready For Your Next Promotion? http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131007113308-284615-are-you-ready-for-your-next-promotion

Can The Right Life Coach Really Help You Succeed?

***SHAMELESS PLUG: A good life coach can make a tremendous difference in your life (and quite quickly) by identifying the root causes of your mental pitfalls and helping you to work quickly and effectively to attack your problems intelligently and in a sustainable manner, for life. Get in touch if I can help you break through your limitations and improve your life, your job situation or anything else that's in your way to a successful and meaningful life.

YURI.KRUMAN (AT) GMAIL dot COM

Now, the article:

http://m.fastcompany.com/3017546/can-the-right-life-coach-really-help-you-succeed?utm_source=facebook

The Daily Routines of 7 Famous Entrepreneurs and How to Design Your Own Master Routine

One of the most important underlying factors in doing anything well over a long time and in building anything successful is creating and optimizing a daily routine which buffers against the unexpected and keeps you focused and effective, regardless of whatever disturbances may come. The Daily Routines of 7 Famous Entrepreneurs and How to Design Your Own Master Routine - - The Buffer Blog

http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-daily-routines-of-famous-entrepreneurs-and-how-to-design-your-own-master-routine

25 Things I've Learned About Life

Agree with each one of these wholeheartedly. 25 Things I've Learned About Life

http://startuplife.quora.com/25-Things-Ive-Learned-About-Life?srid=ihVw&share=1