How A Shy Kid Like Me Learned to Negotiate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncover Hidden Scripts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice Negotiating in Any Way

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

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

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

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

The Answer Will Often Be “Yes”

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

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

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

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

Stop Believing Negotiation Myths

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

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

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

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

Winning Negotiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Develop the Negotiation Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand Up for Your Worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

--

[This is also a post on WorkAwesome.com]

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

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Take good care of your mind.

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

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

Kill all your sacred cows and really start living.

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

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

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

Value your time above all (see #2).

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

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

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

EVERYTHING is negotiable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 10 things to be thankful for RIGHT NOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minimize the number of daily decisions you have to make.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16) Don't do it alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18) When you fail, fail quickly and cheaply.

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

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

19) Get fired at least once.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's how to find your career personality type.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22) Sow new seeds every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

--

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

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

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

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

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

– –

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

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

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*

25 Things Failure Teaches You About Yourself and Others

KZNPS0PQL7 Failing sucks. Repeat failure is even worse. Yet, when you fail, you test your resilience, wits and sense of self-worth. Neither wins nor losses are ever complete. All things that appear as blessings have a dark side and those that appear to be curses always have a silver lining.

Failure is glorified among entrepreneurs as a rite of passage and loathed by big company types that value pedigree and conformity. Failure is neither something glorious nor the end of the world. It's just a matter of adaptation, resilience and constant improvement.

Admitting to failure (to yourself, and especially to others) is hell. But it's the kind of hell that builds character and moves you forward forcefully in life.

This post is not my personal failure porn. Suffice it to say that I have failed successfully in business and relationships, in career pursuits and in my art, alike, despite a few successes.

Every occurrence brings many lessons. No failure is a waste.

Here are the lessons I've learned in the process:

1) Learn to forgive yourself regularly in order to move on with life, even while promising yourself to make incremental progress every day. It's the only way forward. Only when you accept yourself as you are, will you be able to change for the better.

2) You are one incredibly resilient human being. You'll do tons of things you never thought you could, even if you fail. You'll always bounce back. Life is tough. Failure stings. But life goes on, lessons are learned.

3) Misery loves company. Doesn't mean you should go looking for the company of failures. But know that someone in this world has surely gone through a similar failure before and learned important lessons they used to succeed after that. Learn from others, use their experience as a springboard to improve yourself and your strategy and execution.

4) Nobody owes you a damned thing in this world (except by law, contract or religious decree). Be thankful for what you have and for what people are willing to do to help. Expect nothing. Everything you get is surplus.

5) The cup is always at least half full, even when you're parched, exhausted and at your wit's end. Otherwise, why even bother showing up again? No business or other endeavor is worth depression or worse. Life is the most precious thing, not what you do with it at any one moment or throughout.

6) Your failure is never complete and never as big as you imagine. Going through the process helps you learn how a business works, how to deal with people, what you're good at and where you suck, what are your limits and how far beyond them you can go. Take stock once you have fresh eyes and the sting of failure is much less harsh.

7) Mission trumps means. When you're driven by a mission and not by money or fame, you will take the long view. You will also value people and experiences are above money and what it can buy.

8) Successful people take calculated risks. Entrepreneurs are actually not crazy risk takers, but crazy like foxes with their spending and planning and hiring - actually very much risk-averse.

9) Telling a good story is your key to getting great jobs, meeting amazing people and having awesome experiences. Learn to write and speak well, above all else. But first, learn to tell a good story concisely and with your own flavor and personality.

10) When you do what you love and help people live more meaningful, richer lives (while ideally saving them time and/or money), the funds and recognition will come. Focus on building a good product to help people solve problems and improve their lives, no matter what you're actually doing in life, and the good stuff will follow. But always make sure to have a backup, in case your passion doesn't pay or doesn't have a market big enough to support you and your family.

11) Effective planning and preparation make or break your venture. Make both a habit, along with research and due diligence on potential friends, mates, business partners, associates, employees, etc. Otherwise, you'll only be screwing yourself.

12) The best things in life are free. Not just love and respect, for example, but great resources to improve your life, build a business from scratch, to improve the lives of others and to create and express yourself effectively. In our modern age, you never have an excuse of "circumstances," since there's always someone poorer, hungrier, less educated and more motivated than you to change the world - who's already doing it!

13) Never blame "circumstances" or other people for your failure. It's always a combination of things you could have done differently, wrong timing, lack of funds, wrong team and/or mis-used resourced. Blaming anyone (including yourself) is a waste of time and energy. Learn the lessons quickly and move on and rebuild.

14) Preserve yourself for the long run. It's a long slog and maintaining good health, a healthy diet and actively managing your mental health are the keys to "making it" through the rough patches. There will always be rough patches. Only your perspective and ways of dealing with them should improve over time.

15) Money buys you time and convenience, but it also often makes you dependent on material things. If you minimize your needs and wants, money will stop driving your decisions to the same degree and your life will be simplified and enriched by the truly important things - people and experiences. Cut out the fat and inflation from your home, mind and friend pool.

16) Celebrate small wins. Life is too short and everyone needs motivation to carry on with the energy of winning, even when it's small or fleeting.

17) Don't get too high on your successes and don't get too down on yourself for failure. You're in it for the long run.

18) Use the 80/20 Principle for operating in business and personal life. Keep your standards high, but don't be a perfectionist. Don't waste time on useless encounters and experiences. Develop a taste and keep your standards high and un-compromised. Think MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and nothing more, when it will do just fine.

19) Don't rely on others more than you have to. You're bound to be disappointed and once in a while, pleasantly surprised.

20) Sh*t happens. Sh*t happens in droves, in bunches. When it rains, it pours. Bizarre sh*t like getting fired on your last day of a project. Working yourself out of a job. Then again and again. You get betrayed by friends and coworkers - sometimes even by your family members. You get sick. People come and go from your life. You age and (hopefully) learn a bit of wisdom along the way. People change. You change. Standards change. Industries change and disappear. The only constant is change. DEAL WITH IT. Think, "How I learned to live and love the bomb."

21) You're your own best (and worst) gatekeeper, tastemaker, boss, employee, critic and judge. Know where each voice originates and calibrate your response accordingly. Deal with your baggage ASAP. Otherwise, it'll drag you down and get worse with time until you deal with it. Age is not always kind to this process.

22) Have one of each of these on call in your life for the bad times and the good, just as much:  a therapist, a financial adviser, a doctor, a rabbi, a mentor, a good lawyer and at least one true friend.

23) Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither was any significant achievement had without some (often high) dose of failure along the way. Stay the course. It's never a straight line to where you want to end up in life.

24) Don't be seduced by stories of instant riches and overnight success. The failure rate is insanely high for startups. Most that succeed have a combination of good timing, great product to solve an important pain point (although not always) and a great team. The trifecta is quite rare, so if you meet (or have a chance to launch) a startup with all three, jump on the chance!

25) Don't try to be all things to all people (it's exhausting and fruitless). Focus on solving a real pain point for a group of people using your best skills. Focus is everything to success.

Keep calm and carry on, amigo! And let me know how I can help. I'm here all week (really :)

Do you have valuable lessons you've learned from past failures? 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*

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How to Kill All Your Sacred Cows and Really Start Living

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

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

--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have other sacred cows you've killed to transform your life? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

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

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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*

The 50 Best Quotes About Health & Nutrition

Some great collective wisdom here: The 50 Best Quotes About Health & Nutrition - Global Healing Center

http://buff.ly/1hRT5z7

What Would You Do If Money Were No Object? Alan Watts on the Life of Purpose

One key question for breaking free of consumer culture’s hamster wheel. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/10/10/if-money-were-no-object-alan-watts/?utm_content=buffereb879&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=Buffer

Don’t Be A Perfectionist

G-d knows, how we all chase perfectionism in something (or everything) throughout our lives. It does terrible damage. Time to re-evaluate your approach and use the 80/20 Principle. It just works. Don’t Be A Perfectionist

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130903150203-5799319-don-t-be-a-perfectionist

37 Tips for Writing Emails that Get Opened, Read, and Clicked

One of the most important practical skills you MUST master, no matter your field or set of interests. Practice, practice, practice, A-B test, iterate, repeat. Persevere. The results will take you to the next level. 37 Tips for Writing Emails that Get Opened, Read, and Clicked

http://www.copyblogger.com/37-email-marketing-tips/

Damn Good Advice (For People With Talent)

Just buy the book. You'll thank me later. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0714863483

About George Lois (pioneering art director and designer, inter alia): http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lois

HEALTH - Stress management techniques (#HealthyEatingTips Installment 2)

There are several big-picture rules to live by to minimize and manage stress from both daily life and from the sudden and unexpected (both bad and good):

1) Have perspective or gain it as quickly as you can. Don't complain constantly about annoyances or stupid or incompetent people. Solve problems and help people. Help yourself. Eyes on the prize. For both the bad and good - "this, too, will pass."
2) Have safety valves. Have outlets for your steam. Effective coping mechanisms include: a) exercise and regular physical activity (hit the gym), b) a shoulder to lean on and someone reliable to lend an ear (for whom you regularly return the favor), c) distraction and channeling your frustration and left-over energy into something productive - listen to your favorite music, write, create, go take a walk and clear your head, read a new book.
3) ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD, DON'T LOOK BACK. Don't ever look back except when far removed emotionally, just to analyze your mistakes without emotion, so you can correct them for the future. Don't be sentimental about the good or the bad. Live in the moment and also live with an eye and a plan to the future.
4) Play the music loud and dance your ass off. Go out.
5) Have a favorite cocktail that you enjoy at your favorite bar, from time to time, Have a favorite pastry at your little French bakery. Find that coffee shop where you feel at home and comfortable enough to strike up conversations with people. Have a park bench where you come to cry and reminisce or take a girl on a date. Have a favorite dish or 5 at your favorite restaurant (or 5), where you know you will reclaim your humanity after a shitty day.
6) Have a glass of red or white wine at least once a week, with dinner or lunch (on weekends - this isn't France, [un?]fortunately). Experiment with varietals. Have a favorite wine bar where you take friends and try something new on the menu at each visit.
7) Have a beer with a friend from time to time, but not too regularly. Just catch up, let your friend talk and distract yourself from your own egotistical focus on the daily grind, your mostly petty frustrations, etc. Be big-hearted, help others. You'll be helping yourself just as much, if not more.
8) Be ruthless in ridding your life of people and things that stress you out. Live in a noisy apartment with no light? Spend a bit more, maybe move to a different neighborhood, but reclaim some form of comfort in your home. If you have people in your life that bring you down regularly or monopolize your time and/or energy, distance yourself from them ASAP.
9) Notice the sounds, smells, sights, tastes, people in your daily life that are nuisances. Be methodical about getting rid of them or at least avoiding them. Have high standards for yourself in how you treat your senses, intellect and humanity. MISERY FOR ITS OWN SAKE IS CALLED MASOCHISM AND IS PLAIN UNACCEPTABLE.
10) Open your eyes already and stop being afraid to change your life for the better! BE PRO-ACTIVE AND NEVER PASSIVE.
11) ***THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE.*** Get used to it. Embrace it. Ride the horse faster than everyone else. The sooner you decide to organize yourself, make goals and begin to work methodically and patiently to attain them, the easier you will be able to tune out the many distractions and critics and nuisances and "circumstances" that blocked your progress before. Be ruthless and methodical in wanting to improve yourself. The rest are details that will work themselves out.
12) **FUCK "CIRCUMSTANCES"** One's whole life is a perpetual set of "circumstances." Stop making all kinds of f-ing excuses and blaming circumstances and people for your problems. You are your own biggest excuse and crappy circumstance. EVOLVE. ADAPT. Yes, there are richer, smarter, more beautiful, more well hung and hungrier assholes out there, but that just means you have to work three times as hard, as the nice and decent human being who's not without ambition. Embrace the hardships. NEVER WASTE A GOOD CRISIS. G-d is giving you golden opportunities right and left to make something useful and significant out of yourself.
13) Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Strip and burn the martyr's complex. Absolutely nothing wrong with you except your mental blocks. Quite a lot is actually right. Lots of unrealized potential. Now move your ass, get a clue and make something of yourself!

14) FIND A MENTOR. Have a protégé.

15) Don't let assholes mistreat you. No job is worth it if that's all you get there. Quit if you have to and can swing it.

16) See the forest for the trees. Stop and smell the roses. Don't get caught up in the daily grind. Vary up your routine at work and outside. Go exploring. Take regular walks. Stretch every 45min-1hr. Break up the mundanity. Seek out new projects and teams to collaborate with at work. Seek out new people at work and outside. Seek out smarter and more experienced people everywhere. Learn at their feet and then consolidate that knowledge by teaching to your protégé.

17) CREATE. Whatever line of work you're in, BUILD - don't just analyze and push paper. Write, blog, become an expert in something by doing and participating and making and explaining.

18) ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE. ELIMINATE THE NEGATIVE. Repeatedly, regularly and ruthlessly.

19) Escape misery in a good book and with good music. Then tackle your problems head on, once you've had time to grieve and mourn.

20) ORGANIZE YOURSELF and keep iterating once you've found an effective formula. Nothing makes like more difficult and miserable than hopeless clutter in the head and in the house and and at work and in one's personal life. These are all related.

21) Always be on a mission in life. Today could be your last. Seize the moment.

22) Keep experimenting until something sticks. Try and fail until you try and succeed. A-B test jobs, fields, friends, relationships, mentors, acquaintances, etc.

23) LAUGH. Laugh profoundly, laugh from joy. Laugh from good humor. Make others laugh. Truly the best medicine.

24) Have a sense of humor.

- -
365 HEALTHY EATING TIPS, continued:

Breakfast

43) Try a whole-grain waffle topped with sliced fruit in place of heavy pancakes.

44) Omelets or scrambled eggs are healthier than sunny side or over easy.

45) If possible, avoid mixing heavy meats with cheese in your breakfast. They digest at different rates and may lead to gastrointestinal unease.

46) Do your best to make your breakfast not only limited in calories, but more importantly, whole in grains and fruits, and avoid foods that will leave you feeling heavy or bloated.

47) Once in a while, go with low-fat cream cheese, milk and yogurt over the heavy stuff. Dairy is – like other things – good for some things, and not for others in your eating lifestyle.

48) Hot oatmeal is an excellent way to start your day. It helps relieve your body of toxins and provides excellent nutritional value. It also makes you feel full for a while, preventing snack attacks. If overdone, can cause weight gain, however. Beware!

Cajun cuisine

49) Boil your crawfish, shrimp or other shellfish instead of frying.

50) Jambalayas and creoles should prevail over gumbo and roux-type sauces.

51) Grill or boil your seafood to retain the nutritional value of your seafood, and do your best to avoid the fried stuff, such as hush puppies.

52) Substitute white rice for the “dirty” stuff, leaving out butter, liver and the like.

53) Leave sausage out of your red beans and rice.

54) Remember – you can always ask for your gravy or sauce on the side.

55) When getting your fish “blackened,” ask the chef to go easy on oil.

56) You know Cajun isn’t the healthiest thing around, but keep in mind particularly that it tends to be high in saturated (including trans) fat, cholesterol, and sodium. A little creative thinking goes a long way toward retaining the tastes you love and keeping you from guilt and consequences.

Chinese

57) Chinese food can be a health maven’s dream or worst nightmare. It ranges from heavy sauces and exotic creatures to fresh veggies and shoots and simple, tasty dishes. Pick and choose carefully, and enjoy!

58) You’ve heard all about the dangers of MSG. “Chinese food headache” and high sodium are always dangers in Chinese cuisine, so watch out!

59) Duck is a tasty meat addition to a number of dishes. It tends toward heavy and can always be substituted for chicken, if you’re looking for a healthier alternative.

60) Those fried crispy noodles you see everywhere are a ton of empty calories, and should generally be skipped, if possible.

61) Tell the chef to pass on the soy sauce and salt, and most certainly that MSG.

62) Chinese food in America tends toward the popular, not the genuine, so do your research before thinking you’ve seen it all. China is a vast culinary landscape, and our impressions are often wildly inaccurate about what Chinese food really is.

63) To substitute for heavy fried meats, pile on the veggies!

64) Look for water chestnuts in place of cashews and peanuts, if possible, if you’re concerned about your weight.

65) Steamed rice should be an automatic over fried.

66) Brown rice is much healthier than white, like for any other grain.

67) Skip the fried entrees, and go straight to steamed, boiled, lightly stir-fried or broiled. You’ll thank your judgment later.

68) Order steamed dumplings to avoid the heavy feeling of egg rolls or those nice fried wontons you crave.

69) Wonton soup or the hot-‘n-sour variety are a better option than egg drop soup.

70) Sauces with oyster, lobster or beans tend to be packed with sodium. Plum sauce (or a touch of duck sauce), as well as sweet-and-sour can be a better alternative.

71) If you want the “real deal” Chinese, go where Chinese natives go. If there’s no English on the menu or spoken in the place, it’s a good bet you’re on the right track.

 

“Family-style” cuisine

72) Long day at work and the kids are clamoring for food? Off you go to that family diner. No need to drop your common sense or health conscience. There is hope even on this last frontier.

73) Swear off that sour cream, melted cheese, and mayo. Pepto-Bismol doesn’t solve everything, after all.

74) Salads aren’t green magic. Heavy dressings and added meat and cheese make the green stuff not so friendly to your organism.

75) Those delicious buttery croissants on your mind? Take the pita pockets and run with them, instead.

76) Muffins can seem friendly if baked with carrots or fruits, but pack a hefty punch right into your muffin.

77) Save your health and your money. Split large portions with your family and friends. Just because you’re used to eating a lot doesn’t mean you MUST do it every time.

78) All-you-can eat is all-defeat. Use your better judgment and stay away. You may be strong, but not strong enough to resist too much when it’s for the same price.

79) Lay off that compulsive butter and bread before the main course. Just think of your belly and heart.

80) Cream soups are more cream than soup. Go for the broth-based, with veggies.

81) In creamy coleslaw, dairy prevails over the cabbage and carrots. A tossed salad or steamed veggies are a better selection.

82) Baked potatoes are a bit better than fries, but watch out for those dairy and meat toppings!

83) Buffalo chicken wings ain’t fooling anyone. It may be chicken, but healthy, it ain’t!

84) That hot fudge sundae look good? The ice cream calling your name? Don’t relent – fruit ices, sherbet and yogurt are less sugary and lighter.

85) Fried chicken is notorious. Try having your chicken “blackened” for a change.

86) Your salad coming with quiche? Check the soup menu for a filling alternative.

87) Veggie burgers can even taste good sometimes! Experiment with different brands and remember that even vegetarians must enjoy their food, sometimes.

 

Fast food

88) When even McD’s offers “healthy,” it’s not your mother’s fast food scene. All the same, remain skeptical. Watch our for filler ingredients like corn syrup and also preservatives. Fast food still sells on sugar and fat, but may also offer you that fresh fruit and healthy salad you may be looking for.

89) Calorie counts don’t even begin to tell the whole story. Is it fried? Are you getting the value meal with cola and fries? Your value here will kill your health over the long run, and will cost you much more in medical bills.

90) Delay instant gratification, as much as is possible with eating. Consistency in conscious food selection and a healthy life style will derive great benefits, and don’t mean starving yourself or losing out on flavor and enjoyment. Treat yourself, just not quite every time.

91) Topping your burger with cheese, mayo or bacon is great and all, but you’re just asking for a huge calorie count and a shot of saturated fat to your blood vessels. Be reasonable, and indulge your good sense from time to time.

92) To add flavor without crazy fat calories, go for onions, lettuce, mustard and/or ketchup.

93) If possible, avoid ketchup with corn syrup in it. Its just extra carbs in a place you don’t expect.

94) Corn syrup isn’t quite pure evil, but not too far, either. It’s in a huge percentage of all grocery foods, and often used in foods you would never expect. Remain vigilant and know that you’re getting extra calories through the back door.

95) Be skeptical of “low-fat” claims on foods. Often, this can mean that fat calories have been replaced with carb calories. Corn syrup is a popular and cheap alternative, making food appealing by adding sugar and endangering your waistline.

96) Imagine that fried fish sandwich sitting like a brick in your digestive track. Yep, that’s about right.

97) Baked potatoes should be garnished with low-fat sour cream instead of butter or the heavier stuff. All the same, watch for fillers and keep the big picture in mind.

98) If you must have those potato chips, go for the baked, if possible. You’re avoiding oil and heaviness, later. Pretzels could work, too.

99) Let the fried chicken cross the road in the other direction. Try a fajita chicken wrap instead.

100)Your milkshake bring the boys to the yard? Not if you have your milkshake and drink it, too. Try it with skim milk or juice, instead.

101) Soft drinks are truly your worst enemy, dressed as your best friend. One thing is empty calories and crazy sugar content. Another is damaged teeth and gums and digestive issues from carbonation. Once again, corn syrup is at play. That special secret formula? They can keep it.

102) Diet colas mask real sugar with the fake stuff, but still damage your teeth over time. Sure, that diet Coke looks good, but good for you, it never will be.

103) Fruit juices are generally better than cola, but have their own sugar problem. Freshly squeezed and pure juices (not from concentrate) are a better bet than the reconstituted stuff from concentrate. Fruits are usually acidic and the juice reasonably caloric, so enjoy in moderation.

MIND - Anton Chekhov's "8 Things Civilized People Do"

8 concise and timeless rules to live by if being civilized and decent is your thing, from a letter to his brother Nikolai, a talented painter and drunk: http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2013/07/29/8-things-civilized-people-do-by-anton-chekhov/

Premises/Organizing Principles for the Mind

MIND: Life is all about balance - a dynamic and always shifting balance between parts of yourself that are always in opposition.

To live well and productively and in a fulfilling manner, you've got to keep a mind that is sharp, balanced, nimble, hungry, humble and always learning and wanting to improve life and your performance as on a human level, as well as a professional and creative level.

To get to a level where your mind is humming at near-peak capacity, you must live a sustainably healthy lifestyle and achieve (or at least strive productively, on a regular basis, to achieve) dynamic stability with regard to your finances, personal life, work, relationships, spirituality and creative life. Tall order, you say? Nobody said this would be easy.

Be patient - with others, with yourself, with your own imperfection and that of others. Be patient with your circumstances, with your failures, as well as your successes.

CTFD - that's CALM THE FUCK DOWN. It's just not that big a deal, whatever problem you're facing. It'll pass. It'll get better.

"The two most important days of your life are the day you're born and the day you understand what for." - Mark Twain

Every experience is formative, both bad and good. Each encounter has a reason, each event a part of a long continuum. Learn from every person, both for the good and the bad. Seek wisdom from any source, especially from those who have seen something of life and have thought a bit about its meaning.

Each day is a new mission. Everything happens for a reason. You'll find out later "why is this happening to me?!" if you don't know now.

Have perspective on life. If you don't, work hard to gain it. It might take a few hard blows, but you'll get there.

Premises/Organizing Principles for the Home

All right, guys. Before we get down to business - the nitty gritty, if you will - let's take some time to understand where I'm coming from, what are the basic principles, premises and ethical framework within which I'm operating here. Home:

Your home is your base, your castle, your domain. Make it count.

Your house is a reflection of your mind. If organized and clean, it means you're on top of things. If dirty and unkempt, you're in bad shape.

You've got to keep things clean and tidy and dust-free.

Make your bed. Fold your clothes away in closets and drawers without delay.

Must have good light. If artificial, it better mimic natural light as best as possible. Makes a huge difference with your mood.

Keep plants around to produce oxygen.

Remove allergens from the house.

Don't place your A/C too close to your bed - will give you colds regularly.

Create an atmosphere that's airy an comfortable and makes you happy and cheers you up, no matter what.

Make sure you actually want to live there, not just sleep. Make sure it's a place you wouldn't be ashamed to show to friends and dates, to say nothing of your Mom when she visits. Even with a shabby space, you can do a great makeover and for little money at Ikea, Target, etc.