13 Observations (and Life Lessons) at 33

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Thank you for the many wonderful birthday wishes, amigos! May your blessings be doubled in return for each of you and your families. While I have your social-media-assisted attention, here are some observations and free life lessons at 33.

1) 33 is old. According to Russians, since Jesus did his last marvelous acts and had his final supper at 33, it means this age brings real adulthood. Having 2 kids confirms only the obvious.

2) Your level of happiness (and meaning in your life) is very much based on the quality of humans around you every day. Spend time only with good people that wish you well and stay away from a-holes who don't mean well. Life is too short and precious to waste on negative emotions. You are the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with. Let that sink in. No wonder I'm a kid at heart ;)

3) Fix yourself ASAP. Life is too short to beat yourself up about the past and your current shortcomings. Get help, if you need it (and we all need it at some point). No human is perfect. Sleep as well as you can regularly (kids permitting). Eat only what you need to function well during the week and treat yourself on the weekend.

4) Create hard and fast rules around work hours and being with family, as well as your finances. Planning is much more important than you can imagine, especially if you're a "free spirit." Plans can become broken, but without a framework, you won't have a point of reference. If you don't separate work time from family time, you'll harm both sides of the (often non-existent) divide.

5) Take a weekly Sabbath from the mundane, electronic and inertial. It's a gift, so embrace it and don't squander it!

6) Minimize all the *stuff* (crap) around you. Live and tread lightly. Cut the cords holding you back in the past. Stop buying *stuff* to feel good. It never makes you feel good for long. Embrace experiences over said *stuff.* Even if you end up doing something far out of your comfort zone, you will learn SO much just from pushing yourself beyond your disgust, biases, expectations, etc.

7) Be good to all people, especially the jerks. They need it most. Be late for the bus because you helped someone. Do something nice and productive that you're not paid for at least once a day.

8) There is no ideal free time to be creative. It never comes, so don't hold your breath waiting for it. Write, paint, act, speak, find inspiration and express it NOW, not tomorrow and not later today. Keep a notebook and write down your experiences. Memory is notoriously selective and only gets worse with age.

9) Be that magic mentor that you've always looked for. Be the first to help others without seeking anything in return. What goes around, comes around. Always, eventually, often much later, but it does.

10) Negotiate. This time, every time. All relationships - with family, friends, bosses, strangers - are a form of negotiation. Negotiation is not zero-sum, but it always brings value over saying and doing nothing.

11) Live and let live. Life is too short to judge others (and yourself) negatively. Look for the best in people, but always have your eyes open. Everyone is flawed, everyone has been through pain and trials. Learn from each person, whether for what to do or NOT to do in life. Forgive others easily - and yourself, no less so. Don't let the small stuff kill you. Use the 80/20 Principle in everything you undertake. Plant new seeds every day. Write down new ideas and start new ventures when possible. Create a healthy daily routine and the good habits to go with it. Stick with it and leave room for error and experimentation.

12) Be grateful for the people in your life and the circumstances of your life. It's here today, gone tomorrow. There is always a billion or two out there living with much less in opportunity and resources than you and in much worse conditions. Your potential is far beyond what you know and what you let yourself.

13) No one - NO ONE - owes you a damn thing in life. Not your parents, not siblings, spouses, children. Hard as it is to accept and process, this fact also makes you more grateful and motivated to treasure the good and helpful people in your life.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

[Lifehack.org Post] 12 Reminders A Married Man Wants You to Know and Remember

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Being married changes people. Some couples become closer and happier. Some become distant.

You learn to truly co-exist with someone every day, despite their flaws—and more, despite your own. You learn to work with what you have today, not what you want someday from him or her. You learn to give—and to receive, as well. Your true self starts to reappear from childhood. Marriages force you to negotiate and compromise—a LOT, no matter you like it or not. After the first two years or so of lovey-dovey soft stuff, it becomes about just wanting to do good for him or her. After the honeymoon’s forgotten, it’s about the comfort, spending time together, not the glamour or the fancy gifts.

The act of getting married’s easy. Staying married’s hard.

A friend’s father-in-law once said, “This got me through a good twenty first years of marriage: ‘You’re right, I’m wrong. I’m sorry, I will change.’ One day, she tells me. ‘Hey, I’ve heard this one too many times.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, I will change. I’m wrong, you’re right.’ And this has lasted me another ten until today.”

Wisdom in marriage is hard-earned, in stride. Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

1. Marriage is constant work.

Never stop dating. Always pay attention. Keep learning, sharing, laughing with your partner. Treat yourself well and treat your partner even better. Never neglect your looks or words or actions—or your thoughts. Keep working hard to be a better person, lover, partner, chef, bartender and caretaker, janitor and driver. Seek truth, not to be right.

Make sure to listen carefully—the first time, every time. Just get stuff done ASAP, on time. Keep your mouth shut; don’t moan and complain. Be helpful, be encouraging. Get your chores done each day, don’t wait. Know when the storm is coming; it will pass. The morning’s wiser than the night. Resolve your argument before you sleep (apologize!)

2. Argument is just not worth it

Most of the time, the argument is just not worth it. Pick your battles carefully.

Being right will make you proud one moment, but will piss her off. Bad move. Be smart.

3. Laugh hard

If you can’t laugh, you’ll die. And if you can, you’ll manage through mundane, profane, the painful and the thrilling.

4. How’s life? How is your wife?

One and the same. That’s one cliche both sexes can agree on.

5. It can be like riding on a roller coaster

How’s married life? The answer can be different any given day. Today is glorious, tomorrow awful. And so what?

6. Never compare your couple to any other.

This always leads to disaster. Never compare your house, your relationship, your sex life, your wealth or anything else to anyone else’s. That’s the first step to being consumed by fear, jealousy, envy and all the other negative emotions.

Live your own life. Bring out the best in each other and work on your own couple, per your own standards and expectations.

7. Instinct and emotion trump pure reason.

This is the hardest thing for some people to learn and then accept. Sometimes, one spouse is often right despite what may seem wrongful reasoning, irrational demands, emotional appeals. Reason alone is not enough and leads you down wrong paths. Sometimes you really have to listen to your spouse and follow his or her requests, then ask the questions later.

8. Well, do you miss the chase?

Yes and no. Even if you loved to date before, when married, you’ll think twice and three and four times before pursuing another man or woman. Once you invest all your efforts with one person for so long (and actually succeed), why would you want to jeopardize it for a shallow hook-up?

More to the point, if you’ve stopped chasing your wife, you’ve lost a step yourself. If you’ve stopped exciting her with your jokes, actions and ideas, you need fresh material. It’s your job to keep her excited about you and where you’re going together in life.

Your wife is a different woman every day. Make things exciting by wooing her like you want to win her. Try something new once in a while. The same goes for those of you with husbands!

9. Doesn’t the sex get bad?

If you let it, for sure it does. If either of you let things get stale in any part of your relationship—especially this one—it can really bring down the enjoyment factor.

Here’s a novel idea (followed by Orthodox Jews): separate for a few days each month and don’t touch each other at all. When you’re back in the saddle, it’s gooood.

10. Patience isn’t a virtue; it’s earned.

Not just patience with your partner, but with yourself. You have to always work to improve yourself, but progress is never quick.

Patience is the only way you can get past all the frustrations that can pile up when you take two people with different personalities, hormones, cultures, languages, worldviews, types of hygiene, ways or organizing life and so on and put them together in one house.

Meditate, pray, take a walk around the block. Play the long game. Do whatever you have to do to be patient with your partner and with yourself. You will prevail over your foibles and get over the silly things that cause you to argue and become frustrated.

11. Your spouse is always #1.

Not your book, not your job, not your best buddy. When your spouse needs you, you drop everything. Or eventually, he or she will drop you.

12. Never settle or backslide.

Once you do, your relationship starts a slow death. Maintain the high standards for yourself you had when you met—and impressed—each other and fell in love.

--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Walk/move/run throughout the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15) Don't go shopping when hungry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– –

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

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Take good care of your mind.

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

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

Kill all your sacred cows and really start living.

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

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

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

Value your time above all (see #2).

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

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

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

EVERYTHING is negotiable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 10 things to be thankful for RIGHT NOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minimize the number of daily decisions you have to make.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16) Don't do it alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18) When you fail, fail quickly and cheaply.

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

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

19) Get fired at least once.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's how to find your career personality type.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22) Sow new seeds every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

--

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The goal here is four-fold:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there other important strategies you’ve used to negotiate effectively as a professional woman? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

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*

 

[Lifehack.org post] This Is What Happens When You Disconnect For 24 Hours

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If you’re like me, you know it’s hard as anything, un-tethering yourself from your smartphone, iPad and laptop – first at work and then at home. Frankly, to disconnect can be tough as withdrawal (not kidding, folks). But hey, you know it’s hurting your relationships at home and work. People have told you to your face to stop. But you just can’t. There’s always something pulling you toward that Facebook feed, that Pinterest board, then CNN for news, then TMZ (ok, you’re on your own, if that’s the case). Then once again, a vicious cycle.

Today’s the day. You have decided to “forget” your phone and other electronics, leave them be and see what happens.

It isn’t easy, let me tell you, but the best thing that has happened to me since I started roughly 7 years ago. It gives me back a solid, memorable block of time with family and friends, to reconnect, reflect, recharge, restore my “default setting,” if you will. You see, when I was 25, I started keeping Sabbath – the Jewish Sabbath, in my case. Since then, it’s literally my religion to turn off my phone and all devices from sundown on Friday for 25 hours.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Your mind will start to clear up from a fog.

Perhaps you can’t remember that last time you found yourself without a working phone or Wifi. Perhaps it was during a hike upstate, up in a plane somewhere or after drowning your iPhone. Sadly, it felt like wasted time. In fact, it was a golden opportunity you missed to rest, to write, reflect, to change things up, to feel more human.

Between the pull of business and the personal, between e-mail and fear of missing out, I’ll be the first to call myself a smartphone addict. However, when that sundown hits on Friday, I turn on “Do Not Disturb” and put the phone away. The endless whirl of tasks and people wanting my attention ceases. The constant pressure of my fear of wasting time begins to lift. My mind and thoughts turn to the Sabbath table, spending time with family. The simple act of eating – and enjoying dinner – with my wife and daughter, sometimes friends is wonderful and human and refreshing. Wine flows, we eat amazing food. Nobody’s in a rush somewhere. When someone asks you how you are, you really take the time to think, reflect and answer thoughtfully. You start remembering just how important family is, how precious your time is with them and friends.

2. You’ll get to infuse your life with novelty again.

The week is all about the auto-pilot. Wake up, then brush your teeth, jump in the subway, get to work, check email, send your updates, then have lunch, back out for coffee around 3 PM, then home at 5 (or later). Once you get home, its not long until you go to bed! And in between, you sneak in Facebook, Pinterest (and TMZ, G-d help you).

Saturday morning, I wake up whenever, no alarm. I spend the best time with my family, eating breakfast, catching up, playing with my daughter, reading a book I’ve long abandoned, a new magazine.

We see the people that we really like – people that like us back, invite us over often, plus new faces. One family gave birth this week, a son. Another’s kid is now engaged. Somebody else got honored at their job. We celebrate the good, reflect on bad things happening and try to make sense of them, leaving with actionable wisdom we can use throughout the week and year. We take a walk. There is a gorgeous garden on the way back home. Imagine everything you are missing in the world around you!

3. You’ll notice your senses will revive.

Being busy is easy throughout the week. The weekend can be packed, as well, visiting bars and restaurants, flea markets, brunch, whatever. That pull of being connected is still there. You still can’t focus on the awesome dish you ordered – here’s a text! The wine’s aroma is not quite the same – Mom’s calling!

The simple fact of being away from my devices makes me pause and focus on the food and drink and people right before me, their ideas, my own. I stop, reflect, try to make sense of all the madness going on around me. It puts the busy-ness to rest. Because I can’t be bothered by an email or call or buzz or ring, I start remembering the times when I was young and unconnected. This brings me back to NOW, not the next thing today, tomorrow or next week or month. I like the smell of coffee, tossing an idea around, maybe to read a book together with my daughter, horse around with funny faces, sounds, language constructions or whatever else just comes to mind.

4. You’ll see that time will start to slow down.

The Sabbath is no longer than another day. But when you step away and don’t let others push their emails and demands on you, the time just stretches.

Taking a day off from the rat race – and its long tentacles through technology – brings me back to my original, childhood state for a day. I can laugh and read books I like and have long conversations about things that are really interesting to me without feeling guilty that I’m wasting precious time. I pack so much into those daylight hours on Friday night and Saturday that it makes me wonder why the weekdays seem so short, in comparison.

5. You’ll have a fuller and more meaningful because of rest.

I can’t emphasize how critical taking one day off is for having a productive week. The rest of the week is that much more filled and productive because I can’t work and move things forward (except in my mind) on the Sabbath.

Since I’ve started keeping the Sabbath, the paradigm has flipped on its head. I don’t do Sabbath to make for a more fulfilling week. I do a fulfilling week so I can do the Sabbath properly. Because there’s seemingly less time when I have to take off a day, it makes me more eager to accomplish more during the rest of week  and I do!

6. You’ll forget the week’s stresses.

Hello, sleep! Byebye, red, tired eyes. Byebye, ADD. Byebye, guilt. Today, I rest and all of life’s stresses can go fly a kite. Maybe I’ll go fly a kite, myself!

In all seriousness, just taking a nap in the middle of the day after lunch can totally change your week by letting you catch up from those nights with too little sleep. It will really, truly recharge your batteries and give you amazing energy to tackle whatever your issues are with a renewed strength and resolve.

7. You’ll regain purpose in life and remember the reasons why you’re working like a dog through the rest of the week.

It’s not just for your career advancement, more money, more recognition, more stuff you can buy. It’s for your family, for humanity, for your growth and development as a human being. You have a mission in life – to improve the human condition in your particular, unique way. You want great experiences in your life, not just more stuff. A day off from the pressures of the outside world helps you to return to your roots as a human being – not just a cog in some machine.

8. You’ll have a chance to stop and understand what you’re doing wrong.

Without distractions from work or friends and family, you have a rare chance to do some soul-searching and understand what needs fixing. The acknowledgement and calling a spade, a spade is the first step to lasting change for the better.

How many times did I have a really bad week and then because of the Sabbath mindset, found a way to move the needle forward on one problem or another? Simply changing my routine a day often uncovered novel solutions or ideas from people I met or a new book or article I read – because I had time and opportunity for it. Breaking my routine and seeing my problems in a different light has been invaluable to transforming myself for the better.

9. You’ll notice improvement in physical and mental health.

Taking the time to cook dinner properly, being surrounded by people you love, ample sleep and real stress relief all have a measurable positive effect on your physical health and mental well-being. Unplugging helps me keep my sanity, focus better, get more down time, plus good food and time with people I enjoy. The rest is commentary.

10. You’ll be more likely to get to work on improving yourself.

This has a tangible difference in pushing you forward after the time you’ve had to rest, reflect and come in contact with new ideas, people and strategies for improvement. You’ll be like a lion rearing to go because you won’t want to go back to being the same person you were a day before. This is how you change things for the better, week after week, regardless of whatever setbacks the week brought you.

Featured photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo via deathtothestockphoto.us5.list-manage2.com

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

Are there other great strategies you’ve used to unplug? 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 Build Sustainable Health and Well-being

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"How do you manage through the stress of living in New York, a family, huge student debt, a full-time job, plus writing and the other stuff you do?"

Well, that's a question for the ages. It's mostly been through trial and error, big mistakes, consistent tweaking, finding Moses, having to live through great upheaval, moving 20 times, rebirth, being born with sensitive digestion and high sensitivity. Nothing's been easy, but hard work's paid off.

I haven't let my "circumstances" break me, simply. But also, it's through discipline and patience. Rome wasn't built in a day. Along the way, I've learned a lot about how to maintain my health - both physical and mental - and what is most important to the process.

**Here is the A-Z of what I've done to get to where I am today**:

A) Eat a consistently balanced diet.

Accustom your digestive system to wholesome foods and make it a habit (with variations to keep things interesting). Experiment, but have a solid backbone of a regimen.

Eat a bigger breakfast, light lunch and light dinner before 7 PM. Don't eat too much sugar. Avoid refined foods, preservatives and complex-sounding ingredients.

Eat a wide variety of foods. Get your vitamins and minerals through food, not supplements.

Keep your portions small by using smaller plates. Make your own food at home to control nutrition and costs.

Focus on maintaining a healthy digestive system. Don't push it to the edge too often or you will end up (permanently) sick or worse.The goal is to limit inflammation and oxidation. Therefore, watch how much spicy and acidic food you eat (and never late at night), how much dairy you consume (the less, the better).

Consumer adequate fiber and B vitamins from whole grains and green vegetables. Make salads often. Eat little or no red meat (poultry is better) and lots of fish (better to freeze before cooking, to kill sea words and other parasites). Eat olive oil and drink red wine periodically. Fruits and veggies.

Eat yogurt and drink kefir to maintain thriving gut bacteria (a key to the whole process of digestion).

B) Hydrate throughout the day (but don't drink too much water, either).Sip lukewarm water with honey and lemon several times a day. Drink water before meals (ideally, 15-30 minutes before) and 30+ minutes after (but never DURING the meal).

C) Move! Walking even twice a day and getting up to stretch every hour does marvels for your health (more than going to the gym before or after work!)

D) Learn to relieve stress safely and effectively, every single day.Here's a good primer on how to do this well.

Take regular breaks. Switch things up (go out after work, meet friends, create new experiences).

Sleep well (7-8 hours a night), most importantly. Block out as much sound and light as you can from your bedroom (use blackout shades, turn off appliances in the background, etc.). Keep all your devices far away from you while you sleep. Pay careful attention to your circadian rhythms and don't mess with them!

Maintain good dental hygiene twice a day - floss, mouthwash, brush thoroughly, use a tongue scraper. When your mouth is inflamed or bleeding, it's often a sign of bigger health problems.

Learn to plan and prepare ahead of important meetings, at work and at home. Prep meals for the next day ahead of time before you sleep. Prepare the clothes and shoes you'll wear, plus whatever else you need in your bag for tomorrow.

Reduce the number of decisions you have to make in the morning (and in general, every day).

Resolve all the conflicts with people that you can before going to sleep. Take vacations!

E) Know who you are and where you're going in life. Here's How to Find Out What You Are Really Meant to Do in Life. Now march to the beat of your own drummer.

F) Meditate daily and weekly (observe your own personal Sabbath, especially from everything digital).

Know where you came from and where you're going. Who are you, in the grand scheme of things? What is the meaning of life for you? What are your mission and purpose?

Keep up a weekly (ideally, daily) check-in with yourself about your progress on the spiritual front.

Learn from every man and woman you meet, whether what to do or NOT to do. Take classes to learn the wisdom and coping/survival/thriving strategies of other traditions outside your own.

Know that there is a reason for everything you go through, everything that happens to you and everyone else. You may not know the reasons now, but you'll see them later.

All setbacks are growth opportunities. Don't waste them in self-pity. Move on and learn the lessons quickly.

G) Know that every problem you have or will ever have has been faced by many other people, including family, friends and acquaintances (and people posting online).

Seek out their wisdom and use it. Don't reinvent the wheel. Read Quora. Read forums, interest groups, crowdsource solutions from your networks. Ask for advice - you may even get a job out of it!

H) Turn off and/or put away your devices at set times.Put the smartphone away at dinner and before you sleep. Keep it away from your bedside. Don't check your phone first thing in the morning. Wait at least an hour. Read something interesting (magazine, book) on the pot, instead.

I) Surround yourself with family and friends good people who want you to succeed and be healthy.Distance yourself from negative people and their energy-sucking antics.

J) Value your time above all other resources.Are you doing something that's helping you grow as a person, professional or artist? Are you spending time with people that will help you move along the right path, with your best interest in mind? If not, move on quickly.

Maintain high standards for the things that you consume and produce (what you eat and how you digest, what you hear and how you speak, what you watch and what you show others).

K) Work hard to understand what thoughts/scripts (things you always tell yourself) hold you back and change them.

Here's a primer on how to acknowledge them and then start changing them.

L) Learn to say no to people and things that waste your time.Repeat often. Now your "Yes" is really worth something to you and others.

M) Break free of allergens making your life miserable. Do an elimination diet (eliminate candidate foods and ingredients that you might be allergic to). Clean the house regularly and your desk at work, too.

N) Set a home cleaning regimen.Get a cleaning lady, if you can't manage on your own. Cleanliness of the house reflects cleanliness of the mind.

O) Set up your finances.

This is the single biggest source of stress and illness for most people. Learn to budget and optimize cash flows and investments effectively. Diversify your sources of income. Read up on personal finance (for example, Ramit Sethi's The Ultimate Guide to Making Money).

Optimize your spending patterns - always negotiate and look for better prices. Buy fewer things, but of higher quality (that will last longer).

Create financial goals and plan out how to reach them. Consult a financial planner. Pay off your highest-percentage debt first. Carefully monitor your credit and improve it in every way you can. Have at least a 6-month cushion in savings that's readily accessibly in emergencies.

Invest in low-fee financial instruments like ETFs and index funds to maximize returns.

Put the minimal amount in your 401(k) to get your employer match, but not a penny more. 401(k) programs are lucrative for employers and the mutual funds that manage the money, but not very much so for you and I.

P) Keep a journal. Keep a pen and notepad by your bedside, at work and in your bag. It's critical to look back and reflect on what you've been through and how you've grown since then.

Q) Write down 10 ideas for something new each day. Make it a habit. Thank James Altucher. And read his stuff every day. Trust me, it's great.

R) Organize all your information in a way that you can find and access it easily at any time.

Always be organizing. Organize your work files, email, notes, music, etc. This reduces stress when you need something right away (and that's several times a day). Take notes in one place (if on a computer, then in a WORD file - one per subject). Otherwise, take notes on a note pad with a pen. Ideally, your notes are easily and quickly searchable (computer is easier). Use Evernote.

S) Always be reading!Read constantly, always be learning and asking questions and helping others with your knowledge.

T) Use (almost) every minute of your free time for something useful (outside of rest time set aside) to read, write, reflect, learn and plan ahead. It's also perfectly ok to be bored and do nothing, sometimes. It helps calm the nerves and reset. But being bored all the time is a waste. The world is too interesting and needs you too much to do something useful. Oh yeah, get rid of that TV, while you're at it.

U) Know your boundaries and push beyond them constantly.Never rest on your laurels. Take risks (better, calculated risks). Again, don't waste any opportunities for growth.

V) Automate and outsource what others can do better, faster and/or cheaper than you to save time. Here's a great resource that can help - Ari Meisel's Less Doing blog.

W) Say thank you as much as you can, especially to family and friends.Express your gratitude in person and in writing. If you believe in G-d, then say thanks for the food you eat, for keeping your organism whole and functioning properly, for good things that happen in your life, for giving you sustenance and all the other blessings you have in life.

Leave no person worse off for having met you - and do your best to leave them better off for it. How can you help? Ask!

X) Kill all your Sacred Cows. You'll thank me later.

Y) Focus. Nothing great in life was ever accomplished without at least some measure of sustained focus. I have ADD as much, if not worse, than the next guy. But when I'm focused and in my element (despite all the insane distractions in life), that's where I'm at my best.

Z) Find your purpose and mission in life and execute on them.The only thing that matters is your performance against your potential, not how you compare against anyone else. NEVER compare yourself to anyone else. You have a unique mission and purpose and nobody else's should matter to you for comparison.

Lastly, know that all is One. Everything in life has a meaning. Also, keep in mind that each of us came from dust and will go back to dust when finished in this life, which is but a blink in the continuum of the universe.

In light of that. do your best with what you were given in life and the good things will follow.

I wish you only the best of luck in your journey. If I can ever be of help, please do get in touch!

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Are there other methods you've used to achieve sustainable health and wellbeing? 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*

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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12 Easy Life-Changing Habits You Can Start Today 

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Life runs away from us sometimes, no matter how we may be disciplined or "good" about our health.
Stress, lack of sleep, big changes (kids, new job) too often throw us off our well-intentioned regimens and diets, jogging routes and stable patterns.
The slide is long, inglorious, depressing. Now, here we are, pissed and annoyed.
Let's ask, how do I get back on the saddle?
1) Walk every single day. Get up and stretch once for each hour of sitting. After you stretch your arms and back and legs, go take a walk. Walk in mid-morning, during lunch and in the afternoon, your schedule permitting. At least go out at lunch. Sitting is death, advanced at interest.
2) Starting with morning, sip warm water charged with lemon and honey through the day. This is an old Ayurvedic trick to prime immunity from sickness and improve digestion. Along with ginger, honey and lemon are two of the best natural anti-biotics known to man.
3) Say thanks as often as possible. Practicing gratitude is infectious, gives you valuable perspective on what's important in life and even boosts your immunity. It also makes you an attractive mate, shows a sincerity and may yet win you friends and influence.
4) Brainstorm continuously and carry a small notepad and pen. Write down your thoughts (10 at a time, no less - hat tip: James Altucher). Although the bulk will likely prove to be completely useless, it will exercise your thought muscle. As James Altucher likes to call it, engage in "idea sex." This is how true breakthroughs for creatives and business folks alike really happen.
5) Take the stairs to go up and especially to go down. You'll get your heart working and motivate yourself to break through your laziness.
6) Write someone you admire to ask them for coffee. Don't ask to pick their brain. Be ready with specific questions about their path to where they are now (successful in their chosen field), their good habits and what they would recommend for you to do to achieve your goals. Ask for advice, sometimes get a job. Ask for a job, you'll always get advice.
7) Smile and laugh every day. You're not on Candid Camera, but everyone's watching anyway. Kids laugh and smile all day long. Why not you, as well? Your smile and your laugh are lights you introduce into the world. Others instantly react with smiles and laughter. Think of something really amazing in your life - your family, friends, co-workers, idols, whoever. Hold onto that thought and smile in appreciation. Smile because you think of something really positive in your life. Life's not so bad, no matter what you're going through. No one can take away the nature of what makes you truly happy - relationships and passions and experiences.
8) Listen to music you love for focus and to get through the tough times, but choose when you play which music throughout the day. Depressing music will depress you, no matter how great it is. Upbeat music will raise your spirits. You know what makes you tick. Set your soundtrack to modulate your mood carefully. Music can get you out of a funk, energize you to power through work, just as well as it can mess up your mood or kill it.
9) Call a friend. Don't text him or her. Don't Facebook your friend. Call - or even better, go say hi in person! Ah, good old human contact! How much you've missed it :)
 10) Tell a joke! Remember how you used to crack jokes all the time as a kid? Well, be a kid for once! Tell a joke to make someone laugh or smile. You'll do the same, lower your stress, relax and release some do-gooder hormones, for once.
11) Learn something! Watch a TED talk. Read Arts & Letters Daily or Brain Pickings. Take a class at Brooklyn Brainery (if in NYC) or General Assembly. Post questions (or answer them) on Quora. Go solve some brain-stimulating puzzles on Puzzles.com. Read some amazing lifehacks on... Lifehacker. Take courses on Udemy, edX or any number of other free MOOC websites.
12) Read a book. Put down your phone after you leave the office. Take a good book you've been meaning to read a while and jump right in. Reading increases empathy, which may (MAY) just make you a better person.
Now get on going, soldier! I'll be rooting for you :)

--Do you have other great habits you've gained to change your life for better? 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 Improve Your Skin (For Good)

girl-flowers Back from another holiday weekend, you look into the mirror. All that fatty, oily, heavy food over the weekend. Going to sleep late, face unwashed. So stressed at work. Burnt by the sun. Yekh. The skin's not happy. And it shows.

What do you do?!

The skin's your largest organ, a reflection of the state of things inside your body and your mind. Your facial skin, especially, is a signal of your overall health. When you break out or otherwise are not taking good care of health, your face will show it.

Not all is lost. There are some lifestyle elements to change, but you can have good skin, even if you were not exactly born with it. Take it from someone who had acne issues all through teenage years and college. You learn to live a healthy lifestyle, tailor your skin regimen to what G-d gave you and tweak your diet, sleep schedule and the way you manage stress.

Here are some concrete steps to take to get your skin in working order and in better shape.

1) Wash your skin regularly (every night before bed and morning, upon awaking). Use a good glycolic cleanser that doesn't strip your skin of oil completely, cleans your pores and yet conditions skin. Use plenty of lukewarm water. Make sure the cleanser you use contains only conditioning natural ingredients (such as avocado or argan oil, shea butter, olive oil and aloe juice) and nothing to which you're allergic (more on that later). Good facial skin hygiene is critical to looking and feeling your best every day.

2) Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Avoid touching your face often, especially picking your acne. When you pick your acne, you invite bacteria, spread it around your face to other pores and make it more likely that further acne will appear. Keep your hands off and let your facial hygiene routine take care of the rest.

3) Get a good night's sleep, every night. Sleep clears out toxins from your body. If your sleep is of poor quality or quantity, your skin will suffer. Pores will get clogged and erupt. Toxins will collect and cause further damage.

4) Stay properly hydrated throughout the day. Drink water before meals and at least 30 minutes after, NOT during meals (this messes up digestion). Proper hydration ensures faster toxin removal, improves digestion (which also plays a role in skin health). Drink lukewarm water better than just cold. Add lemon juice and honey for a morning cleanse. Make it a habit.

5) Make it a habit to use sun screen of the SPF that's right for your skin color and type. Wear a hat when out in the sun for prolonged periods. Use common sense to prevent burning and apply pure aloe vera on your skin after sun exposure to counter the effects of burning and skin aging.

6) Avoid steroidal treatments for acne. Try elimination diet and natural remedies first. Put on a clay mask to dry out persistent cystic acne. Steroidal treatments are very commonly prescribed and yet are dangerous for their long-term effects, which include weight gain and others.

7) Eliminate allergens, both in food and your home and office. If you have persistent acne, do an elimination diet, where you eliminate the candidates for allergies for you - whether it's gluten, dairy, peanuts or whatever else. Once you figure out what's giving you digesting problems, it should also help clear up your skin. In terms of your environment at home and in the office, dust frequently and avoid other allergens that may be causing your skin to break out.

8) Don't eat junk that's too salty or too sweet, fatty, yeasty, spicy or oily. These are all strong candidates for causing acne. Just. Stay. Away.

9) Don't eat late and don't eat a heavy dinner. When you eat heavy food and/or eat late (after 7 PM), your digestive system will have to work harder beyond its night capacity (which is lower due to circadian rhythms and the day's fatigue), which means more toxins are released right before and during sleep, which will affect the quality of your sleep and may lead to skin problems. If you do eat heavy food and late in the evening, make sure to follow up with a cup of decaf tea to help digestion along.

10) Learn to manage your stress more effectively. Here is a detailed blog post on this subject.

11) Eliminate and neutralize the largest sources of inflammation and oxidation in your diet. Eat more anti-oxidants such as berries, green leafy vegetables, etc. Drink red wine to get your dose of phenols to fight oxidation and inflammation in your body from heavy food (see 8 above). Drink green tea after your meals for another anti-oxidant boost. Manage the damage from heavy or difficult-to-digest food in your digestive system, which results in heavy oxidation and inflammation. These two are the causes of many chronic diseases such as diabetes II and heart disease.

12) Sweat! Let your skin breathe! Whether through vigorous walking or exercise or even by eating spicy food, make sure to sweat regularly. Sweat helps release and eliminate toxins from the body and skin and to keep the pores clean.

13) Use lotion in the winter to stay hydrated, preferably one that's plant-based, not petroleum-based.

14) Eat a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies, yogurt for intestinal flora health (to maintain efficient digestion), fiber and a full range of food-based vitamins. A balanced diet is by far the most important factor in your skin's health.

15) Maintain good dental hygiene. When your teeth are in bad shape, it means your organism is not healthy. When you brush, floss and use mouthwash twice every day, you are well on the way to good dental health. A mouth with sores or open wounds lets in bacteria that endanger your skin health equally, as toxins get in the blood and circulate, causing serious problems  Remember, all the functions of the body are connected to the skin.

16) if all other natural remedies fail, seek medical attention. It may be a sign of more serious medical problems in need of diagnosis and treatment.

The list above is not exhaustive, but addresses the main strategies for keeping your skin healthy.

Enjoy and here's to good skin health!

--

Do you have other strategies for healthy, happy skin? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

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

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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*

How To Finally Get Rid of Your Bad Breath

Good to know (and a hilarious video):  http://lifehacker.com/this-video-explains-how-to-finally-get-rid-of-your-bad-1711989055?utm_campaign=socialflow_lifehacker_facebook&utm_source=lifehacker_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

9 Ways To Instantly Improve Your Quality of Sleep

DeathtoStock_NotStock8
The simplest cure for what it is that ails us is... a good and solid night of sleep. Russians intone, "morning is wiser than the night." It's hard to argue with the obvious, but how exactly can I sleep well with my worries, obligations, emails, city noise, etc.?
It isn't rocket science, but a few good tricks can really help.
1) Turn off your phone, computer and TV at 7. Rest your eyes and brain. After a long day looking at computer screens, your phone or tablet and TV, your eyes and mind are drained. With too much light exposure after darkness sets, you are beginning to mess up your circadian rhythms and in turn, your quality of sleep. Don't look at your phone before bed. Don't check your emails. Don't worry yourself with things that can wait until tomorrow. Instead, spend quality time with your family. Read a good book. Take a nice walk outside.
2) Avoid eating dinner after 7, especially heavy foods (anything fried, heavy carbs, red meat, anything in a heavy tomato or cream sauce). At around this time, when it's starting to get dark, your digestive system begins to prepare for sleep and becomes less and less efficient after the waking day. During sleep, your digestion is at its least efficient. Going to sleep soon after a heavy meal can cause indigestion and/or other digestive issues, which can easily disturb and lessen the quality of your sleep.
3) Drink a glass of water before bed. Help your body clear toxins from the day. Enhance digestion during sleep.
4) Sleep at least enough hours for your body to recover to peak performance the next day. Your body us unique in the amount of sleep it needs to feel refreshed and ready to go. Ideally, you should wake up at the end of a cycle of sleep, not in the middle. In order to measure your sleep cycles and the optimal amount of sleep, you can download several great sleep apps.
5) Resolve all your pressing problems with people before going to bed. Say thanks, apologize, talk it out. Do whatever it takes to return to your normal emotional state. Just don't go to sleep pissed off or angry or otherwise emotional.
6) Practice gratitude before sleep and throughout the day. Be grateful for your health, family, home, food and sustenance, good friends and the ability to do what you do in life. Meditate or pray on all of the great things in your life. Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, as the old saying goes.
7) Read a good book or story before bed to get your mind off from work and other worries from the day. Dive deep into another person's world. You will at worst escape and at best, learn something new and interesting.
8) Finish your chores before bed and prepare for the next day. Wash the dishes, take out the trash, prepare your lunch. Remember that the state of your home reflects the state of your mind. If one is a mess, the other will be too.
9) Take good care of your dental, mental and physical hygiene before sleep with an established routine that you follow, no matter what. Even if you've had a crappy day, your routine will put you in the mindframe for a good night of sleep.
Now you know. Try out one, two or a few of these and you'll see a real improvement in your sleep.
Sweet dreams tonight!
Are there other tips and strategies you've found useful in getting a good night's sleep? Share them with the community in the Comments section below.
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Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

The Ideal Work Schedule as Determined by Circadian Rhythms

Wish I'd known this years ago. Super helpful in planning when to reply to emails and when to schedule meetings according to circadian rhythms. https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-ideal-work-schedule-as-determined-by-circadian-rhythms

8 Tips for Feeling Happier During an Unhappy Time

8 Tips for Feeling Happier During an Unhappy Time http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131028142626-6526187-8-tips-for-feeling-happier-during-an-unhappy-time

Oreos May Be As Addictive As Cocaine

Now you know. So STAY AWAY!! Otherwise, you're just another drug addict. Oreos May Be As Addictive As Cocaine | TIME.com

http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/10/16/oreos-may-be-as-addictive-as-cocaine/