A Millennial Workplace Manifesto

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Hey (Boomer/Gen X) Future Boss, I’m that annoying, selfish, selfie-taking and entitled future employee you love to hate – The True Millennial. Nowhere to run, you’ll have to hire me - or someone like me – very soon. We’re taking over, bro.

The trouble is, you’ve got me wrong. I’m not your enemy and not a parasite distraction – I’m your biggest asset.

Why’s that, you ask? I’m pretty good at what I do. That and I know what others like me want to buy, consume, believe and then invest in, talk about and value in their lives.

Who am I, really, Boss? I’m just a dude with a portfolio career who wants to make a difference in the world, do well, make a good name for you and for myself, get paid, get more responsibility, accomplish something, then get out. I’ve got big plans, you see. That doesn’t make me selfish – just pragmatic.

What do I want from you and from your company? I’ll tell you very frankly:

1) Radical Transparency.

Next time there is an All-Hands meeting, tell me what the different teams are doing. Why are they doing it, with what success or failure? Tell me the company financials, product details and the strategy. I’ll handle it just fine – big boy.

I want to hear about our marketing, our hiring and how the market looks. I want to know ahead of time what bonuses will look like and what I need to do to get a raise, a better title, people I will manage, and so on.

When you show me (not just tell me) we’re in glass house, I’ll think twice before throwing a stone.

2) Purpose and Mission.

Why are we here? Why are we doing what we’re doing, in the way we are? What are we working for all day and night? Why does my role here matter? What is the bigger purpose here? Tell me how we are saving lives or people’s time or money – better if all three.

This makes me feel like I’m doing something meaningful with positive impact on people’s lives.

3) Quick, pointed feedback on performance – both the bad and good.

If something’s off, I want to know ASAP to course-correct. Less formal and more regular is better.

There is nothing more that I appreciate than when you take your time (even a couple minutes twice a week) to motivate me and help me improve.

4) Drop the micro-managing.

Treat me like the capable professional you hired and just let me do my job.

5) Be flexible with using more of my skills.

I’m not just a one-hit Excel wonder or copywriting robot. Use me or lose me.

Toss me a bone – let me work on a side project with another team or another project where I know I can be instantly helpful.

It helps keep me motivated and feeling useful to the company – and will reliably improve your bottom line and make it more likely I’ll stick around a while.

6) Step up to the plate as a mentor or find me someone here who can help guide me in my career path.

This means meaningful one-one-one time outside of work – not just passing words exchanged at a team-building exercise or group lunch.

7) Drop the unlimited vacation policy.

In practice, this just means nobody ever takes off. Set an example by actually taking off time and encouraging us to do the same. It makes burnout less likely and helps us refocus, refresh and come back ready to take on new challenges.

8) Flat hierarchy or not, drop the corporate politics and two-faced appeals to culture and values.

Lead by example with radical transparency (#1) and by treating people like adults (#22) and with consistent decency (#23).

9) Make decisions quickly and transparently.

Make everyone aware of how (and why) we’re moving forward. That’s how you get my buy-in, no matter if we agree.

10) Mix up the demographics.

We need the gray hair and the tattoos, young grads and old fogies (seen The Intern?), women and men, people from different walks of life and backgrounds and industries, and everyone in between.

Don’t let it get stale and boring with everyone looking and sounding the same. Everyone (the company first) benefits from shared perspective and wisdom from all kinds of different people in the same space, working on the same problems.

11) Give me time and resources for meaningful professional development.

Sponsor me for a General Assembly course, online course or industry conference. I will forever be grateful for the exposure and experience. This is a big one.

12) Give me 10-20% of my work time for side projects.

Don’t just pay lip service to what Google does (or used to do well). Use this as a way to tap my creativity and I’ll find you new revenue streams, better, cheaper, faster ways to do things, build new products, etc.

Create an internal forum to gather and generate useful ideas from employees to help the company.

Let me pitch you or whomever in management on my ideas and how I’d implement them. If you approve, let me run with them in balance with my existing tasks.

13) Let me move around internally and outside of the company.

If I like what I learned from you, I’ll work with you again in the future on the same or a new venture.

Always be helpful to me in my career whether here or elsewhere and I’ll always return the favor. No need to burn bridges just because I feel I should move on when I decide to.

14) Drop the buzzwords and speak straight to me.

No more rocket ships, growth hacking, unicorns, Uber for whatever. No more synergies, efficiency, productivity, cost savings.

I get that you drank the Kool-Aid, but don’t make me drink it too. Speak plainly to me – or I’ll think you’re just another corporate tool or startup douche.

Oh, and drop that crappy NDA. It’s quite useless (unenforceable) and only breeds ill will.

15) Give me benefits I’ll actually… benefit from.

Let me choose them myself, first of all. Offer benefits that fit my lifestyle and family situation. Show me that the company actually cares about my health and wellbeing, not just my productivity and its own bottom line.

For example, help me pay off my student loans, offer a 401(k) and/or Roth IRA match. Help me manage my finances by offering credit monitoring, identity theft protection, HSA/FSA, other pre-tax investment opportunities.

Help me stay healthy by incentivizing earnings through walking 10,000 steps a day, not just with a cheaper gym membership. Start a pedometer competition with real rewards. Give me cash or good gift cards as inducement (Amazon, iTunes, etc.). The impact will be tremendous and long-lasting – both for me and you.

16) Don’t nickel-and-dime me on professional development, travel and other things important for my job and overall performance.

17) Stop offering gimmicks (foosball table and endless snacks).

We never have time to play foosball and just get fat from eating all day.

18) Judge me on performance, not the hours I’m physically present in the office.

A week-long, 8-hour-a-day+ face time requirement in the office breeds hypocrisy and contempt, not to mention poor quality of work, absenteeism and other evils. As long as I get the work done at a high level and remain motivated, much of the work I do can be done from almost anywhere.

19) Be flexible with letting me work remotely.

I often do my best work at odd times. I likely a have a kid, a wife, side projects, passions, volunteer activities. Sometimes it's best if I don't waste the time commuting in.

20) Be consistently the same inside and out.

Don’t be two-faced to me. I’ll see right through it.

Don’t hire two-faced people who’ll ruin your culture and drive the good people away. That’s the number one ingredient that makes or breaks a company’s success.

21) Include me and other team members in candidate interviews.

This ensures that the whole group buys in before you hire someone that doesn’t fit.

If I’m on the team, my opinion matters, so give me a voice on big decisions and hear me out. Don’t just inform me of new team members the day they start or big changes after the fact. This is a BIG red flag.

22) Treat me like an adult – with dignity, respect and by giving me real responsibility and runway to accomplish my goals.

Also, please respect my need for a life outside of work. Heard of “diminishing returns”? That is what happens when people work too many hours and start burning out.

Give me an opportunity to do my best work with other smart and highly motivated folks on an important problem here that has a real and positive impact on many people.

23) No need to be my best friend, but be consistently decent to me and everyone else around.

Start a virtuous cycle of decency and you'll reap the benefits many times over.

24) Encourage everyone to recognize each other for a job well done.

Make them write it down for review time and factor it into compensation and bonuses. Motivation will go through the roof.

25) Take hiring and HR very seriously.

Hire HR (and all other) people only when they “get it” and buy completely into the company’s mission, purpose and product.

HR should be crystal clear about what motivates me and other employees, what each of us wants out of working here and how to deliver it in return for my time, motivation and best work. None of us should be treated like a commodity if you want us to stick around.

26) Mix up the floor plan.

Don’t force everyone to work out on the open floor all day with no room to breathe or hear our own thoughts. Leave room for people to work solo, so they can focus better.

Now #KThanksBye.

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

 

6 Simple and Powerful Tips for Successful Salary Negotiation

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

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

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

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

1. Know what you're worth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Know the rules. Then push the envelope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How A Shy Kid Like Me Learned to Negotiate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncover Hidden Scripts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice Negotiating in Any Way

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

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

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

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

The Answer Will Often Be “Yes”

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

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

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

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

Stop Believing Negotiation Myths

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

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

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

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

Winning Negotiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Develop the Negotiation Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand Up for Your Worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[This is also a post on WorkAwesome.com]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Take good care of your mind.

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

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

Kill all your sacred cows and really start living.

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

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

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

Value your time above all (see #2).

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

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

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

EVERYTHING is negotiable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 10 things to be thankful for RIGHT NOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minimize the number of daily decisions you have to make.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16) Don't do it alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18) When you fail, fail quickly and cheaply.

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

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

19) Get fired at least once.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's how to find your career personality type.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22) Sow new seeds every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*The views expressed herein are his own*

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*

 

How To Build Sustainable Health and Well-being

 SW_Kristen Bruley

"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*

Stop Looking At Work As An Obligation

Critical point. Hard to implement sometimes, but no other way to justify doing your work for something other than paying the bill: Stop Looking At Work As An Obligation - Forbes

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ilyapozin/2013/10/16/stop-looking-at-work-as-an-obligation/

10 things not to say when asking for a Raise

10 things not to say when asking for a Raise http://thewallstreetexecutive.tumblr.com/post/63315359620/10-things-not-to-say-when-asking-for-a-raise

Are You Ready For Your Next Promotion?

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

Three Quick Fixes for the Wandering Mind

1) Reading the GraduateTHIS! blog daily ;) Three Quick Fixes for the Wandering Mind

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130925113307-117825785-three-quick-fixes-for-the-wandering-mind

5 Constraints That Help Me Innovate

Excellent approach to innovation from an IDEO systems designed: Five Constraints That Help Me Innovate | Design on GOOD

http://www.good.is/posts/five-constraints-that-help-me-innovate

The Mistake Busy People Make

Effective time management is great, but do you manage your BANDWIDTH effectively? The latter may be more important, actually. The Mistake Busy People Make | TIME.com

http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/09/the-mistake-busy-people-make/

What’s Your Stretch Factor?

This will help you understand how HR and management promote and hire people. Increase your Stretch Factor and increase your hire-ability and attractiveness as a candidate for promotion. What’s Your Stretch Factor?

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130909150513-15454-what-s-your-stretch-factor

25 Things I've Learned About Life

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

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

Constructing Your Career Castle

Another good one by Dr. Maria Gottschalk: Constructing Your Career Castle - Harvard Business Review

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/08/constructing_your_career_castl.html

Always Late? A Menu of Suggestions for Arriving On Time

One of my pet peeves (used to be this way myself). Value your own time and even more, the time of others. If you want people to take you seriously, invite you back, deal with you again, plus be on time themselves, the least you could do to be courteous is to arrive on time. Here are some great tips for learning to do just that, from Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project: http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2011/05/every-wednesday-is-tip-day-this-wednesday-seven-tips-if-youre-chronically-late-feeling-as-though-youre-always-ru/