7 Success Lessons It’s Never Too Late to Learn

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#PLAN — #PUSH — #PREVAIL????????????????????????

Blog Content:

  • Quote:  By: Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Article: Another article excerpt from Inc. Magazine. Kevin Daum wrote this one. Number 6, recognizes the need for civility. This is, I believe, is a virtue that seems to be diminishing and increasingly devalued in these times. Many of our troubles and stresses would be reduced if we were just more civil to one another. Civility is not giving up your position, it is in the respect we offer one another. It’s benefits are easy to test — just consider your results and feelings after being extra civil in a situation. The results of the experience will be positive. The more civility you exercise the more you may recognize and understand the flip side of the coin — nothing wrong with that!



“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”



7 Success Lessons It’s Never Too Late to Learn

by Kevin Daum

Life’s lessons don’t always come when we want them. But these 7 tips for success are worthy teachings at any age.

You never know when a new life lesson is about to occur. You can’t plan for them. They just seem to sneak up on you when you least expect them. There are times I wish they had come a bit earlier in life to save me from my foolishness or, at the very least, from the wasted time and energy of learning things the hard way.

All that being said, I am very grateful for all the lessons that have helped me on my journey. Some of the lessons I share below were harder than others to grasp. Some I didn’t learn until after I was 40. And I am sure there are new ones coming after next year when I turn 50.

Here are seven of my biggest lessons for success. Although it would have been nice to learn them earlier, I’m glad to have them in my back pocket now.

1. Collect People

I’ve always been a pretty good networker. I’m not overly social, but I do like interaction with interesting people, and I like to help where I can. I often meet successful people, but it takes time to establish mutual trust and interest. It wasn’t until age 40 that many of the people I had known for 15+ years reached positions of power and success. Maintaining relationships with peers has brought great help in times of need and great opportunities along my journey. Cultivate relationships in a genuine and generous manner, and those people will continue to support your efforts for success.

2. Plant Seeds

Another realization I gained at 40 was the value of time–not as a commodity, but as an ally. In my youth, I wanted to outsmart the process so I could speed the path to success. Now I use the passage of time to my advantage. Some of the most amazing things in life develop gradually. Great business models and effective marketing programs can take 3 to 5+ years to develop. That seems too long for today’s impatient millennials, but time invested becomes a barrier to entry for competitors. Looking back, I am fascinated by the way that seeds I planted unknowingly more than a decade ago now bear valuable fruit. These days, I happily use my perspective to plan for harvests decades from now.

3. The Only Approval You Need is Your Own

Early on, I constantly battled against insecurities. I needed accomplishments for reassurance and rarely felt confidence from success. I wasted time and energy being uncomfortable in my own skin. It wasn’t until my first For Dummies book in 2004 that I believed my public credibility was worthy and began to relax a bit. Only when heeding a good friend’s advice to simply “Decide to be confident” did the path to success became less fettered and distracted. Today I only seek my own approval and attract people who appreciate what I have to offer. The rest are welcome to look for guidance elsewhere.

4. Desire Outweighs Potential

As an entrepreneur, I see potential in everything and everybody. As an employer, this got me into terrible trouble. I would hire people on potential without checking desire. Of course nearly every applicant wanted the job, even when they didn’t. Then in 90 days, the excitement of the new job wore off, and we all realized we made a horrible mistake. I now put people through rigorous testing for desire (including myself) when new opportunities arise. Spend time thinking of the implications down the road. Don’t ask the question Can I do that? Ask the question Should I do that?

5. Pay Yourself First

This sounds like a selfish approach, but actually it is a logical one. However generous you want to be, you really can’t help others from a position of weakness … just like in an airplane, where you’re told to secure your own oxygen mask before helping a child. To offer legitimate guidance and support, you must be strong, stable and secure financially and emotionally. The easiest way to get there is to set your materialistic needs low, secure a happy home life and maintain a healthy body. Then, and only then, will you be ready to help others selflessly and abundantly.

6. Civility Is Strength

As a New Yorker, I know what it means to live around rudeness. And while I thrive on the directness of my fellow city dwellers, there is a time to sit back and let things pass. Being polite and cordial or even passive doesn’t automatically make you a doormat. You don’t have to be rude or pushy to get what you want or to appear strong. And you certainly don’t have to fight every battle. Today, I find that I accomplish more by allowing others to panic and get excited. Then I weigh in with careful thought and consideration. Before you get anxious and jump into the fray, ask yourself: Is this the highest and best use of my time and energy?

7. Appreciate Every Experience

I’ve had my share of good times and bad. It’s been a bumpy ride, to say the least. But I have yet to live a day where I didn’t learn something, connect with someone of value or observe inspiring beauty. And for that, I am always grateful. I hope you are too.


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      Advance always, retreat never!


4 Dirty Negotiating Tricks (and How to Counter Them)

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#PLAN — #PUSH — #PREVAILSwim with the sharks

Blog Content:

  • Quote: By: John F. Kennedy
  • Article: Interesting article from Inc. Magazine by Geoffry James. Each “trick” rings true.



“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”



4 Dirty Negotiating Tricks (and How to Counter Them)

by Geoffrey James

Don’t let your customer manipulate you into making unnecessary concessions to close the deal.

Even if you’re hoping to reach a win-win agreement with your customer, there’s always a chance that the customer will try to pull a fast one. Here are four common negotiating tricks and exactly how to counter them.

1. Pretending to have cold feet.

Scenario: You’ve already reached verbal agreement, but as you’re negotiating the final terms, the prospect questions the wisdom of the deal, saying something like “we’re not really sure that this is the right thing for us to do at this time.”

What the prospect is hoping that you’ll offer additional concessions rather than lose the sale. Rather than jumping to concessions, however, your best strategy is probe further to see whether there’s a real problem or whether you’re just being yanked around.


  • Prospect: We’re not sure this is the right time to do this.
  • You: What do I have to do to make certain this happens?
  • Prospect: If you throw in 6 months of free support, I can get everything approved.


  • Prospect: We’re not sure this is the right time to do this.
  • You: What is making you question our agreement?
  • Prospect: Uhhh… we’re thinking maybe it costs too much.
  • You: Let’s go over the ROI figures that we both agreed upon.

2. Surfacing an unreasonable requirement.

Scenario: You’re working with a prospect to craft a deal and suddenly the customer demands something that makes no business sense, like: “We’ll need you to stop doing business with our competitors if you’re doing business with us.”

What’s going on here is that the prospect is planning to concede the unreasonable request as a bargaining chip to extract more realistic concessions. Your best strategy is to call the customer’s bluff.


  • Prospect: We need you to supply our entire management team with new cars.
  • You: What? That would completely destroy our profit margins! I can’t do that!
  • Prospect: Oh. Well, if you can’t do that, how about a 15% discount.
  • You (relieved): Yes, I can probably make that happen.


  • Prospect: We need you to supply our entire management team with new cars.
  • You: Since that’s not going to happen, it sounds like you’re not really interested in buying. Is that the case?
  • Prospect: Well… Hey, it never hurts to ask!

3. Requesting a last minute discount.

Scenario: You’re at the point of signing the contracts, with an agreed-upon price, when the prospect demands a steep discount of the deal is off. Example: “My boss says that if don’t drop the price 25 percent, the deal is off.”

What’s really going on here is that the prospect is checking to confirm that you’ve given them the best deal. The worst thing you can do at this point is to give the discount, because then you’ve told the prospect you can’t be trusted to offer the best deal.


  • Prospect: The deal is off unless I get a 10% discount.
  • You: Okay, I’ll make that change.
  • Prospect (thinks): This bozo was trying to overcharge me!


  • Prospect: The deal is off unless I get a 10% discount.
  • You: I don’t play the games that some of my competitors play. You will always get the best price from me the first time around. If we need to remove something from the quote to meet your budget, we can certainly do that.
  • Prospect: Never mind. Let’s get this done.

4. Stretching out the process.

Scenario: The sales opportunity is proceeding apace when suddenly all the important meetings are pushed way out. Example: “I can’t meet next Friday to discuss this; how about next month?”

In this case, prospect is hoping that you’ve got a quota to make and therefore will sweeten the deal in order to speed up the process. Your best strategy in such situations is to surface some negative consequences of delaying the sale.


  • Prospect: I have some openings in my schedule six weeks from now.
  • You: Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?
  • Prospect: Well, if you can drop the price, I can push things through earlier.


  • Prospect: I have some openings in my schedule six weeks from now.
  • You: Happy to meet then. However, I should let you know that our prices will be rising next month, so if you’re at all interested in moving forward at the lowest price, we might want to meet a bit earlier.
  • Prospect: How about next week?


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      Advance always, retreat never!

10 Simple, Science-Backed Ways To Be Happier Today

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Olivia, my daughter, 1st place -- performance to success

Olivia, my daughter, 1st place — performance to success

Blog Content:

  • Quote: By: Abraham Lincoln.



“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”



10 Simple, Science-Backed Ways To Be Happier Today

Did you know that the perfect temperature for happiness is 13.9°C? Adjust your thermostat, then check out these quick tips for maximizing mirth.

Happiness is so interesting, because we all have different ideas about what it is and how to get it. It’s also no surprise that it’s the Nr.1 value for Buffer’s culture, if you see our slidedeck about it. So naturally we are obsessed with it.

I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found.

1.Exercise more–7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study really surprised me. Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with, the follow up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!

You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes:

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before

We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier, as you can see in the image below.

2. Sleep more–you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger.

Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day. Especially this graph showing how your brain activity decreases is a great insight about how important enough sleep is for productivity and happiness:

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

Sleep is another topic we’ve looked into before, exploring how much sleep we really need to be productive.

3. Move closer to work–a short commute is worth more than a big house

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

… while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

4. Spend time with friends and family–don’t regret it on your deathbed

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how the men’s social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:

The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than your relationships are worth more than $100,000:

Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

The Terman study, which is covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.

Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

5. Go outside–happiness is maximized at 13.9°C

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

A UK study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:

Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that happiness is maximized at 13.9°C, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.

6. Help others–100 hours a year is the magical number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. What about spending our time on other people? A study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

7. Practice smiling–it can alleviate pain

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. It’s very easy to spot the difference:

According to PsyBlog, smiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

A smile is also a good way to alleviate some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).

One of our previous posts goes into even more detail about the science of smiling.

8. Plan a trip–but don’t take one

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar–even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

9. Meditate–rewire your brain for happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier live. I believe that this graphic explains it the best:

According to Shawn Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn’t permanent.

10. Practice gratitude–increase both happiness and life satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where some participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period.

Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Quick last fact: Getting older will make yourself happier

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to grow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.


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Advance always, retreat never!

9 Tricks to beat the midday slump

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A long tube…

Blog Content:

  • Quote: By: Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You Will Go.



“When you’re in a Slump,

you’re not in for much fun.

Un-slumping yourself

is not easily done.”



9 Tricks to beat the midday slump

 ·         Have a conversation with a coworker–tell a story

First things first: You’re not alone in your struggle. Everybody faces the problem of a midday productivity slump. Take a few minutes to shoot the breeze with the person sitting next to you.

 ·         Go for a walk–outside

You’ve been sitting in the stale air of your office for hours now. You probably even ate your lunch inside. The great outdoors are wonderful for meetings, and freeing up your brain. Going outside doesn’t make you a bad employee–you’re just taking a few minutes to recharge your batteries.

 Plus, a little fresh air never hurt anyone.

 ·         Hydrate

When was the last time you had a glass of water? Okay, no: When was the last time you made a conscious decision to have a glass of water? According to the Institute of Medicine, the average person should have between 2.2-3 liters of water per day. Chances are, you’re not following their advice.

 What can water do for your productivity? Just about everything. You’re made out of the stuff, after all.

 ·         Clean your desk

As we’ve noted before, you need to make the most of your little slab of real estate. If your desk is a reflection of you and it’s messy, well, how do you expect to get anything done? Try organizing your files and cleaning off your workspace. Once you get a good workflow going (cleaning can be addictive), who knows what you’ll get done next?

 ·         Embrace the slump

Sometimes you’ve just got to accept your fate. Look, you’re tired. You’re lethargic. But that’s okay. You can still do things–you just need to be smart about it. And, believe it or not, sometimes accepting your fate actually lets you achieve more than you’d ever expect. Why? Because you’re not worrying (and wasting energy) about not doing anything!

 ·         Make a to-do list

Map out the rest of your day with a strict set of goals. Just make sure they’re realistic–think small, to give yourself bigger results. But before you get too list-happy, make sure you know what you’re doing. A proper to-do list is a part of everyday productivity, but you do need to pay attention to your form.

 ·         Take a nap

Really, we’re not kidding. In fact, we’re totally serious.     The best time for a nap is between 1 and 3 p.m., when the body most craves a period of sleep. The ideal length for a workplace nap is 30 minutes or less, which assures that you won’t fall into the deeper stages of sleep, and awake with that loopy feeling scientists call “sleep inertia.” Seems like a pretty convincing argument to us.

 ·         Unplug and clear your mind

Unplugging is good for you. It’s as simple as that. Being super-plugged–Facebook, Twitter, your smartphone, can be horrible for productivity. So instead of tweeting away in the midst of a project, just push it to the side, and focus. The only thing left when you take the distractions away is real work. Look, like any organism, we run in cycles–for optimal productivity we need to rest. Try to unplug every 90 minutes.

 ·         Breathe

You have too much going on inside your head. Think about it: When was the last time you were truly focused? Sometimes the most simple answers are the best. Give meditation a try (everyone at Google is doing it) or perhaps yoga. Just increase your blood flow, and get some fresh oxygen to those lungs.

So get out there–or in there or wherever your work takes you–and seize the day


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Advance always, retreat never!

The 30-Minute Strategy For Creating A Successful Path To Your Goals

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Blog Content:Magic Spot

  • Quote: By: Sun Tzu, The Art of War
  • Article: From Fast Company on an interview with rap artist Drake. The sub-title “How the wisdom of hip-hop star Drake helped focus the author’s mind and illuminate an important idea: Great strategies are stories told backward,” says it all and provides the basis for this game changing key insight. (BTW, while I may not enjoy Drake’s music, his insight stands strong.)



“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”



The 30-Minute Strategy For Creating A Successful Path To Your Goals

When Drake was young, his goal was to have $25 million by age 25. He made it. His new goal, at 27 years old, is to have $250 million. With these two lines in the article it all came together for me: what Drake, my client work, and best practices in military and corporate strategy all have in common. They all point to the fundamental secret to creating breakthrough strategies for your business, your career, or your life.

What I lay out here is a simple process to rapidly–in 30 minutes or less–define a strategic pathway to your dreams. If you are running a team, leading a department, building a company, or charting your career, I believe these steps can get you onto the most direct, strategic route to your goals. I applied this to my business two weeks ago, and the results have been remarkable. We’ve gone from wandering to sprinting, from colleagues to a team, from hope to conviction, from uncertainty to clarity.

This exercise reorders and simplifies what you may already know. It pulls together things like Jim Collins’ Good to Great; concepts from Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek; ideas on crafting a mission, visions, and key performance indicators; business and military strategic design practices; strategic narratives; and lessons from Eastern philosophy and Buddhism.

All of these point to a secret: Great strategies are stories told backward.

A strategy is a story, with one chapter leading to the next, that tells your stakeholders where you are going, how you will get there, and what you should do now.

Now, there are two ways to write a story. You can start at the beginning and see where you end up, as most novelists do. This is a fun way to write a story, but it doesn’t give you control of how the story ends.

A strategy, by contrast, is best written in reverse. You start with where you want the story to end. You can write your strategy story in 30 minutes or less.

To do this, think about five time frames, in the sequence I suggest below. For fun, to illustrate the process, I created a hypothetical strategy for Drake. You can also download a free workbook I pulled together for you on my website at: www.kaihan.net/tools.

1. After you are gone
Whether you call it your mission or purpose, great strategies begin with an idea of what the end should be long after you are gone. This is an outcome you will not achieve in your lifetime but it is the reason you get up and push ahead every day.

Drake Example: To make genre-cracking music that connects emotionally with his audience.

2. The end
Imagine the scene of your movie just before the credits appear. This is a picture (or vision) of what you will achieve or what you will become in the long-term, usually 3 to 10 years from now. Define 1 to 3 metrics, and their values, that will tell you that you have achieved your long-term vision. You can call these BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

Drake Example: To be known by Dec. 31, 2016, as one of the greatest musical artists in the world; to be indefinable, with music that crosses genres; to have multiple houses and a private jet.

3. The next chapter (12-18 months)
The end may be too far off to generate tension, excitement, or energy, so define how you want this next chapter to close. What must you achieve in the next 12 to 18 months to know you are on the path and by what metrics will you judge that the plot is unfolding as you desire?

Drake Example: To have released by Dec. 31, 2014, one of the biggest albums of the year.

4. Plot actions (12-18 months)
Just as a chapter, to reach its close, must show certain actions completely, you must take key actions to reach your desired chapter close. Being clear on what these are allows you to quickly decide what matters and what does not. If you find yourself investing time in something that does not matter, you can stop doing it immediately, and focus on what is necessary. What 3 to 5 actions (or strategic priorities) will you focus on continuously for the next 12 to 18 months to reach this chapter’s conclusion?

Drake Example: Release best album yet; continue improving music and performance; launch successful tour.

5. The first scene (the next 3 months)
Finally, knowing how your next chapter will unfold, you will see clearly what you must do right now to get things rolling. What 1 to 5 key metrics will you focus on in the next three months (and who is responsible)?

Drake Example: 15 songs recorded that he thinks are awesome; 120 total hours practiced.

Give this a shot now. In 30 minutes you will have sketched out a story, a narrative, a plot that leads step-by-step to your dream.


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