The Secret To Romance & Longevity

The first six months are magical. There are flowers, candy and hundreds of emoji-filled texts that are all promptly read and reciprocated.  When you end a romantic evening, you go your separate ways only to rush home and Facetime one another.

You eat off each other’s plate, wipe each other’s mouths and walk down the street with your hands in each other’s back pocket. You have become THAT couple but you are oblivious to what others think.

You’re in love.

And you now have the confidence in this new relationship to change your Facebook status from “single” to “In a relationship,” and to post cute pics on Instagram with “#couplegoals” as the caption. And that seals the deal. It is official.  You are in a genuine adult relationship.

Life is good.

You are happy.

And then you break up.

Why good goes bad

Most dating relationships fizzle around the 18-month time frame and the breakup occurs before the two-year mark. During that time, you slowly go from hot and heavy to “meh” and the feelings associated with being in love–the butterflies and the longing–dissipate. You and your mate begin to wonder if you’ve found “the one.”

If you’re married, you’ve probably heard of the “seven-year itch.” That’s the time when psychology experts believed a marriage is at its most vulnerable. But new research shows that marriages are actually more susceptible to demise far sooner. New studies show that marriages begin to falter around year three— earning the handle “three-year glitch.” And most first-year marriages that end in divorce do so within the first three-and-a-half to five years.

After year three, you’ve probably seen your partner at their absolute worst–physically and emotionally. You’ve seen some things that you don’t particularly care for–and so have they.

You are left with the reality that your mate is flawed and a little crazy.

The honeymoon is officially over.

The feelings of being “in love” are waning. The passion is gone. Your days are bland. And sex has dwindled to the occasional, routine, uninspired and mediocre romp.

So how do you avoid splitting up?

It’s just a phase

The first thing a couple seeking a viable, long-term relationship must understand is that infatuation and love are not the same. Infatuation is the feeling. Love is the action.

Infatuation is the feelings associated with new love–butterflies, extreme longing, giddiness and the lack of objectivity. It is wonderfully intoxicating to be infatuated with someone. The problem with infatuation is that it is a feeling. And feelings change.

Love, on the other hand, has nothing to do with feelings. Love is a commitment to doing whatever it takes to make a relationship work. Including staying committed and faithful during the “down times” of the relationship.

The second and crucial thing you have to understand and embrace is that every relationship goes through a series of phases. And in order to maintain a long, happy and viable relationship you have to endure all of the phases.

You’ve got to enjoy the good and survive the bad.

Below are the five phases every relationship must endure:

1. Infatuation

This is the honeymoon stage. It is filled with lots of kisses and touching each other for no particular reason. It is when you are completely taken by your mate and are blind to his or her flaws. You are on your best behavior, take extra time getting ready and use your “A” material. It is the easiest of the five phases to endure and it is very intense.

2. Coupling

This is still within the infatuation or honeymoon stage. You are still blinded by love but have the clarity to see that this relationship has long-term potential. This is when the relationship becomes exclusive and you begin making long-term plans with your partner.

You are hot and heavy and can’t seem to get enough of each other.

There is still lots of hand-holding, cuddling and you give each other meaningful nicknames. You begin to share yourself more intimately with your mate.

3. Disillusionment

Stage three is when the relationship becomes real. The blinders are off and you begin to see your mate for who he/she really is. Physical touch–hand-holding, kissing and other forms of physical intimacy–may be starting to slow down a bit. The butterflies are gone and your mate is not as cute as they once were.

The hardest part about stage three is that you both begin to question the relationship.

4. Team Building

Once you’ve chosen to move past stage three and to stick with the relationship, you develop a deep and intimate bond. This is the time when couples really begin to merge their lives. Serious discussions concerning marriage, kids and finances ensue and plans are made to move the couple forward as a unit.

A partnership has formed.

Many couples make it to this phase experience a long, healthy and productive life together.

But there is one more phase…

5. True Love

Stage five of the relationship is when the couple becomes a solid team. The relationship moves past “me and you” decision-making and the team becomes more important than the individuals. It requires selfless acts of sacrifice, extreme levels of endurance and doing whatever it takes to make the union work.

This is the part of a relationship everyone longs for but few reach. It’s the true love phase.

It’s when the couple has its best chance of making it to “happily-ever-after.”

That’s not to say that there will not be challenges, hardships and bumps in the road. But it does mean that both parties are committed to staying and making the relationship work–no matter what.

It the place of full acceptance and unconditional love.

Stuck in stage three

Most relationships that end do so somewhere within stage three. Other relationships can last for years and never make it out of stage three, but the relationship is not healthy and neither partner is fulfilled.

The first thing you must understand when you began to feel disillusioned is that feelings don’t sustain a relationship. Feelings are unreliable because they vary and are subject to moods and external factors.

Think of when a family celebrates the arrival of a newborn. At first, all of the attention is on the new addition and everything is sweet and cute. After a few months of dirty diapers, spit up and random crying the initial excitement passes but the parents still deeply love the child.

Romantic relationships function this way as well. It’s the struggling process that helps both partners grow and this process also helps the relationship grow into something better, something that will last.

Struggle and hardships are the glue and strengthening agents of the relationship, not the good times.

Giving up at Stage 3 is like declaring a patient dead while there is still a pulse.

Moving forward

The second thing you must understand is the duration of each stage is different for every couple. For some couples, the honeymoon stage may last for years and for others a few months.

The important thing to note is the length of the stage has no correlation to the viability of the relationship.

The third thing to remember is when you reach stage three, you determine how long it will last. Getting out of stage three requires you to make a decision. You must decide that your relationship is worth it and you must choose to go all in.

Here are a few things you can do to get past stage 3:

Recognize that questioning your relationship is normal and necessary.

Allow yourself time to assess whether or not your concerns are simply connected to a loss of passion or if you have legitimate concerns about your partner and the relationship.

Share your concerns with your partner.

Saying something as simple as “I feel that we’ve lost the romance and passion we once had,” could be the jolt the relationship needs. It can initiate a healthy dialogue and assist you both in actively addressing your concerns.

Sharing your concerns and seeking advice from others during this time is normal and acceptable, just be careful who you listen to.

Make a decision and then put in the work.

Once you decide that the relationship is viable–do something about it. Don’t make your decision and then hope things will get better. Actively work to improve and enhance your relationship.

Try new things. Do things your partner likes to do. Be romantic on purpose. Relationships take heaps of effort. It’s time to put in the work.

All relationships take time, energy and targeted intentional effort. It doesn’t matter how “lovey-dovey” cute and cuddly you are in the beginning. The honeymoon will end. And when it does you must work in order to make it last. Stage three doesn’t have to be the death of your relationship.

 

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Depressed Dads Have Depressed Kids

Hundreds of studies have solidified the fact that a father’s love is just as important to a child’s development as a mother’s, and sometimes more so…

Research has proven emphatically that, overall, the love — or rejection — of mothers and fathers affects kids’ behavior, self-esteem, emotional stability, and mental health. According to Ronald P. Rohner, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Parental Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut, in some cases, the withdrawal of a father’s love, acceptance and presence seems to play a bigger role in their children’s problems with personality and psychological adjustment, delinquency, and substance abuse.

And of course, the transverse is also true. The presence of a father’s love boosts children’s sense of well-being and improves their emotional and physical health. …But this is common knowledge. Most people are aware and do recognize the impacts a father has on his children.

Dad’s mental state directly impacts the kids

Scholars from Michigan State University (MSU) conducted a study and their findings not only underscore the importance of a father’s role in the lives of his children, but it went on to prove that dad’s overall mental state and moods have short and long term, direct effects on his children.

In the study, MSU researchers collected data from about 730 families that participated in a survey of Early Head Start programs at sites across the nation. The researchers focused their attention on discovering effects of parents’ stress and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety on their children. They found that parents stress levels and mental health issues affected how they interact with their children and, subsequently, their child’s development.

Daddy-and-daughter (1)

One of the most surprising findings derived from this study is that a father’s mental health has long-lasting implications that directly correlate to differences in children’s social skills (such as self-control and cooperation) by the time children reached fifth grade. In fact, a father’s depression during the toddler years is more influential on the development of a child’s social skills later in life, than is a mother’s depression or anxiety.

The study also highlighted the fact that a father’s parenting-related stress levels have a particularly harmful effect on his children’s cognitive and language development when the children are 2 to 3 years old—even in the presence of a mother’s’ positive influences.  As might be expected, the father’s’ influence appears to have a stronger effect on boys’ language than girls’ language.

These empirical, evidence-based findings are a poignant reminder that every father has a responsibility to take care of his own psychological well-being in order to nurture and foster the well-being of his children.

One uplifting and positive thing that comes from this study is that we now have solid, scientific proof that dads do play as significant a role in raising children as mothers do, and that their piece of the family puzzle is crucial in helping a child learn and grow properly.

Defeating the “Dad Funk”

Parenting is a daunting and stressful undertaking–no two ways about it. Especially for new parents. Below are some ways for dad to minimize the negative impacts his foul mood can have on his kids:

Accept the fact that you will feel stressed

Understanding and accepting that stress is a part of child rearing is key to helping reduce its impact on your mood. If you expect it and prepare for it–you can proactively minimize its effects on your mood and it can reduce the number of outwardly negative reactions you display.

Learn your triggers and work to destress as quickly as possible

Learning and becoming in tune with yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Find out what situations, thoughts or moments cause you the most stress. Can they be avoided? What can you do to avoid or minimize these moments? Take some “dad time” and engage in activities that lower your stress levels–engage in a sport or hobby, take quiet time away or take a walk on the beach.

Get help

If you are feeling overwhelmed or have a history of depression, anxiety or mental illness be sure to seek professional help. It is imperative for you and for your children. Consider the “airplane safety model.’ During the flight attendant’s safety speech, you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on first and then help those around you don theirs. The message here is that you can’t help others breathe if you are suffocating.

 

Your Happiness Is Locked Inside You. Here’s The Key…

Most successful businesses operate by following a fundamental set of core values. Their vision and mission statement reflect these values, the day-t- day operations are driven by them and they dictate how major decisions are made. Having core values provides clarity that fosters focus and makes prioritizing easy.

As human beings, we all have a personal set of core values that reflect the essence of who we are. We all have them. However, having them and consciously allowing them to guide you through life are two entirely different things. Understanding and living a life driven by your own personal values is one of the major keys to success, happiness and inner peace.

What Do You Value?

The first step in living a life full of purpose and passion is to understand and establish your own personal value system. Your values, though tied to your morals and ethics are not a system of right or wrong. Your personal values are the things you matter most to you.

What drives you? What makes you feel alive, energized and invigorated? Is it love, family, money, career, popularity, serving others, social justice, rescuing animals? The list goes on and on. What do you love? What matters to you?

After you’ve determined what you truly value, it’s time to move to step two. Write them down. Research shows that the simple act of writing down your core values can have tremendous long-term benefits, such as:

  • You get a true picture of who you really are and what you stand for. To get what you truly want, you must be who you truly are.
  • You will begin to manage your time better. You will learn to make better choices about where you spend your time.
  • Knowing and being true to what really matters to you will ignite your passion for your purpose and being able to fulfill your purpose fuels that passion even more. The two are interdependent and keep you motivated and moving forward.
  • Our values are like our internal compass. They keep us headed toward our true north. When we get off course, having them written down helps us notice sooner. Writing about our values helps remind us of where we need to be and it helps us get back on track more easily.
  • Our values are our roots. They keep us grounded in what’s important. Having them written down visually reminds us to stay true to who we really are.

In short, discovering, defining, writing down and living your core values helps to ensure that you get more of the right things done and makes the journey more enjoyable, targeted and intentional.

Having Your Value System In Writing Reduces Stress

Dr. Kelly McGonigal, Stanford Professor and author of the book The Upside of Stress, has studied the impact that connecting our personal values to our experiences–specifically journaling about the connection–has on our overall health, well-being and ability to cope with stress. According to Dr. McGonigal’s research:

“In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.”

McGonigal believes that writing about how the events of our day match up with our deepest personal values can mentally and biologically improve our ability to deal with stress. In the cases she studied she found that:

“Stressful experiences were no longer simply hassles to endure; they became an expression of values… small things that might otherwise have seemed irritating became moments of meaning.”

Putting it on paper

When our actions and activities don’t align with our values, we feel less authentic and become demotivated in our daily lives.

Below are a few simple steps to assist you in aligning your actions, activities, goals and life purpose with your own unique set of values:

Writing it down:

  • Choose the top five (or less) things you value most in life and write them down.
  • Define what each of those values means to YOU.
  • Reflect on your day (or week). What went well? When did you feel stressed? Why?
  • Select one or two highs and one or two stressful events and briefly jot down how they connect to at least one of your core values.
  • Select one or two core values and jot down something you can do the next day (or during the following week) that will positively reflect that value.

Self Assessment:

  • As time progresses, keep a tally of how many times you purposefully and intentionally engage in activities that positively reflect your value system
  • Assess your stress levels. Are you feeling more or less stressed/anxious since you began the exercise? How are your passion and motivation? Do you feel driven?
  • Assess your physical well-being. How are you feeling overall? What changes have you noticed (more or less: headaches, neck and back pain, tension, upset stomach. etc.).
  • Plan your action: what can you do to keep this moment going?

The most important thing you can do for your personal success today is to not only know your core values but live them. Allow them to become a part of your day to day life. Write about them and learn to see them in everything you do. A life lined-up with personal values will yield a well-lived, purpose-filled existence.

Your Plan B Guarantees Your Plan A Will Fail. Here’s Why…

“There is no reason to have a plan B because it distracts you from Plan “A”” ~Will Smith

Such a profound and thought-provoking statement. But is it accurate?

Professor Jihae Shin, Assistant Professor of Management and Human Resources at the Wisconsin School of Business (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Katherine L. Milkman from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) conducted an experiment to research this topic and have concluded that it is–indeed–a very accurate statement.

Their research proves that merely thinking through a backup plan, in most cases, reduces overall goal performance and hurts the chances of successfully achieving the primary goal.

The Research

Shin and Milkman conducted a series of experiments set out to test the notion that backup planning does more harm than good. They set up a series of laboratory experiments to test this theory. In one experiment, participants were given a sentence-unscrambling task and told that if they showed high performance on the task, they would be given a free snack or the chance to leave the study early. One set of participants were then instructed to find other ways they could get free food on campus, or make arrangements to eat later in the day in case they didn’t do well enough to earn the snack or the early dismissal.

And you’ve probably guessed the outcome. Those that were able to make plans to get food later did not perform as well as the group that did not have other plans.

Through a series of similar experiments, the cohort was able to determine that making a plan B caused people to exert less effort and energy and to be less successful at attaining their primary goal.

An article published in Science Daily further investigates and validates that backup plans are not as beneficial as once thought. The article discusses the findings of scientists from the University of Zurich who have developed a new theoretical model to study the use and usefulness of backup plans.

“Our model is based on a straightforward idea: backup plans change the way you pursue your goal, even if you aren’t using them, and even if you never use them,” said Dr. Christopher Napolitano, who is a researcher and lead author of their essay.

Simply put, research shows that the “backup plan effect” is counterintuitive and works by diminishing the desire to achieve the goal. Reduced desire means reduced motivation, which translates into a reduction in effort and performance.

Throw caution to the wind–cautiously

So are these research findings suggesting that we throw caution to the wind and chase our dreams with reckless abandon? Not exactly… It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Research shows that only having a Plan “A” works when the outcome of the goal is largely under your control. For example, winning the lottery should not be your only goal. The ability to reach that goal is largely outside of your control making it imperative that you have a plan B. However, if obtaining a college degree is your goal, having a backup plan may sabotage your efforts of toughing it out and seeing it through to the end.

The backup plan effect is particularly counterintuitive when it comes to things like marriage and certain financial, educational and career goals. If you give yourself an out–you are probably going to take it.

However, scientists suggest that while making a backup plan can be detrimental and counterproductive, it does not mean that people should go through life without EVER having one. Experts say you should explore ways to mitigate the negative effects — such as being more strategic about when you make a backup plan.

“You might want to wait until you have done everything you can to achieve your primary goal first,” Shin suggests.

At the end of the day, investing too much time and energy in making backup plans could create a sort of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ where one becomes more susceptible to using a well-developed backup plan, and subsequently failing to make a sufficient investment into succeeding with a Plan “A.”

The Cure For Brain Fog

Ever have those moments where it feels like you just can’t think straight? When it comes at the end of a very long day or after an intense mental activity, you feel tired, unfocused, and can’t seem to get your head in the game. That haze of mental obscurity is what many refer to as brain fog.

The most common symptoms associated with brain fog are:

  • Inability to focus
  • Poor memory
  • Trouble learning new things
  • Feeling “groggy” or confused
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Saying one word but meaning another
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety

Preventing Brain Fog

The causes of brain fog generally fall into one of two main categories — either it’s lifestyle-related or a side effect of a medical condition or medication. The most common causes, by far, are related to nutritional and biochemical imbalances that affect the brain and central nervous system of the body, which can be easily corrected with four very simple lifestyle changes.

1. Proper Nutrition

Refined carbohydrates like sugar and high fructose corn syrup allow your blood sugar levels to quickly skyrocket followed by the dreaded and severe crash. Your brain uses blood glucose as its main source of fuel. This puts your brain on a roller coaster ride — first too much, then too little glucose. Low brain glucose leads to brain fog, mood swings, irritability, tiredness, mental confusion, and impaired judgment.

Another mentally devastating diet fad is one that is too low in fat. Your brain is largely comprised of fat — about 60% by dry weight — and research shows low-fat diets have been disastrous for our brains. According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, a leading expert in non-pharmaceutical applications to chronic illnesses and author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working, the brain starts to literally “digest itself” for the raw materials it needs to create essential brain chemicals when you don’t eat enough dietary fat.

In order to stave off brain fog, eat foods that are rich in good fats such as oily fish, nuts and seeds, and avocados. Foods rich in vitamin E and antioxidants such as blueberries work wonders in sustaining good mental health both long and short term.

2. Drink Water

Over 70 percent of your body is composed of water and every function in the body is dependent on water, including the activities of the brain and nervous system. Water gives the brain the electrical energy for all mental and processing functions. According to Dr. Corinne Allen, founder of the Advanced Learning and Development Institute, brain cells need twice as much energy as other cells in the body. Water is the most effective and efficient way to provide this energy.

Water is also needed for the brain’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Nerve transmission requires half of all the brain’s energy. When your brain’s water reserves are full, you can process information quicker, are more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity.

3. Move More

Physical exercise is not only important for your body’s health, it also helps your brain stay sharp. Your brain is no different than the rest of the muscles in your body―you have to train it to ensure its elasticity and strength. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.

Exercise stimulates brain plasticity by triggering growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain. Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain—making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.

Another important benefit of exercise and physical movement is, it increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain. The brain uses about three times as much oxygen as muscles. Oxygen is vital to brain function and brain healing. Optimal brain function is dependent upon healthy blood flow.

4. Destress and rest

Sleep is essential to proper brain functioning and for mental clarity. The brain needs sleep in order to recuperate. When sleep is regularly interrupted or you only get a few hours of shut-eye, you are more likely to experience brain fog in the morning and throughout the day. While you sleep, cerebral fluid rushes in, “power washing” your brain, clearing it of debris. It’s during sleep that you consolidate memories so you can recall what you learned the previous day.

Stress is very powerful and it can negatively affect the body in a number of ways, including causing brain fatigue which gives way to the fog. Being stressed is often equated with being productive, popular, and successful, however, that is far from true. In fact, prolonged stress leads to anxiety, depression, poor decision making, insomnia, and memory loss. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol leads to a surplus free radicals ‒ unattached oxygen molecules ‒ that damage brain cell membranes, causing them to lose normal function and die.

A healthy brain begins and ends with a healthy lifestyle. Eating right, staying hydrated, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and reducing stress are the keys to not only avoiding brain fog but ensuring your brain’s overall health long term.

Featured image by Jessica Cross on Flickr

The Secret To Loving Others Lies In Your Ability To Love Yourself

“Love yourself.”

“Take time for yourself.”

“Treat yourself.”

“Celebrate you.”

“Do you Boo.”

In today’s society, we are inundated with messages that admonish us to put “me” first.  And while it is very important to love, accept and appreciate yourself to ensure your mental and emotional well-being are in order; it is equally important to not to become a conceited, self-absorbed nincompoop.

Learning how to love yourself is key to being able to love others. Establishing healthy relationships requires that the individuals in the relationship be healthy. Part of liking yourself involves recognizing your own good qualities, accepting your strengths and weaknesses and being ok with who you are–flaws and all.

Where healthy self-love and respect derails and morphs into unhealthy egocentrism is when your self-view becomes distortedly grandiose and you constantly crave the attention and admiration of others. You become oblivious to your own flaws and fail to recognize value in others. Then comes true narcissism. This occurs when you resort to putting down and demeaning others to make yourself feel better.

Loving yourself enables you to love others

An extremely distorted love of self, robs you of your ability to grow, love and feel loved by others. Humans are relational beings and are born with an innate need to be loved and give love to others. The reciprocal process of giving and receiving love is essential to the wellness of all people. They are equally important.

Learning how to love yourself begins at a very young age. It happens simply. You are loved, accepted and valued by others which teaches you that you are loveable and valuable. You internalize those feelings and begin to view yourself–at least initially– through the eyes of others. This is how self-worth is developed. Transversely, when you love and cherish others you provide them a different view of themselves. Your love for them assists them in loving themselves.

Being overly self-absorbed limits your ability to grow. The unfortunate thing about being narcissistic is that you hyper-focus on a few key aspects of yourself which you love and ignore, deny or make excuses for things you don’t. The narcissist will focus on looks or a specific ability or gift and never work on shortcomings and weaknesses. This stunts emotional growth.

Even worse, those with an inflated view of themselves often criticize and put others down to ensure their inflated ego remains intact. This is the ugly side of distorted self-love. Mistreatment, contempt, and disregard for others are bi-products of extreme vanity. The person that is completely and utterly in love with themselves becomes emotionally unavailable to genuinely love others–and they also limit the amount of love they can receive.

One of the purest signs that you possess a healthy amount of self-appreciation is in your ability to choose to put others first and to genuinely love another human being. This doesn’t mean that you allow people to walk all over you or guilt you into doing for them. These acts of service and self-sacrifice are sincere, pure, genuine and purposeful choices. They come from the heart–you do because you want to.

Love is a reciprocal force. The more you give the more you receive. Finding a balance between self-worship and a healthy dose of self-appreciation can be a difficult balance to maintain. We are encouraged to put ourselves first and do what feels good even if that means disregarding the feelings and needs of others. True love is not selfish, abusive, vain and never degrades, demeans or belittles others. It is kind, gentle and uplifting.

Love yourself. Love others.

Featured image by lian xiaoxiao on Flickr

3 Hard Truths of Success

He silently packed his bags. Brushing past her, he walked out the door and never looked back. Stephanie fell to her knees, shaking uncontrollably as muffled sobs escaped her body. The pain was unbearable.

She had two babies- the oldest was five and the youngest three. What was she going to do? She had no job, no experience, and no marketable skills.

Six months passed and he still wouldn’t return her calls. The house was in foreclosure, the car was in danger of being repossessed, and she was down to the last $100 in her savings account. Thoughts of suicide incessantly lingered on the fringes of her thoughts invading them more each day, but she had those two babies.

Then one day the tears dried up. The hurt and devastation morphed into anger and determination.  She would come through this. She would not just survive. She would thrive.

Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth.” ~Bryant McGill

It took seven years. She lost the house and had to live with friends. She worked two full-time jobs, cleaned houses on weekends, and earned an online degree. She struggled, she suffered, she cried, but she kept going- because of her two babies.

Stephanie became the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a fortune five hundred company and makes well over six figures. She repaired her credit, bought a new home, fully funded her two babies’ college funds, and is preparing to start her own company.

Her suffering was the catalyst to her success.

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it.” ~Andy Rooney

Most of us mistakenly believe that happiness is the absence of heartache and struggle. We desire a life of comfort and ease, void of difficulty. However, the truth of the matter is that happiness–true gratification– is shrouded in struggle and facing challenges gives us the traction needed to move forward and live purpose-driven lives.

A few fundamental changes always accompany personal growth. Here are three hard truths about personal growth and development.

1. Change is a big part of growth.

Stephanie had to change (although the change was forced upon her) to achieve what she did. The experience of being left by her husband and losing almost everything changed who she was. She had to adapt and overcome. Don’t be afraid of change and don’t run from challenges because every challenge is an opportunity for growth.

2. Pressure and struggle are the fertilizers of growth.

Consider bodybuilding as an example. The basic strategy for building muscle is to keep lifting heavier weights. The stress you put on your muscles is what helps them increase in size and strength. The opposite is also true. Avoiding struggle is the quickest way to stunt your personal growth, become stagnant, ensure that you never fully optimize your potential, and doom yourself to a life of mediocrity. Embrace the struggle.

3. Failure is a better teacher than success.

Failure is the best way to learn and grow. When you fail at something you usually analyze both the situation and your efforts to try to determine what went wrong. Failure makes you think. It makes you assess and it makes you change. Success feels good but it reinforces what you are already doing. It causes little thought, assessment, or change.

Life’s inherent challenges are what make it possible to thrive. Pain produces progress. Without challenges and the weight of your own personal load, there would be nothing to overcome, nothing to achieve, nothing that could bring you happiness. You can’t appreciate the good without experiencing the sting of the bad. Bad is what makes “good,” good.

The trick to failure is learning how to “fail forward.” Don’t let failure break you or make you quit. Allow it to motivate you and to be your catalyst for change and ignite your drive to do better.

Success takes grit, determination, lots of failure, loss, and heartache. If you can’t endure the hardship you don’t deserve to win…

Featured image by BK CC 2.0

Compound Interest… The Quick And Dirty

Compound interest can make you rich or it can make a bad financial situation disastrous. It all depends on which side of the paradox you land. It is a savvy investor’s best friend and an unconscientious borrower’s worse nightmare. Whether you are looking to invest or to use credit wisely, it is imperative that you understand how compound interest works.

Before we dive into the deep end, let’s discuss the concept of interest. When you borrow money or buy something with credit, you are charged interest. Interest is a small fee you pay for the convenience of paying later. When you invest money, you loan someone else—the bank, a business, etc.—money to operate and make money. They pay you interest for allowing them to use your money.  Interest is a small percentage of the outstanding balance owed that is charged at a regular interval—usually annually.

Simple interest accrues yearly, monthly or daily, and only on the principal—or the balance of what’s owed or has been invested. Compound interest accrues yearly, monthly or daily, but it accrues on the principal and the interest that has already been applied. So, you are paying or earning interest on interest. This is what makes compound interest so powerful.

One of the worst kept and unappreciated secrets to wealth is the concept of investing and earning compound interest. According to a survey conducted by George Washington University,  66% of Americans don’t understand this concept. When you put money in an investment with compounding interest you make money just by allowing the money to sit. You earn interest on the original investment and on the interest it accrues. The more money you add, the faster it grows. You can literally earn money by sitting and doing nothing. Just invest and let it rest.

Of course, this is a simplified view of investing and a lot of other factors—especially risk—effect how fast your money grows. The greater the risk, the greater the reward or consequence. Before you invest, it’s important that you perform due diligent research and understand all of the intricacies—interest type and rate, type of investment, level of risk, penalties, fees, etc.—that can affect your bottom line. You want to find an investment strategy that suits your needs, circumstances and risk tolerance.

Ready to get on the right side of compound interest?

These 4 Money Challenges Could Save Your Relationship

Mixing love and money is tricky. In fact, a recent study conducted by Dave Ramsey and Ramsey Solutions found that money is the second leading cause of divorce. Infidelity is number one. The study concluded that debt, communication, and attitudes about money and spending habits keep couples broke and disgruntled.

Money challenges are the ultimate team-building activities for couples. When done correctly, they can expose areas of pain and fear, open or improve lines of communication, and help you become a more disciplined unit.

Whether you are newly married, been together for a while, or are on the cusp of divorce, engaging in a financial challenge — as a couple — could improve or even save your marriage. The challenges themselves aren’t magic. You have to commit and do the work. They can, however, assist you in revamping how you view and handle finances as a pair.

Here are a few money challenges that every couple should try. Read more.

5 Reasons Why Trying To Get Rich Quick Is A Waste Of Time

We’ve all dreamed about it: Winning the lottery without even playing. Inheriting millions from a wealthy, great-uncle you never knew existed. Pitching the perfect business idea to the perfect person at just the right time.

But chasing quick riches and instant wealth is an exercise in futility. It’s like trying to capture a purple unicorn that lives outside of the castle just beyond the end of the rainbow; it’s impossible. It doesn’t exist. Movies, books, and social media have sold the idea that getting rich quick is possible. But that is a lie.

The allure of fast, easy money is a mirage that can lure you down a dark path. You risk emotional and financial devastation, as well as wasted energy and resources. And yet, people can’t seem to let go of searching for ways to skip work and go straight to the wealth. It is impossible — always has been, and always will be. Here’s why (read more).

Featured image courtesy of Flickr

5 Pitfalls You’ll Encounter Along Your Path To Financial Freedom

The road to financial freedom is paved with good intentions — and littered with skid marks from those who started out, but opted for an easier path. It can be a lonely, winding road that has potholes, roadblocks, and detours. The best way to ensure any journey is successful is to properly prepare.

Here are a few pitfalls you can expect to run into on your way to financial freedom, and what you can do to cope. Read more.

Thinking About Retiring Early? Here Are 5 Things That Could Wreck Your Nest Egg

The Financial Independence/Retire Early (FIRE) movement is hot right now. People working toward FIRE are hoping to retire in their 40s and, in some cases, even their 30s. And while the focus of FIRE is to produce financial freedom and not ascribe to a strict definition of the term “retired,” it is a tantalizing goal many find worth chasing.

However, if not properly planned, early retirement can be more of a burden than freedom. The earlier you retire, the longer your money has to last. Your life mitigation plan also has to be more solid and thorough than those who retire at the standard age. Below are some things that could derail your finances if you retire early. Read more.

You Finally Got Your First Real Paycheck. Here’s What You Should Do Now

You’ve finally landed your first real job. And with that, comes your first real paycheck. This is a monumental occasion and should be celebrated. But what should you do? Should you blow all of your funds on an expensive and wild weekend? Should you buy a new wardrobe? Or should you just pay your bills and save the rest?

The answer to this question depends on your overall financial plan, your budget, and your surplus once you’ve met all of your obligations. An important thing to do once you receive that first check (preferably before) is to establish a plan. It’s OK to splurge a little and celebrate the fact that you are officially a taxpaying, adulting member of society. However, it’s critical that you use this first paycheck to jump-start your journey to financial independence.

Here are some important money moves you should make with your first real paycheck. Read more.

Lost Your Job. Now Unemployment Benefits Are Ending. Here’s What You Should Do

Losing a job can be devastating. It can throw your life into a tailspin and severely delay or even kill your progress and plans for the future. Once you receive a little help through unemployment compensation, you may find yourself right back where you started when the benefit ends.

You may have been blindsided when you first lost your job, but losing unemployment before you’ve found a replacement job can also be a sucker-punch. As difficult as it all is, you still have to will yourself into being proactive. Here are a few things you should do to prepare for the end of unemployment compensation. Read More.

6 Shopping Challenges That Will Keep You Bad & Bougie & On Budget

As a passionate yet frugal fashion connoisseur, I’m always looking for ways to keep the peace between my inner Chic Chandra and Frugal Fran. It isn’t easy. One of my favorite ways to pacify both sides and exercise a bit of creativity is by engaging in shopping challenges. Some challenges I’ve found through social media, fashion blogs, and some my fellow spendthrift friends and I create ourselves.

No matter what you’re trying to do — be “bougie on a budget,” upgrade your wardrobe, try out different styles, or give yourself a complete makeover — shopping challenges help you simultaneously accomplish your fashion and finance goals. Below are a few of my favorites, but I challenge you to be creative and mix and modify these, or create your own. Read more.

4 StepsTo Successfully Merging Money & Marriage

The “relationship goals” meme revolves around the idea that — at least in the world of social media — your relationship is envied by singles and mediocre couples everywhere. And whether you realize it or not, a big part of having a successful marriage and reaching that “goals” status is figuring out the financial aspect of your relationship.

Money itself isn’t a homewrecker. It’s other issues — like communicating about money, your relationship with it, and your values associated with it — that cause problems. Establishing a strong money management system within your marriage can be tricky. Here are a few things you and your spouse can do to set and achieve financial goals as a couple. Read more.

Baby Boomer Parents Are Going Broke Helping Their Millenial Kids

 

Millennials–those aged 18-37–have proven to be a distinct and unique generation—especially in the area of finances. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau—they have surpassed Baby Boomers making them the largest living generation in the U.S. A study conducted by CreditCards.com and cited by USA Today revealed that 74 percent of parents financially support their grown millennial children in some way. TD Ameritrade’s 2017 survey revealed millennials collect an average of $11k in parental support per year.

Let that sink in. Baby Boomers are giving away over $10K in cash and services to their grown children. Most of the assistance (84 percent) goes toward helping with daily living expenses. And 70 percent of that money is spent helping kids pay down debt—most notable student loans.

These numbers are especially disconcerting for Boomers who are in or very close to retirement. Because every dollar counts. And while millennials are not intentionally trying to financially ruin their parents here are four ways they are doing just that.

Seeking Approval

Millennials grew up with constant access to technology and social media which contributes to their constant need for feedback and approval. They love attention. Motivaction International conducted a survey and found that this generation is the most attention-starved generation ever. And, they compete for attention in ways other generations do not.

Millennials are not racing up the corporate ladder. Instead, they are competing for “likes” and followers. They strive to be social media influencers and to embody what their generation considers successful. They may not live in mansions or drive exotic cars but their idea of luxury and success can be just as expensive. They often chase freedom and internet fame and pass on opportunities that can facilitate financial stability. They chase fluidity and seek self-expression. Self-expression comes at a cost and most often, it doesn’t pay well. They are paid in “likes” while their parents pay their cell phone bill and car insurance.

Job Hopping

The millennial generation is not a nine-to-five group. They are drawn to startups, side-gigs, and freelancing. They value their free time. The problem with that is time is money. It is the paradox of the ages. If you chose to prioritize family you sacrifice income. When you choose to provide economic stability and give your family expensive things, you sacrifice spending time with them. Boomers and Millennials are on opposite ends of the spectrum on this issue. And regret from past experiences may be why some Boomers support their children’s decision to chase their dreams despite the cost. But that guilt can be expensive.

It’s not uncommon for a Millennial to remain on one job for only two or three years before moving on. Millennials are always looking for the next best thing. They also seek unconventional ways to make money. Which again, isn’t a bad thing—when done strategically. However, the unconventional usually comes without health care, a 401(K) and financial stability. It is hard to get this younger generation to comprehend and digest the fact that taking a job to make ends meet does not equate to selling your soul for a dollar.

It is also normal for millennials just out of college to hold out for their dream job. Or they start their own thing (making little or no money) in lieu of taking an entry-level position. According to Forbes, the average “entry-level” job paid new graduates about $50,000 annually in 2016. The average grad in his/her twenties can expect to spend just over $350 per month on student loan payments for at least 10-12 years. The longer they put off getting a job that pays a decent salary, the longer their repayment period will be. And guess who will have to help continue footing the bill while they chase the “unicorn” job?

Chasing Happiness

Baby Boomers are a generation that epitomizes grit and determination. They are hard workers and often forsake happiness and their own personal fulfillment to provide for their family—and yes, to acquire nice things. But they understand and grasp that sacrifice is a necessary part of life. Millennials aren’t trying to hear that.

Millennials believe that they can and should be happy–now. And that thinking isn’t bad—if it’s balanced. Millennials want to have free time to hang with friends, vacation with their family and live life on their own terms. The problem with this is everything in life comes at a cost. It costs time, money or energy. In order to have one thing, you have to sacrifice another, at least for a while.

Since millennials aren’t willing to concede their happiness for any length of time, their Boomer parents are picking up the slack. They are compelled to foot the bill while their kids chase happiness and find themselves. They value experience over tangible objects—like money—and can be unwilling to make concessions that are financially sensible.

Living At Home Longer

An increasing number of young adults live with their folks. According to Market Watch, in 2014, 31 percent of adults aged 25- 29 lived in a multigenerational household. And that number has steadily increased. The percentage of 18-34-year-olds living with their parents has surpassed all other living arrangements.

These adult children do save money on housing and living expenses, but their parents are the ones who absorb the added expense. Fidelity Investments and Stanford Center on Longevity conducted a study of Boomers supporting adult children. Their research found that 76 percent experienced a significant spike in expenses.

The added cost of supporting adult children is more than just financial. The study also revealed that 68 percent of those surveyed reported feeling more stressed, 53 percent were less happy and another 53% have less leisure time since the return of their “boomerang kids.”

Ending the boomerang effect

Before you overextend yourself into supporting grown, mentally and physically able-bodied adult children, there are a few things you should consider.

  • What caused the debt or hardship? If it’s a medical condition, major life event such as a divorce, job loss or catastrophe then, of course, you want to help your kids. But if the cause of the hardship is poor decision-making or laziness—your help enables the behavior and can further cripple your kids.
  • What are your motives for helping? Responding out of fear and/or guilt is the quickest path to bad decisions. Even though your kids are grown, you are still their number one role-model. You have to love them enough to do the right thing. And sometimes that means saying “no,” or placing limits on how long they can live with you and how much help they can receive.
  • Can you afford to help them? This, by far, is the most important question. If you don’t have the means and/or the resources to help them, don’t do it. Think about the airplane model. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you help others. You have to ensure that you are financially ok and in a position to help or you risk hurting your child and yourself. And when you do help, it should only help at the level at which you are able.

Part of parenting is teaching children how to be resilient, creative, innovative and resourceful. Sometimes, the best way to teach them these things is by letting them go.

The Make Or Break Trait For Every Small Business. Do You Have It?

Owning a small business is no small feat. There are hundreds of articles written on how to effectively market yourself, attract customers, and drive traffic to your website. With so many gimmicks and tricks out there, it can feel impossible to determine what you should actually do in order to be successful.

The best piece of advice I have found that works for all successful small businesses is: Just be you.

Be authentic. Be genuine. Be true to who you are and work to ensure your business embodies and reflects this. Authenticity is the thing that can make or break your business. Read more.

Jail Time For Debt Nonpayment? The Answer To This And Other Tough Debt Questions

We’ve all heard the tales of financial woe that befall people who fail to pay their debt, die without a will, or go through a nasty divorce. But what is the truth? Is there a such thing as credit jail? Can filing bankruptcy give you a clean financial slate? Are you responsible for an ex-spouse’s debts?

I am answering some of your most pressing debt questions. As always, it’s important that you do your own research — each situation is different and laws and regulations change on a case-by-case basis. This is your jumping off point. Now, let’s get started. Read more.

Here’s How To Spring Clean Your Finances

Spring is in the air. Most people use the first blooms of the season as a signal to begin the process of spring cleaning; out with the old to make room for the new.

The same thought process should be applied to your finances. While you are in the mindset of minimizing, organizing, and cleaning out the old, you should capitalize on this mood as it pertains to your debt. Take the time to give yourself a money makeover and tidy up your financial life by shedding lingering debt. Here are the steps you can take to do it. Read more.

Featured images by Images Money

How to Make Ends Meet When You’re Raising Your Grandkids

Grandchildren are a blessing and were put on this earth to be spoiled rotten by “Gran” and “Pop Pop.”  Unfortunately, a growing number of grandparents find themselves moving from the role of grandma/pa to starring in their very own sequel—Parenting Part II. And while grandkids are a gift from God, they are a very expensive gift that can wreak havoc on a grandparent’s pocketbook.

The trend of grandparents serving as the primary caretaker of grandchildren has not only become common but it’s also becoming the new norm. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau, found that one in three households is headed by a grandparent. And recent upticks in increased life expectancy, single-parent homes, and female professionals, increase the likelihood that grandparent head of household trend will continue to rise.

Parenting from the posture of a grandparent is a lot different than it was the first time around. An informal survey conducted by RasingYourGrandchildren.com found that 64 percent of respondents cited money as their primary challenge when it comes to raising their grands. Maintaining financial stability with the grands in tow can involve a bit more than the standard living on a budget and having an emergency fund strategy. Below are few tips on making ends meet while rearing the grandkids.

Embrace change

The first thing you must do when you become a grandparent head-of-household is understand that you are not who you once were and the world has changed. This is especially true if your grands are small children. You are older now and you have less “bandwidth” than you used to have. You have a little less energy, patience, tolerance, strength and drive than you did the first go around. You have to remember that and plan your life accordingly.

This realization also applies to your financial bandwidth. You have less room for mistakes and missteps. Recovering from a financial disaster will be a lot costlier now that you are older and have a shortened earning time-span and a limited income. You have to learn to do more with less. You may have to shift your perspective and opt for things like paying for community or local college in lieu of a large and expensive university. Vacations may have to become staycations and eating out becomes a once a month treat at a cheap fast food restaurant instead of the usual twice a week meal at a pricey restaurant.

The main point here is that you can’t do the normal things you used to do when you were in your first phase of parenting. You have to be smarter, stricter with your budget and way more resourceful.

Be resourceful

As a grandparent, you should be aware that there are financial assistance programs available that can help if you find yourself having trouble making ends meet. Most states have a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. Assistance offerings vary from state to state but most offer bill pay assistance, food stamps and free or low-cost daycare.

If you find that you don’t qualify for your state’s TANF program you should ask about a “child-only grant” which provides financial aid just for the grandchildren. It’s also a good idea to see what other state-sponsored programs are available such as guardianship subsidies, non-parent grants or kinship care.

There are also tax benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), state-sponsored health insurance programs like Medicaid and other low or no cost assistance programs. If these avenues fail, check with the local churches and other community organizations in your area. Many have programs that offer aid to families in need. There are resources out there—you have to seek them out and use them when you need them.

Work smarter not harder

When you are in your 20’s and 30’s you work hard and learn along the way. Once you reach 50, its time to rethink how you do things. The older you get the smarter you should become. It’s time to put that knowledge, expertise and wisdom to work for you. You’ve raised your kids. And you’ve undoubtedly made some mistakes. Look at raising your grandkids as a second chance an opportunity to put that earned knowledge to good use.

Think back on all the times you’ve said “man, if I only knew…,” and do now what you didn’t know to do then. You may have less physical energy but you have greater mental strength. Work to look at everything strategically. How long can you stretch a pack of chicken? Learn the art of thrifting. Teach the grands how to DIY whenever possible and look for deals—for everything.

You really have to work to make every dollar count. You may not be able to spoil the grands the way you envisioned but you are providing them with something far more valuable and substantive. You give them a warm, clean, and safe place to live, nourishment, clothes and most importantly, your love. You also will teach them how to live frugally, how to stretch what they have and how to live on a budget. You have the unique opportunity to directly shape and affect their lives. That’s far more valuable than anything you could ever buy them.

Live on a budget

Living on a budget is a basic and fundamental must. But that doesn’t just apply to your finances. In addition to budgeting every dollar, you must budget your time, food and all of your resources. Everything you do (or don’t do) eventually affects your bottom line. For instance, if you fail to plan your meals before you go to the grocery store, you may find yourself going to the grocery store more often. And research shows the more often you go, the more vulnerable you become to overspending.

The same is true about your time. If you don’t plan how to spend your time and create a schedule, your sweet, darling, little grands will run you ragged. And exhaustion effects decision-making. The more tired you are the more apt you are to take shortcuts and use money to solve problems when more frugal options are available.

It’s also important to have money goals. Try to structure your finances in a way that allows you not to dip into your retirement funds. Continue to have a savings strategy and always, always, always maintain an emergency fund. If you know that you are going to be the primary caregiver for the long haul, make a realistic plan for their education. And that includes encouraging them to opt for non-conventional college payment options, like work study, attending a free/ low-cost community college or going to school part-time.

Ditch the guilt

The fact that you are raising your grandkids qualifies you for a “good person” award. You are doing a noble and honorable thing. You are doing the right thing. Whenever guilt arises because you can’t give your grands the best of everything, remind yourself that you are doing your best.

You’ve raised your kids and were the best parent you could be at the time. Own that. You don’t have to raise your grandchildren. You are choosing to. Allowing guilt to drive your financial decisions is a bad idea and a quick way to buy yourself a heap of financial trouble. Work to always do the right thing. That means saying no when you should and yes only when you can.

Featured image by Matti on Flickr

Your Self Talk Is Keeping You Broke, Fat And Unhappy. Here’s How To Change It

A little self-criticism is a good thing. It can be a reality check and provide a moment of clarity that challenges you to do better. However, if left unchecked, your self-talk can veer off the road of constructive criticism and end up in the ditch of self-loathing.

There is a distinct difference between “I’ve put on a few pounds. I need to get back in the gym,” and “I’m a fat pig that no one wants.” See the difference? One motivates the other deprecates.

Like it or not, everything you say to yourself matters. Your inner critic isn’t harmless. It inhibits you, limits you, and stops you from pursuing your dreams and living your best life. It robs you of peace of mind and emotional well-being and, if left unchecked it can even lead to serious mental health problems.

Causes and consequences of negative self-talk

Most people don’t realize it, but as we go about our daily lives we are subconsciously interpreting every situation that arises–both big and small. We have an internal voice inside our mind that shapes our context surrounding what we are experiencing.

Some of our internal conversations can be negative, unrealistic, self-defeating and self-deprecating. We say things like, ‘I’m going to fail for sure’, or ‘I didn’t do well.’ I’m hopeless.’ ‘I’m useless.’

 Negative self-talk has many origins such as:
  • A bad mood that stirs up negative thoughts.
  • The habit of being overly critical which may stem from your childhood.
  • Pessimism and always expecting the worst.
  • Negative past experiences and the persistent belief that history repeats itself.
  • Fear, anxiety, worries, depression and other negative mental tendencies that feed and perpetuate negative thinking.

The consequences of negative self-talk build over time. It’s like building a brick wall. Each time you engage in negative self-talk, you add a brick to the wall. Each brick by itself is fairly insignificant. But over time an impenetrable wall is constructed. Repeatedly berating yourself and believing the worse slowly sabotages you.

Thinking of yourself as clumsy, a loser, ugly, stupid, insignificant or worthless is an indicator that your self-talk is negative and you may be slowly orchestrating our own demise. Internal negativity makes you see yourself as irreparably flawed, inadequate or incompetent and as a result, your self-confidence is diminished.

Seeing yourself as hopeless, constantly blaming yourself whenever something goes wrong or dwelling on worst-case scenarios are all examples of exaggerated, negative thought patterns. And this kind of distorted thinking can cause you to spiral downward until you’re so far down you are unable to see or imagine anything positive.

Negative self-talk reinforces irrational ideas you already have. Each time you mentally rehearse negative phrases you strengthen those irrational beliefs and perceptions. And with time, your negativity gathers the strength to cripple–and in some cases– even kill you.

Happily, your pesky inner critic can be muzzled.

Ridding yourself of negative self-talk

Replacing a negative mindset with a positive one requires slow deliberate and methodical effort. Here are a few steps that can help you recognize, stop and replace negative thoughts with positive ones:
  • Identify the times when negative self-talk arises most often (a certain time of day, during a stressful event, following criticism, after being around certain people, etc.).
  • Identify what triggered those thoughts.
  • Counter your negative thoughts with positive–factual ones.
  • Create yourself a script that you can use to counter negative thoughts as soon as they arise.

For example, when thoughts such as “I am worthless” arise, counter them with more realistic thoughts such as “my kids need me” or “my colleague values my work.” Each time you counter negative statements with positive facts, your negative thoughts lose power.

Try to view the situation objectively, like an outsider looking in and then try to determine what is best for that person (you) in that situation.

Repeating this cycle over and over trains your mind to seek out and focus on the positive. And slowly positive thoughts will become your default.

You can control your thoughts

Excessive amounts of self-criticism is counterproductive because it leads to hyper-focusing on failures and flaws and excludes the positives. You have power over how you perceive life and how you interact with it. The first step in being fulfilled and achieving your goals begins by training that small voice in your head to speak positivity.

Here’s How To Bounce Back After A Financial Crisis

The ability to bounce back after being financially sucker punched is a necessity in today’s volatile financial climate. It’s safe to say that at some point in your life, you are going to face a financial crisis. It could come in the form of a job loss, an unexpected pregnancy, a health crisis, divorce, death of a loved one, identity theft, a global recession, the stock market tanking, an act of God … you get the picture. And the most troublesome thing about a financial crisis is it is usually unexpected and beyond your control.

The ability to survive and recover from a significant financial setback depends on how well you are prepared before disaster strikes and how flexible and proactive you are during and after the event. While you can’t predict, control, or prevent financial catastrophes, there are a few things you can do to increase your financial resilience. Read more.

30 Podcasts Every Entrepreneur Should Hear

Podcasts, similar to wide leg pants and Mohawks, are experiencing a huge comeback. Popularized by the iPod in the early 2000s, these short-form audio files experienced huge (albeit short-lived) success. Originally, the files were too large and painful to download and a lot of the topics were a bit abstract and obscure for the average taste, so the podcast slowly died — until now.

The Podcast is back and better than ever! Apple reported that podcast subscriptions via iTunes eclipsed the one billion mark. Technology has changed the face of this audio file. Downloading is no longer necessary, they can be listened to anywhere, and within their niches the topics are mainstream. Best of all, they are free!

Top 30 Podcasts Every Entrepreneur Should Hear

Gone are the days when we had to learn things the hard way. Experience may be the best teacher but having access to critical information can save time, money, and a ton of aspirin. Being an entrepreneur is tough. It can be lonely and a ton of work if you are doing it right. Having access to solid information at the right time could mean the difference between your startup exploding into a huge success or slowly fizzling out and joining the ranks of the 90 percent that fail.

An easy, efficient, and portable way to get great information concerning all things entrepreneurial is by listening to podcasts. We’ve assembled a list of 30 podcasts that should be on the playlist of every entrepreneur:

1. The Dave Ramsey Show

This podcast is a must for every small business owner. The Dave Ramsey Show is a no-nonsense, savvy, innovative approach to all things financial. Dave gives advice, tips, and resources to help manage your personal and business finances well. His unique approach to business and finance has made his business a huge success and his perspective is well respected in the financial sphere. His podcasts come from his live radio show which is also available in video. During each show he tackles a topic and answers questions live on the air.

2. StartUp

This podcast gives advice to young entrepreneurs who are newbies to the startup game. This one tackles topics that are critical to a new business such as naming your business, building your brand, how to value it, and how to bring in partners and investors.

3. Mixergy: Startup Stories

Mixergy is hosted by Andrew Warner and features his interviews with some of the most cutting-edge, relevant business people of today. What is especially unique about his interactions with his guests is that some of the more engaging topics morph into business courses taught by the interviewed business experts. Not only do you get to hear some advice and personal stories, you are also given the opportunity to learn from the masters themselves.

 4. School of Greatness

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration and the motivation to keep going, this is the podcast for you. Hosted by former professional arena football player Lewis Howes, this podcast focuses on helping you be the best version of yourself. It wakes you up and challenges you to live intentionally.

5. Entrepreneur On Fire (EOFire)

This award-winning podcast airs seven days a week and features incredible stories, advice, and a fresh perspective on creative ways to run your business by industry heavy hitters. Host John Lee Dumas ensures that you have an actionable take away from every show.

6. Powderkeg: Igniting Startups

Just the name alone should have you fired up and ready to listen. The website bills Powderkeg as “The untold stories of entrepreneurship beyond Silicon Valley.” These are stories of successful startups in the tech industry. The host, Matt Hunckler, delves into some of the top minds of this market including investors and innovators. It is tech focused but there are principles discussed that can be applied to any business endeavor.

 7. EntreLeadership

This is another Dave Ramsey project. This one delves into the dynamics of creating, owning, and operating a business empire, in addition to building your brand and learning how to operate with integrity. He uses his own experience and offers tips from the likes of Mark Cuban, Simon Sinek, Set Godin, and other heavy hitters.

8. Profit. Power. Pursuit. 

This podcast is a must for creative types. It offers lessons on the mechanics of running a business while leveraging the tactical and strategic components necessary for success in the highly competitive creative marketspace.

9. HBR IDEACAST

HBR IDEACAST is the Harvard Business Review’s podcast. HBR is the premier resource for business news and research. According to their website, their podcast provides analysis and advice from leading minds in all things business. While HBR does require a membership fee to access some of its articles and information, the podcast is free.

 10. THE $100 MBA

The $100 MBA is a daily podcast that is quick and to the point. This 10-minute podcast is hosted by Omar Zenhom and gives practical, real-world actionable advice by a leading industry expert. This is great for those who don’t have a lot of time or want just the information without a lot of chitchat.

11. THE ENTREPRENEUR’S RADIO SHOW

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration and are interested in the stories of how others climbed to success, The Entrepreneur’s Radio Show is for you. This show is all about self-made millionaires and prosperous entrepreneurs who started with nothing. The show’s topics cover the entire spectrum of business, ranging from harnessing ingenuity to how to create an emotional experience for your customers.

12. BBC BUSINESS DAILY

BBC Business Daily is a podcast that focuses on global business news. It examines big issues facing the global economy, demystifies the world of money and international business, and explains trends. It gives a broad perspective of business and is great for those with international business interests.

 13. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ON SMALL BIZ

The Wall Street Journal on Small Biz is a weekly podcast that primarily focuses on all things small business. This podcast provides a wide array of topics that keep you engaged and intrigued. The topics which range from lying on a resume to how sports logic applies to business are captivating and provide a unique perspective on business issues.

14. Self-Made Man

“Forge your Destiny” is this website’s tagline. This podcast is not necessarily entrepreneurial. It’s more geared toward teaching you how to be your best self. It is motivational with a plethora of self-help content.

15. The Broad Experience

This quick 20-minute show hosted by Ashley Milne-Tyte tackles some of the big issues facing women in the workplace. The discussion explores topics such as race, communication styles, being a professional woman with or without kids, and how to survive sexism in the business world.

 16. Jocko Podcast

Named one of the best podcasts of 2016 by Apple, this inspiring podcast offers life lessons on work ethic, leadership, discipline, and even fitness. The show is hosted by retired Navy Seal officer, Jocko Willink and his ability to turn any story into a teachable moment makes this podcast worth your time.

17. The Action Catalyst

The Action Catalyst podcast is all about productivity and building momentum. The host, Rory Vaden, is a New York Times bestselling author and Co-Founder of Southwestern Consulting, a multi-million dollar global consulting practice. He gives real answers to tough questions such as “What’s the fastest, cheapest way to recruit amazing people?” (Visit his website for the answer!)

18. DUCT TAPE MARKETING

This podcast, hosted by John Jantsch is a monthly or bi-monthly broadcast. John covers primarily marketing and sales topics. He answers questions and touches on subjects like Chatbots, interpreting body language, keeping pace with changing SEO tactics, and so much more. If you are looking for ways to enhance your marketing strategy this podcast is definitely for you.

 19. 500 Startups Podcast 

This relatively new podcast airs weekly and features interviews and talks with startup founders, influencers, and entrepreneurs. 500 Startups is a Silicon Valley seed fund and accelerator and focuses on how to get your startup off the ground and keep it growing at a manageable pace during its infancy.

20. The Tim Ferriss Show

The Tim Ferriss Show is the top-ranked business podcast with over 100,000,000 iTunes downloads. Tim is a New York Times bestselling author and investor extraordinaire. What makes his podcast so popular and engaging is that he interviews successful people in a multiplicity of genres, fields, and art forms. He translates their strategies into business practices and finds ways to incorporate seemingly unrelated topics and fields into successful business practices.

Youpreneur, hosted by Chris Ducker, is dedicated to helping you create, enhance, and revamp your brand. He tackles everything from digital storytelling to using Instagram as a marketing and branding tool. He offers a fresh look at branding and leveraging all the available tools to effectively communicate your brand.

 22. This Week in Startups

This podcast is for those who want to know what the exciting new trends are in the world of technology. Each week, host Jason Calacanis interviews a guest entrepreneur to find out what’s happening right now in the tech industry. This podcast is cutting-edge and is a mix of current events and trends, company profiles, and insider gossip. This is the podcast for those techies who need to be in the know.

23. The Full Ratchet 

This podcast is “Investing 101”. It is designed to teach entrepreneurs how investors think, how to market to them, and how to entice them to buy into your company, your brand, and more importantly, you. Host Nick Moran ensures that you walk away with clear and actionable information on how to be a savvy investor and how to attract investors.

24. Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast 

Andy Stanley’s podcasts focus on leadership and how to cultivate your vision and develop others around you. His content is culturally relevant and provides practical insights for life and leadership. Last month’s podcast was a conversation on how to create a culture of continual improvement. He knows that any business is only as strong as its leader and he shows how to lead with passion while avoiding burnout.

 25. a16z Podcast

According to Andreessen Horowitz (a.k.a. a16z), “Software is eating the world.” Horowitz wants to teach tech companies how to leverage technology without becoming slaves to it. He interviews and engages tech experts and business leaders through spirited discussions concerning this this “devourment” and helps tech companies devise a plan. His chats focus on tech news, industry trends, and the future of technology. If you want to keep pace with trends and survive the future, this podcast is for you.

26. The Twenty-Minute VC 

This short and sweet weekly podcast hosted by Harry Stebbings is geared toward venture capitalists. Each week two experts in the world of venture capitalism share their wisdom, insight, and predictions in a concise and informative interview. This podcast is suited for investors but it is also a wellspring of knowledge for business-minded individuals, novice investors, and entrepreneurs.

27. Social Pros

This is a podcast every entrepreneur (or anyone looking to market anything) should hear. Jay Baer of Convince & Convert and Adam Brown of Salesforce are the tag-team co-hosts of this podcast. This show is an insightful and intelligent look into the essential world of social media marketing. They get advice from experts associated with global icons such as Dell, ESPN, and IBM concerning the trends and how-tos of social media marketing.

 28. The #AskGaryVee Show 

The #AskGaryVee podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, CEO, investor, vlogger/social media personality, and public speaker Gary Vaynerchuk. Each show is a Q&A with Gary in which he answers questions concerning everything he’s into. He gives tips, tricks, and secrets of the trade. This show has something for every entrepreneur. Whether you are starting a YouTube channel or a high-level tech startup, Gary can teach you something.

29. Smart Passive Income Podcast 

Earning a passive income is the new financial trend currently sweeping the globe. It is also every entrepreneur’s dream. Making money while you sleep — who wouldn’t want that? Pat Flynn is an expert in this area. He has built his online empire almost entirely through the use of passive income. He shows you how to target your energy and efforts now so that you can relax and reap the rewards long after you’ve quit working.

30. Unemployable Podcast

This podcast is for those who — like host and creator Brian Clark — find it impossible to stick to the mundane, mediocre lifestyle that traditional nine-to-five offers. This podcast encourages those who have a phenomenal work ethic but were built to march to the beat of their own drums and are destined to forge their own paths in this world. Brian teaches you how to follow your passion in a very intentional and methodical way. This podcast is not for the lazy, the trifling, or those who give up easily.

 Listening to podcasts is a quick and efficient way to increase your knowledge base, maximize the use of downtime, get motivation and insight, and learn from industries’ top leaders. Spending your time doing things that matter, sharpening your skills, and learning from the masters is one of the best ways to solidify your success. These podcasts are a great place to start.

Featured image courtesy of maxpixel

Top Five Financial Moves Every Single Should Make

The number of Americans who wait to get married — or never get hitched — is growing. In fact, for the first time in history, the number of unmarried Americans almost equals those who are married. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there were 110 million unmarried adults (age 18 and older) in 2016, which is 45 percent of all U.S. residents over the age of 18.

Living a Sex in the City lifestyle may be alluring, but it also comes with hidden financial pitfalls. This is especially true for singles who have never been married. While divorcees and widows have distinct challenges, there are resources and services out there to assist them through their transition. However, if you are someone who has never been married, you’re pretty much on your own.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top things that every single person should do with their finances. Read more.

 

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