The Secret Sauce: You Are A Good Leader. Here’s How To Be A Great One

There is no prescription or secret formula for being a good leader. I know you’ve read articles such as “Seven Ways To Lead Successfully,” or Ten Things Every Good Leader Should Do,” and so on… But the truth is that a concrete methodology or a specific set of skills, abilities and character traits that make up a great leader just doesn’t exist. There is no secret sauce…

Stop Chasing Ghosts

You want to be a good leader—no scratch that–you want to be an exceptional leader. To do this, you must first disassociate yourself with all of your preconceived notions concerning leadership and empty your repertoire of the canned and contrite leadership advice you’ve heard along the way.

Leadership is situational. What works in one situation or with one team would be disastrous in another context. Understanding and truly embracing this fundamental truth is the first step toward becoming a great leader. You cannot imitate a great leader and then become one. Every situation, organization, team and individual has a unique set of circumstances, nuances and factors. Consider this, a person can be a strong and exceptional leader in one aspect and completely inept in another. Some of the best and brightest corporate CEO’s struggle as parents. A pastor of a large congregation may flop as an entrepreneur. Leadership is situational and dependent on a plethora of factors.

Great leaders are not reproducible. Think about all of the great leaders throughout history: George Washington, Ben Franklin, Marin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Jesus, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Barack Obama and the list goes on… All of these people have one thing in common—they were originals who have not–and never–will be duplicated. And even if we brought them back to life, gave them a new company or re-elected them into office, their leadership style would be different and their success as leaders is not guaranteed.

What a good leader is

The definition of leadership is the power to influence. That’s it. It is not outcome focused. It has nothing to do with one’s ability to strategize. It is not dependent upon charisma, drive, or intellect. Leadership is dependent on your ability to impact people in a way that makes them want to follow you or are in some way influenced by you.

John Maxwell, bestselling author, speaker and leadership guru put it this way:

“True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that cannot be mandated. It must be earned. The only thing a title can buy is a little time-either to increase your level of influence with others or to undermine it.”

James R. Bailey, author and contributor to the Harvard Business Review echoes Maxwell’s sentiments about leadership. He describes a leader as one who excites, energizes, and stimulates. He sees a great leader as one who can galvanize the masses. A truly great leader is able to spark collective action and stir passion within people.  Think about the leaders I listed above… They influenced entire generations and nations of people.

Leadership is dependent on how others see, feel about and respond to you. It is not what you can accomplish or bullying others into submitting to your will. You can be the greatest strategist on earth with an IQ of 160 but if no one willingly follows you and helps champion your cause—you are not a good leader. Conversely, you can have the intellect of a peanut, and be a poor planner yet if you can connect with and inspire people enough to take on your cause, not only are you a great leader, you will also accomplish more than a mere intellectual.

If you are following along and doing some deductive reasoning, you’ve probably realized that great leaders are good with and passionate about people—not just results.

What a great leader is not

Now that we’ve established that a great leader has to be adept in dealing with people meaning they must be: empathetic, compassionate, approachable, trustworthy, articulate, good listeners, effective communicators, experts in conflict resolution, understanding  of the strengths and weakness of each team member and of the team as a whole, etc., you have a clearer picture of what traits you need for your situation. But before you dive in and transform yourself, let’s discuss what a great leader is not. A great leader is not:

A Con-Artist

Master manipulators are not, I repeat, are not good leaders. The difference between manipulation and influence lies in the intent of the leader and the will of the follower. If the person you are leading is following you under false pretenses or you’ve coerced them into following you, they are not truly being influenced. They are being tricked. A person who positively influences people is attractive because their cause, methods and approach resonate with their followers. People genuinely want to be a part of the leader’s vision and efforts. The key word here is genuine. The leader’s motives must be pure and the team’s allegiance must come from a place of honesty and free-will.

A Bully

People submit to bullies out of fear. A bully may get what he or she wants for a while but one thing they will never experience is true loyalty from their followers. A great leader doesn’t use intimidation, threats and strong-armed tactics to lead. Pride, selfishness and arrogance are embedded in the heart of a bully and these three traits are exactly what undermines effective leadership. Case in point–Donald Trump… enough said.

A manager or boss

Most people don’t consider their boss, supervisor or direct superior a great leader. Bosses are in no way inspiring or influential. Don’t get me wrong, your boss or supervisor could be a great leader, however, most often, that is not the case.

A “boss” is task oriented. A good boss is a master at maintaining the status quo, keeping the boat a float and the passengers alive. He or she guides processes, is strategic and manages the work environment. A great leader impacts and changes the environment, charts a new course and ignites passion and excitement in his or her crew.

A boss is selected based on his or her ability to get a job done, meet deadlines and keep the staff or team from killing each other. Bosses are not problem-solvers in the truest sense of the word. They manage and handle problems. Great leaders—because of their ability to connect with others, can get to the heart of an issue and completely resolve it. Bosses are not bad people, but they are not great leaders.

Transcending good and becoming great

So far we’ve created a well-rounded view of what a great leader looks like. We all know them when we see them but how do we, as leaders move from being good to great?

Remember there is no method, prototype or recipe for becoming a great leader. It is highly situational. You must have the ability to assess the situation, your team and yourself to determine what it will take for you to truly impact the hearts and excite passion in your team members. Some team members may not believe in the mission or the outcome but they will believe in you. Below are three core traits all great leaders have in common:

1. Intuition

Intuition is knowledge that comes from internal instincts rather than conscious reasoning. It’s that “gut feeling.” An intuitive leader is experienced, observant and very astute at reading people. Unfortunately, intuition cannot be taught, it can, however, be developed and sharpened through time and experience. Here’s an interesting fact about intuition: scientist believe that your instincts are accurate between 70% and 90% of the time. The answers are already inside of you.

Intuitive leaders have discovered how to access and listen to that still small voice that tells them something is wrong, this is the opportunity of a lifetime and to see potential in people where it isn’t obvious.  And an amazing thing begins to happen once you begin listening to and following your instincts—that little voice grows louder, becomes more powerful and even more accurate.

3. Integrity

This is another trait that can’t be taught. Integrity levels grow and shrink based on how you operate when integrity is needed. Integrity, at its most basic level, is what you do when no one is watching. When you can get away with something without being caught. A good leader operates with integrity most of the time. He or she is able to count the cost and determine when they can bend the rules.

A great leader operates with integrity ALL of the time.  The hallmark of a great leader is his or her ability to stay true to their mission, vision and core values and they demand and hold others accountable for maintaining the same standards.

3. Insight

Insight encompasses and transcends being a visionary. Insight requires you to see beyond… It is the ability to see into the core of people, situations and circumstances. It is both long-term focused and short-sighted. Insight is kin to intuition and drives our instincts. You can’t influence what you can’t truly see. Insight comes from wisdom and wisdom is born through experience and learning how to think. The best way to develop insight is through mentorship. Pick the brains of successful people. Ask questions—incessantly. Bounce your ideas off those who are older, wiser, more experienced–and more importantly– more successful than you are.

The Secret Sauce

At the beginning of the article, I told you there is no secret sauce to becoming a great leader but that isn’t quite accurate. There is a secret sauce—it’s YOU. YOU are the primary ingredient that determines how successful you are as a leader and how well your team works to realize the mission. Leadership is your ability to influence. YOU are the common denominator, the equalizer and the “it factor” that determines if you are a good or great leader.  YOU are the secret sauce.


Breaking Up Is Easy… Here’s Why You Should Stay

We’ve all had the dream. You see the man or woman of our dreams across a crowded room. Your eyes lock. And at that moment you both know… And then you ride off into the sunset and begin your “happily ever after.”

While most people do get to experience “happy for a little while,” only a select few make it to “happily ever after.” Relationships are tough. And sustaining a relationship after the butterflies are gone, and you’ve seen her without makeup or have been assaulted by his morning breath–is especially difficult.

Relationships are tough

That is the honest, hard truth. A relationship takes time, effort, energy, patience and lots of work in order for it to succeed. Most people bail as soon as things get a little rocky. Society has deceived us into believing that if we are unhappy in a relationship, that is a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. Nothing could be further from the truth. Romantic comedies, fairy tales and sultry novels have distorted our view of a relationship’s dynamics.

Lisa Blum, Psy.D,– a clinical psychologist in California specializing in emotionally focused therapy for couples–believes

“the strongest most enduring relationships take lots of hard work… our culture, education system and parenting styles don’t prepare us for the fact that even good relationships take effort.”

Divorce/Breaking up doesn’t solve the issues

Desiring a relationship and sustaining one are two very different things. Most people want to be in a relationship. According to the American Psychological Association, 90% of folks have been married, at least once, by the time they are 50. The divorce rate for those who marry hovers somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. And the divorce rate for second or third marriages is even higher.

Divorce and breakups do end the relationship but don’t necessarily resolve any issues. This is why the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is so high. Most often a person will leave a relationship, hop into another one and repeat the same behaviors and cycles. It is easier to bounce from one relationship to another than it is to stick it out, put in the work and make your current relationship last.

That’s not to say that if the relationship is abusive or toxic that you should stay–especially if you aren’t married. There are times when breaking up is the best and safest course of action. Often times, however, we quit because we feel unhappy, the passion has waned or we feel we are exerting too much energy to make the relationship work.

Should I stay or should I go?

So you’ve read the first part of this article but you’re still not sure if you should stick it out or not. Here are some things to consider:

Are you both willing to do the work?

Marriage is NOT 50/50. Marriage is 100%–however you can get there. It is rare that both people are in the same place–emotionally, spiritually, mentally and sexually–at the exact same time. Sometimes one person is in a position to give more in an area than the other. One may be putting in 70 and the other 30 and that’s ok–for a season.

The problem arises when one person is always giving more than the other. Having an off day or being in a bad place is understandable–laziness is not. If you are dating someone for a period of time and you realize that you are doing all the work in all areas–you may want to reconsider your position. That is not sustainable–or healthy–over a long period of time.

Is the relationship fulfilling?

Happiness is relative and dependent on external circumstances. It ebbs and flows with the tides of life. Fulfillment, however, is a more constant and steady state. It doesn’t change as often as happiness does. Fulfillment, not happiness should be the barometer of your relationship.

If you are a neat freak and your partner leaves his or her clothes on the floor, eats food in bed, tracks mud all throughout the house and never cleans up after him or herself you are going to be unhappy–a lot. However, if you feel safe, loved unconditionally and valued as a person you are more likely to be in a continuous state of fulfillment even though your happiness comes and goes. If a relationship is fulfilling for both people and they both are willing to do what they can when they can, then the relationship is solid.

Happily ever after doesn’t just happen

Having a fulfilling, healthy and long lasting relationship takes time and effort. Here are the top three problems couples face and must deal with–continuously–in order to achieve the fairy tale:

1. Loss of passion and excitement

Loss of passion is absolutely, 100% normal and is experienced by all couples. The “high” you experience during the early stages of love are similar to what a drug addict feels when he snorts cocaine. When you are in love, your brain is swimming in the “feel good” chemicals–dopamine and norepinephrine. They are addicting. Which is why breakups are so hard.

Over time the chemicals begin to wear off and your body begins to regulate the production and release of these chemicals. This is a natural and physiological process. However, most mistake it as a sign that the love is fading or the relationship is dying. They end that relationship and seek out another so they can experience the love”high” again.

Here are some very practical things you can do to reignite the spark of romance and add a bit of excitement back into your relationship:

Engage in new activities with each other. Ditch the routine and shake things up a bit.

Add some mystery and excitement to the bedroom. Play around with lingerie, mood lighting, fragrances, and edibles. Tantalize all 5 senses in a different way. Try something new (but make sure both parties are “in to” whatever you suggest).

Seek arousal-producing activities. Things that get your heart racing and blood pumping are also good for the libido. Research shows that if you participate in an activity together that creates an endorphin and adrenaline rush you create a state of heightened arousal that can be transferred to your relationship.

2. Communication issues

The number one issues underpinning most problems in a relationship is communication. When communication breaks down, fights happen, people get hurt, and the relationship suffers.

Communication involves so much more than just verbal discussions. Understanding how to speak to your significant other in a manner that resonates with them is key. The 5 Love Languages is a great place to start. The premise of this book and communication model is best summed up by the words of the book’s author Gary Chapman:

“My conclusion after thirty years of marriage counseling is that there are basically five emotional love languages—five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. In the field of linguistics a language may have numerous dialects or variations. Similarly, within the five basic emotional love languages, there are many dialects….The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse.”

According to Chapman, the 5 love languages are:

Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken affection, praise, or appreciation.

Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love.

Receiving Gifts: Gifting is symbolic of love and affection.

Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided attention.

Physical Touch: It can be sex or holding hands. With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical touch.


3. Lack of appreciation (taking each other for granted)

This is another one of those things that is inevitable in a long-term relationship. You don’t mean to take each other for granted–it just happens over time. Taking each other for granted and focusing on the negatives of your mate or the relationship is detrimental and will keep you in a constant state of unhappiness. Once you’ve been unhappy long enough, you will start to question your level of fulfillment.

An excellent way to actively and intentionally combat this is by incorporating the 5:1 rule into your thinking and communication with your spouse. For every one negative between you, you should find five positives. For every negative comment, you should dole out five compliments. This trains your brain to focus on the positives in lieu of the negatives. It also helps you develop and maintain an attitude of gratitude toward your relationship and your mate.

In a nutshell

Relationships are tough. They require constant nurturing and attention. Having realistic expectations and a plan to combat the loss of passion and excitement, communication issues and failing to appreciate and cherish one another are the secrets to happily ever after.

Adapted from original on

Effective Communication And Good Leadership Are Synonymous. Here’s How It’s Done…

Leaders are the most scrutinized, misinterpreted and misunderstood people in the world. As a leader, you must be cognizant of your tone, body language and your word choice. You have to be firm but not overbearing, assertive but never aggressive, friendly but never to familiar…and the list goes on. Good leadership is akin to walking a tightrope while juggling knives and being chased by a lion.

Communicating as a leader is difficult.

Effective communication and good leadership are synonymous. They are espoused. If the two ever divorce, efforts, organizations, and vision become orphans struggling to survive in a dysfunctional home.

One particular aspect of communication trips up more leaders than anything else…and that is providing feedback to those they lead. It’s tricky terrain to navigate. There are so many extremes and variations of feedback, from the angry boss that no one can please, to the leader who provides no feedback whatsoever. Understanding and appreciating the value and importance is one side of this important coin. The other side is truly understanding how to use feedback and criticism as a tool that corrects and empowers those you lead.

Understanding Feedback

The first step in providing proper feedback is to understand what it is. The best description that aptly frames the concept of feedback is Kevin Eikenberrry’s four types of feedback model. His model breaks feedback into four distinct categories:

1. Negative feedback: corrective comments about past behavior (things that didn’t go well).

2. Positive feedback: affirming comments about past behavior (things that went well and should be repeated).

3. Negative feedforward: corrective comments about future behavior (things that shouldn’t be repeated in the future).

4. Positive feedforward: affirming comments about future behavior (things that would improve future performance).

His approach encourages leaders to establish a balance between the positive and negative with emphasis on providing advice on how to improve in the future. This is the primary component that is largely missing from the feedback repertoire of most leaders–focusing on the future or feedforward.

Helping those you lead understand what worked and what didn’t and how they can move forward without repeating negative behaviors should be the goal of feedback. Simply providing negative–or even positive feedback isn’t enough. Feedback should be a tool that teaches, enhances and moves people forward. Feedback that isn’t accomplishing this is ineffective.

Harnessing the Power of Feedback

Now that we have a clear picture of what balanced feedback looks like, let’s turn our attention to the “how” of providing feedback. One of the most ineffective, insincere forms of feedback is the blanket praise that is vague and insincere.

“I’d like to thank the team for doing such a great job and for all of their hard work on that project.” It sounds nice and it technically is positive feedback but it doesn’t point out which behaviors were good and should be repeated and what they should do to improve performance on the next project. It also may feel disingenuous to some team members who may feel they carried more of the load than others. Everyone is aware that a leader is supposed to say “great job team!” and be encouraging, however, feedback should never have a “check the box” feel.

Below are a few things to consider as you are providing balanced, yet feedforward focused feedback:

1. Make sure your feedback is objective and not emotional in nature.

This is especially critical when dealing with massive mistakes that have been made. It’s important to take some time, cool off, evaluate the situation and choose your words carefully. Try to take a step back from the situation and view it from an objective standpoint. You want to provide feedback that is helpful, actionable and that builds the team.

2. Target behaviors NOT the person or the team.

Personality conflicts are a part of human interaction. As a leader, you are not going to like everyone on your team–but you should respect and value them. Don’t let personal feelings and preferences cloud your judgment and lead you to attack a person’s personality or character. Make sure your feedback is authentic and that it is designed to bring about positive change and is never used to inflict wounds.

3. Keep the feedback balanced. Always affirm positive behaviors you want to be repeated.

Always try to balance the negative with the positive. Giving too much negative feedback or feedforward can leave those you lead feeling disillusioned and that you are never satisfied. When giving positive feedback, make sure that it is about specific and reproducible behaviors.

4. When giving negative feedback be sure you provide suggestions and guidance on how performance can be improved in the future.

We’ve established that providing negative feedback is essential for growth, however pointing out the negative without providing suggestions for corrective actions can leave your team feeling hopeless. For example, if an employee is constantly interrupting and cutting people off in meetings, let them know what they are doing and how it affects others. Then, provide suggestions on how they can improve that behavior–such as signaling/gesturing they have something to say and would like to comment once their cohort has finished speaking in lieu of cutting them off mid-sentence.

5. Focus on the strengths of your team and show them how to leverage their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses.

Chase negative feedback with positive feedforward. If an individual is constantly late to meetings and the meetings are unable to begin on time, constantly run over or information has to be repeated; let the person know that being on time is critical to the effectiveness of the team. You could then assign them a task that plays to one of their strengths and requires them to get to the meeting ahead of time–such as prepping the meeting space, recording the minutes, moderating the meeting or calling the meeting to order.

6. Engage in dialogue, not a monologue.

The more personal and engaging the conversation is the more effective it will be. Allow your team to know that you care about them and are personally invested in their success. Encourage them to participate in the feedback process and to find ways to shore up weak areas and to improve their performance. Help them to be accountable and responsible for their own progress. Talk to them, not at them. Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseum will not have the same effect as engaging in meaningful conversation–and not a lecture or a monologue.

7. Timing is everything.

The best leaders know when to speak and when to shut-up. Feedback–positive or negative–that is targeted, well framed and delivered at the right moment can make or break your team. You never want to kick a man when he’s down–but you shouldn’t just step over him and keep going either. The ability to discern the proper time and place to deliver feedback is a skill that must be mastered in order to be a great leader.

As a leader, communication is not about you, your opinions, your positions or your circumstances. It is about helping others. Your job is to provide guidance, meet needs, understand concerns, and add value to your team’s world. It’s about picking them up and pushing them forward.

Article adapted and reprinted from

Handling Criticism And Harnessing The Power of Feedback

What do you do with that response? Do you accept the fact that the shoes are okay and ignore the rest? Should you be hurt or offended?

The fact of the matter is accepting feedback and constructive criticism is tough. Our first inclination is to adopt a defensive posture and either deflect, explain or make excuses for the critical area. Criticism and feedback that are constructive and accurate are necessary evils tied to growth and success. You have to learn how to cope with it–without lashing out or becoming disillusioned.

Asking the right questions is the key to getting constructive feedback

One of the most efficient ways to take some of the sting out of criticism and to ensure it truly is constructive in nature is to ask the right questions. If you ask vague and open-ended questions be prepared for vague responses that miss the mark. Asking, “how do I look,” is an open invitation for abuse. That question leaves nothing–regarding your appearance–out of bounds. However, asking “does the color and style of these shoes work with this outfit,” is a much more precise and targeted question. And you are more likely to get a very targeted and precise answer.

Asking the right questions tells the critiquer specifically what to focus on. When you request feedback–of any kind–you invite and empower the responder to look for and point out your flaws. The more open-ended and vague the request, the more power you give them. Asking targeted questions not only assists you in getting the appropriate information you need, it also provides the person providing the feedback a clear area of focus. All of their attention is directed to one specific area and this helps to eliminate the tendency people have to search for things to criticize.

Below are a few ways to help you get accurate and targeted feedback:

1. Ask questions that are specific.

Ask about specific situations — for example, what could you have done differently in a particular meeting or situation. Avoid the generic “so, how am I doing,” questions and ask about specific aspects of your performance, a particular project or interaction. Tailor your questions to suit the type of feedback you need. Ask both specific and open-ended questions.

2. Ask clarifying questions.

When the critiquer is providing you with feedback asks questions to ensure you clearly understand what he or she is telling you. Be careful of your tone and body language during this part of the process. You don’t want to appear defensive. The questions should be designed to help you understand the message and it should not appear that you are questioning the individual. Ask for specific examples or instances so that you have a point of reference for the criticism. And finally, when appropriate, solicit suggestions on how you can correct the behavior.

3. Listen to understand, not to defend.

As humans, we’ve been conditioned to listen in order to respond, not to understand. As soon as we hear a portion of what someone is saying and believe we know where they are headed, we quit listening and begin constructing our response. This is especially true when we hear negative criticism about our self. However, if you can learn to take a deep breath and focus on listening to ensure you understand what is being said you can turn negative criticism into a positive change that moves you forward.

Listening intently will also help you better decipher between true criticism and criticism that is framed in emotion. Emotions change and criticism birth from emotion, most likely, will change as well. Learning to decipher between the two can save you a lot of unnecessary heartache.

4. Consider the source.

Before you solicit feedback, consider who you are asking. Is it a friend who is going to tell you what you want to hear? Does this person enjoy having power over you? Does he or she have anything to gain from your interaction? Is this person qualified to provide you accurate feedback? Do you respect the person? Is this person a person of consequence– someone you respect, admire and value in the area in which you are seeking feedback?

Before accepting and internalizing feedback–positive or negative–always consider the source. Some feedback isn’t worth your time or attention.

5. Deconstruct the feedback.

Once you’ve requested, heard and clarified the feedback, then and only then, are you ready to process it. Make sure you have a clear picture of the issue. Is it something you need to change? Is this an isolated incident with mitigating circumstances? What is the context and sub-context of this issue? Is this something you can change? Do you have a plan to address this issue if it needs to be addressed?

If you can’t answer these questions, you may need to go back and ask more clarifying questions or seek a bit more insight.

6. Evaluate the feedback.

The final step in soliciting and accepting life-changing feedback is the process of evaluation–which you must do for yourself. You must answer the question–is this something I should accept, internalize and work on? Do you agree with all or some of what you’ve heard? You make this decision after you’ve considered the source and all the surrounding circumstances. If you’ve correctly completed the other five steps, the answer will be obvious. You’ll know if the feedback is valuable or not–regardless of how you feel about it.

Getting useful feedback is one of the fastest routes to growth and improved performance. It’s not always an accurate reflection of who you are — but it is an accurate reflection of how you’re perceived. Knowing how you’re perceived is critically important if you want to increase your influence as a leader, or move up within your organization. Hearing the truth can be tough, however, not hearing it could be detrimental.

Article reprinted from

How To Stay Motivated While Pursuing Your Dreams

Have you ever tried reaching a goal that was labor and time intensive such as, losing a substantial amount of weight, finishing an educational program, or training for a marathon? If so, you understand the struggle of chasing a long-term goal.

As humans, we are hardwired to seek and engage in activities that provide us instant gratification. We operate on what psychologists call the ‘pleasure principle‘. The pleasure principle is the primary force that compels human beings to seek immediate satisfaction of their needs, wants, and urges. Pursuing long-term goals is particularly difficult because it provides no immediate reward. It places us in a posture of waiting. When gratification is significantly delayed–which is directly opposed to human nature–motivation wanes and effort decreases. In order to win, you must work hard, sacrifice and more importantly–wait.

Understanding and coping with the inevitable motivational slump that accompanies most substantial achievements is critical to sticking with the process and achieving your goals. According to the University of Scranton, a whopping 92% of people do not fulfill their New Year’s Resolution. There are a variety of reasons we don’t stick with the quest to reach our goals but the common thread underlying why we quit is simply the lack of motivation. Staying motivated is the key to keep you on the path to accomplishing your goal–especially when your progress slows or stalls.

Motivation in 3 steps

Instead of fighting this process head-on, it’s better to adjust the process to flow in tandem with our urges and natural inclinations. How, you ask?

It’s actually pretty easy. Below are three simple ways that can help keep you motivated and engaged while pursuing your long-term goals:

1. Always celebrate small wins, no matter how small they are.

Celebrating small wins helps you create your own system of instant gratification. Your brain needs to win. And it needs to win often. The book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work proves how powerful celebrating small victories can be. Authors, Theresa Amabile and Steve Kramer of the Harvard Business Review conducted a study of 238 employees from seven different companies. The study measured the impact that acknowledging small victories has on long-term and sustained success.

These researchers made a significant discovery. They found that tracking and recognizing efforts of small, daily achievements enhanced workers motivation, increased positive emotions and favorable perceptions of the organization, of their work, and their colleagues. Psychologists have found that any accomplishment–no matter how small–activates the reward circuitry of our brains. When this pathway is opened, key chemicals are released giving us a feeling of achievement and pride.

2. Track your progress, and review every milestone.

Keeping track of your progress is beneficial for several reasons. First, it allows you to see your progress over time. Second, it allows you to accurately pinpoint what works and what doesn’t. Logging your journey also counters bad habits, slip ups and lack of motivation. Frequent feedback increases your chances of hitting a specific goal and helps keep you on track and adjust when necessary.

Experts suggest that you find a way to formally track your progress and to set and celebrate small benchmarks. Using free apps such as Coach Me is an excellent way to track your habits and celebrate change. You may also want to conduct a weekly review to assess where you are and celebrate all of the small wins of the week. Tracking your progress is also a great way to find and mitigate triggers and hindrances that impede your progress.

3. Stop punishing yourself for slip ups and small failures.

We all fail, backslide and lose ground when trying to achieve something great. It is a part of the process. Instead of fixating on your failures, learn from them and hone in on your successes. Learn to forgive yourself, pick yourself up and keep moving forward. So, you ate three donuts for breakfast, woke up late and missed your gym session or failed a test. That one incident does not determine your success–regroup and keep it moving.

Sustaining your mental fortitude and tenacity during a long and arduous process is difficult. Celebrating and leveraging all the things you do well and all of the successes along the way is the key to your success.

Adapted from original at



How To Determine Your TRUE Strengths And Weaknesses

“Soooo, tell me about your strengths and weaknesses…”

Do you experience that ominous “deer in headlights” feeling when you hear this question? What does it even mean? What are the things you identify as strengths? Why do you label them as such? Is it because it is an ability or skill at which you excel? Is it something you do better than most people? Who or what measures what a strength or weakness is? This question–especially in an interview–can be tricky terrain to navigate.

As one who has sat on both sides of this question–I will try to provide some insight and direction on how you should approach this extremely slippery slope.

Understanding your true strengths and weaknesses

Discovering your true strengths and weaknesses isn’t just critical for nailing a job interview. It is a fundamental key to your success in all aspects of life.

Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths To Work, provides the purest and concise explanation for determining what is a strength and what is a weakness. And it has nothing to do with what you are good at or how you fair against others.

“A better definition of a strength,” said Buckingham, “is an activity that makes you feel strong. And a weakness is an activity that makes you feel weak. Even if you’re good at it, if it drains you, that’s a weakness.”

Consider that statement for a moment. Are you starting to gain a bit more context and insight into what your true strong suits and deficiencies are?

I am extremely “good with people.” I am compassionate, considerate, attentive, encouraging and accommodating. I am good at getting the best out of people, calming intense situations and making people feel heard, validated and appreciated. I work at it. I study people. I am a student of psychology and human interaction and can usually determine a person’s primary temperament within moments of meeting them and can adjust to play to their temperament strength.

In interviews, I have always listed my interpersonal skills as one of my strengths. But if I take a step back and really assess this “gift” I find that it really isn’t one of my true strengths. The truth is people drain me and human interaction, often times is akin to navigating a minefield. I prefer being alone or with my husband to being around others. My interactions with people don’t flow naturally. I am not instinctively a “people person.” I have to calculate my moves and measure my responses before I speak. I am innately shy, incredibly introverted and socially awkward. My people skills are manufactured and have been honed out of necessity. It is not a gift–it is a well-developed skill.

Keys to determining and capitalizing on your strengths and weaknesses

Below are a few principles you should consider when assessing your strengths and weaknesses:

You are your only competition.

You may be better than everyone else around you at something and it still can be a weakness for you. A strength is something that energizes you and something for which you have a natural inclination. A person who is charming, charismatic, a natural conversationalist and enjoys being around and entertaining people can list “interpersonal skills” as a strength.

A strength is something you rely on to achieve goals and to win, weaknesses are obstacles that must be overcome or avoided in order to achieve victory. Your strengths and weaknesses are only relative to you. Comparing yourself to others skews your view of your true gifts and areas of lack.

Strengthen your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.

You can strengthen your weaknesses just as I have done with my interactions with people. A weakness, however, rarely ever becomes a strength. Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, you can attack them in one of two ways. First, you can work to strengthen the weakness so that it becomes less of a deficiency. Or, you could strengthen and learn to leverage your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses.

Learning to cope is key when it comes to handling weak areas. It is a waste of time working on weaknesses that are not related to your life purpose or tied to your goals.

I do not–in any way, shape or form–possess a green thumb. Plants and foliage cringe, shrivel and die in my presence. I could learn to care for plants and develop this skill if I chose too. However, it has nothing to do with my destiny, goals or my success in life. If I need flowers for an event, I purchase them just before I need them (they die otherwise). I have a beautiful yard which I pay someone to maintain. I spend my time and energy working on things that matter and that propel me towards my life’s purpose.


Use context when assigning value to neutral characteristics.

This is a huge mistake that most of us make. Take for example the characteristics, introversion and extroversion. Both of these traits are completely benign. They only become good or bad with context.

As I stated earlier, I am very introverted. I am a writer and I work in an office with other writers. Being an introvert in this environment is a strength. In this context, I don’t need to be outgoing and chatty. If I were, that would hinder my performance and put a strain on the work environment. However, prior to becoming a writer, I was an educator. Teaching requires you to be outgoing, approachable and have the ability to genuinely connect with people. In this context, being an introvert was a weakness. I had to put time, energy and mental fortitude into being what I needed to be to be successful in that context.


Another mistake we make is by mislabeling or overgeneralizing strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you are not talkative you may be tempted to label yourself a poor communicator–which is completely inaccurate. Being overly chatty does not make you an effective communicator. A few, well-chosen words, is multitudes more effective than mere verbal vomit. It’s about the quality not quantity of your words. Hone in on what you are adept at, identify your deficiencies and then determine if it truly is a strength, weakness or neutral based on the context.

Final Word:

When assessing your strengths and weakness:

  • Figure out what energizes and what drains you.
  • Consider what you are naturally good at.
  • Determine what your goals are and how your strengths and weakness enhance and hinder your progress.
  • Plan how to strengthen your weaknesses or use your strengths to compensate for them.
  • Avoid labeling neutral characteristics as “good” or “bad.”
  • Always work on making your strengths–stronger. Weak strengths, strengthen weaknesses.

Determining your strengths and inadequacies requires brutal honesty. You must take into account your skills and your natural inclinations. Some strengths are more desirable than others but it is incumbent that you accept yourself as you are and work with what you have. It’s the only way to reach your full potential and fulfill your destiny.

Article adapted from original version at


A Hook-Up App For Moms?

Being a mom is a full-time job. With all of the duties of running a household, holding down a job or two and tending to the kids, who has time to socialize?

A hot new app—Peanut–understands the plight of busy moms and has created a hookup app just for you!

The Hook Up

It’s not what you think.

Peanut is an app that hooks up mothers with other moms in their area. It has been described as a platonic Tender App for moms. Like most common dating apps, moms download the free app, build a profile and select up to three categories to describe themselves. Then they find matches near them that have similar interests. Read more.


20 Part-Time Jobs That Will Give You Extra Cash And Time To Spare

The working landscape has drastically changed.

We are firmly in the age of start-ups. Everyone is an entrepreneur and wants to forge their own path. Traditional jobs are viewed as mind numbing, creativity stealing prisons that enslave the soul. Working a regular job–the good ole nine-to-five is considered old school and has been replaced by maintaining multiple side hustles. We are ambitious DIY-ers, content curators, and creatives and we all want to be our own boss.

While being an entrepreneur is very trendy and the “it” thing to do, it is also very hard and extremely risky. And the struggle of trying to make ends meet–especially in the infancy stages of building your brand and making your mark–can be demoralizing.

A great way to–somewhat–maintain your work independence and still survive financially is to work a part-time job. Below is a list of 20 side hustles that can help supplement your income or sustain you between ventures: read more.

Featured image by Investment Zen on Flickr

Should You Go With Your Gut Or Get A Second Opinion?

You’ve got a difficult choice to make.

You are up for a promotion on your current job and suddenly, out of nowhere, you are confronted with another, very attractive job opportunity. The salary and benefits are great for both your current job and for this new position.

If you stay on your current job you eliminate having to deal with all of the woes of transitioning to a new job and you may get the promotion you’ve been working so hard for these last five and half years.

On the other hand, if you take the new job, you will be making more money, you’ll have more responsibilities, you’ll have to learn a new system and make new friends.

What should you do? Should you play it safe? Should you take the risk? What does your gut tell you? Should you even listen to your gut?

What is Intuition?

Often times when you’re faced with a difficult decision, you just know what the right choice is. You feel the answer in your gut. That’s what experts refer to as your intuition. Intuition is defined as “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.” And while intuition may seem to be some instinctual and mysterious internal process, it’s actually a form of unconscious reasoning. It is a process that is rooted in the way our brains collect, store, synthesize and recall information.

The problem so many of us have with trusting our intuition is two-fold. First, the process in which we undergo to arrive at our “gut feeling” is an almost entirely, subconscious process. Therefore, you have no idea what data and processes you used to arrive at your conclusion. The second issue is that we often times confuse fear with intuition. We literally feel fear in our gut. This feeling can lead us to believe that our gut is telling us to avoid danger.

When To Trust your Gut

So, when should you trust your intuition? And how do you distinguish between fear and a legitimate gut feeling? Below are three tips that can help you determine when you should go with your gut and when you should get a second opinion.

1. Evaluate your thoughts

This is so important because intuition is a highly subconscious process. Understanding how you think and process information builds confidence in your internal reasoning process. You assimilate information and use inductive and deductive reasoning constantly. The trick is to shift the process from the background to the forefront of your consciousness.

Consider a routine task you do daily without actually thinking about it–such as driving a car. Just as you perform all of the necessary actions to operate a vehicle without actually thinking about it, if asked, you could reverse engineer your thought process. You could describe circumstances, conditions, other people’s motivations, and your own behaviors using the assumptions and calculations done unconsciously. And while this is an unnatural and somewhat difficult process in the beginning, with time and practice you will be able to understand how you think and quickly track your thought process. Here are a few tips to assist you evaluating your thoughts:

  • Observe own thoughts. Ask questions like, “What is causing me to think this way? What belief is forming this thought? What pressure is making me believe my assumption is true?”
  • Practice “beginner’s mind.” The concept of “beginner’s mind” has its origin in Zen Buddhism and encourages you to adopt a fresh perspective when looking at things. It involves considering a multitude of possibilities. Try to adopt an attitude of openness, eagerness, and steer away from personal bias when considering your choices.
  • Play Devil’s Advocate. For each option, find reasonable, logical and legitimate reasons why you should choose the other option. You could do this by simply making a list of pros and cons for each decision. Measure out the pros and cons and see if your reasonable and measured deduction matches your gut feeling.

Frequently practicing these mental exercises will lead to you knowing when to trust your instincts and when to seek the advice of others.

2. Distinguish Fear from Intuition

When trying to distinguish if your gut feeling is something intuitive or good old fashioned fear, consider the following aspects:

  • Fear is highly emotional- Fear is emotionally charged and worries about the future or the past. Fear is often anxious, dark or heavy. It has cruel, demeaning or delusional content and considers past emotional wounds.
  • Intuition is emotionally neutral– Intuition doesn’t carry overly positive or negative emotions, it is benign. Intuition is logical and not emotional. Intuition focuses only on the present and does not consider past wounds. It is a gathering, sorting and synthesizing of evidence. It does not attach itself to your emotions. It brings with it a steady calm

One of the best ways to determine if your gut is feeling fear or if it has arrived at a logical conclusion is to make a list of everything that scares you. Then it becomes much easier to recognize when a gut feeling is referring to one of your fears versus being logical. If it’s fear based–get a second opinion, if not, go with your gut.

3. Don’t dismiss your inner skeptic

Our instincts are the primal internal urges and alarms that help keep us alive. Listening to and interpreting these urges is especially critical when a decision affects your safety and well-being. In situations such as the initial stages of dating, hiring someone to babysit your child, decisions concerning your health or when making investment decisions–in short, any decision requiring you to trust another individual–you must trust your instincts.

We’ve all said something similar to, “if I would have just went with what I thought, this never would have happened.” And the truth is nine times out of ten there are warning signs, red flags and things that feel “a little off” about a situation, which we choose to dismiss. Ignoring these inclinations could be costly and even fatal.

In his book, “The Gift of Fear,” author Gavin de Becker explains how our primal fight or flight instincts work. He explains that what we refer to as “a feeling” is actually the result of hundreds of quick calculations done subconsciously that register as a physical response. We feel suddenly afraid or uneasy. When there is no logical explanation for fear (it’s not tied to a past or present event or an emotional scar) you should absolutely trust your gut. And I’m talking about the heart pounding, pit in your stomach type of fear. Your brain has done the calculations and something about the situation is wrong. Becker has found that 85% of the time our calculations are accurate. The other 15% of the time our calculations are not necessarily wrong, just slightly askew.

Knowing when to trust your gut comes down to a few key things.

  • Learning how you think and becoming confident in your decision-making process.
  • Distinguishing between intuition and your own internal fears.
  • Learning to trust your primal fight or flight instincts and refusing to overlook red flags.

So, what does your gut tell you?

20 Recently Written Books Every Woman Should Read

I am woman, hear me roar!

Oh yes, I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain

Yes, I’ve paid the price, but look how much I gained

If I have to, I can do anything

I am strong

I am invincible


~Lyrics from “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy

Women are strong, sexy, intelligent, resourceful, nurturing, intuitive and resilient. Sometimes being all of these things (and more) comes at a price. As women, there are times when we become depleted and we need to be inspired, rejuvenated and our fire needs reigniting.

Reading is one of the most empowering things any person can do for themselves. A good book–I mean a really good book–can touch your soul, heal your heart and stir your creative juices.

Below is a list of 20 books that every woman should read. They will inspire, educate, transform and bring back your roar! Read more.

20 Safe and Legitimate Ways To Get Money In A Pinch

Don’t fret! I am here to help.

20 safe and legitimate ways to get money fast

Below is a list 20 perfectly legal and legitimate ways to get your hands on some cash in a pinch. Some of the ways are more suitable for some than others but the list will provide you with options and more importantly get you to generate your own creative ideas on how to increase your cash flow.

Keep in mind that these are short-term solutions. The real solution to your money problems is proper money management and planning (a.k.a. budgeting). Learning to live below your means, delaying gratification, eliminating debt and reducing your dependency on credit are the keys to financial freedom.

If you need money today…Read More.

Featured image by Chris Potter on

How to Talk About Your Strengths and Weaknesses in an Interview

Anyone that has ever endured the joys of a job interview has probably been faced with some variation of the dreaded, “tell me about your strengths and weakness,” question. This question is incredibly obscure and tricky to navigate. Should you answer honestly?

“My strengths are I am the life of the party, I don’t do hard drugs, I’m tall and I have a great sense of humor. My weaknesses are I am always late, have problems with authority, steal office supplies and love to tell dirty jokes in meetings”

Or, should you give an answer that is vague and where your weaknesses are actually strengths in disguise, such as:

“I am a hard worker, a logical and analytic thinker and work well with others. My weaknesses are that sometimes I work too hard, I am a perfectionist, I am always over prepared and I meet every deadline – no matter how impossible it is…”

While the first response is incredibly honest and the employer knows exactly what they are getting – you probably won’t get hired. The second response is obvious bull crap and while you may get hired, you’ve essentially set yourself up to fail. You’ve also shown the hiring personnel that you lack the ability to personally reflect and self-analyze.

 Why do interviewers ask the strengths and weaknesses question?

Before we dive in and work on how to answer this question, it’s important to understand why the interviewer is asking it. The main reason the hiring manager or team asks this question is to try and determine if you possess qualities that will enable you to succeed. They also want to know what qualities you have that could hinder your job performance. Simple as that.

How to discuss your strengths

Now that you know why interviewers ask this question and what they are looking for, you can craft a response tailored to accurately satisfy this question. Let’s look at the strengths first:

Tailor your strengths to specifically match the job description

 When facing questions about your strengths and weaknesses, always keep the job description and duties in mind. Highlight the strengths you have that are suited for that particular job. Try to include language similar to what was in the job description. Here’s an example:

You are applying for a project based position requiring lots of collaboration, meetings, and interaction with other co-workers. You would want your strengths to focus on addressing these areas. Some things you could list are deadline driven, team player, effective communicator, exceptional people skills and problem-solver. You most likely, wouldn’t want to highlight that you work best alone and are an excellent independent worker. The strengths you highlight should match your job description.

Make sure your strengths align with the organization’s mission and value system

 Aligning your strengths with the values of the organization assists you in helping the hiring official more clearly see that you were made for the position and fit the company’s culture. Do some research prior to the interview and determine what the organization values.

For example, if a tech company has on their website the following phrase: “…providing practical and innovative solutions for all of your technology needs…”, you may want to include in your list of strengths: creative, innovative thinking and pragmatic.

Be able to explain and provide a concrete example of each strength

 The best and most efficient way to attack this is to provide an example that demonstrates multiple strengths. This is the quickest and most concise way to answer this portion of the question without going on and on about yourself. It also communicates that you are precise and are prepared.

Let’s say you are interviewing for a position as a sales manager and you strengths are: you’re great with people, you’re an excellent communicator and you are flexible. You could say:

 “My strengths are: I’m great with people, an excellent communicator and I am very flexible. A great example of this is on one occasion in my last position as a sales associate, I was confronted by an angry customer who stormed into the store demanding a full refund on a recent purchase. The customer had purchased merchandise online, did not have a receipt for the item or any proof of purchase. Our store policy was that online purchases were exchange or store credit only.
 I was able to calm the customer down and listened intently to his complaint. I determined that the customer had purchased the wrong product. I explained how both products worked and the differences between the two. The customer gladly exchanged the original product for the new, more expensive one and happily paid the difference in price between the two.”

The candidate was able to provide three job-specific strengths and back them up with solid proof. When preparing your answer to this question prior to the interview, come up with two or three examples just in case they ask for more and to give you options, in case one is more apropos than another.

 How to discuss your weaknesses

Discussing weaknesses can be a bit more tricky than discussing your strengths. If the interviewer poses the question where they are grouped together such as: “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” A good rule of thumb is to discuss the weaknesses first and end on a positive note. Here are three things to keep in mind when discussing your weaknesses:

Be authentic

Give an answer that legitimately touches on an area where you struggle. Providing an honest answer makes you more authentic, trustworthy and believable. It is also so much easier to discuss something you genuinely connect with versus something you’ve fabricated for the moment.

 A great example could be the fact that you are a global or “big picture” thinker. You could explain that sometimes you can become overly concerned with the big picture that you may miss some of the smaller details.

Make sure the weakness is minor and will not directly affect your job performance

Pick weaknesses that are relatively small, will not directly affect your job performance, is not contradictory to the organization’s mission and core values and does not reflect poorly on your character and integrity. So you may not want to divulge that you are a compulsive liar, petty thief, use drugs, or cheat on your taxes.

 If you were applying for a job as a staff accountant you could pick as your weakness: public speaking, delegating tasks and being a bit too straightforward at times.

Cast your weakness in a positive light and refrain from going on and on about them. Don’t be overly critical of yourself and avoid self-deprecation. The trick here is striking a balance between being honest and humble while still maintaining your confidence.

State your weakness and chase it with a solution

 The best thing about the “describe your weaknesses,” question is that our deficiencies – no matter what they are – are fixable. This question affords you the opportunity to show that you are self-aware, own your deficiencies and are proactively working to correct them.

Let’s look at the example above. If you are applying for a position as a staff accountant and your weaknesses are public speaking, delegating tasks, and being a bit too straightforward at times, you could frame your response like this:

 “One weakness that I have is that I am not fond of speaking in front of large groups. To help me in this area, I make it a priority to be well prepared when I have to speak. I also make sure that I have a good set of talking points with me if I know there is a chance I may be asked to speak, impromptu, in a large-scale meeting. I am also a member of Toastmasters Club so I am confident and communicate well, but I still do feel the butterflies sometimes.

 Another one of my weakness is that I tend to do extra work in lieu of delegating it. To help with this, I make it a point to be aware of the strengths and aptitudes of the people who could assist with these tasks. This way I immediately know who should perform the task and am confident that the work will be done well.
 I can also be a bit to straightforward at times. To help me catch and stop myself from being overly direct, I have instituted my own personal five minute rule for written communication. So, I’ll craft an email, put it aside for five minutes and then go back and find at least three places where I can soften the language a bit and then I hit send. It takes a few extra minutes but those extra minutes would be spent explaining what I meant or apologizing for being so blunt. I truly enjoy my colleagues and really work to be a pleasant professional.”

In a nutshell

When facing the dreaded strengths and weaknesses question, keep in mind the interviewer’s intent. He or she is looking for a good fit. A single answer won’t make or break the interview, unless, of course, you say something particularly egregious. Focus your time and energy on your strengths statement and highlight what you have to offer. You are what they are looking for – and the proof is in your answer to this question.

Featured image by studio tdes on Flickr


Secrets To The Success of 10 Young Entrepreneurs Revealed

Do you ever feel that you are investing in the dreams and success of others while neglecting your own? You punch a clock day in and day out, earn a meager paycheck for performing mundane tasks far beneath your capabilities, and for what–to help catapult someone else to success? If so, you are not alone. Many people are trapped in a cycle of chasing someone else’s dream for them, while theirs go unrealized.

Being an entrepreneur is the sexy new trend these days. Everyone seems to be doing it. What if you were to gain the necessary capital needed to launch your own business- would you? Or would the fear of failure stop you dead in your tracks?

If you chose to heed fear’s warning, you may be smarter than you think. Your fear is rational and not without merit. Building a startup is hard. That’s the tough reality despite all of the hype, glamor, and sexiness surrounding entrepreneurship. Statics show that over 90 percent of startups fail.  The odds are not in your favor.

10 young entrepreneurs show us how to achieve success

What about that small 10% who do manage to become successful? Their success is not accidental nor did it happen by chance. These young entrepreneurs prove that success is possible despite the odds. Everyone — from the young budding business person to the one looking to get out of debt — can learn something from these savvy upstarts. Read more.

Want Tight Sexy Abs? Target Your Entire Core. Here’s How

Ab season is quickly approaching. For some, it’s a time for lazy days spent in a bikini or a breezy shirtless run at sunset. For others, it’s a time for weak dieting attempts and sad, sporadic bouts of ab exercises. The result, most likely, will be a two pack (if you’re lucky) by summer’s end.

This article is for those of us who want to look good and find ourselves frustrated by the never-ending quest for the perfect midsection.

What Exactly Do We Mean by Core Muscles?

The abs (a.k.a. the abdominal muscles) are only a small fraction of your core muscles. Your core is a complex series of muscles that includes your entire trunk region. It involves everything except your arms and legs. It is involved in almost every movement of the human body.

The diagram below gives a general overview of the muscles that make up your core:

core-muscles II

Having A Strong Core Isn’t Just for Looking Great. It Has Much to Do with Your Health!

Our core has three-dimensional depth and functionality. Many of the core muscles are hidden beneath the exterior musculature, underpinning everything you do.

Here are a few health benefits of having a strong core:

  • It prevents back injury and eliminates back pain. Your core is your body’s stabilizer. Most back pain and injuries are caused by postural alignment problems2 or poor posture. Poor posture is the result of weak lower back muscles.3 A strong core is your spine’s best friend.
  • It helps you perform everyday functions more efficiently and without pain. No matter where motion begins, it flows up and down the adjoining links of the chain – which is your core. Weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. The ability to bend down to put on shoes, turn and look behind you, sit in a chair, take a bath, dress yourself, or simply stand still all heavily depend on your core.
  • It improves posture. Weak core muscles contribute to slouching. Maintaining good posture is important because it lessens wear and tear on the spine and assists in your ability to breathe deeply.
  • It improves athletic performance. Strengthening your core makes your workout more effective and efficient. A strong flexible core provides stability, prevents injury, and improves your range of motion.
  • It improves physical appearance. Having a great physique isn’t and shouldn’t be the top reason for having a strong core, but it definitely is a motivator. A firm and flexible midsection makes you look taller, thinner, stronger, and more confident.

 Best Core Exercises for Beginners

Now you know what your core is, understand how it functions, and are eating clean, it’s time to hit the gym! Below are some of the best core exercises for newbies: Read more.


Featured image by Sabre Blade on Flickr

10 Ways to Prevent Stress in the Workplace

Stress is an inevitable and permanent fixture on any job. Even if you absolutely love what you are doing and are fortunate to work in a profession that ignites your passion and energizes your soul, you still will be faced with stress.

Benefits of Stress:

The American Institute of Stress defines stress as the brain’s response to any demand—specifically any demand for change. In small doses, stress has many advantages. Daniela Kaufer is an associate professor at UC Berkeley and studies the biology of stress and how the brain responds to anxiety and traumatic events. Her research has found that there are definitive benefits to stress. It shows that under the proper circumstances the right amounts of stress can:

  • Improve memory
  • Improve mental alertness
  • Improve overall cognitive performance
  • Increase mental awareness
  • Heighten all of the senses

Unfortunately for most of us, the workplace carries more than just a little stress. Stress that is chronic and experienced in copious amounts for long periods of time can be detrimental to our health. At work, we experience pressure. Pressure to perform and produce from our boss, pressure to “get along” and be a team player from our colleagues and the pressure we place on ourselves to achieve and excel at what we do.

Even though stress is the ever present companion of employment, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and debilitating. As with any other health condition, prevention is always the first line of defense.

10 ways that can help you prevent stress in the workplace:

1. Accept, anticipate and prepare for workplace stress:

The battle begins in the mind. Understanding and accepting that you will experience stress is the first order of business. It’s easier to brace for impact when you expect a punch versus trying to recover from a sucker punch that came out of nowhere.

Once you learn to expect stress then it’s time to take it one step further and anticipate the stressful event. This can help you minimize and in some cases avoid the stressor altogether. It’s all in the preparation. Once you know what the stressor is and expect it, you can devise a plan to cope or avoid it.

The 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep is the perfect portrayal of this sequence. In the movie, Anne Hathaway’s character—Andrea Sachs– is a recent college grad looking to break into the fashion magazine industry. She lands a job as the assistant to the great and iconic Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep’s character—AKA the Devil in Prada). Ms. Priestly is the boss from Hell and a constant source of anxiety for Andrea. However, Andrea learns to not only expect (and dread) workplace stress but she quickly learns how to anticipate and adapt to the environment.  In a matter of weeks, she becomes effective at nimbly sidestepping the annoyances and also becomes empowered by the experience.

2. Know your triggers:

Stress and its triggers are different for everyone. Certain people, places or situations might produce high levels of stress for you. Think about what causes you stress, and brainstorm solutions.  The American Psychological Association suggests that a great method of identifying triggers is by tracking your feelings by keeping a journal for a few weeks. They suggest you journal how you felt just before, during and after a stressful event and also track your response to the situation.

How you cope with stress can determine your rate of recovery and also predict future stressful events. For example, if you cope with a stressful workplace situation by screaming at a co-worker and storming out of a meeting—chances are you are going to face some sort of disciplinary action or negative consequence, which is going to produce another round of stressful events. If you can at least identify your triggers you can mentally begin preparing to deal with the situation positively.

 3. Develop a positive perspective:

For some of us, this is very hard to do because of the way our brains are wired. Some personality types and temperaments are just predisposed to negative thinking. It’s not a defect it’s a fact. According to some experts, a healthy dose of cynicism is a necessary trait every good leader should have. The ability to be able to see and anticipate a disaster and discern flaws in logic is essential to the success of any lofty endeavor. The problem arises when pessimismbecomes excessive and supersedes all positive thoughts. In other words, when doom and gloom become your permanent state of mind.

While some of us are predisposed to negative thinking, this in no way implies that we are entirely at the mercy of our thoughts. For those of us with a more pessimistic worldview, we must work to be intentional in our thought life. Being able to deliberately see the silver lining through the clouds is a lifesaving gift. That doesn’t mean we ignore the clouds. Instead, we seethe clouds but focus on the ray of sunshine peeking through. Or, to put it another way, we learn to focus on the benefits and by-products of the rain and not the inconvenience and hassle it produces.

This ability is extremely important when it comes to avoiding workplace stress. Learning to cultivate positive relationships with coworkers and seeking ways to enjoy the environment, tasks and interactions with others is essential. You must learn to harness and capitalize on the power of our thoughts.

4. Manage your time well

Poor time management is a precursor to stress.

Time management in the workplace is especially challenging. Distractions, disruptions, emails, meetings, deadlines, demands, requests, priorities… the list of things you have to manage can easily become overwhelming. Believe it or not, everyone around you is paddling furiously, desperately trying to keep their heads above the productivity waterline. Stress, pressure and a sense of overwhelm is the all too familiar outcome for those who fail to successfully wrangle their time.

There are hundreds of articles discussing time management with thousands of models demonstrating proper time management. The truth is to effectively develop a systematic approach to properly handling time and tasks depends largely on your personality, temperament and learning modality. However, when approaching this daunting task there are three overarching elements you should keep in mind:

  • Understand your role: Work to ensure you are crystal clear about what is expected of you. This is crucial because it determines what you should spend time on and what you can delegate.
  • Understand your goal: Do you know what you’re aiming for, individually and as a team? How will you know when you’ve accomplished your mission? When you make a list of your major work goals, that list prioritizes where your time should be spent. Everything else is a waste of your time.
  • Start well and end well: Organization does not begin when you get to work and end when you leave. Your day actually starts from the moment you wake up and ends when you go to bed at night. Plan a realistic ‘pre-work routine’ that ensures you get to work earlier than your actual start time so when you arrive you are not a frazzled mess. It is also important to have a daily wrap up routine where you conduct a self-assessment. What did you accomplish? What was left undone? How did you manage your time? Where did you waste time? What steps can you take to be more successful tomorrow?

5. Learn to prioritize

Proper prioritization is a part of and necessary for good time management. A good rule of thumb to follow is the Pareto Principle a.k.a. the rule of 80/20. This basically states that 20 percent of your effort produces 80 percent of the results. Some experts believe that in a workplace scenario, 80 percent of the results of a project or task come from the first 20 percent of expended effort. Knowing this, the question becomes which tasks are the most important and therefore should get the top 20 percent of your attention? How can you shorten tasks, activities and meetings?

Learning to recognize and eliminate activities that yield very little or no outcome is vitally important. Should the first hour of your morning be spent going through emails or could you devote that time to something else and answer emails a bit later? When it comes to meetings, consider how much time is spent gathering at the meeting place and getting settled. Is there a more productive way to disseminate the information and gathering feedback? The key here is the age old philosophy many of us learned in grade school—“Work smarter not harder.”

 6. Learn to manage up as well as down

When most people think of management, the first thing that comes to mind is supervising and managing those that report directly to them. However, an equally important relationship that requires the devotion of time and energy is managing the relationships with your boss or managing up. This is so important in reducing and mitigating workplace stress.

The concept of managing up does not involve showering supervisors with flattery; rather, understanding that the supervisor—subordinate relationship is one of mutual dependence. Bosses need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports. Subordinates rely on bosses for setting priorities, obtaining critical resources and ensuring that success is possible. It only makes sense to work at making the relationship operate as smoothly.

Successfully managing up requires that you have a good understanding of your supervisor and of yourself– particularly strengths, weaknesses, work styles, and needs. Once you are aware of what impedes or facilitates communication with your boss, you can take actions to improve your relationship. Try establishing a method of working together that suits you both.  Make sure it is characterized by clear and mutual expectations and enhances the productivity and effectiveness of both of you.

7. Learn to delegate

The concept is simple but the execution is difficult. When done right delegation balances a little trust with a lot of insight.  You must trust those with whom you are assigning the task that they will do it well. You must also have the insight to know which tasks you should delegate and to whom.

A quick rule of thumb is to do the things only you can do, and delegate everything else whenever possible. Also bear in mind, when you do delegate, you delegate tasks and activities, not responsibility. You are still ultimately responsible for the final outcome.

8. Take care of your physical and mental health

Copious amounts of sustained stress have negative effects on both your physical and mental health. If you are prone to anxiety or work in a stressful environment it is imperative that you maintain a healthy diet and a moderate amount of physical activity.

A healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Foods that help with minimizing the effects on the body are:

Foods you want to avoid are the ones we see listed on every unhealthy list: simple carbohydrates; foods high in sugar, caffeine, calories and “bad” fats and processed foods.

Physical activity and exercise are one of the best ways to relieve stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), exercise is considered vital for maintaining mental fitness and reducing stress. Studies show that it reduces fatigue, improves alertness and concentration, and at enhances overall cognitive function. This is especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy and/or ability to concentrate.

Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes mood, improves sleep, and bolsters self-esteem. Five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.  Taking a walk during the day could be just what is needed.

9. Relax

Sounds like a no brainer right? However, for many people, daily relaxation is easier said than done.  It can be hard to find the time and many find it difficult to mentally disconnect. Like most things, relaxation takes practice. Huffington Post lists 10 benefits of relaxation and stress relief is at the top of the list, but it’s about more than just stress relief. A relaxed body, mind and peaceful soul enable you to avoid stressors by making good decisions because relaxation facilitates clarity of thought.  The failure to take time off, vacation and relax—in the truest sense of the word –actually produces stress. Learning to take a break and “unplug” is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.

10. Ask for Help

Sometimes the easiest way to eliminate stress in the workplace is to simply ask for help. If work is piling up and it stresses you out just thinking about it—it’s time to ask for help.  If you are a giver by nature this behavior most likely will extend to the workplace. Giving and receiving are interdependent on each other. You might love giving, but if you don’t work the receiving side, you’re not better. You’re imbalanced.

Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or incompetent. It shows your wisdom and humility. Asking may be simply requesting a favor, time with a friend to talk over a problem or even delegating some of your duties. Occasionally, it’s ok to let a project or task go, and let someone else handle it. The relief it produces will be worth it.

Preventing or eliminating workplace stress entirely is a fantasy. But with a few simple tweaks to your mode of operation and a slight change in your perspective, you can reduce the stress in your environment and the toll it takes on your overall health.

Critical Thinking 101: Your Success Is Between Your Ears

Critical thinking skills are essential to success — any kind of success. Successful individuals are thinkers and they surround themselves with thinkers.

Consider Warren Buffett. He is known as the most successful investor of all time, and by his own estimate, he has spent 80 percent of his career reading. And what makes him so successful is that he isn’t willing to be a passive recipient of what he reads. Instead, he schedules time to evaluate the information he gets so as to form his own insights. This may sound counterproductive.

We’ve been taught to work more, sleep less, and hyper-focus on the things that directly pertain to our goals. We call it being productive. Buffett and those like him find thinking, reading, and contemplating more productive than taking meetings and “working.” He actively pursues knowledge.

Critical thinking skills are vital to your success.

Critical thinking involves being able to process information independently and to think clearly, logically, and reflectively. It is the ability to engage in rational thought and to understand and establish a connection between ideas. In essence, critical thinking is the ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.

5 reasons people with strong critical thinking skills are more likely to succeed

1. They always question the status quo.

The status quo is the current state of affairs. It’s the norm. It’s how things are done. You know you’ve found it when you hear the phrase,“We’ve always done it this way.” Critical thinkers ask questions such as, “Why do we do it that way?” “How can we make it better?” “What are our other options?”

2. They break down problems into smaller components and see the subtle connections between them.

They love to test boundaries. They dissect issues and then find a way to systematically solve them. By examining the individual pieces of a problem they are able to apply solutions that create a domino or cascading effect. They solve one issue which affects another issue and are able to solve them both simultaneously.

3. They are sensitive to the loopholes in their logic.

Critical thinkers ruthlessly question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments, and conclusions represent the entire picture. They do not rely heavily on intuition and instinct. They test, prove, and disprove their hunches.

We are all fallible. Critical thinkers understand this and actively work to find the flaws in their own logic. One’s ability to think critically varies according to his/her current state of mind. Thinkers work to maintain objectivity, view the problem from all possible angles, and seek the input of others who are adept in logic and reasoning.

4. They tackle problems with a systematic plan.

A system is designed to streamline and simplify processes. It improves efficiency and makes effort more efficient. Most critical thinkers use a top down approach to problem-solving. They are systematic in their efforts. They also set aside time for investigating challenging issues and brainstorming ways to push through them. They don’t tackle a problem without a plan.

5. They apply the scientific method to problem-solving.

Critical thinkers are usually highly methodical. They approach a problem the same way a scientist would and then move through the phases of the scientific method, conducting experiments to prove and disprove their hypotheses. Each experiment provides insight into the problem and proves or eliminates an idea or solution.

3 Steps to improve your critical thinking skills

Critical thinking is a skill set, meaning it can be learned. Learning to think critically often involves tweaking some of our processes instead of merely trying to adjust our way of thinking. If you do things a certain way, your thinking will follow a certain pattern. You will begin to develop the habit of thinking practically and then critically. Developing this skill takes deliberate practice and persistence.

Here are three steps to get you started:

1. Recognize the biases in your thinking.

Biases are common. We all have them. However, our biases lead to fallacies in our thought processes and rob us of our objectivity. The most common and detrimental bias is the confirmation bias- our tendency to see what we want to see. We tend to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.

To cure confirmation bias, experts3 suggest that inundating yourself with information is not the answer. It’s all about how you filter the information you do have. When you don’t selectively filter information, you lose your objectivity which is the heart of logical thinking. This particular prejudice is most prevalent in emotionally- charged situations and when you have something to lose. It also shows up when wishful thinking is present.

For example, in the middle of basketball season, the home town team has a record that is below 500 and has been on a seven game losing streak. The star player has just gone out with a torn ACL and your friend says to you, “I know in my heart that our home team will win the NBA Championship.”

This statement disregards the facts–or at the very least, fails to consider them– and makes a prediction based on a feeling.

Here are a few ways to overcome confirmation bias:

  • When you recognize a bias don’t abandon your initial hypothesis right away. It may be completely or even partially correct. Test your theory.
  • Keep an open mind. Work on trying to come up with alternatives no matter how far-fetched they may seem. Test all of your ideas.
  • Embrace surprises. Don’t discount them or get discouraged. The unexpected happens. Use this new “surprising” information to your advantage.

2. Use 5 “Whys” to find out the root causes of problems.

The “Five Whys” methodology, developed by Sakichi Toyoda (founder of Toyota), uses a”go and see” philosophy. This turns the decision-making process into a search for a solution that is based on an in-depth understanding of what’s actually happening. This method simply involves asking, “Why?” five times, allowing you to dig deeper each time. The goal is to drill down and find the core of the issue.

Here’s a quick example:

The problem you are attempting to solve is that customers are complaining that when they receive merchandise they purchased online it does not match what they ordered (they are getting incorrect items, sizes, etc.).

  • Why are customers receiving the wrong products? Because the shipping company’s warehouse shipped products that are different from what the customers ordered.
  • Why did the shipping company warehouse ship different products than what was ordered? Because the personnel filling the online orders called the order in and gave it to the warehouse via telephone to expedite shipping. Errors were made during this process.
  • Why are the online order fillers calling in orders instead of using the normal process? Because each shipping order has a slip that must be signed by the shipping directory before it is put into the system and sent to the warehouse.
  • Why does each order slip have to be signed by the shipping director before it is shipped? Because the shipping director records the information for his weekly reports to the company CEO.
  • Why does the shipping director have to record the information for each order this way? Because he does not know how to generate the report using the system the order fillers use to send their orders to the warehouse.

Using this process, we were able to locate the breakdown in the process around the third “why.” Asking “Why?” the last two times generated our solution: train the shipping director to use the existing software to generate his reports for the CEO.

3. Treat each problem like an experiment.

Using the scientific method to solve problems is an effective and efficient mental model for solving problems. Most people approach problems haphazardly and dive into the middle of the issues and become overwhelmed or miss key elements. Following a process allows you to establish a habit. Remember critical thinking is a skill that requires practice and persistence. Start at the beginning of the process every single time. Here are the steps:

  • Define the problem. Ask a question to discover what the true issue is.
  • Do background research. Gather information.
  • Construct a hypothesis. Make a prediction based on what you know so far, being careful to account for confirmation bias.
  • Conduct experiments. Test your hypothesis. Apply the “Five Whys” methodology when necessary.
  • Analyze your data and draw a conclusion. Analyze the results of your experiments and put them to the test. Are there any other possible solutions? If so, test them out.
  • Communicate your results. Present your solution along with your research and evidence.

Always reflect on and review your processes. It helps you to find gaps in your thinking and to adjust. Reflection helps develop objectivity.

With time, practice, and diligence using these three steps your critical thinking process will become a habit. You’ll be able to better predict results, anticipate pitfalls, and avoid biased thinking.

Featured image by Lee Health via Vimeo


Tips For Crafting An Elevator Pitch That Creates Instant Buy In

An elevator pitch is a short and succinct, persuasive speech used to generate interest and summarize or provide a simple explanation of a process, product, service, organization, or event and its value. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds (hence the name) and it should be engaging and memorable.

Let’s say you are at the airport and you just so happen to bump into an executive from your company. You have seen each other around the office and attended a few meetings together but have never engaged in a real conversation. You have this great idea on how to improve, streamline and make a particular process more efficient but your immediate supervisor has brushed your suggestions aside.

Here’s your chance. You are face-to-face with an actual decision-maker and his flight is starting to board…what do you say?

Situations like this are what the elevator speech remedies. It’s for those instances when you are caught off guard and have only a moment to make a good impression, explain your position, product or skill set and trigger the other person’s interest. That is A LOT of pressure. That one moment could do one of three things: 1) catapult you to stardom, 2) completely ruin that opportunity or 3) quietly slip away…

Developing Your Elevator Pitch

A solid elevator pitch allows you to distill down to the purest form exactly who you are and what you offering. Think of it as a commercial and you, your product or idea is for sale. You’ve got 30 seconds to market yourself and convince whoever is listening to not only NOT change the channel, but to buy what you’re selling. Here are five simple steps to help you create an engaging pitch:

1. Create a trigger to hook ’em

The quickest and easiest way to create a trigger is by targeting the right emotions. Most people are inherently kind, caring and loving, however, the elevator pitch is about targeting the “what’s in it for me?” attitude that is buried in all of us. Craft your speech in a way that specifically addresses that question. If you can show them a benefit and deliver something that they care about–saving money, saving time, uniqueness, a specific service, fame, fortune, status or power–you will hook them.

For example, if you are a photographer and you happen to be in a bakery behind a couple who just finished cake tasting for their upcoming wedding, you could say:

“Hi, I’m Sharon. I am a professional photographic artist and I would love the opportunity to capture and immortalize that exact moment when your two souls merge into one at your ceremony. I have photographed over 100 weddings in the tri-state area and I am one of the most requested photo artists in this region. I use the Cannon EOS 5D Mark III camera, which is one of the best cameras on the market and I guarantee to deliver stunningly beautiful professional grade photos.

I will arrange all of the shots and I am a master at capturing the most important and intimate moments of your wedding without interrupting the flow. You won’t even know I am there. Here’s my card with my website information, which has some examples of my work and some references. My rates are extremely reasonable and I offer five flexible payment options. Give me a call, I’d love to photograph you two.”

The important triggers (“what can you do for me?”) in this pitch are:

  • Sharon’s experience
  • She will provide professional photo
  • She views her skill as an art
  • She is highly recommended
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Flexible payment plans

2. Describe your product or idea but sell yourself

People don’t buy products; they buy brands. People don’t invest in companies they invest in ideas and other people. Consider Apple’s “Think Different” 2016 ad campaign and their “Here’s to the Crazy Ones, ” commercial. The commercial and entire ad campaign had absolutely nothing to do with computers, technology or software–and Apple was not promoting a new product–yet shortly after that ad campaign launched, Apple’s stock tripled.

People buy Steve Jobs.

The truth is there are hundreds if not thousands of people who do what you do, sell what you sell and offer what you provide. So why should they choose you? Your elevator pitch should answer this question.

Let’s revisit Sharon the photographer’s pitch. Sharon’s “why” is that she likes immortalizing that moment in wedding ceremonies where the two souls become one. She is selling her photography services but you are buying a moment of immortality…

3. Use quantifiers in lieu of empty adjectives

In any sales pitch, quantifying your results is important. When doing this try to avoid using empty adjectives–which are descriptive words that are hard to define or are highly subjective. Words such as: a lot, many, a few, several, good, great, etc., should be used sparingly, if at all. Whenever you can quantify something, you should. Be as direct and specific as possible.

Our friend Sharon told the couple that she had photographed a hundred weddings in her area. She gave them a specific number instead of saying “a lot.” She also told them the specific number of flexible payment plans she offers (five) instead of just saying, “a variety of payment plans.” When you are vague, those you are pitching will leave undecided and undecided quickly turns into NO.

4. Have a call to action

Steve Jobs challenged people to “think different.” It was a unique call to action indirectly tied to his products but it netted him substantial profits. Tell the person(s) you are pitching exactly what it is you want them to do. For Steve Jobs it was think different, Sharon on the other hand, wanted the couple to visit her website and give her a call. Keep it simple and be direct.

5. Be Yourself

This is probably the most important part of your elevator pitch. Authenticity is everything. Being who you are naturally is an automatic trigger for most people. Personalities differ but people respond to those they feel they can trust. If you are fake or come across as over-rehearsed, people will turn off before you even begin pitching them.

Being true to who you genuinely are, helps you to exude confidence. People won’t buy what you are selling if they feel you haven’t even bought it. You have to believe you are the best and most capable solution to their needs. Your confidence will make people feel they need YOU even when they don’t.

Do you really need an Apple computer, iPhone and iPad? You don’t necessarily need those specific products but the brand, concepts and Apple attitude resonates with you and that is what you buy over and over. Just be you.

Below are some sample elevator pitches to help you as you craft your own. Look for evidence of all five aspects we’ve discussed so far. Then try crafting your own.

 Sample Elevator Pitches

Martha is seeking an entry-level position in a non-profit organization

“My name is Martha and I’m currently studying education at Howard University. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to make the conceptual practical and I’m interested in securing an entry-level role at a nonprofit that allows me to teach and develop curriculum. Because nonprofit programs and fellowships were a key part of my development, it’s important for me to pay it forward and help students develop to their highest potential.”

Sonia is seeking a job writing for the climate change niche

“I’m Sonia and my core skill sets are civil engineering and psychology. I’m endlessly curious and all my friends, family, and colleagues look to me for answers on everything from mood swings to Minecraft. As I’ve always been exceptionally passionate about social issues, I’m looking to write for publications/websites focused on climate change so that I can create content and campaigns urging others to take action and increase sustainability future generations. Here’s my contact information. If you are interested in collaborating, give me a call.”

Mike is a business lawyer looking for new clients

“Hi, My name is Mike and I’m a business lawyer who specializes in keeping you out of court. I have a broad business practice so let me give you a quick example of what I do. I was working with a guy who originally called me to handle a trademark matter, which we took care of. As I got to know his business, it turned out that his larger issue was that his Ph.D. employees were stealing his ideas and he didn’t have any agreements in place to prevent it. I worked with him to create non-compete and non-disclosure agreements to protect his intellectual property and his business. Think about those things you have questions about and give me a call.”

Your turn…

Here’s How To Properly Accept A Compliment

Who doesn’t love a compliment? But how do you properly receive it without making the situation awkward? If you’re like most people, you’re secretly screaming with glee on the inside while remaining overly cool on the outside. You probably shrug and give a mild deflective response in an effort to downplay or modestly reject the praise.

Social analyst[1]  categorize our response to a compliment in three different ways. We either accept, deflect or reject it. Full acceptance and rejection are the extreme ends of the spectrum. Fully accepting a compliment seems arrogant and complete denial seems rude and/or self-deprecating. Most people opt for the safe middle ground. They choose to deflect with a response that dilutes the compliment.

Here are a few dos and don’ts that will help you respond to a compliment without making the situation weird:

Compliment Don’ts:

Don’t boomerang or “one up”

Don’t throw a compliment back just because you received one. It appears disingenuous. You should also avoid the temptation to “out-compliment” someone. Humbly accept the praise and keep it moving.

Don’t dilute or overly downplay

If you’re like me, you may be tempted to say things like, “oh it was nothing, ” or “anyone could have done it,” in an attempt to appear modest. Another downplaying technique is to narrow the compliment. For example, if someone were to tell you that you look nice, you may respond with, “Girl, it’s the dress. This dress could make a bear look slim!”

Don’t ignore it

Please, for goodness sake, acknowledge that you at least heard the compliment. Ignoring the compliment over-complicates the situation making it even more uncomfortable. The complimenter may think that you didn’t hear the comment so they are forced to repeat it. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Instead, it just dangles awkwardly in the air making the person offering the praise feel rejected.

Don’t insult yourself

This is actually one of the more common responses to praise. It looks something like this:

Praiser: “That’s a great haircut.”

You: “Well, I had to do something to hide this big forehead and make up for my witch nose. Now, maybe kids won’t run away in terror when they see me!”

Most of us don’t take it this far but we do try to “neutralize” the positive compliment by exposing something negative about our self. It’s important to remember that when you do this you diminish your own value.

Compliment Dos:

Express gratitude and keep it simple

The simplest most direct way to do this is by simply saying “Thank You.” That’s it. This short and easy expression of gratitude acknowledges the compliment and displays your appreciation.

Pay attention to your body language

Be aware of your body language, facial expressions and the overall vibe you are communicating non-verbally. When you’re nervous or uncomfortable your body language may send the wrong message. Try to avoid crossing your arms or appearing disinterested. These nonverbal cues can give others the impression that you are conceited or feel that you deserve to be noticed. Work to maintain good eye contact (don’t stare–that’s weird), lean slightly forward and engage those around you with warm facial expressions.

Share–but don’t transfer–the credit

Truth is, most of what we accomplish is due, in part, to the assistance of others. Be sure to share the credit with the team without excluding yourself or transferring all the credit to others.

After you say “Thank You” 

This is the hardest thing to do. This is where the most awkward moment of the exchange occurs. A person compliments you. You say “thank you.” And then there is that dreaded awkward pause. You don’t know what to say or do. Now, don’t get me wrong, saying a humble and pleasant “thanks” with open body language is enough. It is perfectly fine to stop there. Nothing more needs to be said.

But for those of us who can’t stand the pain of the silence and are unable to hold out the additional 20 seconds (the time it takes for the moment to pass), the easiest thing to do is to accept the compliment and then use it as a transition in the conversation.

For example, if you are being congratulated for winning an award for a competition or recognized for work you’ve done on a project you could say: “Thanks so much! I really enjoyed the competition (working on this project)…” And then go on to explain why you enjoyed it.

Humility is not low self-esteem

Most people default to deflection shenanigans in an effort to appear humble. False humility and humility are not the same. A person with humility[2] maintains the proper perspective of themselves and their accomplishments. Humility is not, in any way, a display of low self-esteem, the absence of self-worth nor is it self-deprecating.

Humble people are others oriented. They value the welfare of others and are able to “forget themselves” when appropriate. Truly humble people are very self-aware. They are able to maintain the proper perspective and attitude concerning their accomplishments, gifts, and talents. This allows them to accept praise while properly sharing the credit. A confident yet humble spirit is what your response to a compliment should reflect.


  1. The Art of Manliness: How to Accept A Compliment With Class
  2. Psychology Today: Humility
Article originally appeared and reprinted from Lifehack

Intellect Does Not Determine Success, But This Does…

Many people believe that IQ or intelligence is the determining factor for success. However, studies prove that intellect has very little to do with it.

Researchers conducted a 30-year study on 1000 children and found that cognitive control is a more reliable predictor of success than IQ. Meaning, the ability to delay gratification and to remain goal oriented was the ultimate key to their success.

The implication? Successful people aren’t smarter; they’re more adept at setting and achieving their goals.

What’s the secret to effective goal setting you ask? Read on…

The ultimate guide to goal setting

Below are four simple steps for setting realistic goals: Read more.

Featured image by Efes 

Are Humans Truly Capable Of Unconditional Love?

Unconditional love is a gruesome, painful and sacrificial way to care for another human being. It isn’t butterfly kisses, a steamy night of passion or the joy a son brings to his mother’s heart. It is so much deeper than that. It is endless. It is profound. It’s powerful.

But is it possible? Science says it is. Mario Beauregard , a professor at Montreal University’s Centre for Research into Neurophysiology and Cognition, conducted a study and found that not only do all humans have the capacity to show unconditional love but, more importantly, specific areas of the brain are activated during this process, releasing dopamine—the chemical involved in sensing pleasure. Loving unconditionally is a mutually beneficial endeavor.

The concept of unconditional love is misunderstood

Loving someone unconditionally means loving the very essence of the individual. Just as they are. Despite what they do or fail to do, with no expectation of anything in return—including love. However, it is one of the most misunderstood concepts. If offering unconditional love is your mission in life, you need to beware of these 3 subtle differences:

1. Unconditional love loves in spite of but it is not accepting of abuse

Loving unconditionally means supporting a person through every situation they face. It means you stick with them through the good and the bad. It is not, however, blind devotion, unrelenting commitment and enabling bad behavior. Loving someone unconditionally involves doing what is best for them no matter what it costs you.

When you love a person you want to see them happy, but that does not mean neglecting yourself or becoming a doormat. When you allow yourself to be mistreated you are teaching your loved one that it is o.k. to mistreat people. You are reinforcing bad behavior.

Forgiveness is a vital component of practicing unconditional love. It means you must be quick to forgive but at the same time, not available for abuse.

Many people misuse this concept as an excuse to remain in toxic and unhealthy relationships or to explain why they refuse to hold their loved one accountable. Often times, this is seen in abusive relationships. The victim may claim to stay with the abuser out of love. But sometimes love may mean severing ties, calling the authorities or taking other extreme measures to get them the help they need. You do what is best for the individual despite the cost.

2. Unconditional love doesn’t overprotect

Love is an action, not a feeling. It is a conscious choice that you make repeatedly—moment by moment. It doesn’t happen naturally. When a mother gives birth and holds her child in her arms for the very first time, we have been led to believe that the love is instant. And as magical and poetic as that sounds, it simply isn’t true.

A mother chooses to love her child. Many times that choice is made and solidified during the pregnancy. Think about it. When a woman discovers that she is unexpectedly pregnant, she does not immediately fall in love with the fetus. It takes time. She must choose to love her child.

Providing for the happiness of your loved ones whenever you can is important and necessary but your desire to please them shouldn’t come at their detriment.

If a mother discovers her child is using drugs—love demands that she do whatever she can to assist them in breaking the addiction. Whatever it takes. And as painful as it may be, sometimes that involves allowing them to hit rock bottom, go to jail, or even become homeless. Pain and heartache forge character and tenacity and help us to grow. Watching someone you love suffer is brutal, but sometimes it’s necessary. Allow your loved ones to experience setbacks and fall. Just be there to pick them up when they do.

3. Unconditional love involves respect and acceptance but not indulgence

Unconditional love is the complete and total acceptance of a person “as is.” It involves not withholding love because you don’t agree with their life choices. You don’t love because of—you love in spite of… Adopt a “care-less” attitude. Meaning, I could care less what you decide, I love you anyway. It means staying away from controlling behaviors and passing judgment.

That said—this doesn’t mean you stand blindly by and watch someone—especially a child—run headlong into danger.

Many times a parent will not chastise a child, or challenge them for fear of retaliation or losing the child’s love. Enabling bad behavior is not love. Unconditional love seeks what is in the best interest of that person above all else. It is supporting and nurturing a person into being the best version of them self.

Why we should practice unconditional love when it’s so hard?

Unconditional love is transformative. It has the power to change you and the person you love. It is a balancing act that requires you to constantly adjust and readjust your actions and attitude. But it is worth it in the end. Some of the benefits of learning to love unconditionally are:

  • You learn to accept and love yourself.
  • You become more empathetic.
  • You are better able to cope with change and deal with disappointment.
  • You develop a deep understanding of what true love is.

10 keys to unlock the door to loving unconditionally

How can finite beings love infinitely? When most people think of this kind of love, people like Mother Theresa, Ghandi and the Pope come to mind. But how can we—mere mortals—transcend our inherent, natural tendency towards selfishness and love without condition or expectation of a reward?

Here are 10 things you can do to begin loving unconditionally:

  1. Practice forgiveness.
  2. Practice empathizing with others.
  3. Learn to love yourself unconditionally.
  4. Practice open and honest communication.
  5. Love them the way they need to be loved. Love isn’t a one-size-fits-all; what might be loving for one person could be harmful to another person.
  6. Accept yourself and others “as is.”
  7. Accept and respect the boundaries of your loved ones.
  8. Choose to be loving. Ask yourself in each situation, what is the most loving response?
  9. Don’t try to be a human shield. Allow your loved ones to hurt and support them through the pain.
  10. Perform acts of service daily, with no expectation of anything in return.

What actions will you take to demonstrate your unconditional love?


[1] Daily Mail: The Greatest Love of All: Studies Show That Humans Are Capable of caring unconditionally

[2] Live Bold and Bloom: Unconditional Love, The Key To Lasting Relationships

[3] Psychology Today: What is Unconditional Love

[4] Wikihow: How to Love Unconditionally

[5] Mind Body Green: Unconditional Love: How to Give It and How to Know When It’s Real

[6] Dr. Wayne Dyer: How to Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You: In 15 Steps

[7] MindTools: Empathy at Work


How to Stay Positive In The Face Of Negativity

Positive thinking is a mental and emotional state of mind that focuses on the good and expects positive outcomes. Developing and maintaining a positive attitude involves more than merely thinking happy thoughts. It is the anticipation of good (i.e. happiness, health and success) and it is the belief that all things–situations, obstacles and difficulties–will work out favorably in the end.

Optimism does not involve ignoring negativity. It is the acknowledgment of the negative but then choosing to focus on the positive. At its root, it is simply the belief that despite the current circumstances things will work out favorable in the end. A positive mind comes from a heart full of faith.

20 ways to revive positive energy

Staying positive can be tough. Optimism stares obstacles in the eye and consciously chooses to look past them and believe… The problem comes in when the obstacles begin to obstruct optimism’s view. Positivity can start to wain when you are bombarded with a succession of negativity, failures, disappointment and heartbreak. Every challenge we face withdraws from us energy, resilience and a little bit of our faith. Once your positive resources (energy, resilience and faith) are depleted, pessimism slowly begins to creep in and take hold. Below is a list of 20 things you can do to help revive your positive energy: read more.


Sneakers May Be A Better Investment Than Stocks… Seriously

Sneakers, a better financial investment than stocks?

No way.


Keep reading…

By now, most people are well aware that wearable fashion—clothes, shoes, bags, purses, and cosmetic jewelry—has very little resale value and is not considered a real financial asset.

Sneakers are the exception.

For folks like 25-year-old Sam Sheffer, shoes are part fashion and part financial investment. Over the past 10 years, he estimates that he has spent thousands of dollars maintaining and updating his sneaker collection. He says it’s actually a safer bet than buying stocks.

There’s not one pair of sneakers that I bought that has gone down in value,” Sheffer said. “There are some shoes I spent $200 on that I can get $800 for.”

The sneaker market is surging

Just last year, the U.S. sneaker industry grew 8 percent to $17 billion and the resale market is estimated to be just over $1 billion a year.

Campless, a company that has dubbed themselves the “sneakerhead data company”, follows and provides analysis on more than 13 million eBay auctions.  They report on a wide variety of sneaker statistics. According to their website, at premium resale value some sneakers are resold for as much as 4,000 percent above their the original price.

There are currently no other financial investments reporting that kind of return. Read more.

Featured image by  ric_man on Wikipedia.

3 Essential Tips For Choosing The Right Credit Card

With so many available options, choosing the right credit card can be an overwhelming and confusing process.

Fiscal responsibility has become very chic and stylish these days. And choosing the right credit card requires the same thoughtfulness and devotion as choosing the perfect pair of shoes–for fit, function and fashion.

Here are three tips to help with the selection process:

Do Your Research 

First, check out consumer reports and customer reviews on different credit cards. Generally, you want to consider cards that have at least 100 reviews.

Next, consider the approval odds. Customer reviews contain valuable information concerning the approval process—for those who were approved and those denied. Most reviewers will share their credit score and general insight on the entire approval process. This information can help you approximate your chances of being approved and give you a general sense of what the lender is looking for and how you compare.

Make sure you pay attention to customer service experiences. Everyone has had at least one maddening experience involving poor and in some cases, nonexistent customer service. We are all aware of how frustrating it can be to have an issue linger or go unresolved because quality customer service is lacking. Awareness of procedures for adding an authorized user, updating personal information, replacing a lost or stolen card or disputing fraudulent charges can save you time, money and headaches. Customer service reports can also assist in steering you away from companies with a history of frequent billing errors and constantly adding hidden fees.

The last and most important thing to do during the research phase is read the fine print. Understanding all of the conditions and terms of the agreement is one of the most critical pieces of this process.

Know your credit score

Before choosing a credit card—or attempting to purchase anything using credit—be sure you know where your credit stands. This includes knowing your credit score and being knowledgeable about everything included in your credit history. Credit Karma is a website that provides credit reports from all 3 credit bureaus– for free. It is important to review your credit report so you can dispute and clear up any discrepancies prior to attempting to secure a line of credit.

Select a credit card that is compatible with the range of your credit score. The higher your credit score the lower your interest rate will be—if you do your homework. Just because a credit card offer arrives in the mail promising cash back, reward points and a pony does not mean it’s the best option for you. If you have fair to good credit you have a bit of flexibility in the type of card, credit limit and terms from which you can choose. If you have poor credit your options are a bit more limited but you do still have options.

Choose the card That Is the best for you

Understanding your spending profile and personality can greatly assist in choosing the right credit card. There are a plethora of cards available that suit just about every credit score and financial situation. If you are looking to establish or repair your credit or are prone to making impulse purchases regularly, a secured credit card is probably your safest option. If you travel frequently or will only use the card for specific purchases you may want to select a card that has a points system or offers travel rewards. Those looking to eliminate debt or to consolidate the balances of other cards may want to consider credit cards offering balance transfer services and low-interest rates.

Don’t Apply for Multiple Cards at Once

This is where doing research becomes critical. Once you’ve selected the card that best fits your spending profile, you want to look at your approval odds. Consider the credit scores, and credit histories of people who have been approved for the card you are seeking. How do you compare? Fitting the profile does not guarantee approval but it does improve your odds.

When you apply for a credit card or any line of credit—a hard inquiry is made against your credit. Several hard inquiries in a short period of time lowers your credit score—which in turn decreases the odds of you receiving the card of your choice at a reasonable interest rate.

Now you have completed all the steps and have secured the perfect credit card. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t miss a payment
  • Make your payments on time
  • Pay off the card whenever possible
  • Keep your credit utilization at less than 30% of the card limit

Featured image by Nick Youngson on

Article also appears on

Your Credit Cards Just Got More Expensive

The recent decisions by the Federal Reserve to hike up the nation’s interest rates are projected to cost consumers up to $192 million more per month on their credit card balances — starting this month, according to Federal Reserve data.

The recent increases–beginning in December 2016– mark the first time that U.S. interest rates have been raised since 2006. The rate increase will be felt by those who have variable rate accounts — most notably credit cards — within the next one or two billing cycles. And if the Federal Reserve boosts rates two more times before the end of the year, as is forecasted, carrying a credit balance will cost you even more.

How this impacts the “average person”

Read more.

Featured image by Petr Kratochvil

The Top 10 Most Transformative Nonfiction Books Of All Time

Books are magical. They transport us to fabulous places and expose us to times–either past or future–that are unfamiliar and where possibilities are endless.

For an imaginative mind, reading fiction may appear to be the most suitable selection, but non-fiction holds its own in this department and when given the chance, it is just as captivating and consuming as it’s whimsical fictional counterpart. In the UK, a whopping 90 percent of books making the 100 All-Time Best Sellers list are fiction. This gross under-representation of nonfiction literature from the list demonstrates just how underrated and under-appreciated nonfiction truly is. But don’t let the numbers fool you. Non-fiction texts can be just as engaging and riveting as fiction.

Non-fiction is one category of literature but it encompasses so many genres. Everything from prose, to historical stories, biographies, poetry, self-help materials, current affairs and information on every single subject under the sun is encapsulated in nonfiction text. And the best thing about reading nonfiction is that you are almost always guaranteed to learn something new.

10 non-fiction must reads

Are you ready to dive into some good nonfiction reading but are unsure where to start? Don’t fret, we’re here to help. The folks at Time Magazine have done some due diligence and have painstakingly compiled a list of the 100 best and most influential works written in English since 1923. These picks are guaranteed to be engaging, informative, entertaining and transformative–all at once. Below is a list of their top ten: Read more.

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