TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Ways to Make Your Afternoons As Productive As Mornings

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Leave mindless tasks and easy decision for your final hours of work

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Our society is collectively obsessed with morning routines.

What is just as important, but often neglected, is how we manage what happens in the middle of the day.

When we wake up, our minds are clear, our bodies are rested. High willpower gives us the energy to take on the day.

The problem is that no matter how much energy we start with, it can only sustain us for so long. Without good midday habits, we fall prey to distraction (hello Facebook!), impulsivity, irritability, and fatigue. Or even worse, we crash and make bad decisions we regret. According to renowned willpower researcher Roy Baumeister, “Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast… Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight.”

To help you nail your afternoon routine, here is some practical and science-backed advice from successful entrepreneurs who have built multimillion-dollar companies.

1. Move around and take a fidgeting break

Lindsay Gaskins, CEO of Marbles: The Brain Store

When most people think about health and energy, they primarily focus on exercise.While exercise is incredibly important, our nonexercise activities (known as NEAT in the academic world) actually take up more time and burn more energy throughout the day.

Changes to these NEAT activities are easier to make since they require less willpower; yet they are still incredibly impactful.

“We also found that when sitting for prolonged periods of time, any movement is good movement, and was also associated with better fitness,” says Dr. Jacquelyn Kulinski, who has studied the link between health and physical activity. “So if you are stuck at your desk for a while, shift positions frequently, get up and stretch in the middle of a thought, pace while on a phone call, or even fidget.”

Lindsay Gaskins, CEO of Marbles: The Brain Store, is a big fan of fidgeting with a desk toy. She takes multiple fidget breaks every day to reduce stress and help her think more clearly.

“Anything I can press, bend, or manipulate makes my hands and brain happy,” Gaskins says. She recommends desk toys like wooden puzzles, Ball of Whacks, or Flingons (a flingable, flexible magnetic fidget set).

Katherine Isbister, research director of NYU’s Game Innovation Lab, affirms the importance of desk toys in reducing stress. Isbister says that being able to squish something really hard, or knock it on the table “is a great way to overcome negative emotions such as stress or boredom.” Isbister and her team are currently studying how workers use desktop toys to increase mental clarity.

2. Never eat alone

Elizabeth Zaborowska, founder and CEO of Bhava Communications

According to one research-backed book on the impact of face-to-face relationships,The Village Effect, spending time directly with other people and having active social lives can increase our likelihood of surviving cancer by 66 percent. As noted in The Village Effect, and also discussed by National Geographic researcher Dan Buettner and his team, the right social circle is an essential part of why centenarians live past 100 years old.

Elizabeth Zaborowska, founder and CEO of Bhava Communications (revenue: $5 Million ), organizes an amazing 15-plus informal meals per week (750 meals per year) with her employees, clients, venture capitalists, industry colleagues, and more. She invites one or two people to join her for lunch and dinner, and occasionally sets up breakfasts and weekend brunches.

Having a meal together connects people in ways that simply working together can’t. A meal creates an informal space where friendships can be formed, and sets the foundation for a deeper working relationship. In one study, employees at a tech company who rated other employees as being “especially good friends” had higher performance ratings from their bosses than those who had fewer numbers of such friendships.

Many well-known entrepreneurs use mealtime as one of the main ways they build relationships. During summers, Martha Stewart regularly entertains guests for dinner at her East Hampton estate. And Keith Ferrazzi proclaimed the power of meals, particularly dinner parties, in his bestselling book Never Eat Alone.

“Today I can safely say my strongest links have been forged at the table,” Ferrazzi says.”The companionable effects of breaking bread — not to mention drinking a few glasses of wine — bring people together.”

3. Set your timer for five minutes in order to break up that big, hard task you’ve been procrastinating on

Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me, and Wow 1 Day Painting

According to Stanford researcher BJ Fogg, the best way to change your behavior is to make the desired change easier. And the simplest way to make something easier is to reduce the amount of time it takes. For example, exercise is much less intimidating when you commit to it for one minute instead of one hour.

The same principle holds true in work. Whenever Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me, and Wow 1 Day Painting, feels overwhelmed by a big goal or feels low energy, he sets his iPhone timer for five minutes and commits to focusing for that period of time on the task at hand. “What ends up happening is I build up momentum and want to keep going after the timer goes off,” Scudamore says.

While setting big, hairy, audacious goals is really good for long-term thinking, it is paralyzing when you’re at a low point in your day. Focusing on an easy, small step is powerful because it:

  • Builds momentum and keeps you focused.
  • Increases the odds that you’ll take action.
  • Cements your own identity as someone who gets stuff done.
  • Gives you the feeling of progress, optimism, control, and gratitude.

For more information on how to set easy tasks, watch this 10-minute video by Fogg.

4. Take a “pocket vacation” in nature

Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Network and Syfy

It turns out that exposure to all that’s green and grows is good for your immune system. Not getting out in natural surroundings can lead to an increase of allergies, asthma, and other illnesses. It even has a name; “Nature Deficit Disorder.”

Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Network and Syfy takes a daily walk in New York City’s Central Park for 15 minutes, calling her routine her “pocket vacation.” Research indicates that a mere five minutes of walking in nature can produce an immense, immediate benefit of reducing stress, notably on our levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. An even more important effect is that nature restores your ability to focus with a phenomenon called Attention Restoration Theory.

If you don’t have time to take a quick walk, spend 40 seconds looking through a window with greenery outside. That short amount of time is enough to restore your attention span, leading to far fewer errors in your work.

5. Take micro naps like these iconic entrepreneurs, presidents, and artists

Sevetri Wilson, CEO of Solid Ground Innovations

Famous individuals throughout history have sworn by the power of naps; everyone from presidents (Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bill Clinton) to artists (Salvador Dali, Leonardo Da Vinci) to entrepreneurs (Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller) have enjoyed midday naps. And it’s no wonder why. According to one study, a 10 minute power nap can reduce fatigue and increase cognitive performance up to two hours. Salvador Dali had a particularly unique approach to naps he called “slumber with a key” that he felt increased his creativity. Essentially, he sat in a chair with a key in his hand. If he fell asleep, the key would drop and he’d immediately wake him up. This approach allow him to stay in a state of deep relaxation while also getting conscious access to his unconscious mind.

Sevetri Wilson, CEO of Solid Ground Innovations, has adopted a schedule where she works in the early morning hours, when other people are sleeping, and takes naps in the early evening, when other people are relaxing.

“This schedule allows me to get a lot more done without being distracted by text messages or TV and while remaining high-energy,” Wilson says.

Larger companies like Google have started embracing the the proven benefits of the power of nap. For example, Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, andBrian Halligan, CEO of publicly traded Hubspot, have each created employee nap rooms.

6. Play a musical instrument

Joe Apfelbaum, CEO of Ajax Union

According to neuroscientist, Anita Collins, playing music is the cognitive equivalent of “a full-body workout,” and it “engages practically every area of the brain at once.”

More significant, music playing has been highlighted as a powerful long-term strategy to improve brain plasticity, as well as overall brain functioning.

Joe Apfelbaum, CEO of digital marketing agency, Ajax Union, takes this research to heart, and he’s baked it into the culture of his company. “For me to keep my high energy going throughout the day, I need to do things differently,” Apfelbaum says. “When brainstorming I sometimes play guitar or other musical instruments that are in my office at all times.”

Among the most famous of all amateur music players is Albert Einstein, an avid and competent violinist. Einstein often gushed about his love for his hobby, saying “I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get the most joy in life out of music.”

Picking up a musical instrument is not as intimidating as it sounds: Josh Kaufman offers tips on his website for how he learned to play simple chord progressions on a ukulele in less than 20 hours.

7. Shower with your eyes closed

Jason Duff, founder and CEO of COMSTOR Outdoor

Artist Paul Gogan once declared, “I shut my eyes in order to see.”

Recent research on how creative insights happen shows that he might have been on to something. In the book, Eureka Factor, researcher John Kounios shares the importance of inner-directed attention:

“We found that just before viewing a problem that participants would eventually solve with insight, they disengaged from their surroundings and directed their attention inwardly on their own thoughts.”

As soon as he gets back from work at the end of the day, Jason Duff, founder and CEO of COMSTOR Outdoor, takes his second shower of the day. It’s 20 minutes long, and he closes his eyes and lets his mind wander.

Research shows that having your eyes closed increases alpha waves, which is closely associated with relaxation and helps new ideas go from your subconscious mind to your conscious mind.

If you want to add a second shower to your daily routine, but also want to conserve water, consider purchasing a water-efficient showerhead.

8. Create an easy list for the end of the day

Emerson Spartz, founder and CEO of Spartz Inc.

Many articles and books have been written about the beginning of the workday. The predominant principle is to focus on hard, important tasks and decisions that will push your business forward.

“If you save the same activities for the afternoon, you will likely procrastinate, be inefficient, and have lower quality,” says Emerson Spartz, founder and CEO of Spartz Inc., a digital media company that owns a network of sites (like Dose.com and OMG Facts) that collectively reach 45 million visitors per month. Instead, Spartz leaves mindless tasks and easy decisions (i.e., emails that need quick responses, social media, and simple tasks) for his final hours of work.

“I’ll check email periodically throughout the day to respond to anything urgent,” Spartz said. “But I reserve the last hour just for emailing, which is easier for my mind and more likely to distract me.”

9. Exercise with a gym trainer or gym buddy

Cameron Herold, author of Double Double, CEO coach, and globally renowned speaker

Evan Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, works out in the middle of the day, contradicting the typical advice to workout first thing in the morning:

“My focus is usually great first thing in the morning. So going to the gym first is a trade off of very productive time in the office. Instead, I’ve started going mid-morning or late afternoon (especially on days I work late). It feels weird (at first) to leave the office in the middle of the day, but total time spent is nearly the same, with higher energy and focus across the board.”

Cameron Herold, author of Double Double and a CEO coach to high-growth businesses, also exercises in the middle of the day. He uses a trainer to force himself to follow through.

“I need more help stopping work than I do getting it into it,” Herold says. “If I can force myself to stop my day for a workout, I can sustain quality output much longer. Having a trainer forces me to show up.”

A review of 29 academic studies found that exercise dramatically increases attention, processing speed, and executive function.

10. Save your easy meetings for the afternoon

Benji Rabhan, founder and CEO of Apollo Scheduling

Meetings have built-in accountability, and thus limited procrastination. That makes them perfect to hold your attention during the afternoon when your mind is more likely to wander.

Benji Rabhan, founder & CEO of Apollo Scheduling, uses his AppointmentCore software to open his afternoons to meetings with clients, customers, and team members. Instead of using his precious morning time for meetings, he uses the late afternoon for simple meetings such as answering questions, status checks, or conveying information.

Rabhan still has big meetings that require difficult decisions in the morning, as several studies show that we make worse decisions throughout the day as a result of decision fatigue.

Not convinced? Meeting in the afternoon has another benefit. According to a study of best times to schedule meetings, 3:00 p.m. has the highest acceptance rate!

This article originally appeared on Inc.com

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Read next: 9 Tips to Staying Productive Throughout the Week

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TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Unspoken Messages From Interviewer to Interviewee

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We love when you bring a 'project'

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Naturally, job candidates talk a lot during an interview. So does the interviewer (though in that case, less should be more.)

But there are a number of things interviewers wish they could say to job candidates before the interview ever takes place.

See if you agree:

1. We really want to like you.

Obvious, sure, but also critical. We all want to work with people we like and who like us.

So, we want you to smile. We want you to make eye contact, sit forward in your chair, and be enthusiastic. The employer-employee relationship truly is a relationship — and that relationship starts with the interview (if not before).

A candidate who makes a great first impression and sparks a real connection instantly becomes a big fish in a very small short-list pond.

You may have solid qualifications, but if we don’t think we’ll enjoy working with you, we’re probably not going to hire you.

Life is too short.

2. We want you to stand out…

A sad truth of interviewing is that later I often didn’t recall, unless I referred to my notes, a significant amount about some of the candidates. (Unfair? Sure. Reality? Absolutely.)

The more people I interviewed for a job and the more spread out those interviews got, the more likely I was to remember a candidate by impressions rather than by a long list of facts.

So when I met with staff to discuss potential candidates, I might initially refer to someone as, “the guy with the handcuff-ready stainless steel briefcase,” or “the woman who does triathlons,” or “the guy who grew up in Romania.”

In short, interviewers may have remembered you by “hooks” — whether flattering or unflattering — so use that to your advantage. Your hook could be your clothing, or an outside interest, or an unusual fact about your upbringing or career.

Better yet, your hook could be the project you pulled off in half the expected time, or the huge sale you made.

Instead of letting us choose, give us one or two notable ways to remember you.

3. …But not for being negative.

There’s no way we can remember everything you say. But we will remember sound bites, especially negative ones.

Some candidates complain, without prompting, about their current employer, their co-workers, their customers.

So if, for example, you hate being micromanaged, instead say you’re eager to earn more responsibility and authority. We get there are reasons you want a new job but we want to hear why you want this job instead of why you’re desperate to escape your old job.

And keep in mind, we’re well aware our interview is like a first date. We know we’re getting the best possible version of you. So if you whine and complain and grumble now… we know you’ll be a bummer to be around in a few months.

4. We want you to ask lots of questions about what matters to you…

We need to know whether we should hire you, but just as important, we need you to make sure this job is a good fit for you.

So we want you to ask lots of questions: What we expect you to accomplish early on, what attributes make our top performers so outstanding, what you can do to truly drive results, how you’ll be evaluated –all the things that matter to you and to us and our businesses.

You know what makes work meaningful and enjoyable to you. We don’t. There’s no other way to really know whether you want the job unless you ask questions.

5. …But only if the majority of those questions relate to work.

We know you want a positive work-life balance. Still, save all those questions about vacation sign-up policies, and whether it’s okay to take an extra half hour at lunch every day if you also stay a half hour late, or whether we’ve considered setting up an in-house childcare facility because that would be awesome for you and your family.

First let’s find out if you’re the right person for the job, and whether the tasks, responsibilities, duties, etc., are right for you.

Then we can talk about the rest.

6. We love when you bring a “project.”

We expect you to do a little research about the company. That’s not impressive; that’s a given.

To really impress us, tell us how you will hit the ground running and contribute right away — the bigger the impact the better. If you bring a specific skill, show how we can leverage that skill immediately.

Remember how we see it: We have to pay you starting day one, so we’d love to see an immediate return.

7. We want you to ask for the job… and we want to know why.

By the end of the interview you should have a good sense of whether you want the job. If you need more information, say so. Let’s figure out how to get you what you need to make a decision.

If you don’t need more information, do what great salespeople do and ask for the job. We’ll like the fact you asked. We want you to really want the job — but we also want to know why you want the job.

So tell us why. Maybe you thrive in an unsupervised role, or you love working with multiple teams, or you like frequent travel. Ask for the job and prove, objectively, that it’s a great fit for you.

8. We want you to follow up… especially if it’s genuine.

Every interviewer appreciates a brief follow-up note. If nothing else, saying you enjoyed meeting us and are happy to answer any other questions is nice.

But “nice” may not separate you from the pack.

What we really like is when you follow up based on something we discussed. Maybe we talked about data collection techniques, so you send me information about a set of tools you strongly recommend. Maybe we talked about quality, so you send me a process checklist you developed that I could adapt to use in my company.

Or maybe we both like cycling, so you send me a photo of you on your bike in front of the sign at the top of the Col du Tourmalet(and at least I’m totally jealous).

The more closely you listened during the interview, the easier it is to think of ways to follow up in a natural and unforced way.

Remember, we’re starting a relationship — and even the most professional of relationships are based on genuine interactions.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com

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25 Commonly Used Phrases That Can Hinder Your Success

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"This may be silly, but..."

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What you say and how you say it can have a big impact on your success. Unfortunately, what seems like an innocent phrase in the workplace can lead you straight out the door.

Want to avoid saying the wrong thing at the wrong time? Here are 25 seemingly innocent things you say at work that could actually get you fired:

1. “There’s nothing I can do.”

It’s highly doubtful that you’ve actually exhausted every option. This phrase sounds like you’re avoiding work and responsibility — an attitude that’s sure to get you fired.

2. “It’s not fair.”

This just makes you sound like a whiner. Life isn’t fair. Grow up. Do what’s needed and move on.

3. “That’s impossible.”

This statement immediately labels you as a small thinker and obstructer. Things are almost always possible, if you’re willing to brainstorm and work at it.

4. “I wish… “

Don’t wish, do. This phrase makes you sound passive and unwilling to do what’s needed. And that’s an attitude no boss wants on their team.

5. “We’ve always done it that way.”

Someone who doesn’t want to innovate or do things a new way won’t last long in today’s ever-changing workplace.

6. “That’s not my job.”

Whether it is or isn’t, this is the complaint of someone who isn’t a team player. If your boss asked you to do it, it just became your job — if it was a co-worker, they could use your help.

7. “Did you hear what happened to… “

While office gossip is commonplace, it’s still harmful, and participating in it can easily get you fired. Watch what you say and mind your own business.

8. “My spouse is such a jerk! Yesterday… “

Airing personal problems at work makes others uncomfortable and comes across as unprofessional. Talking to a friend on your lunch break is one thing, but making personal issues public can get you fired.

9. “This pay is so lousy here!”

If you don’t like your pay, your boss, or your company, keep it quiet and work on finding a better solution. Speaking publicly about what you dislike will get you shown the door before you’re ready.

10. “@MyCompany is a horrible place to work.”

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, don’t think your employer isn’t keeping tabs on what others say about them. Complaining about the company online or using social media during work hours can quickly get you fired.

11. “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

Not only does this put you firmly in the “lazy” camp, it also indicates that you’re ungrateful for opportunities. If your pay should be increased, address it professionally — not by saying things like this.

12. “I’ll try.”

This phrase denotes a lack of confidence in your abilities — or, even worse, a lack of urgency on your part to complete the work. By saying you’ll try, you’re giving your boss no reason to have confidence in your abilities either.

13. “She’s so lazy.”

Name-calling is right up there with gossip when it comes to childish ways to lose your job. Stay away from judging other people’s work, and stick to doing your own very, very well.

14. “You should have… “

Whether you’re right or not, a phrase like this will be seen as an accusation. If you find yourself saying this to your boss, apologize before he or she kicks you out the door.

15. “This may be silly, but… “

Why would others give you credit for an idea if you can’t give it to yourself? This phrase reduces your credibility and professionalism — the wrong direction to go if you’re looking to keep your job.

16. “Don’t you think?”

Continually trying to get others to validate your ideas isn’t just annoying, it also diminishes the respect that your co-workers and boss have for you. Saying this all the time will have your boss looking for a more qualified team member.

17. “I don’t have time right now.”

Even if this is true, it’s rude to put off others in this way. Instead, offer to make an appointment or email them when you’re available for a project or conversation.

18. “It’s just… “

A recent Business Insider article points out that “just” is a permission word, and that using it too frequently can damage your credibility with others. Avoid this phrase if you want to continue moving up at work.

19. “Me, me, me… “

Being self-centered at work puts off those around you and makes you appear less valuable to the team. Focus more on others’ needs, and use terms like “we” and “us” whenever possible.

20. “You look tired.”

Commenting on another’s appearance is rarely appropriate, and in some cases, it can be intrusive. Stick to positive comments about people’s appearance, or better yet, say nothing about it at all.

21. “I’m sorry, I have a question… “

Never say you’re sorry if you’re not actually sorry. Having a question isn’t something to apologize for. Apologizing often makes you seem tentative and unsure — and that’s definitely not a plus in the workplace.

22. “I just need a minute.”

No you don’t — you can’t accomplish anything in a single minute. Stop using this phrase and be precise about what you need. Your boss and co-workers will appreciate the respect.

23. “Um… ” and “Well… “

These filler words don’t communicate anything, and they won’t improve others’ confidence in you. Skip them and say what you mean.

24. “We call it ‘The Aristocrats’… “

Even if inappropriate jokes occur “just between friends,” someone can easily overhear you and become uncomfortable. Harassment and creating a poor work environment are serious issues that — unlike some of the others on this list — could get you fired immediately.

25. “I want to touch base on how we’ll synergize the pivot… “

Relying on corporate jargon shows you aren’t able to think critically or originally. Ditch the buzzwords. Make sure that what you say has substance, or you won’t be on your work team for long.

Why are these phrases so damaging? Although many of them seem innocent — and few are likely to result in immediate termination — they may point to serious underlying issues. Whether it’s laziness, disrespect for others, lack of confidence, or just plain foolishness, these phrases reveal traits that will, ultimately, get you fired.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com

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Why Trusting Your ‘Gut Feeling’ Is Often the Best Strategy

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The brain uses a combination of logic and emotion when making decisions of any kind

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There is no such thing as a purely logical decision. The brain uses a combination of logic and emotion when making decisions of any kind. That specific emotion, innate to us as humans, is intuition. We possess the capacity to feel, and thereby the ability to know things without consciously reasoning. The “gut feeling” is real, and we use it all the time.

“Going with our gut,” however, implies uncertainty and does not guarantee a good outcome. Sometimes all the hard information we need is right there for us, and we can rely on logic without leaning too much on our gut instincts. But when it’s not, wouldn’t it be nice to know that our gut gives better than a 50/50 chance of success?

Gary Player, the golf legend, often tells this story. Years ago, he was practicing in a bunker and an onlooker approached just in time to see Player hole a sand shot. The onlooker yelled, “Fifty bucks if you do that again,” and Player stepped up and holed the second shot. The guy yelled, “OK, $100 if you do it again.” Sure enough, the third shot went in. As he was paying up, the onlooker said, “I’ve never seen anyone so lucky in my entire life,” to which Player replied, “Well, the more I practice the luckier I get!”

I think we can sharpen our intuition just as a golfer sharpens his or her skills. Gary Player’s dedication to practice increased the probability of success for any given shot. To hone intuition, it’s all about giving our brain more emotional information to work with through life experience to increase the probability of success for any given gut decision. Basically, the more we experience the more accurate our guts become.

Our brains record it all; every meeting, client interaction, presentation, and personal decision. With every experience, the cache of information our brains have at their disposal grows. Think of a jigsaw puzzle. Your brain’s job is to decide what the image is, but it only has one of the 100 pieces to the puzzle. With every relevant experience, another puzzle piece becomes available. Soon, the brain will have enough information to identify the image.

Within an organization, there is a variety of thinking preferences which are naturally intuitive in different ways:

Social thinkers tend to be intuitive by nature. This makes sense, as their thinking revolves around people and relationships, which are not exactly quantifiable. Generally, you can feel good about trusting the social thinkers’ guts when it comes to people-related issues.

Conceptual thinkers may not be able to “show their work” or otherwise explain why they know something. Having a lot of conceptual thinking in your brain is like being the person who could answer the math problem without showing the teacher how you arrived at the answer. They just know. The dots are all connected inside their mind. As long as they understand, that’s good enough.

Analytical thinkers are the opposite of social thinking with regard to intuition. After all, why on earth would anyone make a decision based on anything but sound logic and data analysis? They’d rather have all the information and make a decision from there. But when they have to go with their guts they are actually more accurate than they think because their gut filters through the logical neural-pathways of their brain.

Structural thinkers are often intuitive about time and dates. They are likely to have a good sense of how long a project will take, how long a meeting will last, or what time to leave for an appointment across town. Don’t have a structural preference? Pay attention to someone in your office/home who does. They have the innate ability to understand these things and can help prevent you from putting too many things to do in one day.

That’s what is going on in your brain. But what happens when you try to communicate your gut response or actions to other people? Your behavioral preferences are how you manifest your intuition.

  • 1/3 of the Expressiveness Spectrum: Just because you are not speaking does not mean you have nothing to say. Having that gut feeling may be distressing for you because you have the idea but you’d prefer to internally process the gut reaction before outwardly communicating it. If normally remaining quiet and introspective is your preference, try stepping out of your comfort zone by sharing your gut feeling.
  • 3/3 of the Expressiveness Spectrum: You like to speak your mind on a team or in a group, but be weary of not putting too much faith in just your gut feeling or people may not take your thoughts seriously.
  • 1/3 of the Assertiveness Spectrum: If your gut tells you that the project is not going the right direction, pay attention to your gut feeling. As a natural peacekeeper, you’re likely to ignore your gut for the sake of not rocking the boat. But just think about how you’ll feel if the plan doesn’t pan out- you’ll end up wishing you had rocked the boat earlier on.
  • 3/3 of the Assertiveness Spectrum: Driving the right ideas in a meeting for you is almost the same as always going with your gut. But with your forceful preferences, it is important to give others the chance who are not as outspoken the opportunity to speak their minds too. Sometimes the best way to follow your gut feeling is to take a step back and see all parts of the argument to make sure yours is credible.
  • 1/3 of the Flexibility Spectrum: Once your gut tells you that this is the right direction, you will be focused on what track to follow. Your unwavering focus does not mean you’re closed to change, but that you require a lot of credible information to change your mind from your gut feeling.
  • 3/3 of the Flexibility Spectrum: For someone who is very accommodating, you may often second-guess your own intuition. Pay attention to your gut feeling and don’t try to question that feeling because often times it is the right move.

Each of us can still hone our intuition even if we don’t have a strong thinking preference one way or another. For instance, someone without a dominant Social preference still has some level of Social intuition that will be enhanced by every interaction with people. In general, any experience is a good experience, and the more we have of them, the more accurate our gut feelings become.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com

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5 Behaviors to Avoid for Happiness and Success

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Learn to get out of your own way for greatness

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What’s the secret to happiness and achievement? Sometimes it’s not so much what you do as what you stop doing. That’s the lesson behind some of the talks in TED’s playlist Counterintuitive Career Advice. The whole playlist includes 12 great talks, but the ones I love the most tell you what not to do–and show how most people hold themselves back from greatness.

Spend a little time watching these great speakers and you’ll learn some priceless lessons about getting out of your own way:

1. Stop making excuses.

Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career,” by economics professor Larry Smith, may well be my favorite TED talk of all time. He tells the audience what he tells his students–that instead of reaching for greatness, they will find excuses for failing to pursue their dreams. From “I’m not a genius” to “I value my relationships too much,” he demolishes every one of these excuses and then some. And he will leave you feeling extraordinarily inspired.

2. Stop being so agreeable.

Going along to get along is a powerful, deep-seated human instinct, explains Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness, in the thought-provoking talk “Dare to Disagree.” But resisting is well worth it, because agreeableness can literally be lethal. Heffernan uses real-world examples to illustrate the danger of staying silent when you believe something’s wrong, and the good things that can happen when we accept conflict and disagreement as the valuable tools they are.

3. Stop expecting to succeed all the time.

Success is only momentary, argues art historian Sarah Lewis (pictured) in “Embrace the Near Win.” And even the most talented and skilled among us only achieve success some of the time. She learned this from looking at an artist’s early–and not-quite-satisfactory–paintings, and by watching an archery team work hard for three hours and only sometimes hit the bull’s-eye.

“Success motivates us, but a near-win can propel us in an ongoing quest,” she explains. So celebrate your near-wins and your almost-achievements. They’re an important part of the journey to where you want to be.

4. Stop giving up too soon.

What’s the best predictor of success? It isn’t talent, skill, or intelligence. It’s grit–that enduring ability to get up and try again after you’ve failed, and to continue believing that you can always do better next time. That observation comes from psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth in her talk “The Key to Success? Grit.”

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” she says.”Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.” How do you build grit? The best answer so far is something called a “growth mindset”–the recognition that our ability to learn and grow isn’t set but can improve with our effort. Next time you fail, keep that in mind and know that, if you keep working at it, you’re certain to do better next time.

5. Stop looking for quick answers.

“It is striking to see how big of an overlap there is between the dreams that we have and projects that never happen,” declares Brazilian entrepreneur and educator Bel Pesce in “5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams.” We kill our dreams, she explains, when we expect to succeed overnight, when we look to others for answers or blame them for our failures, and when we slack off after achieving what seems like enough success.

But there’s one other way to kill our dreams, she says–focusing only on the dream and not on the process it takes to get there. “Yes, you should enjoy the goals themselves,” she explains. “But people think that you have dreams and whenever you get to reaching one of those dreams, it’s a magical place where happiness will be all around.”

It doesn’t work that way, she says. Achieving a dream is only a momentary sensation, much like when mountaineers work hard to reach a mountain peak, only to start back down a few minutes later. “The only way to really achieve all of your dreams is to fully enjoy every step of the journey,” she says.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com

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8 Things Mentally Strong People Do Every Day

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They live according to their own values

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Just like people aren’t born with physical strength, no one is blessed with incredible mental strength at birth. Instead, mental strength is developed over time by individuals who choose to make personal development a priority.

In addition to avoiding the things that could hold them back, mentally strong people create healthy habits that assist them in growing stronger. Here are eight things mentally strong people do every day to strengthen their mental muscles:

1. They Use their Mental Energy Wisely

It’s easy to get distracted throughout the day by a variety of unimportant and unproductive tasks. Mentally strong people choose to use their time and energy carefully. They devote their efforts to the things that matter most so they can accomplish their goals.

2. They Reframe Their Negative Thoughts

Everyone has negative thoughts sometimes, but mentally strong people don’t let those thoughts hold them back or drag them down. Instead, they respond to their pessimistic predictions and harsh criticisms with a more productive inner dialogue. They stay motivated to do their best by talking to themselves like a trusted friend or a helpful coach.

3. They Work Toward Established Goals

Mentally strong people establish clear personal and professional goals that give them meaning and purpose. They forgo immediate gratification by keeping their long-term goals in mind. They view obstacles as challenges, rather than roadblocks to their success.

4. They Reflect on Their Progress

Mentally strong people reflect on their progress toward their goals every day. They set aside time to examine what they’re doing well, and they humbly acknowledge areas that need improvement. They hold themselves accountable for mistakes and they constantly strive to grow better.

5. They Tolerate Discomfort for a Greater Purpose

While some people go to great lengths to avoid any type of distress, others endure pain simply to prove they’re tough. Mentally strong people, however, tolerate discomfort when it serves a greater purpose. Whether they’re exercising when they feel tired, or they’re delivering a speech when they feel terrified, they use their pain to become better.

6. They Practice Gratitude

You can’t be at your best if you’re insisting you deserve better. Mentally strong people acknowledge they already have everything they need. They recognize their good fortune and express gratitude for all things big and small.

7. They Balance Emotions with Logic

Mentally strong people know their feelings play a major role in their perceptions and their behavior. They pay close attention to the ways their emotions could influence their judgement. They carefully balance their emotions with logic so they can make the best possible decisions.

8. They Live According to Their Values

Although it may be tempting to measure your self-worth by comparing yourself to your competition, mentally strong people don’t fall prey to such distractions. They focus on living according to their values and doing their best, despite their circumstances. At the end of the day they don’t ask themselves, “Did I beat everyone else?” Instead, they ask, “Did I stay true to my values?”

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com

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This Is Warren Buffett’s Best Investment Advice

Warren Buffett during an interview in Omaham, Neb. on May 4, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Warren Buffett during an interview in Omaham, Neb. on May 4, 2015.

Go all-in on this amazing asset and you will see returns beyond anything you could dream of

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Warren Buffett is considered to be one of the greatest investors that has ever lived and is consistently ranked among the wealthiest people in the world with a net-worth north of $72 billion. He is well known for his commitment to value investing, and when he gives recommendations, people listen.

The other day I came across a quote from him where he was advising people to invest as much as possible in something that everyone has access to, something , he says, in which we can never invest too much.

What is this amazing asset he’s so bullish on?

It’s you.

“Invest in as much of yourself as you can, you are your own biggest asset by far.” — Warren Buffett

You will never get a better return on life than when you truly invest in yourself. Here are some ways to help you make the most of your investment.

Stay healthy on all three planes: mind, body, spirit.

“You only get one mind and one body. And it’s got to last a lifetime. Now, it’s very easy to let them ride for many years. But if you don’t take care of that mind and that body, they’ll be a wreck forty years later, just like the car would be.” — Warren Buffett

It all starts here. You need to be firing on all cylinders, or else you won’t be able to get the most of out your life.

This doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Just be mindful about improving yourself. Here are some simple ways to do it:

  • Mind: read a book (even if it’s just one page a day), journal, come up with ideas.
  • Body: exercise (even if it’s just for 7 minutes), eat good food, drink plenty of water, get a good night’s sleep.
  • Spirit: pray (it doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not) or just says ‘thanks’, be kind to people, write a gratitude list.

Cultivate positive habits and stick to them with a daily routine.

How much better do you feel on the days that you do something good for yourself? Perhaps it’s the days that you exercise or maybe when you are really focused at work. Your days just seem to go smoother, don’t they?

You can have that every day. It’s just a matter of deciding what you want to do and following through with it.

Start small. Decide on one positive habit that you can start doing today, and then do it. Then do it again tomorrow. Once you’ve mastered one habit, you can put that momentum toward building a way to have the best day ever (every single day).

Never stop learning.

One of the greatest secrets to Warren Buffett’s success is that he is continuously learning. Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, once said this about his legendary colleague:

“Warren Buffett has become one hell of a lot better investor since the day I met him, and so have I. If we had been frozen at any given stage, with the knowledge we had, the record would have been much worse than it is. So the game is to keep learning, and I don’t think people are going to keep learning who don’t like the learning process.”

Most people think that real learning ends when school is over but they are selling themselves way short. Life should be about continuous learning, and there are many ways for you to do this:

  • Attend conferences, seminars, and meet-ups.
  • Take a free online course.
  • Talk to people and ask them questions (listen more than you talk).
  • Research something you are interested in.
  • Travel.

Surround yourself with excellence.

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.” — Warren Buffett

It’s been said that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. In other words, who you spend time with influences the person you become.

Take a look at the people in your life right now and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they making you better or are they bringing you down?
  • Are they mostly positive or are they typically quite negative?
  • Do you feel better when you are around them or do you feel worse?

If someone is a negative influence on you, then you have to kick them to the curb (or severely limit your time spent with them). This can be very hard when it’s a family member or co-worker, but if you want to become the best version of you, you are going to have to take action.

Spend time getting to know yourself.

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. so I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” — Warren Buffett

Your time is extremely valuable and precious. Spend some of it getting to know yourself better. These practices can help you find out who you truly are:

Do what you love to do.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” — Warren Buffett

You only have one life to live, why not live it to the fullest?

Invest as much as you can in yourself starting right now, and you will see returns beyond anything you could dream of.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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6 Reasons Richard Branson Is the Most Popular Entrepreneur in the World

Richard Branson at a news conference in London on June 25, 2015.
Matthew Lloyd—Bloomberg via Getty Images Richard Branson at a news conference in London on June 25, 2015.

He smiles and laughs — a lot

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Richard Branson may be the most popular businessperson alive. Employees, peers, and even strangers seem to love him. With more than eight million followers, he is by far the most popular Influencer on LinkedIn-almost doubling the next figure (Bill Gates’s 4.4 million followers).

I’ll admit, I had never heard of Branson before I started working for myself some years ago. I quickly found out that his status among entrepreneurs is legendary.

So what makes Sir Richard so darned likable?

In a 2007 interview at the famous TED conference, conducted with curator Chris Anderson, Branson spoke about the ups and downs of his career:

Here are some traits and quotes from the interview that I feel help explain his extreme popularity.

1. He smiles and laughs. A lot.

Generally speaking, we like people who smile and laugh. Their joyful spirit is contagious, and they make us feel better about ourselves.

Add to that the fact that Branson appears totally unpretentious, humble, and unable to take himself seriously. Beginning at the 16:00 mark, you’ll find a potentially awkward exchange in which Anderson makes a joke at Branson’s expense. Branson simply laughs it off and keeps going.

Watch Sir Richard for a few minutes, and it’s hard not to like the guy.

2. He touches others.

Not just figuratively. Literally. (Check out point 1:34 in the video.)

Fellow Inc. columnist Dr. Travis Bradberry points out that when you touch someone while conversing, you release specific neurotransmitters in the person’s brain that make him or her associate you with trust and other positive feelings. (Of course, unwanted or inappropriate touching will produce the opposite effect.)

It’s safe to say that Sir Richard hasn’t given us any literal pats on the back lately. But watching how he deals with others makes him appear down-to-earth and relatable.

It’s almost like a subliminal message flashes across the screen, telling your subconscious: I’m trustworthy and genuine, and I sincerely like people. Now follow me on LinkedIn.

3. He values his employees. Really.

In his opening comments, Sir Richard opines: “I learned early on that if you can run one company, you can really run any company. I mean, companies are all about finding the right people, inspiring those people, you know, drawing out the best in people.”

That attitude has led to a reputation as a leader who puts employees first.

How can you not love that?

4. He’s not afraid to try new things. In fact, he thrives on it.

On coming up with the idea for Virgin Airlines: “If I fly on somebody else’s airline and find the experience is not a pleasant one, which it wasn’t 21 years ago, then I think, ‘Well, you know, maybe I can create the kind of airline that I’d like to fly on.’ And so … got one secondhand 747 from Boeing and gave it a go.”

Sir Richard has been known to try his hand at, well, almost anything. The Virgin Group has current or past companies in the music, hospitality, and space-exploration industries, among many more.

Not every venture has been a success. But as hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

5. He hated school.

Branson states in the interview that he suffers from dyslexia and as a child had “no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever.” He left school when he was 15 years old, and never pursued a university degree.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t continued the learning process. As he puts it: “I just love learning … I’m terribly inquisitive … I’ve seen life as one long learning process.”

Branson’s alternative road to billionaire-ship holds out hope for dreamers and individualists everywhere.

6. He’s the anti-typical business hero.

In a world where people generally get rich by stepping on others as they climb the corporate ladder, Sir Richard seems different. His philosophy:

“I think if you treat people well, people will come back for more … All you have in life is your reputation and it’s a very small world. I actually think that the best way of becoming a successful business leader is dealing with people fairly and well. And I like to think that’s how we run Virgin.”

***

At the end of the interview, Anderson sums up how most people feel about Branson after a few minutes of observation:

“When I was starting off in business, I knew nothing about it … I thought that business people were supposed to just be ruthless and that was the only way you could have a chance of succeeding. And you actually did inspire me. I looked at you and thought, ‘Well, he’s made it. Maybe there’s a different way.'”

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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7 Ways to Learn to Code for Free

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Learn the basics of coding from these resources

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Once upon a time, coding was only for the super-elite computer-nerd crowd. Today, coding is for everyone, from bloggers to marketers to students to C-level execs.

Some of the benefits of being able to code include:

  • Having the ability to build your own website from the ground up, without the need for outside help
  • Saving money on Web-based projects (which is super important for startups), as you don’t need to rely as heavily on programmers, developers, and IT managers
  • Bringing your creativity to the forefront. Instead of explaining your vision to others,you have the power to bring it to life

In a previous column, I shared nine of the best places you can learn to code for free. Those are still great places, and you should check them out, but I’ve learned about seven more since then!

They are:

1. Harvard University’s CS50 class

This free introduction-to-computer-science course is taught by David J. Malan, with a focus on these programming languages: C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML. You will learn:

  • The ins and outs of programming
  • How to think algorithmically
  • Concepts including algorithms, encapsulation, security, and web development

Upon successful completion of the course, you can pay $90 to receive a certificate of verification.

2. Code.org

With Code.org, you can learn the basics of computer science through a drag and drop, feature-packed learning experience. As a self-directed tutorial, complete with lectures from some of the biggest names in programming (think Mark Zuckerberg et al), you can work at your own pace. With tens of millions of participants, a variety of tutorials, and free access to how-to guides and videos, this one is definitely worth trying out.

3. Code School

As the name implies, Code School is where you go to learn coding, programming, and related skills. This resource is unique in the way it provides “paths.” Each path is focused on specific skills related to a particular programming language, such as:

  • Ruby
  • HTML/CSS
  • JavaScript

4. Free Code Camp

Free Code Camp offers a unique way of learning to code, by doing some social good, too. It teaches students basic and advanced techniques by building projects for nonprofits. Its four-step process includes:

  • Joining a community of motivated students (and professionals)
  • Working together to tackle coding challenges
  • Building apps
  • Powering nonprofits by providing code

5. Dash by General Assembly

For true beginners, Dash by General Assembly is a top choice. It teaches HTML, CSS, and JavaScript via browser-based activities and exercises.

Learning to code in your browser is a different experience, but one that translates well when it comes time to take on a “real life” project.

6. Code Conquest

For many, the first step into the world of coding is the most challenging. Code Conquest offers a free online guide for beginners, to help you ease into it. Through this free guide, you can:

  • Learn the basics of coding
  • Complete free coding tutorials
  • Learn how to use a particular coding language
  • Select the coding training that is best for you

7. TheCodePlayer

TheCodePlayer shows you detailed presentations that outline how others have built websites and apps, among other things, from scratch. Each lesson comes complete with a video and in-depth description.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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7 Mistakes Smart People Make

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Being smart can only take you so far

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Being smart is a huge leg up in life, but it’s not a golden ticket. Intelligent people, despite their natural gifts, can, and often do, end up stalled in their careers and unhappy in their personal lives just like those of us with less lofty IQs. Why? That’s what a recent poster to question-and-answer site Quora wanted to know.

What are some stupid things that smart people do?” this inquisitive person asked, spurring a fascinating collection of entrepreneurs, techies, and students to offer their best insights into the most common missteps made by smart folks. If you’re the clever type, consider yourself forewarned (and therefore forearmed to fight these errors).

1. Privileging thinking over doing

“Smart people love to think. It comes naturally to them, and they’re good at it,” writes entrepreneur Chris Yeh in his thoughtful answer. “But thinking only takes you so far, especially when you’re trying to make an impact on the world. At some point, you have to do. Research and planning are great in moderation, but can offer the dangerous illusion of progress. In the end, the only way to make a difference is to do something. Start now.”

2. Ignoring design and aesthetics

If you’re an expert in a subject, it can be easy to forget that nonexperts are often much less interested in the details than you are, and much more interested in the overall feel of a thing.

“When the iPod originally came out, technical people complained about its lack of features and perceived high price (‘ooh, who cares about another MP3 player, I can go buy one at Best Buy for $50′ forums.macrumors.com/show…),” offers entrepreneur Lee Semel as an example. “In the meantime, it was so cool and easy to use that normal people went out in droves to buy it.”

3. Showing excessive respect to authority figures

OK, this isn’t a mistake only smart people make, but if you tend to respect the well-educated and intelligent-sounding, it can be an easy trap to fall into. “Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram was right, a lot of people (including smart people) obey authority unquestionably, even if the results are detrimental,” cautions founder Arsne Hodali.

“Many smart people often seem to be followers, probably because they grow up spending so much time pleasing others via academic and extracurricular achievement that they never figure out what they really like to work on or try anything unique,” adds Semel.

4. Underrating effort

Grit is often more important for success than raw talent, but because they have raw talent, smart people sometimes fail to develop grit, warn several respondents. “Smart people, who’ve had difficult concepts come to them easy early in life, often struggle later on when tenacity and discipline become primary qualities,” claims software engineer Maurice Stephens.

Smart people are “constantly praised for ‘being smart’ whenever they do anything well,” concurs Semel. “The danger is that they become so reliant on feeling smart and having people praise them, that they avoid doing anything that they’re not immediately great at.”

5. Being overconfident

Just because you’re smart in one area, doesn’t mean you’re smart about everything, nor does it mean that you can take shortcuts. Many smart people make the mistake of thinking it does, several people pointed out.

“One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology gave logic problems to people to solve and found that smart people tended to make more mistakes than those of average intellect, because smart people were more likely to take shortcuts or make assumptions due to overconfidence,” reports student Sayan Chaudhuri.

“Smart people sometimes think that just because they are expert in their field, they are automatically qualified in areas about which they know nothing,” Semel claims. “For instance, doctors have a reputation as being bad investors.”

6. Always wanting to be right

Being right has its place, but so does being kind and being sane. Smart people aren’t always the best at picking their battles, according to Semel, who writes: “Many smart people act as if being right trumps all else, and go around bluntly letting people know when they are wrong, as if this will somehow endear others to them. They also believe that they can change other people’s minds through argument and facts, ignoring how emotional and irrational people actually are when it comes to making decisions or adopting beliefs.”

“Many smart people indulge a dangerous combination of ego and logic and behave as though being right all the time is somehow endearing,” agrees Chaudhuri.

7. Overvaluing education

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education, Mark Twain famously advised, but according to a handful of respondents, smart people not only often make this mistake but fail to even see the distinction. Software developer and entrepreneur Tim Scott succinctly notes that smart people often “undervalue experience,” while Chaudhuri says that “a high academic pedigree can make some people think that where someone got their college degree reflects how smart they are.” Obviously, often it does not.

Semel puts it this way: “Smart people often use smartness as measure of the entire worth of a person. They fail to see the value in or even relate with people who are different.”

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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