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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
  • 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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7 Ways Productive People See Life Differently

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They find ways to do their best work even on their worst days

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Some people are more successful than other people — a lot more successful.

Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. But they possess other qualities that make a major impact on their performance:

1. They see disapproval as fuel.

Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd. It’s a lot easier and much more comfortable to reel it in to ensure you fit in.

Pleasing the (average-performing) crowd is something the most successful people don’t worry about. (They may think about it, but then they keep pushing on.)

They hear the criticism, they take the potshots, they endure the laughter or derision or even hostility — and they keep on measuring themselves and their efforts by their own standards.

And, in the process, they achieve what they want to achieve.

2. They see fear as part of the process.

One of my clients is an outstanding — and outstandingly successful — comic. Audiences love him. He’s crazy good.

Yet he still has panic attacks before he walks onstage. He knows he’ll melt down, sweat through his shirt, feel sick to his stomach, and all the rest. It’s just the way he is.

So, just before he goes onstage, he takes a quick shower, puts on fresh clothes, drinks a bottle of water, jumps up and down and does a little shadowboxing, and out he goes.

He’s still scared. He knows he’ll always be scared. He accepts it as part of the process. Pre-show fear is like lunch: It’s going to happen.

Anyone hoping to achieve great things gets nervous. Anyone trying to achieve great things gets scared.

Truly productive people aren’t braver than others; they just find the strength to keep moving forward. They realize fear is paralyzing while action creates confidence and self-assurance.

3. They find ways to do their best work even on their worst days.

Norman Mailer said, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”

The most successful people don’t make excuses. They forge ahead, because they know establishing great habits takes considerable time and effort. They know how easy it is to instantly create a bad habit by giving in — even just this one time.

4. They see creativity as the result of effort, not inspiration.

Most people wait for an idea. Most people think creativity happens. They expect a divine muse will someday show them a new way, a new approach, a new concept.

And they wait… and wait… and wait.

Occasionally, great ideas do just come to people. Mostly, though, creativity is the result of effort: toiling, striving, refining, testing, experimenting… the work itself results in inspiration.

The most productive people don’t wait for ideas. They don’t wait for inspiration. They know that big ideas most often come from people who do, not people who dream.

5. They see help not as a weakness, but as essential to success.

Pretend you travel to an unfamiliar country, you know only a few words of the language, and you’re lost and a little scared. Would you ask for help?

Of course. No one knows everything. No one is great at everything.

Productive people soldier on and hope effort will overcome a lack of knowledge or skill. And it does, but only to a point.

The most productive people also ask for help. They know asking for help is a sign of strength-and the key to achieving more.

6. They see starting as important…

At times we all lack motivation and self-discipline. At times we’re all easily distracted. At times we all fear failure — or even success.

Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it’s not possible to completely overcome any of those shortcomings.

Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal.

But think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then, once into it, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off — it’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”

It never is.

The most productive people try not to think about the pain they’ll feel in the beginning; they focus on how good they will feel once they’re engaged and involved.

And they get started. And then they don’t stop.

7. … and they see finishing as everything.

More than anything, successful people finish — no matter how high the barriers, how many the obstacles, how great the challenges… they see things through when others would have given up.

(Unless there’s a really, really good reason not to finish — which, of course, there almost never is.)

The most successful person know they can’t always be first but they can always be last: the last to stop, to quit, to give up.

And in that way, they win.

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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10 Tips on Giving a Memorable Presentation

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Practice, practice, practice

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As presentation software goes, PowerPoint has long been ubiquitously chosen by presenters, but other good options exist, depending on what you want to communicate and how you’re putting it all together. For example, Google Drive Slides are great if you need to collaborate with others on content, because all changes are updated and stored on the cloud so you have real-time access to the latest version. Apple users should definitely consider iCloud Keynote, which is also good for collaborating but features an intuitive user interface with a sophisticated look and feel. But if you want to do something fresh, Prezi is worth checking out. It uniquely uses motion to let you zoom in and out of your content, all of which is visually connected in a path that shows how ideas are related. The online software also makes integrating YouTube videos simple, a nice perk for anyone using video sourced from Google’s platform.

Regardless of which software you use, Prezi’s blog offers a wealth of tips on how to give a presentation your audience will pay attention to and remember. Here are 10 solid bits of advice from Prezi, which has amassed more than 50 million users in the six years the company has been around.

1. Research your audience.

If you want to influence these people, you need to know what they care about and what motivates them.

2. Include dissenting views.

Identify ways your audience may challenge your ideas and acknowledge them in your talk. Dismissing dissenting views won’t make them go away.

3. Start with a good story.

TED Talks speakers use this tactic all the time. Your opening story should be one everyone in the room can relate to.

4. Reiterate your main message three times.

Professional communicators put it this way, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.” In other words, introduce the points you will be making, and then spend the meat of your presentation fleshing them out. Conclude by reminding the audience about your points.

5. Practice like crazy.

When you know what you’re going to say backward and forward, you don’t have to worry about fumbling your words or losing your train of thought. Saying your talk out loud many times in advance also helps you to edit out awkward wordiness. Your audience will appreciate a no-rambling approach.

6. Memorize.

If you’ve ever seen someone glancing at note cards, you know that it’s not only distracting to an audience but also conveys that a speaker may lack confidence. Don’t memorize every word, just the flow of your key points and the examples you will use to back them up. Check out Prezi’s blog on how you can memorize any presentation in 60 minutes or less.

7. Make eye contact.

You can’t persuade someone if you’re not looking him or her in the eye. Just make sure to scan the room without staring at any individual for too long.

8. Use a good closing story.

It should be one that relates directly to your message and allows you to reiterate your main points. Less is more when it comes to closing, so keep your story succinct while being authentic. Essentially, your closing story should be close to your heart while summarizing your message.

9. Avoid bullet points.

They’re boring. Instead, use a compelling image with text that’s no longer than a tweet.

10. Use big gestures.

Holding your arms in close to your body not only looks unnatural, it also makes you look nervous. You’re telling stories, so act like it by commanding the space you’re inhabiting in front of the room.

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 Foundational and Useful Skills for Every Profession

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These skills serve as pillars for any individual in any position

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Skills are a form of currency in the working world: The more skills you have, the more valuable you are as an employee. You’ll be more attractive to more potential employers, you’ll be able to make more money, and you’ll be able to do more once you land your ideal position. Unfortunately, many workers immediately zero in on niche skill sets that are only useful for their specific area of expertise—for example, a coder might learn techniques for dozens of programming languages. This is good, as it makes you a better fit for those specific positions, but there are some general skills that are far more important.

These seven skills serve as pillars for any individual in any position. Employers look for these as a foundation more important than any niche skill set, and employees with these skills almost always do better than their counterparts:

1. Effective Communication. No matter who you are, where you work, or what line of work you’re in, communication will be a critical factor in your ultimate success. It might involve giving information to a client, telling your needs to a supervisor, or collaborating with your peers. It might be mostly phone-based, mostly written, or mostly face-to-face. In today’s world, the forms of communication are practically limitless, but the baseline skills responsible for ensuring that communication’s success are fundamental. Say what you want to say concisely, accurately, and appropriately, and try to maximize the effectiveness of your messages by choosing the proper mediums for them.

2. Organization and Management. Organizational skills help you better handle the responsibilities before you and ensure they are executed properly. Being organized means you’ll be more likely to get to work on time, prioritize your tasks effectively, and seek solutions to problems before they even become problems. Management skills are also useful in any position; for example, you’ll be able to better manage your resources, time, and workload. Without organization and management skills, even the most capable workers often fall behind or make critical mistakes.

3. Negotiation. Negotiation, as a skill, comes from equal parts persuasion and confidence (which I’ll touch on later). It’s a useful tool to have in almost any position, and having it during the job interview process can guarantee you get the best position possible–for example, if you negotiate strongly, you could receive a higher salary or more competitive benefits. In the context of a job, you can use negotiation skills for obvious purposes like securing new clients or striking deals with potential partners, but it’s also useful in getting last-minute help, decreasing possible points of resistance, and lowering total costs of operation.

4. Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is a process of problem solving that allows you to find and address potential weaknesses or fault points in a given environment. It allows for more creative solutions to problems, faster assessment of bad situations, and greater pattern recognition in large systems, and its applications are practically infinite. Critical thinkers are capable of acknowledging, analyzing, and solving problems without much–if any–outside influence, and they’re always looking for improvements to add to the system.

5. Teamwork and Delegation. While some positions rely on it more than others, you’ll always have some level of teamwork to manage in the workplace. When you first start off, that might mean collaborating with your supervisors and a few of your peers, but in your future, it could mean delegating work to your subordinates. Knowing how to work with others effectively and how to play to individuals’ strengths is a key skill for success in this area. The better you know how to work in groups, the better you’ll be able to collectively perform. Without teamwork skills, you’ll end up slowing the operation down.

6. Research and Analysis. Research and analysis skills come into play for nearly every conceivable position. Marketers need to research and analyze their campaigns for possible effectiveness. Salespeople need to research and analyze leads. Engineers need to research and analyze potential technologies. Even personal assistants need to research and analyze various travel plans. Being able to quickly find information, review it, and recognize key patterns is essential for practically any job function.

7. Confidence. Confidence might seem like a trait, but it can be gained, honed, and developed just like a skill. You can increase your confidence in some areas through sheer practice; the more often you do something, the more confident you’ll be in doing it. In other areas, confidence can be a product of your practiced habits. For example, if you work on improving your body language and elocution and thinking positive thoughts, you’ll naturally come across as a more confident person, and you’ll feel more confident in your regular actions. Confidence leads to greater respect, greater precision, and greater efficiency all around.

Some of these skills develop naturally over time as you gain experience in the professional world, but for the most part, you’ll need to seek them, acquire them, and hone them like you would other skill. Dedicate yourself to improving each of these individual areas, and maximize your chances of getting hired and succeeding in your position.

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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Warren Buffett’s 9 Tips for Happiness and Success

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Warren Buffett knows a thing or three about becoming wealthy and successful, and the Oracle of Omaha is not averse to handing out mostly excellent advice to others who’d like to follow in his footsteps.The personal finance site GOBankingRates has pulled together 14 pieces of advice Buffett has given to graduating classes and/or young people. They’re all great tips for the young—but also excellent advice that all of us should follow, no matter what age we are. Here are some of the best. You can find the full list here.

1. Invest in yourself before anything else.

Investing in yourself is the best thing you can do—anything that improves your own talents,” Buffett told Good Morning America. That’s excellent advice, whether it’s getting more education or training, to improve a skill you already have or to learn a new one—or whether it’s starting a company of your own. (In case it’s the latter, here are 10 Steps to Success as an Entrepreneur.)

2. Change bad habits as soon as you can.

Habits can make or break you, Buffett says. “I see people with these self-destructive behavior patterns,” he says. “They really are entrapped by them.”

The trick, he says, is to get out of the trap before it closes on you, which is why he advised graduating students at the University of Florida to form good habits as soon as possible. “You can get rid of it a lot easier at your age than at my age, because most behaviors are habitual,” he told them. “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

True enough, but if you’re older than a college senior, don’t despair. Though it may be tougher, habits can be changed at any time in life. Here’s the secret of how to do it.

3. Know your own strengths and weaknesses.

Use that knowledge to capitalize on the things that you do well, and avoid the risks of getting in over your head in your weaker areas, Buffett advises. “You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but knowing where the perimeter of that circle of what you know and what you don’t know, and staying inside of it, is all important,” he’s said.

4. Never risk something you need to get something you don’t need.

It’s not that taking risks is wrong–but do it only for the right reasons, Buffett explained to the University of Florida class. He added that he’s seen both businesses and individuals take big risks out of greed when they should have held back.

“If you risk something that is important to you for something that is unimportant to you, it just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I don’t care if the odds you succeed are 99 to 1 or 1,000 to 1.”

5. Find work you love.

“You really should take a job that, if you were independently wealthy, that would be the job you would take,” Buffett said in that same commencement speech. “You will learn something, you will be excited about it, and you will jump out of bed. You can’t miss.” Finding work you love is a better bet than doing something because it pays well or because it would look good on your resume, he added. I couldn’t agree more.

6. Surround yourself with people you admire.

Buffett has often talked about the importance of mentorship and the role his own mentor, Columbia professor Benjamin Graham, played in his life. But even beyond that, he advised a high school student to spend time with people whose qualities he aspired to. “Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”

7. Face down your fears.

Don’t let fear stop you from doing things, especially things you know you must do to be successful, Buffett advises. In fact, he did this himself–he was once terribly afraid of public speaking, so he took a Dale Carnegie course to improve this skill. He’s now one of the most sought-after and frequently quoted speakers in the world. You don’t need to go that far, but if there are things you’re afraid to do, or that you know are your weak points, do what you must to get better at them and become more comfortable doing them.

8. Your time is a precious resource. Use it accordingly.

Bill Gates once wrote that being jealously protective of his time was an important lesson he’d learned from Buffett. “There are only 24 hours in everyone’s day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn’t let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings.” Even though you’re not a multibillionaire, you shouldn’t either.

9. Never ignore a great opportunity.

Though much of his advice is on the conservative, cautious side, Buffett is a big believer in grabbing opportunities with both hands when good ones arise. “Big opportunities in life have to be seized,” he said in a commencement speech at Georgia State. “We don’t do very many things, but when we get the chance to do something that’s right and big, we’ve got to do it. And even to do it in a small scale is just as big a mistake almost as not doing it at all. You’ve really got to grab them when they come, because you’re not going to get 500 great opportunities.”

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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Steve Jobs on the Power of Asking for Help

Steve Jobs at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2011 in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images Steve Jobs at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2011 in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.

"If you're afraid of failing, you won't get very far"

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It’s easy to think that great leaders like Steve Jobs got that way by telling people what to do, bossing them around, or instilling fear in those who work for them. This would be a mistake. In my experience, the greatest leaders of all create a compelling vision of the future, and they inspire their employees to achieve things they didn’t think they could do. Not only that, but they know how to ask their people to help them turn their vision into reality.

In 1994-just two years before he returned to Apple, the company he co-founded-Jobs was interviewed by the Santa Clara Valley Historical Association. In the video from this interview, he talks about the remarkable power of asking for what you want.

“Now, I’ve actually always found something to be very true, which is most people don’t get those experiences because they never ask. I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help.”

Jobs goes on to tell about the time when he was 12 years old that he decided to call Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, to ask for some spare parts to build a frequency counter (Hewlett’s home phone number was in the Palo Alto phone book at the time). Not only did Hewlett readily agree to young Steve’s request, but he offered him a summer job at his company, assembling frequency counters.

Continues Jobs in the video…

“I’ve never found anyone who’s said no or hung up the phone when I called-I just asked. And when people ask me, I try to be as responsive, to pay that debt of gratitude back. Most people never pick up the phone and call, most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You gotta act. And you’ve gotta be willing to fail, you gotta be ready to crash and burn, with people on the phone, with starting a company, with whatever. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

Watch the complete, 2-minute video excerpt for yourself.

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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