TIME advice

How to Build Lifelong Habits for Success

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Surround yourself with go-getters

Answer by Julian Reisinger on Quora.

Building lifelong habits starting right now is the way to become superhuman.

The list below might seem overwhelming, that’s why I suggest you only pick one or two habits at first and increase the number once you know what works and what doesn’t.

Health & Fitness

  • Floss every day.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Find a sport or other physical activity you enjoy and practice it at least twice a week. Preferably a team sport.
  • Use PH-adjusted shower gel or soap without perfume.
  • Use sunblock! It is the best thing you can do to benefit your life
  • Drink water instead of sodas and juices.
  • Stay away from addictions of any kind.
  • Cultivate a morning routine that involves physical activity, gratitude, showering and getting dressed right after waking up.

Learning & Career

  • Study a small amount of time each day instead of learning everything right before the exam.
  • Read one book per week. Switch between fiction and nonfiction from time to time.
  • Learn programming, Photoshop, Illustrator and Excel as well as you can. These skills alone can open up a world of possibility for you. Tutorials are a great way to start. Learn to code.
  • Always have a project you are working on and finish it. Choose something creative that excites you instead of something you think is useful, like these two kids who remade Indiana Jones shot for shot.
  • Write down your goals for the next 3 months, 1 year and 5 years. Write down small action steps that will gradually get you there.
  • Always try to solve problems on your own before asking someone for help.
  • Use every possibility to speak in public. Great public speaking is one of the most valuable skills one can acquire.

People Skills

  • Be honest. More specifically don’t lie and don’t exaggerate. This can destroy your self-esteem.
  • Speak with people everywhere you go.
  • Surround yourself with go-getters. People who strive to become the best version of themselves and act on it. Stay away from “too cool for school” kids. Popularity fades quickly.
  • Call your friends (especially the ones you don’t see often) instead of texting.
  • Look people in the eyes. Sounds obvious but I was oblivious to the fact (I avoided eye contact until I was 18.)
  • Remember names. Ask how the name is spelled or repeat the name immediately. “Hi I am Robert.” “Hi Robert, nice to meet you.” (How do you feel if someone always forgets your name?)
  • Stop dwelling about what you can’t change. Catch yourself each time you are doing it and tell yourself it’ll be OK. Then think about something else.

Money

  • Start saving right now! Lay aside 10% of whatever you make and don’t touch it for now. Trust me, you can use it much better in a couple of years.
  • Earn money on the side by applying your best skills. This will teach you a lot about life and will hopefully spark the entrepreneurial spirit within you.

Confidence

  • List all your fears, insecurities and unhealthy idiosyncrasies. Eliminate them one by one. I suggest you use systematic desensitization.
  • Travel as much as possible. Later it will be much harder to do when you have a job and a partner.

Resources to help you cultivate your habits:

This question originally appeared on Quora: What can I do now (at the age of 16) that my future self will thank me for?

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TIME career

These Uncommon Habits Will Help You Work Smarter

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Make time for mania

Answer by Nicolas Cole on Quora.

I’m going to list a few of my uncommon work habits:

1. Prep Before Bed

I know that whatever I focus on right before I go to sleep, I’m going to be thinking about as soon as I wake up—usually.

To make the most of my morning, I make sure to prep myself the night before. As soon as I wake up, I know where I’m going to start, I know what project I’m diving into, I know which problem I’m going to be tackling first. If you can set these firmly in your mind before you go to bed, you’ll wake up with far more energy and drive to tackle them—because they’ve been marinating in your subconscious.

2. The Coffee Game

Whenever I have to get a lot done, and I mean a LOT, I reward myself with coffee. Coffee coffee coffee. But only if I can move with the momentum.

For example, I might start with a small cup right as I’m sitting down to work, but I will only allow myself refills as long as I feel I am making steady progress. By gamifying my love for coffee, I’m motivating myself to work harder and more efficiently in a desire to drink more coffee. And of course, the more coffee I drink, the more focused I become. More focus, more productivity.

This might be less of a work habit and more of an addiction but it works well for me.

3. Make Time For Mania

You aren’t going to be able to do multiple big projects back to back to back. You’re just not. It’s one thing to demand 7 hours of focus on the same project, but the difficulty usually arises when you have to go in and out of different problems, different projects, different clients, etc.

Make time between each project to clear your head—in my case, I thoroughly enjoy running around my apartment debating (sometimes with myself) the ramifications for having pancakes for dinner for the third night in a row. I often times get my roommates involved, encouraging them to debate me on the topic (as loudly as possible). Maybe we decide to make fruit smoothies. Maybe it’s snowing outside and snowballs must be thrown at the window. I don’t know. Just go do something random and pointless and fun and I promise you when you sit back down at your desk you’ll feel like you gave yourself a nice break and it’s time to get back to work.

4. Tell Yourself You Have Way More Time Than You Actually Do

There have been many times when I’ve been so busy I didn’t have a free hour to call my own, and I felt like I was on vacation. And there have been times when I haven’t really been all that busy and I’ve felt like I was being enlisted in the coal mines and I wouldn’t see my family for the next 20 years.

It’s all state of mind.

The more you tell yourself “I’m so busy, I don’t have any time,” the more you trap yourself in that mindset. Conversely, the more you tell yourself “Sure, I can make time for that,” the more time you actually have. And if you feel like you have no time, you get stressed and your work suffers and/or takes longer.

Trust me, you always have more time than you think you have. The hard part is remembering that.

5. Work Smarter By Hiring Smarter

I feel like this is the most obvious one, but one that is often forgotten. If you want to get something done faster or better, then ENLIST THE HELP OF SOMEONE BETTER THAN YOU.

If it takes you 3 hours to do X, and you value your time at $Y, then find someone who can do X in less than 3 hours at a $Y rate below yours.

The single best way to work smarter instead of harder is to value your time and delegate/outsource anything and everything that you don’t absolutely have to do yourself, that can be done by someone else—especially someone better at it than you.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some uncommon ways to work smarter instead of harder?

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TIME Education

This Is How MIT Rates Applicants

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It's about both the abilities and character of an applicant

Answer by Tom Stagliano, MIT Education counselor, on Quora.

While I currently still interview freshman applicants, this metric I am going to describe was used a number of years ago, and I believe that it is still used today in some format.

MIT would “grade” an application with two “grades”:

  • Quantitative from 1 to 10
  • Qualitative from 5 to 10 (I once asked why not qualitative from 1 to 10, and I was told that’s what we do, but anyone below a 5 is a “corpse.”)

So the Quantitative is based upon where the people fit on the overall standard of being able to do the work at MIT and be able to graduate within four years, based upon ranking of the high school, GPA (if available), transcript, test scores, recommendations, etc. The Qualitative is based upon what the person offers as a person to the MIT community based upon the interview write-up, the essays, other parts of the application (things they do), and the recommendations including the secondary school report on the individual.

As one can expect the applicants who are in the 10,10 grid all get an acceptance letter. And a 9,10 (where second is qualitative, the person) will get in over a 10,9. Indeed an 8,10 will probably be admitted over a 10,8. MIT, like all elite colleges, wants people who can contribute to the community more so that academic single-focus people. Those single-focus academics, if they can truly survive getting a bachelors degree at any college, will show up in graduate school.

In order to break “ties” or assist in moving someone from a 8,7 to an 8,8 (for example), MIT awards “bonus points.” Bonus points will come from:

  • Regional or national or international excellence. (For example I once interviewed the fifth best male figure skater in the U.S. and who was on the U.S. national team. That was worth bonus points.)
  • If there is an especially good fit with a club or organization or sport at MIT. Bonus points may be awarded for basketball or track or orchestra or drama, etc., where MIT believes that the person can and will come on campus and contribute to that group.
  • If the interviewer ranks the applicant a “one in million.” With appropriate justification, that person will get a bonus point.

Note: Things like National Science Fair or Math or Physics Olympiad medal will contribute to the Quantitative score, but not as a bonus point. So, an International Physics Olympiad gold medal winner could be a 10,5. Quantitatively excellent but barely a human being. MIT may not accept that person as a freshman and wait for that person to re-apply as a graduate student years later. MIT is very cognizant of the Qualitative score because high numbers there, especially with bonus points, mean the person has a high likelihood of surviving MIT’s intense academic fire hose without getting overly depressed or spiraling away.

I hope that helps to make people aware that the elite universities are looking for human beings who can do the academic work and contribute to the community and not academic automatons.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do admissions officers rate applicants?

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Read next: How to Decipher a Financial Aid Letter

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TIME advice

How Anyone Can Become a Good Public Speaker

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If you can talk to one person, you can talk to an audience of thousands

Answer by Jim Moore on Quora.

What qualities are needed to be a public speaker? I have observed the following attributes common to most successful speakers:

  • Confident
  • Organized
  • Outgoing
  • Engaging
  • Flexible
  • Unflappable
  • Light-hearted
  • Gracious

Here are some of the tips I shared with speakers I’ve coached over the years:

To begin with, do not for a moment think you cannot give a speech. You give speeches every day to your family, friends, colleagues, and, yes, even to strangers. Your daily conversations are nothing more than mini-speeches in casual clothes. If you can talk to one person, you can talk to an audience of thousands. Really.

When you are speaking to a large crowd, you are still talking to one person at a time, just as if you were chatting to the cashier at the food store or a fellow passenger on a plane. Whether the topic is the weather or a description of a favorite camping trip or an answer to the airborne time-passing question, “What do you do?” you are giving an abbreviated speech, complete with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

You may have given an “elevator” speech—a short (usually no longer than 30 seconds) statement of purpose or plans to a colleague, boss, or client that conveys key information in a few moments to a captive audience while in transit. Or you may have delivered a “cocktail” party speech (assuming cocktail parties are still in vogue), which is really nothing more than a three-minute burst of information sufficient to enlighten, but short enough to stay within the attention span of an easily-distracted listener. In both instances, sans podium, you have already given many speeches. Now, wasn’t that easy?

Okay, maybe not so easy when you envision a conference room filled with people whose attention is focused on you, up there on that stage, and you wonder in sleepless nights leading up to the big day, “How in the world did I get myself into this?”

So let’s start with some preparation:

1. Know your audience. I cannot stress this enough with my clients or employers for whom I have written or coached. You don’t have to have expert knowledge of the audience, but you should know enough to reference their interests, or mission, or leadership, if, for example, you’re speaking to a trade association. You should have some audience-centric remarks that show you are not just showing up to speak, but that you actually considered the audience’s perspective. There is nothing wrong with calling your host and asking questions about the group. You might learn about an important member of the organization who will be in the audience and can be singled out for podium praise; perhaps there is a charity that has benefited from the group’s work—always a good point to mention. The bottom line: Do your homework!

2. Keep your remarks brief and to the point. In speech writing, we have a mantra:

  • Tell them what you are going to say;
  • Say it;
  • Tell them what you told them;
  • Say thank you and sit down.

3. Do not attempt humor unless you are, a) a noted humorist, b) an experienced toastmaster or, c) well-acquainted with the humor that will make your audience laugh and not wince. Poking a bit of fun at yourself is fine; sharing a light moment with the audience is good; just keep in mind that pulling off a comedy shtick, even a single joke, is a lot harder than it looks when coming from an experienced speaker.

4. Keep your sentences short, your words shorter. This simply means you should not tax your audience by forcing them to follow a long, convoluted sentence, or interpret a fancy, but unnecessarily long word. Apply the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Short.

5. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. The more you rehearse, the less likely you are to shuffle your notes, look down at your speech, stumble on key phrases, or “um and ahh” as you try to recall the order of your words. Some people rehearse in front of a mirror, some go over their speeches with a spouse or friends, some record their speech and play it back over and over. You don’t have to memorize your remarks, but you should know them well enough to just glance at your notes or papers. Whatever works for you, do it.

Once you know your audience and know your remarks, and you’re about to step up to the podium, consider these points:

  • The audience is actually rooting for you to succeed; the fear of public speaking is second only to the fear of death, and most people, when faced with a microphone and a crowd, usually wish they were dead. No one in the audience wants to take your place. So, you have lots of company in front of you.
  • Take a deep breath and don’t push yourself; take your time, organize your thoughts. A good speech is not a sprint or even a marathon; it should be a pleasant, calming walk—for you and for the audience.
  • The podium is not a crutch; don’t cling to the sides of the podium as if you are on a stormed-tossed ship. Use the podium as a base of operations, staying in touch with it, but giving yourself some room for movement. Think of “one hand on the wheel” as a way to keep from becoming a rigid speaker.
  • Give your audience—and yourself—a break from time to time. You needn’t give all your speech all at once. Think of how you normally converse at a small party; there is a natural give and take, pauses in thoughts, breaks for breathing. The same applies when giving a speech. Build in a few quiet moments in your speech, places where you can step back for a few seconds to give yourself and the audience a moment to contemplate what you just said, and to regroup for the next part.
  • The “eyes” have it. The old rule about looking over the heads of the audience to avoid eye contact is rubbish. It only makes you look aloof and disengaged. Before you start speaking, find a few faces in the crowd that you can cycle through as you speak. Return to each one as the speech progresses—only a glance is needed.
  • Be gracious. At the end of your speech, be sure to thank the audience, the host, and the organization.

There are many more tips and strategies for speech makers and speechwriters, but if you apply these tips to your next speech, you will have a foundation for a more enjoyable podium presence. Good luck!

This question originally appeared on Quora: What qualities are needed to be a public speaker? How do I speak among a huge crowd?

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TIME Books

29 Books That Will Enrich Your Inner Literati

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Answer by Cristina Hartmann on Quora.

Correction appended, March 31

For anyone who wants to attain the vaunted title of “being well-read,” it’s more about breadth than depth. (As for feeling well-read, read the postscript.)

To “feel” well-read in literature, it’s all about the categories, not the books themselves. Read a few books in a few different genres, time periods, points of views. I’ve thrown in a few controversial books, just so you know what all of the fuss is about.

Here’s how you can feel like a regular literati!:

Western Classics (Ancient & Modern): to give you a good foundation for the who’s who of Western literature.

  • The Odyssey (Homer): epic of a dude who just can’t get home without a little help from the gods. (Extra credit if you read the Iliad, too!)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens): the quintessential story of the French Revolution, love, and longing.
  • Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen): the story that started the “hate at first sight turning into love” trope.
  • Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy): Very long. Very melodramatic. Very Russian. Very classic!

Dystopia: the stuff of our worst fears and nightmares.

  • Nineteen-Eighty-Four (George Orwell): the book that introduced “doublethink” into our lexicon.
  • Brave New World (Aldous Huxley): another classic dystopia. Gammas, Deltas, oh my!
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood): a feminist spin on the genre.

Science Fiction & Fantasy: we can’t overlook the geeky cousin of the classics, can we?

  • The Lord of the Rings series (J.R.R. Tolkien): this guy made the epic (also called high) fantasy genre. Be warned, it’s a bit of a dry read.
  • The Foundation series (Issac Asimov): some of the pioneering stories in science fiction, natch!
  • Neuromancer (William Gibson): here’s something a bit more modern. Plus, you just can’t beat “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel” as a snappy first line.

Great American Novels: these zeitgeist works practically defined a time period of U.S. history.

  • The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald): you can’t think of the Jazz Age without thinking of “old sport.”
  • Bonfire of Vanities (Tom Wolfe): the terrible movie nonwithstanding, this book captured the self-indulgence of the 80s NYC crowd.
  • The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck): I dare you to get into a conversation about the Great Depression without thinking of this book. I dare you.

Literary Heavy Hitters: books that make people go “Whoa, dude!” when you say that you’ve read them.

  • Ulysses (James Joyce): stream-of-consciousness writing plus an unhealthy sexual obsession with an orphan with a limp equal literary greatness. True story.
  • Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace): fractals, man! Fractals!
  • Gravity’s Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon): lots of stuff happens that a lot of people pretend to understand.

Popular Fiction: those guilty indulgences that everyone has read (but won’t necessarily admit to it). Warning: this is U.S.-centric, feel free to indulge in your country’s guilty pleasures.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire series (George R. R. Martin): hey, there’s a popular HBO miniseries about it!
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins): better than Twilight.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (E.L. James): be torn between hilarity and despair in this BDSM spin-off of a Twilight fan fiction. Who knows, maybe this’ll spice up the bedroom.

Immigrant Experience (U.S./U.K.): ah, the magical experience of being thrust into a new culture.

  • Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri): say hello to our recent Indian arrivals! (For our tea-drinking cousins across the pond, try Monica Ali’sBrick Lane.)
  • Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan): the book that inspired a movie and furor in the Asian American community about stereotypes and Tan’s possible self-loathing. (For a less controversial read, try Ha Jin’s Waiting–and yes, there’s a lot of longing and waiting there.)
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Julia Alvarez): how four sisters start to forget their Spanish and their native homeland of the Dominican Republic.

Non-Western Classics (Ancient): if Westerners get theirs, so should the rest of the world.

  • Ramayana (India): this is THE Hindu epic. Full stop.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms (China): a bit of Chinese history, highly romanticized and dramatized. Kind of like “A World Turns.”

Non-Western Classics (Modern): the stuff that you should read to feel worldly and well-read. (More applicable if you’re from the U.S. or Western Europe.)

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez): this novel single-handedly legitimatized Latin American literature in modern times. Too bad you don’t know who he’s talking about half of the time.
  • To Live (Yu Hua): getting banned in China just adds to its street cred.
  • Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe): the sad tale of colonialism in Africa. Definitely merits a frowny-face.

Satire: throw in a little giggle into your reading list.

  • Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut): some say Slaughterhouse-Five is his best, I say this one. Also: Bokononism!
  • Catch-22 (Joseph Heller): come and see what the catch-22 is. I promise you, it’s gorgeously ironic.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams): you kill two birds with two stones here: sci-fi and satire. Whee!

This is where I reach the end of my endurance. I haven’t even gotten into the non-fiction stuff, but alas … I must eat.

With this list, you’ll feel like you can dominate the Trivial Pursuit literature section! Life is good.

Postscript: since this question is more about sentiment than reality … I hate to break it to you, but if you’re truly a well-read person, you will never feel well-read. They’re always on the lookout for their next book—that category that they’re missing—to add to their impressive list. It’s a Sisyphean goal, really.

If you feel well-read, you’re probably not.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What books should one read to feel well-read?

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Read next: 15 Life-Changing Books You Can Read in a Day

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Correction: The original version of this story misstated the title of the book Things Fall Apart.

 

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

What It’s Like to Get Nominated for an Oscar

Producers Helen Estabrook (L) and Couper Samuelson (R) attend the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif. on Feb. 22, 2015.
Frazer Harrison—Getty Images From left: Producers Helen Estabrook and Couper Samuelson attend the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif. on Feb. 22, 2015.

No matter how unlikely the odds of winning, you still hope for your name in the envelope

Answer by Couper Samuelson, Executive Producer of Whiplash, on Quora.

I was an executive producer of Whiplash so technically I wasn’t nominated for an Oscar (only the producers are nominated).

But basically the experience is very strange. First of all, you spend years trying to make the movie. That involves lots of little decisions and lots of little milestones. For instance, in our case: we failed to raise money for the film so we took 17 pages out of the screenplay and shot it as a short. We hoped it would be good. It was. Then we submitted it to Sundance. We hoped it would get in. It did. We hoped it would win an award so that it would be easier to market Damien Chazelle as a director to potential financiers. It did. Then we went back to all the institutional financiers. Only two offers came in.

Then you kill yourself to make the movie and make it well. Then you hope it gets into Sundance. Then you hope that it gets a good slot at Sundance (no film has ever broken out of Sundance while playing late in the week). Then you hope it gets a distributor (in our case we only had two offers for distribution).

The point is– you spend a lot of time making decisions and hoping the decisions are the right ones. Then the movie’s done and there’s nothing else you can do and it just bounces into the world and you don’t know what strange things will happen to it and what ‘narratives’ will attach to it. Unlike big Hollywood tentpoles, specialty films need to be more than just a good movie, they need to have a ‘narrative’ that can propel them through an awards season. Basically a story that will make the very few arbiters of what’s good (Academy voters and urban critics) feel good about voting for the film.

In our case, the narrative that emerged from Sundance was that JK Simmons was a beloved actor who had done a great job in small roles in great films but who never had gotten his own ‘aria’ until now.

So we the filmmakers all sat back and sort of watched that narrative calcify into the conventional wisdom.

The other strange thing that happens in awards season is– well, here you’ve spent years fighting to get a movie made and to make it well. Which is so much work. And then the movie’s done and there’s nothing to do–but you realize that in order to get credit for your work you have to fight for it. Can I get into the WGA awards? Can I get a ticket to Cannes? Can I go to to the head of the studio’s Academy cocktail party? Can I be the one who does the Q&A at the producer’s guild. There are squadrons of publicists will all kinds of competing incentives working on “positioning” one of the film’s participants.

Among producers that is especially true because the definition of producing is so porous and ephemeral. But it’s also true of directors who direct an actor to an acclaimed performance and yet don’t themselves get a directing nomination (“did that actor direct themselves to that performance?!”).

This process of trying to grab credit really kicks into gear in the fall—a full year after we had made the film. That’s when the 6,000 members of the Academy started to watch the movie and this peripheral buzz started to build. We hoped it would crescendo at the right time and enough Oscar voters would express their advocacy of the movie to each other that they would feel “comfortable” voting for the movie. All the critics awards the precede Oscar voting give the voters a kind of permission to vote for a film. Remember that the industry views the Oscars as an annual opportunity to market itself to the world. So for instance a great film like Edge of Tomorrow has already been marketed to the world—the Academy doesn’t feel a need to, even though it’s probably more difficult to make a masterpiece tentpole than it is to make a masterpiece art film.

Whiplash had a small but vocal advocacy among Oscar voters which we hoped would put it at an advantage (the Academy uses a preferential voting system that rewards movies that a fewer people love passionately as opposed to movies that many people mark as a 3rd or 4th choice).

We all felt we had a shot at Best Picture if the Academy nominated 9 or 10 films (there can be up to 10 movies nominated).

It is easy to forget after a year of being congratulated for Whiplash that there is no precedent at all for an Oscar outcome like this. No movie at this budget has ever won 3 Oscars. No movie at this budget level has ever won an Oscar for sound OR for editing, let alone both.

So Oscar night was especially surreal. In the first 90 minutes of the ceremony the movie won three Oscars.

And there’s one thing that anyone who’s ever been nominated for an Oscar will tell you: no matter how unlikely the odds of winning (in Whiplash case, they were pretty close to zero for winning Best Picture), you still think somewhere deep down that maybe your name is going to be called when Sean Penn opens that envelope.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is it like to get nominated for an Oscar?

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TIME Education

How to Memorize a New Alphabet

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Learn the order of how languages are written and read

Answer by André Müller on Quora.

I memorized over 23 writing systems so far, starting from those very similar to Latin, like Cyrillic or Greek, over quite distinct ones like Arabic or Devanagari or Tibetan, up to quite foreign scripts like Burmese, Thai or (some) Chinese and Egyptian. I even learned Tengwar (you know, the Elvish script)! And I find it very easy to learn new ones…

I don’t have a special trick for it, but these procedures might be helpful to you:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the system of writing. Not just with the letter shapes but with the way the alphabet is used. There are different ways. Some are based on syllables, some are based on consonants and vowels, some only write consonants and long vowels, others write vowels on top of the consonants, some connect their letters, some stack them in blocks, others do it differently again. With some, you need to memorize a lot of extra rules, while others can be straightforward. Learn the order of how they are written and read.
  2. Learn the sounds these characters represent. This is trivial. You need to know this of course. To memorize the characters, I recommend to know how the corresponding phonemes sound, e.g. associate ค not with an abstract “kh”, but with a concrete sound, like the first sound in the word “cat”. Or better, both! Getting familiar with the pronunciation helps.
  3. Use the alphabet to write familiar words. Names of people, places, languages, or even whole words in your native language. Feel free to use the alphabet as a code for English. That way you get writing practice. It can also help to look up the spelling of those proper nouns on Wikipedia, if the article exists in that language.
  4. Use mnemonics to memorize letter shapes. If you find it hard to memorize the letters’ shapes, use mnemonic methods, like associating letters with familiar objects that you can also associate with sounds. E.g., “რ is r, because it looks like a radio”; “架 means shelf, because it’s made of wood (木), is square-shaped (口) and needs to be strong (力), and it’s pronounced similar to 加”; “ง is ng, because it looks a bit like the IPA character ŋ”, and so on… the crazier, the better. I believe Memrise has a lot of sets to memorize different letters and scripts, try it out! You can also use Anki to practice characters, or later, vocabulary in your target language.
  5. Transliterate a text from that language. Look for a text written in that alphabet and keep a letter-pronunciation table next to you. Now try to write the text in Latin letters. Many foreign scripts have an official or common transliteration system, I recommend to use that one. You will also come across words you can recognize… probably.
  6. Also read about special rules of this script. You can find a lot of additional information about this particular script and the language on the respective Wikipedia page, or on the Omniglot page.

Every person is a different type of learner. Some can learn new scripts very quickly (I usually need less than a day), some others need graphical help, or just practice, or need funny mnemonics. Try them out, and you will find your way. Good luck!

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some tips for memorizing a new alphabet?

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8 Ways to Get People to Listen to You

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Explain why it is important to you and worthwhile for them

Answer by Howie Reith on Quora.

While definitions may vary, when I think of nagging, I tend to think of giving passive-aggressive orders for someone else to do something, repeatedly. That being the case, I might suggest the following.

1. If it is important to you that this get done, is it something you can just do yourself? Why are you not doing it yourself? I’m not saying there isn’t a good reason, but I think it’s important to have a reason why you are demanding someone else do something that they apparently consider less important than you do.

2. Are you asking for it directly? “Hey, I’m busy washing the dishes, can you take the trash out?” This is better than “you never take the trash out” or “have you cleaned your room yet?” You probably aren’t, and I know why you aren’t — because directly asking for something risks a “no” or a confrontation, and it also puts them on an equal level to you, while nagging implies moral and social superiority. Lose the pride; it’s killing your relationship.

3. Openly share your feelings and acknowledge that they are just your feelings, which are based on your perception of things, which could be flawed. It is important that you acknowledge their desires, because they are every bit as important as yours. “Hey, I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with how we’re managing the chores and I’d like to hear how things are from your perspective, and see if we can’t work out a new plan.”

4. Is the thing you’re nagging about actually the thing that’s bothering you, or are you nagging about this thing because there is a bigger problem that you don’t feel comfortable talking about? I.e., you are nagging him about the dirty fork in the drawer because you aren’t feeling as emotionally connected to him as you used to, but you don’t know how to talk about it. If there is a bigger issue, bring up the bigger issue.

5. Nagging is implicitly a lack of trust. The act of nagging assumes that the person needs to be scolded and monitored or they will not do what needs to be done. Instead, show them some respect. Work out a plan and give them a good reputation to live up to, and compliment them when you appreciate stuff they’ve done. Sincerely. People pick up on cues and feel a natural pressure to behave as people expect them to behave. By nagging them, you are indicating you expect them not to do the work. You are also attacking their self-esteem and tearing them down. You’re being rude and callous to their feelings, so why should they be sensitive to what you want? Respect them and assume they are going to do what is necessary, and if they don’t think it is necessary, then hear them out.

6. Stop keeping score. Sometimes couples keep track of mistakes or annoying things their significant other commits. This is used as ammunition in the next fight to win moral superiority and capture “territory.” If this describes your relationship, stop. Stop keeping score. Stop preparing for the next fight. Forget about bad things and emphasize good memories. You only need to talk about big issues.

7. Explain why you are asking for something. Stop giving orders. They’re an intelligent human being. You can persuade them to understand why doing something is in their best interest, as opposed to insisting they do it just because you’re saying to, and you will nag more if they don’t. Otherwise it’s a relationship built on threats, and it’s only natural for them to resist your authority.

8. If they are unwilling to talk about problems, alter their habits, or show any sensitivity to your needs, then you should leave. Clearly the two of you have very different values and it is a path of frustration. Leaving the relationship is an option, though I would only suggest taking it if they are truly unwilling to work with you on all of this. Yes, nagging is a bad way to be dealing with problems, and it’s immature to be doing it, but the other person isn’t wholly innocent. They haven’t taken any measures to resolve the nagging situation either, and I don’t just mean by acquiescing. You’re both going to have to work out a solution.

In short, respect them more, give them a reputation to live up to, trust them, and explain to them why it is important to you and worthwhile for them.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do I quit nagging?

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How to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

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Give your audience a clear call to action

Answer by Mira Zaslove on Quora.

The biggest tip to improve your public speaking? Think less about yourself, and more about your audience.

Specifically, focus on 3 main things:

1. Who are you speaking to?

Research ahead of time as much as you can, as to who your audience is. Tailor your presentation to them. Cut out anything that doesn’t directly pertain to them. Be ruthless.

People have short attention spans. Stick only to what is necessary, and focus again, not on yourself, but rather what will be most useful for the audience.

2. Why are you giving the speech?

Why have people showed up? Why do they care? Give the audience what they came for. People have showed up for a reason. Keep that in mind.

Tell the audience clearly why you are there, and why you are excited to speak to them. Speak to what is relevant to them, and tell them why you believe it is relevant.

3. Wrap it up quickly. What now?

Don’t ramble on. After you’ve told the audience what they need to know, give them a clear call to action. End the presentation with summarizing what you said, why you said it, and what they should do next.

Don’t assume that your audience is automatically going to know what to do with what you told them. And don’t just hope that they will remember to do it later. If you are selling something, end with specifically asking them to buy. If you want them to sign up for something, have the sign up sheet ready. Be prepared to get what you want. Make the call to action easy, immediate, and seamless.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some tips and hacks for public speaking?

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10 Ways an Interviewer Prepares to Meet a Potential Employee

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A successful interview requires completed homework from both sides

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Preparation by the interviewer is the key to successful interview. While you are evaluating the candidate, they are evaluating you. Just like you’d ding the candidate for not doing homework on your company, the candidate will ding you if you do not do your interview homework.

Here are ten tips for how to best interview a potential employee:

  1. Review the resume and thoroughly prepare your questions before the interview. You should never walk into an interview without first spending 5-15 minutes thinking about the person and the questions you ask.
  2. Set an agenda for the interview. “We only have 30 minutes for our meeting and here is what I’d like to cover.” Give the person a clear understanding of what you want to get out of the interview. Leave ample time for questions because most mid-career candidates (and 100% of good executives) will come prepared with questions for you.
  3. Do a problem solving exercise with them. Give them a scenario from your work and ask for their input and advice. For instance, you can ask a potential sales executive: “I’m putting together the sales comp for our different salespeople, how have you designed sales comps in the past? Given what you know about our company, help me design a better sales comp.”
  4. General bio questions are not great. No need to just ask a question that can be answered from their resume. You can instead ask a probing question about the business metrics in their last company. One question I like to ask about: what a past company they were at could have done differently to be more successful. You might also want to ask the candidates about why they left a particular job.
  5. Dive into their technical knowledge and learn something. Dive really deep into an expertise area of the candidate. Get them talking about something they are passionate about. Get them to teach you about a new area — have them explain something really complex to you so you learn the basics. I once interviewed a sales guy who was also a chess master — he clearly taught me the core strategy of chess [we hired him]. Even in the scenario where you determine the candidate is not right for the job, at least you learned something.
  6. Know the flow of who at your company interviewed the candidate before you and who is coming after you. This will give you a sense of how the candidate understands the company and what questions have already been asked.
  7. Make sure they have a good experience. A surprising number of referrals for other candidates and for customers will come from the candidates you interview. Make sure they have a really good experience.
  8. Let them do the talking. While you want to clearly answer their questions, make sure the interviewee is doing at least two-thirds of the talking guided by your questions.
  9. If the candidate is not right, end the interview early. You’re not helping the candidates by wasting their time. If the person is clearly not the right fit, end the interview early so they can use the saved time to pursue other awesome companies.
  10. Afterwards, input your feedback into your shared hiring system. So that you can gather all the feedback on the interviewee in one place for quick reference and decision-making.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are important keys to remember when preparing as an interviewer?

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